(Continued from page 467)
'Why do we have a hierarchy within the congregations today?
Paul carefully lay down the doctrinal and theological basis for all his inspired statements!
You also asked:
'Why do we have an hierarchy within the congregations today?
And why do women in some denominations stay silent when Paul penned 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Your women in the assemblies let them be silent, for it hath not been permitted to them to speak, but to be subject, as also the law saith; 35 and if they wish to learn anything, at home their own husbands let them question, for it is a shame to women to speak in an assembly. YLT + Jubilees Bible.
If a woman is single, what then?
What law is Paul talking about, I know of no new laws in the NT. (but to be subject, as also the law says)? I find 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 confusing?'
If men really exhibited the Christ-like behaviour described by Paul, ekklesiae would be transformed incredibly!
Paul made sure the principles of 'Christian Liberty' in relation to Christian Worship (1 Corinthians 11:2-14:40) were laid down and exercised with proper regard for the needs of others and the glory of God (even dealing with the issue about eating food sacrificed to idols [8:1-11:1]) and with regard to practices affecting the assembly of the ekklesia. Thus Paul carefully responded to the Corinthians' spirit of self-indulgence by stressing the principle of glorifying God and building up each other in the ekklesia.
Paul's discussion of Christian freedom, as it pertained to worship with remarks directed primarily at the behaviour of women, began at 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 and ended at 14:34-35. He appealed to ekklesia practice elsewhere as a feature of his argument in this section (11:16) making it clear that he was discussing actual meetings (not to be confused with more modern distinctions between meetings of the ekklesia for worship and other meetings, such as for prayer only or for women alone).
The Corinthians had expressed to Paul, either in their letter or via their spokesmen (cf. 1:11; 16:17), that they remained devoted to Paul and to the teachings, the central doctrines of the faith, which he had communicated to them (cf. 11:23; 15:1, 3) and he commends them ('I praise you') for their good 'points'. But he was earnest in seeking behaviour in keeping with a Christian's calling and characteristically lays down the doctrinal/theological basis for his statements.
The guiding thread which prompted the comments by Paul about women was the same theme developed in the preceding verses addressed to those gifted in tongues and prophecy. The ekklesia members needed to exercise self-control on occasion, a self-control expressed by silence (vv28, 30, 34) in order that the assembly might be characterized by peace. Just as Paul dealt with the earlier matters, he continues to address the problem firmly and from the same principles.
It is hard to believe that the admonition for silence was not directed to all women (cf. 11:2-16) and the word translated women (Gk. gynaikes) was used to refer to women generally (as in all 11 occurrences in 11:3-15), or to unmarried women (e.g., 7:34), or to married women (e.g., 5:1; 9:5; and all 14 occurrences in Chapter 7 - except once in 7:34). The context alone aids us in distinguishing between the alternative meanings. Two indications strongly suggest that married women were in view in this passage. The first is the word submission (Gk. hypotassestho san, v34). When it occurs elsewhere in the New Testament with specific reference to a woman, it always refers to a married woman who was to be subject to her husband (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1, 5). The second obvious indication is the phrase 'ask their own husbands at home' (1 Cor. 14:35)! This would obviously be a difficult assignment for single women (e.g., 7:34) or those with unbelieving husbands (e.g., 7:13). 1 Timothy 2:11-15, which enjoins women to be quiet in worship, is frequently cited as a parallel to this passage. But there, too, married women were probably in view as verse 15 would not apply to an unmarried woman. Also, when Eve is named in the Old Testament, it is as Adam's wife (Gen. 3:20; cf. 2 Cor. 11:2-3, the only other New Testament passage besides 1 Tim. 2:13-14 that names Eve), and her submission is rooted in that relationship [Gen. 3:16 is widely accepted to be the text Paul refers to in 1 Cor. 14:34: '... as also saith the law' (KJV) - referring to woman's creation "from" and "for" the man (ref. 11:8-9; Gen. 2:20-24), as well as a general pattern of male leadership among the people of Israel in the Old Testament; the word law was also a synonym for the Old Testament Scriptures, especially the first five books]. In addition, the noun hesuchia (stillness, i.e. avoiding bustle or language, quietness, silence) in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 means "quietness, absence of disorder," whereas the verb sigao in 1 Corinthians 14:28, 34 means "remain silent" (cf. 1 Tim. 2:11-14 and 2 Thessalonians 3:12). Paul clearly instructs silence on the part of married women whose husbands were present in the assembly, but he clearly permitted the participation of women who are properly adorned (1 Cor. 11:2-16) and they clearly participate (1 Corinthians 11:4-5) in prayer and prophesy:
'Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven'.
