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Spiritual Gifts Series

Spiritual Gifts: The Gift of Leading

Category of Gift: Service

Romans 12:8, Page 1775

“he who leads, with diligence”

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The Spiritual Gift of Leading in the New Testament requires special study because people frequently misunderstand it. The believers exercising The Spiritual Gift of Leading in the local assembly must be Spirit-controlled believers, who are depending upon their spiritual gift to provide leading to the church. So often, the people who are popular, or the people who give the most money to the church, or those people with the greatest influence upon other people, set the direction of the church and provide leading, whether or not that person has The Spiritual Gift of Leading or is Spirit-filled. In this study, we will take the time to look at the spiritual gift of leading in the New Testament. 


Romans 12:8, Page 1775
“or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”


In Romans 12:8, Page 1775, we read about the spiritual gift of  “he who leads,” which I will refer to as The Spiritual Gift of Leading. I chose this word “leading” because it conveys the idea of the participle in the Greek text (“προϊστάμενος”).  With some of the spiritual gifts, we only have a few words to describe the gift and its uses.  We can understand more about the spiritual gift of leading by examining the use of the words related to “leading” in other passages in the New Testament.  

Section One

Leading in the New Testament

In the New Testament, God provides directions for leading the Church through offices (elder and deacon), and also through the spiritual gifts, whether the spiritually gifted man holds an office or not.  Leading in the New Testament means that people follow the will of God, and The Spiritual Gift of Leading helps believers follow the will of God. Every member of the body of Christ has a special spiritual gift, and God seriously expects each of us to use those spiritual gifts in the service and edification of all believers.  We can review the concept of leading in the New Testament to explain the spiritual gift of leading.

1.1 The Term “Lead” Defined. The word “leads” (“προϊστάμενος”) in Romans 12:8, page 1775 provides a starting point for understanding The Spiritual Gift of Leading in the New Testament.  I submit it may be best to limit the gift of leading described here to the use of the term “leads” (“προϊστάμενος”) and its related uses in the New Testament.  You may certainly look to other passages to understand the work that leaders do in the local assembly, such as Hebrews 13:7, 17 and 24, pages 1886 and 1887 and  1 Peter 5:1-4, page 1899 (elders there).  Saints with The Spiritual Gift of Leading may or may not hold the office of elder in the church, and perhaps the pastor may not have The Spiritual Gift of Leading.  The other word “diligence” (“σπουδῇ”) in the same verse helps us understand how The Spiritual Gift of Leading should be exercised.  First, let us examine the concept of leading and then turn to the proper use of this spiritual gift with diligence.

Section Two

The Ministry of Leading at Home and Taking Care

We know from 1 Corinthians 12:5-6, page 1796, that one spiritual gift may produce a variety of ministries (“διακονιῶν”) and a variety of effects (“ἐνεργημάτω”). In this case, the spiritual gift of leading may produce a variety of ministries with a variety of spiritual effects. So, we will examine The Spiritual Gift of Leading and look at its ministries and effects.

2.1 The Ministry of Leading at Home.  The root word for “lead” in Romans 12:8, page 1775, provides guidance for understanding The Spiritual Gift of Leading. The ministry of Elders (an office of the church–not  a spiritual gift) and Deacons (an office of the church–not a spiritual gift) begins at home and we will examine the qualifications for those offices briefly.

2.1.1 The Qualification of Elders. Elders manage their own families to the glory of God. Elders in the New Testament have specialized duties, such as shepherding the flock from: (a) savage wolves attacking from without; and (b) evil men within the flock drawing away saints from the flock (Acts 20:28-30, page 1741).  This ministry of managing the home rests upon the same root word as “leads” in Romans 12:8, page 1775. The qualifications for elders include the ability to manage (“προϊστάμενον”) their own children and their own households and keep them under control (“ὑποταγῇ”) (1 Timothy 3:4, page 1856).  Therefore, we may understand that one aspect of The Spiritual Gift of Leading will involve influencing the mind and behavior of people, so that they will mature in Christ, while staying under control, and maintaining dignity (“σεμνότητος”).  The saints need this type of leading from leaders, including elders, who have first demonstrated this leading ability at home. 

2.1.2 The Qualification of Deacons. Likewise, deacons must have the same ability to be leaders (“προϊστάμενοι”) at home first (1 Timothy 3:12, page 1856). Deacons labor at home and keep their own families under control by promoting Godliness in the family before they become Deacons.

