By John A. Halford
The Good News, January 1986
In his first epistle to the Christians at Corinth, the apostle Paul listed the ranks and positions of authority that Jesus Christ established in His Church:
“And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues” (I Corinthians 12:28).
Paul went on to explain that these positions were not just there for the asking. It is God who decides who does what in His Church (verse 18). In order to avoid confusion (something God never creates — I Corinthians 14:33), not everybody could be an apostle, or a prophet, or even a teacher (verse 29).
Paul explained that God would not give just anyone the gift of healing, or even the ability to speak in tongues (verse 30). (Incidentally, speaking in tongues was not the confused babbling that goes on today in some churches whose members claim to “speak in tongues.” It was a systematic, orderly, God-given ability to speak and interpret foreign languages — a useful gift in the polyglot society of ancient Corinth. But even so, God did not want everyone doing it. For more information, send for our free booklet The Tongues Question
But notice, Paul did not limit all the positions. For instance, and perhaps significantly, Paul did not say, “Are all helps?”
What is a “help”?
As you probably know, the epistle to the Corinthians, like most of the New Testament, was originally written in Greek. The word “helps” comes from the Greek word antilepsis,
which is very interesting.
The first part, anti,
is a prefix we still use today, as in antiseptic, antiaircraft or anticlimax. It means “against” or “opposite to.” The last half of the word, lepsis,
means “to seize” or “to grip.” It also has carried over into our language in words like epileptic —
a person who suffers from violent seizures.
So Paul’s word antilepsis
means, literally, an “opposite gripping.” What does that mean, and why is it needed in God’s Church?
Suppose you saw me struggling to move a heavy table. What would you do? If you wanted to help, you would move to the opposite side of the table, grip it firmly and lend your strength to the task of moving the table to where I wanted it.
That is the essence of “opposite gripping” — you assist others in getting their tasks accomplished.
Doesn’t sound very grand, does it?
Remember that a position — any position that God gives you or allows you to have — is a position of service. A title or rank is never given just to glorify the individual. It is a commission to serve. An opposite gripper has a special opportunity to serve, for he or she is cast in the role of assistant.
In our world today, many people want to be assistants to those in high office. The motive is often not to serve, but to get.
Consequently, many sincere and well-intentioned men and women in positions of authority have their ability to serve greatly reduced because they have greedy, corrupt, selfish assistants. These “helps” want to share the power, but not the goals of their leaders.
It must not be this way in the Work of God. There is much to do, and if it is to be done and done well, the leaders need to be supported by those who really want to help. Thankfully, God has called the right people to provide that support.
For every name you may recognize in this magazine, there are dozens who type, edit, proofread, photograph, make page layouts, print, package and in other ways get the magazine prepared so that you can read it. Thank God for them — I hesitate to think what this article would look like if you had to read my typing.
The Worldwide Church of God has hundreds of ordained ministers. These men often have assistants employed specifically to help them —driving, taking care of office work, helping with counseling and the many other areas in which a minister needs help. A ministerial “help” is not the most glamorous job, but it is honorable and important work — helping those whom God is using to serve His people.
You can be a help
But leaders are not the only ones who need help. There is an aspect of helping that you might not have thought of. Everyone God has called has a job — He has called no one just as a favor. He has something for each person to do!
It might not look that way sometimes. Perhaps it is easy to see how a handsome young college graduate or a clean-cut, prosperous, upper-middle-class family could have a part to play. But what about older people, handicapped people, those who do not have much education or money or those who are in prison? How are they useful? Listen to Paul, still talking to the Corinthians: “But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary” (I Corinthians 12:20-22).
So every member is useful — everyone has an important part to play.
Let’s take, for example, the proverbial little old widow. Maybe you are an elderly woman, in which case, no offense intended, ma’am, but you aren’t going to be much use coaching the youth sports team. Nevertheless, the Bible shows that older women do have definite functions. Some specific examples are offering instruction and encouragement to younger women and sewing and providing for the poor. And of course, you have an important responsibility to pray.
There is much that older women can do. There is also a lot they can’t do.
Their front lawn needs mowing, their plumbing may need repair and their roof may leak. They may have taken good care of their 1959 car, and they wouldn’t dream of getting a new one. But they may not have a clue how it works, and they may not remember when to have the oil checked.
Enter the local opposite grippers. They know what they must do — they are experts in helping others get their tasks done. They mow the lawn, fix the roof, put oil in the car — noticing, also, whether the radiator water level is low or a windshield wiper blade needs replacing.
Incidentally, sometimes older people are too proud to let others help them like this. They suffer inconveniences, never letting on that the drains are blocked, the refrigerator has given up or that they are just plain lonely.
That is a selfish approach. Yes selfish. You should be willing to let others serve you so that you can fulfill your responsibility. There is no shame in being helped so that you, in turn, can help. But back to the opposite grippers. They are not only needed to help those in high positions. Anytime they seize a chance to help so that someone else can perform a function in the Work of God, they are fulfilling the function of antilepsis.
Antilepsis in action
I saw a beautiful example of this in a congregation in Germany during the singing of hymns. One woman was in a wheelchair — it looked as if she had some degenerative disease. She was trying to hold up the hymnbook, but it was too heavy for her wasted muscles. A young man knelt beside her, gripped the opposite side of her book, and helped her hold it up. Thus he helped her to do her part.
Here’s one more example, to help you get the idea: A longtime member of a congregation in California was paralyzed by a stroke. She had been an active and concerned member for years, and took seriously her responsibility to pray about all aspects of God’s Work. She was the kind of person who made a daily impact before the throne of God in heaven.
The stroke left her blind and unable to move or talk. She needed intensive care for several months. But she knew, and her friends knew, that she could still be useful. They would talk to her each day about the needs of others, and with her limited ability to communicate, she let them know that she understood.
She could still pray — fervently, earnestly in her mind. She was willing to be useful even though she was totally dependent on others. Her friends knew her prayers were needed and seized the opportunity to help her to fulfill her part by doing what she could not do for herself.
Your opportunities to help might not be dramatic, but the opportunities are there. Look around for them. Ask God for them. Then go to work. We can’t all be apostles, teachers or ministers. But everybody can be a help.