Such silence would express their subordinate (but not inferior) relationship to their husbands. This contrasts with a disturbance caused by their talking to their husbands during the service. The Corinthian believers were not to think of themselves as exclusive, independent interpreters or recipients of the Word of God (14:36). They, like those in all the congregations (v33b), were to submit to God's truth by conforming to this standard of conduct.
The problem appears to have been mainly the loud questioning of husbands by their wives in the services for we know Paul cannot be prohibiting women from prophesying and praying, or from speaking in tongues, and we also know that there were women prophets (Acts 21:9) and, in this very letter, he permits women to pray and prophesy in public meetings (11:5). Some have speculated that Paul may be forbidding women to speak up and judge prophecies, since this is the activity in the immediate context (1 Cor. 14:29-33) and such an activity would subvert male headship. This argument claims that, since the major responsibility for doctrinal purity in the early ekklesia rested on the shoulders of the men, the elders in particular (1 Tim. 2:11-12), women should not be involved in judging prophecies. But the fact that women were also to receive this gift surely means it would be illogical for them to be banned from participating in prophesy in this way unless disorderly calling out 'interpretations' of prophesies occurred, when this might conceivably be true. Since Paul gives a clear remedy for use of this important gift it seems highly unlikely to us that he is telling women to wait until they are home before sharing a prophesy, or interpretation of a prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:29-33):
'Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all ekklesiae of the saints.'
Of course, not all women have husbands whom they can ask at home, so Paul is answering the question (7:1) the Corinthians asked regarding wives' discussing with their husbands what is being said while it was being said. This would disturb decorum even if the wife were sitting next to her husband but, if the universal Jewish practice of the time (and of Orthodox congregations to this day) was followed, wherein women and men are seated separately in the synagogue (or ekklesiae), it would obviously be intolerable to have wives and husbands yelling at each other across the m'chitzah (dividing wall). Thus Paul does not demean women but deals carefully with matters of decorum and public order in congregational meetings.
The word 'speak' (Gk. laleo - to talk, i.e. utter words, preach, say, speak (after), talk, tell, utter) used in verse 34 ('As in all the ekklesiae of the saints. Let the women keep silent in the ekklesiae; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says') does not give us any reason to think that normal speech was not being used by these women in Corinth. Were they prophesying in a known language (Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic) widely used in Corinth, another language, or was there some other problem with their 'speaking' in the meetings? We simply cannot know from the available evidence.
This is why most commentators accept that Paul was emphasizing that the principle of women not being allowed to 'speak' in ekklesia services was not local, geographical, or cultural, but universal, in all the ekklesiae of the saints. But many commentators claim that the instruction may also embrace tongues, although the context here refers to prophecy - and conclude that women are not to exercise any such ministries! Is this really logical?
Is it always wrong for a woman to help 'teach/educate' a man?
Commentators consider one of the designs of creation, as well as one of the primary consequences of the Fall, to be the submission of women (Gen. 3:16) because Paul reflected that principle explicitly when he said, "Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet" (1 Tim. 2:11-12). Paul's argument was not based on cultural standards but on two historic and foundational facts: (1) "Adam... was first created, and then Eve" and (2) "it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman" (vv13-14). Men are to lead in love; women are to submit in love. That is God's design - but men often get the 'love' part very, very, wrong!