2.2  The Ministries of Leading and Taking Care. The overseer (elder) must also be able to manage (“προστῆναι”) his own household well; if he cannot manage his own household, then how will he take care (“ἐπιμελήσεται”) of the church of God? (1 Timothy 3:5, page 1856). Please take notice here that the ability to manage his own household directly relates to taking care of the church of God. The ministries of managing and taking care have a direct relationship.

2.2.1  The Ministry of Providing Necessary Care. The Roman centurian Julian had to guard Paul and take Paul to Rome. During the journey, at Sidon, Julian allowed Paul to go to his friends and receive needed care (“ἐπιμελείας”) (Acts 27:3, page 1753). Apparently, this ministry of providing necessary care involved both spiritual and physical help.

2.2.2The Ministry of Providing Physical Care to Injured. Likewise, the good Samaritan paid the innkeeper and directed him to take care (“Ἐπιμελήθητι”) of his neighbor (Luke 10:35, page 1620). This ministry involved the payment for physical services rendered, and provided time for the physically injured to recover.

2.2.3 The Ministry of Searching Carefully. Finally, consider the woman who searches her house carefully (“ἐπιμελῶς”) to find the lost coin (Luke 15:8, page 1631). The careful searching by the woman means that the ministry of leading involves concerted efforts to find missing things. It speaks to the need to be diligent and thorough in the ministry of leading carefully.

So, we learn that The Spiritual Gift of Leading starts at home. Men holding the offices of Elder and Deacon in the local church may possess The Spiritual Gift of Leading, but they must display an exemplary ability to lead. Other men may possess The Spiritual Gift of Leading, but they will perform their ministries without holding the office of Elder or Deacon. We often see the gift in action by noticing the effects of the proper use of the spiritual gift.

Section Three

The Spiritual Effects of The Spiritual Gift of Leading

The Spiritual Gift of Leading produces spiritual effects in the lives of believers. We know that one spiritual gift may result in a variety of different ministries and effects.  The leading gift means that the leaders will lead the assembly of saints, helping believers grow up in Christ, staying under control, and maintaining a dignified reputation for the assembly.  Furthermore, the leaders have charge (“προϊσταμένους”) over the saints, who should appreciate their Godly leading (1 Thessalonians 5:12, page 1850).  Indeed, these leaders who lead well (“καλῶς προεστῶτες”) should receive double honor (1 Timothy 5:17, page 1858).  As a side note, elders should also be careful, as leaders, to recognize the spiritual gifts of the saints under their charge and encourage them (1 Timothy 4:14, page 1857).   All leaders must labor diligently. When the spiritual gift of leading operates properly, you will see the following effects in the lives of believers. The spiritual gift of leading produces the spiritual effect of control and the spiritual effect of dignity. We will look at each of them next.

3.1 The Spiritual Effect of Control. The Spiritual Gift of Leading  produces control (“ὑποταγῇ”) (1 Timothy 3:4, page 1856). This term “control” (“ὑποταγῇ”) describes both voluntary submission and compulsory subordination. This spiritual ability to bring people under the control of God reflects a special spiritual gift.

3.1.1  Subjection. The term subjection (“ὑποταγῇ”) shows the fruit of The Spiritual Gift of Leading. When used properly, The Spiritual Gift of Leading results in believers following the will of God. This term subjection has several different aspects.  

3.1.2  Control by Jesus. Today, if you say someone is controlling, you are often criticizing them. Unbelievers long to live without the control of other people. In contrast, Jesus loves to control His children and His mature children love that control. Jesus ascended to heaven after angels, authorities and powers were subjected (1 Peter 3:22–“ὑποταγέντων“–notice the aorist participle indicating complete and total control) to Him. Therefore, we see this special power of God acting forcefully to bring supernatural beings (angels, authorities, and powers) into subjection to Christ. Believers with The Spiritual Gift of Leading have a special spiritual gift to bring other people under the will of Christ. Do not misunderstand: while Christ ascended and exercised His will over angels, authorities and powers, we still wrestle against them, but we triumph in Christ as we stand in His might (Ephesians 6:10-17, page 1834). In contrast, Paul also taught us that the mind set on the flesh is not able to subject itself to the law of God (Romans 8:7, page 1768). In the future, after all things have been subjected (“ὑποταγῇ”) to Jesus, then Jesus will be subjected (“ὑποταγήσεται“) to the Father who subjected to Him (τῷ ὑποτάξαντι αὐτῷ”) all things. We learn from this verse that a believer does nothing more that Jesus does when He is subjected to the control and authority of the Father (1 Corinthians 15:28, page 1801). Being under the control of Jesus or the Father in no way diminishes the spiritual stature of the person being subjected, but rather acknowledges a perfect joining of wills. Although we do not yet see all things placed in subjection to Christ, yet the Scripture proclaims that, in fact, all things have been placed in subjection to Christ (Hebrews 2:8, page 1871). Furthermore, Christ Himself has the inherent, divine power as God to subject all things to Himself (Philippians 3:21, page 1839). Therefore, one effect of The Spiritual Gift of Leading means that the local assembly lives under the control of Jesus.