Ephesians 5:17-33 is rarely, if ever, properly worked out in our ekklesiae:
'Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ. Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. [Men can usually remember this part!] For the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ also is the head of the ekklesia, being himself the saviour of the body. But as the ekklesia is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the ekklesia, and gave himself up for it; [Men rarely get even close to this part!] that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the ekklesia to himself a glorious ekklesia, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his own wife loveth himself: for no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ also the ekklesia; because we are members of his body. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and of the ekklesia. Nevertheless do ye also severally love each one his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see that she fear [Gk. phobeo - to frighten, i.e. (passively) to be alarmed; by analogy, to be in awe of, i.e. revere, be (+ sore) afraid, fear exceedingly, reverence] her husband'. [Have you ever heard anyone refer to this 'fear' in a sermon - or anywhere? If men were really exhibiting the Christ-like behaviour described here by Paul - 'love each one his own wife even as himself' - the life of every ekklesia would be transformed incredibly!]
But, tellingly, a real practical outcome should be recognised which came out of 'The Fall', or was clearly identified by it - women, while usually being more 'spiritually sensitive' (in our experience they recognise, or 'hear', the Holy Spirit much more often than men do!), are also more easily deceived. It is not coincidental that, like Corinth seemed to do, many of the ekklesiae today that practice 'gifts of the Spirit (speaking in tongues, gifts of healing etc.) also permit women to engage in speaking and teaching 'ministries'. Many charismatic groups, in fact, were begun by women, just as many of the cults that have sprung from Christianity were founded by women (e.g. Ellen G. White of the 'Seventh-Day Adventist' cult and Mary Baker Eddy of 'Christian Science' infamy). While it is true that many cults were started by equally deluded men, when women usurp man's God-ordained role, they too often (and even inevitably!) fall into other un-Biblical practices and delusions.
Women may be highly gifted teachers and leaders, but those gifts are not to be exercised over men in the services of the ekklesia although they can be exercised with the right overseeing in ministries to other women and certainly to children (we are aware that contemporary ekklesia-goers will consider this demeaning and patronising - which says much about the state of the ekklesiae today). God has ordained order in His creation, an order that reflects His own nature and that should therefore be reflected in His ekklesia. When any part of His order is ignored or rejected, His ekklesia is weakened and He is dishonoured. Just as God's Spirit will be grieved and usurped where there is confusion and chaos in the ekklesia, or where women take upon themselves roles that He has restricted to men, it is clearly improper [1 Corinthians 14:35 - Gk. aischros, "shameful, disgraceful"] for a woman to speak in ekklesia, except under the circumstances mentioned.
'If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home' - the implication is present in this statement that certain women were out of order in asking questions in the ekklesia service. If they desired to learn, the ekklesia was no place for them to express their questions in a disruptive way. Paul also implies, of course, that Christian husbands should be well taught in the Word. Many women are tempted to go beyond their Biblical roles because of frustration with Christian men, often including their own husbands, who do not responsibly fulfill the leadership assignments God has given them. But God has established the proper order and relationship of male-female roles in the ekklesia, and they are not to be transgressed for any reason. For a woman to take on a man's role because he has neglected it merely compounds the problem. It is not possible for a woman to substitute for a man in such things. God often has led women to do work that men have refused to do, but He does not lead them to accomplish that work through roles He has restricted to men.
There are undoubtedly times in informal meetings and Bible studies where it is entirely proper for men and women to share equally in exchanging questions and insights, but when the ekklesia comes together as a body to worship God, His Word makes it clear that the role of leadership is reserved for men. There were no roles for women in the Old Testament priesthood and there were clear rules for the men called as priests - as Leviticus 10:1-2 makes clear:
'And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before Jehovah, which he had not commanded them. And there came forth fire from before Jehovah, and devoured them, and they died before Jehovah.'
Going against the commandments of our holy God and breaking promises made to Him can lead to death - just as it did in the New Testament too, as Ananias and Sapphira discovered to their cost (Acts 4:33-5:11).
It appears that many of the Corinthian believers, men as well as women, had contended with Paul about this matter and they were determined to follow their own principles and standards regardless of what the apostle or other mature leaders said. In their pride and arrogance they wanted to be a law unto themselves, deciding on their own what was right and proper and acting as if they had a corner on the truth and daring others to question them.
We can tell that the Corinthians had put themselves above Scripture, either ignoring it or interpreting it in ways that fitted their predisposed notions, because Paul challenged them with sharp words (1 Corinthians 14:36):
'Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?'
He makes it clear to them that no believer has a right to overrule, ignore, alter, or disobey the Word of God in any way. It appears that many Corinthian believers had wanted to disregard Paul's words about tongues and women so he tells them they should ignore such ignorant, self-styled rejectors. He did not teach the submission of women in the ekklesia because of his Jewish background or in order to conform to any personal male 'chauvinism' (as many dissenters today clearly feel). He taught that truth that he had received from the Lord and he claimed unequivocally that everything he taught about God, about His gospel, and about His ekklesia, was God's own teaching and the Lord's commandment (except on those few occasions when he makes it clear that he is giving advice based on what he knows of the mind of the Lord from Scripture, e.g. 1 Corinthians 7:6 - 'But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment'; 1 Corinthians 7:25 - 'Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful'; 2 Corinthians 8:8 - 'I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love').
No matter what their position, training, experience, expertise, or talents, Christians who reject Paul's teaching reject God's teaching, and are themselves to be rejected as teachers or leaders in His ekklesia and the apostle gives sound advice in his final, summarizing, exhortation:
'Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. But let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner'. (14:39-40)
Correct revelation should be obeyed in the correct way, and correct gifts should be exercised in the correct way. The basic meaning of 'properly' (Gk. euschemonos is gracefully, becomingly, harmoniously, beautifully, decorously, decently, honestly) and 'orderly' [Gk. taxis is regular arrangement, i.e. (in time) fixed succession (of rank or character), official dignity, order] should be expected, for God is a God of beauty and harmony, of propriety and order, and all things that His children do should reflect those divine characteristics.
Regarding single women, we also know that they would be speaking in Christian meetings from the prophesy in Joel 2:28-29:
'And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit'.
Both young and old, married and unmarried, would receive the Holy Spirit so it is clear that single women would be participating in the ekklesia but, if accompanied by their believing parents, they would know to keep quiet and seek answers at home. The Talmud reports that Rabbi El'azar ben-'Azaryah (early 2nd century) gave a homily on the verse in Deuteronomy 31:10: "Assemble the people, the men and the women and the little ones", in which he said, "If the men came to learn, the women came to hear" (Chagigah 3a). To "learn" in Judaism meant to study by discussing and thus to understand fully, because one's questions were answered by the men with the knowledge, whereas to "hear" is to listen to the interchange but not participate in it. But, of course, the New Covenant was strengthening the superior position Hebrew women already held over all other nations, religions, and belief systems, for we read (Galatians 3:28):
'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus'.
We also know that single women prophesied (Acts 21:7-12):
'And when we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais; and we saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day. And on the morrow we departed, and came unto Caesarea: and entering into the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we abode with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters, who prophesied. And as we tarried there some days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And coming to us, and taking Paul's girdle, he bound his own feet and hands, and said, Thus saith the Holy Spirit, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. And when we heard these things, both we and they of that place besought him not to go up to Jerusalem'.