3.1.3  Obedience to Your Confession of the Gospel of Christ. The term “control” also includes obedience to your confession of Christ. When exercised properly, the spiritual gift of leading will result in believers acting in obedience to their confession of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 9:13, page 1814, Paul discusses the ministry of hard work to earn a living to supply the needs of the saints and make donations to other believers. As the Corinthians work for a living, they glorify God by their obedience (“ὑποταγῇ”) to the confession of Christ. The Spiritual Gift of Leading produces obedience in working and giving money for the support of the saints. In a more general sense, The Spiritual Gift of Leading helps believers live obediently to their confession of gospel of Jesus Christ. If you claim to be born again by confessing Christ as Lord because of your faith in Him, then the spiritual gift of leading will help you live accordingly. For example, the spiritual gift of leading will help believers understand and apply the duty in Christ to work hard and use the proceeds of hard work to bless other believers in need of support. Therefore, one spiritual effect of control means that the local assembly lives in obedience to their confession of Christ. 

3.1.4 Not Yielding to Hypocrisy and False TeachersIn the Book of Galatians, Paul described hypocrisy. He confronted the apostle Peter for falling into  the hypocrisy of acting like a Judaizer (these people taught you must keep the law to go to heaven). When the Judaizers came to visit in Antioch, then Peter acted just like they did. Paul proclaimed that “we did not yield in subjection (“ὑποταγῇ”) to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you” (Galatians 2:5, page 1820). Therefore, another spiritual effect of spiritual control means that the local assembly does not yield in subjection to hypocrisy and false doctrine. 

3.1.5 Accepting Discipline Well. Receiving discipline does not always seem joyful, but discipline trains us in Godliness and results in the peaceful fruit of righteousness. For discipline to yield good results in our lives, we must be subject (“ὑποταγησόμεθα“) to the Father of spirits, and live (Hebrews 12:9, page 1884). Therefore, another spiritual effect of spiritual control means that the local assembly lives in subjection to the discipline of the Lord and bears the peaceful fruit of righteousness.  

3.1.6  Submit to God and Resist the Devil. James teaches us that we must submit (“ὑποτάγητε”) to God, and resist the devil. Another effect of The Spiritual Gift of Leading will be to help people to submit to God and, while submitting to God, to resist the devil. Therefore, another spiritual effect of spiritual control means the local assembly submits to God and resists the devil.

3.1.7  Submit to Every Human Institution.  Peter commands us: “Submit (“Ὑποτάγητε”) yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution (1 Peter 2:13, page 1895; compare Titus 3:1, page 1867).  Notice that we submit for the sake of the Lord Jesus. Jesus paid taxes (Matthew 17:24-27, page 1532), and recognized that even Pilate had no authority of Him except that authority given by God to Pilate (John 19:11, page 1693).  Therefore, another spiritual effect of spiritual control causes the local assembly to submit to every human institution, within the will of God.

3.1.8  Younger Men Be Subject to EldersPeter also directs young men to be subject to elders (1 Peter 5:5, page 1899). Younger men would do well to let older, Godly men lead the assembly. All leaders in the local assembly must possess The Spiritual Gift of Leading. Within the group of men possessing the spiritual gift of leadership, the younger men should follow the general pattern of younger men submitting to the older men. Therefore, another spiritual effect of spiritual control causes younger men in the assembly to submit to the older men.

3.2 The Spiritual Effect of Being Careful To Engage in Good Deeds. Paul commanded Timothy to be careful to speak confidently, so that believers will be careful to engage in (“προΐστασθαι “) good deeds (Titus 3:8, page 1867). This spiritual effect of being careful to engage in good deeds flows from The Spiritual Gift of Leading. As believers exercise their spiritual gift of leading, people hear them speak confidently about the doctrine in the New Testament, and the believers become careful to engage in good deeds.  Not only must the saints spiritually gifted with leading be careful to engage in good deeds personally, but they must also lead others to engage in good works.  By implication, the entire assembly may unify its efforts to produce good works, and unite individual efforts.  Often, the leaders identify the pressing needs of the saints that require others to do goods deeds to meet those needs (Titus 3:14, page 1867).  Therefore, another spiritual effect of spiritual control causes the local assembly to engage in good deeds.

So we learn that The Spiritual Gift of Leading produces the spiritual effects of control within the local assembly and the local assembly being careful to engage in a variety of good deeds, all to the glory of God. The spiritual gift of control must be exercised evenly, consistently, and with diligence.

Section Four

Diligence and the Spiritual Gift of Leading

We have reviewed some of the New Testament material concerning the general concept of leading in the New Testament. From that general understanding of leading, we can see that in Romans 12:8, page 1775, it must be done with diligence. Therefore, we will now begin a review of the New Testament concept of diligence, with a special view of how diligence would apply to the use of The Spiritual Gift of Leading.

4.1 Word Study of Diligence.  We can study the word “diligence” (“σπουδῇ”) in the New Testament to gain further insight into the proper exercise of The Spiritual Gift of Leading.  The study of the term “diligence” reveals several related categories of meaning for this word, and many of them tell us how to use The Spiritual Gift of Leading.

4.1.1 Diligence and Eagerness. In Romans 12:8, page 1775, Paul used the word for “diligence” (“σπουδῇ”) to describe how The Spiritual Gift of Leading must be exercised. Sometimes that same word for “diligence” is translated “with eagerness.”  We may gain further insight into the use of the spiritual gift of leading by reviewing some of the uses of the root term diligence. Onesiphorus. Onesiphoris stands out a great example of eagerness.  During Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, Onesiphorus eagerly (“σπουδαίως”) searched for Paul, to refresh him, even though others may have stayed away because they were ashamed of his chains (2 Timothy 1:17, pages 1861-1862).   Men with The Spiritual Gift of Leading display this same quality. This eagerness identifies every man displaying the spiritual gift of leadership. You may identify the spiritual gift of leadership by observing men in the local assembly who search out the believers in the flock who need ministry in any form, such as refreshment, encouragement, and the list goes on.  The spiritual gift of leadership prompts the believer to search  out eagerly ways to meet the needs of saints and they are not ashamed to go where others are too ashamed or too scared or too important to go. Making Every Effort. In some New Testament passages, the root word translated  “diligence” found in Romans 12:8 has been translated as “make every effort.” Come Quickly. For example, in 2 Timothy 4:21, page 1865, Paul urged Timothy to make every effort (“Σπούδασον”) to come before winter to visit him.  Previously, in  2 Timothy 4:9, page 1864, Paul urged Timothy to make every effort (“Σπούδασον”) to come quickly to him.  This diligence that means “make every effort” should also characterize the use of The Spiritual Gift of Leading. Encourage Others. People with The Spiritual Gift of Leading must be known as people who “make every effort” to encourage others.  Likewise, in Titus 3:12, page 1867, Paul urged Titus to make every effort to come to him in Nicopolis. Writing Others. Jude said he “was making every effort (“σπουδὴν”) to write concerning their common salvation (Jude 1:3, page 1912) . Summary of Making Every Effort. The same “make every effort” attitude describes one aspect of diligence that must be an important part of how saints gifted with The Spiritual Gift of Leading undertake their leading.  They should put all of their efforts into leading, and not be absent or part-time leaders.  Of course leaders can have a variety of full time jobs, but when it comes to exercising their spiritual gift of leading, they should remember to make every effort.

4.1.2  Diligence and Helping Others. Another aspect of diligence includes being careful to help others. Leaders need to help others with diligence.  For example, Paul instructed Titus to be diligent (“σπουδαίως”) to help Zenas the lawyer and Appollos on their way so that they would lack nothing (Titus 3:13, page 1867).  This “lack nothing” (“μηδὲν λείπῃ”) attitude must guide leaders to be diligent to help other workers lack nothing as they equip them for ministry.

4.1.3 Diligent and Self-Examination.   Another meaning of “diligence” includes diligent (“σπουδάσατε”) self-examination to be certain about the calling of Christ and His choosing of believers (2 Peter 1:10, page 1900).   Saints with The Spiritual Gift of Leading should be certain to encourage other saints to examine themselves diligently to be sure they are pursuing personal spiritual development in the areas of faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, Godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (2 Peter 1:5-8, page 1900).  In  2 Peter 1:5, page 1900, Peter directed the saints to apply all diligence (“σπουδὴν”) to perfect their lives through adding Godly qualities within themselves by the power of God.  With those spiritual qualities, saints will be useful for the service of God.  This quality of diligent self-examination, in conjunction with a spiritual desire to mature in the qualities Christ produces in us, means that every person desiring to lead must encourage everyone to perform regular spiritual self-examination, starting with the leader himself.

4.1.4 Diligence and Spiritual Development.  Another use, related directly to the passage in 2 Peter 1:5-8, page 1900, of this word “diligence” concerns the duty of leaders to be totally diligent (“σπουδάσατε”) to present saints to Christ in peace, spotless and blameless (2 Peter 3:14, page 1902).     The spiritual welfare of the flock requires constant diligence to preserve peace within the assembly, and to promote a spotless and blameless testimony in every saint.

4.1.5 Diligence and Handling the Word of God.  So often I meet people who have been saved from the penalty of their sins for many years, and yet cannot locate in their Bibles any two verses that describe salvation.  I am not talking about arcane spiritual matters in obscure passages, but rather basic truths about essential matters of the faith.  Ignorance of God’s Word stains the lives of so many believers.  Furthermore, many saints have no intention of reading the Bible, and becoming acquainted with the principles of reading and interpreting the Bible.  In  2 Timothy 2:15, page 1862, Paul commanded each saint to be be continuously diligent (“σπούδασον”) to present themselves approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.   The Spiritual Gift of Leading must address this need in every Christian to learn how to handle and interpret the Word of God, and it is not just the duty of the leading believers to interpret the Bible and handle it accurately.  Every saint must know how to read, interpret and apply Scripture daily.  Leaders use diligence in leading the saints in this area. The spiritual effect of the spiritual gift of leading means that saints handle the Word of God properly, as a workman that does not need to be ashamed.

4.1.6 Diligence and Reminding.  In 2 Peter 1:15, page 1900, Peter declared that he would be diligent (“σπουδάσω”) that after his departure, his audience would be able to call his teaching to their minds.  Leaders exercising The Spiritual Gift of Leading should always have this desire to remind believers, and be diligent about reminding believers, to abide in the doctrine of Jesus Christ and His teaching, as recorded in the Old and New Testament. The spiritual effect of The Spiritual Gift of Leading means that saints remember the teachings of Christ.

4.1.7 Diligence and Entering the Rest of God.  In Hebrews 4:11, page 1873, God commanded saints that we must be diligent (“σπουδάσωμεν”) to enter His rest.   In exercising The Spiritual Gift of Leading, everyone who has received the Word of God with saving faith must be diligent to enter the rest of God.   The leader works with saints to keep them from falling, and being sure that each saint remains strong in the faith. The spiritual effect of the spiritual gift of leading produces diligence in entering the rest of God.

4.1.8 Diligence and Godly Sorrow.  Another example of the use of the term for “diligence” occurs in 2 Corinthians 7:11, page 1811.  There we see that Godly sorrow produced great earnestness (“σπουδήν”) in the Corinthians as they dealt with the sinful brother described in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, pages 1786-1787.   Their great earnestness led them to vindication, fear, longing, zeal and avenging of wrong.  Leaders operating under the influence of The Spiritual Gift of Leading will help all the saints develop a sense of great earnestness as the result of Godly sorrow over sin.  This great earnestness will itself result in the saints taking appropriate action to restore the sinner, and restore the local assembly. The spiritual effect of The Spiritual Gift of Leading produces an earnest sorrow over sin leading to repentance and Godly living.

Hallmarks of the Spiritual Gift of Leadership

So, we may summarize The Spiritual Gift of LeadingJesus emphasized that the greatest among the saints would be the least of them and servant of all (Mark 9:33-37, page 1576).  We see then, as servants, saints gifted with The Spiritual Gift of Leading must exercise leading with diligence, and be an example to the flock.  As saints, we must appreciate their work and honor them.


Check out the list below to see if you have some of the spiritual qualities listed and other believers confirm your understanding. You may have The Spiritual Gift of Leading.

  Leading-gifted believers lead first at home with diligence.

    Leading-gifted believers provide spiritual care for everyone.

   Leading-gifted believers provide physical care.

  Leading-gifted believers search carefully for missing people.

 Leading-gifted believers promote voluntary submission and compulsory control by causing people to keep the commandments of Christ found in the Bible.

    Leading-gifted believers avoid hypocrisy and confront others who fall into it.

   Leading-gifted believers accept discipline well. 

    Leading-gifted believers submit to God and resist the devil. 

    Leading-gifted believers pay their taxes and submit to every institution. 

   Leading-gifted believers act with eagerness and bring spiritual refreshment. 

  Leading-gifted believers come quickly to visit those people in spiritual need. 

    Leading-gifted believers write others concerning their common salvation. 

Spiritual Gifts │ The Gift of Leading

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