While we know that these daughters would have their father in the ekklesia, we do not know for certain what the situation would be if, as may have happened in a city as liberal as Corinth, a single woman attended ekklesia alone. Whether she would be seated in a divided section (if it existed) or next to men, she may not have had any male family member to consult 'at home.' But it is logical to assume that the unmarried women could seek counsel from the elders who may then have assigned teaching from other families in the ekklesia in the safe environment of knowledgeable fathers teaching their wives and daughters in a family situation.
The warning about false teachers who enter homes with ulterior motives is important (2 Timothy 3:1-8):
'This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent (without self-control!), fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady (rash), highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith'.
There is also another source of protection and guidance for young women - from the elder women (Titus 2:1-5):
'But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed '.
We also know, from the history of Lydia, that women may have met in groups separate from men, or where they may not have learnt the most important truth, in some circumstances (Acts 16:13-15):
'And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained (compelled by treaty - made a pact with!) us'.
Some commentators conclude that the Jewish population in Philippi must have been very small since there was no synagogue there, only a place of prayer by the river outside the city - and it required ten men for the founding of a synagogue. But it may have been a proseucha - a place of prayer, or a place used for worship, where there was no synagogue, sometimes a large building uncovered, with seats, as in an amphitheatre, and commonly used by the Jews by the sea side and by rivers. While rabbis had continued the Pharisaical errors and taught that "It is better that the words of the Law be burned than be delivered to a woman!" this was certainly not Paul's philosophy for he had seen a man in the vision at Troas, even though he was ministering to a group of women at first! He had been obedient and the Lord had gone before to prepare the way. Lydia was a successful businesswoman from Thyatira, a city renowned for its purple dye and probably in charge of a branch office of her guild in Philippi. She was "a worshipper of God," a Gentile who was probably not a full Jewish proselyte but who may have openly worshipped with the Jews here. But she was seeking truth and Paul shared the Word ("spoken" in Acts 16:14 is the Greek laleo - to talk, i.e. utter words, preach, say, speak, tell, utter), God opened her heart to the truth, and she believed and was saved. She boldly identified herself with Christ by being baptized and all of her household were converted, so this prayer meeting for women became the opportunity for Paul and his associates to teach the Word and establish a local ekklesia (considered to be 'the first ekklesia in Europe')! The same God who ordained the end, Lydia's salvation and the foundation of an ekklesia, also ordained the means to the end, Paul's witness of Jesus Christ - and a beautiful illustration of these verses:
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 (NASB) - 13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What are the major areas of pastoral responsibility and corresponding authority?
Another example strikes us: Is it always wrong for a woman to help 'teach/educate' a man - or do unusual circumstances (direct witness to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ) call for unusual acts? In Acts 18:24-28 we read:
'Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by race, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spake and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, knowing only the baptism of John: and he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him unto them, and expounded (Gk. ektithemi - to expose; figuratively, to declare, cast out, expound) unto him the way of God more accurately. And when he was minded to pass over into Achaia, the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him: and when he was come, he helped them much that had believed through grace; for he powerfully confuted the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ'.
This eloquent man, Apollos, mighty in the Scriptures and a public teacher, was not ashamed to be indebted to the instructions of a Christian woman in matters that not only concerned his own salvation, but also the work of the ministry in which he was engaged. This may be exceptional but, remembering that Aquila was also present, it would be more disgraceful for such a man to be ignorant of important matters when he had the opportunity to acquire wisdom. Or would some really argue that it is a disgrace to acquire wisdom in these circumstances and preferable to remain in ignorance in such important matters?
In conclusion, although we no longer have the time to answer all e-mails and have to limit time spent on the relative few that we do respond to, we have written in more detail about the qualities required of a 'pastor' as part of 'Savage Wolves' on this page.
To summarise important Bible truths about pastoral authority:
1. The ekklesiae contains men who are called to be rulers and overseers (Acts 20:28; 1 Thess. 5:12; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1; Titus 1:7).
2. Ekklesia leaders are called by three different terms - pastor/elder/bishop - the terms referring to different aspects of the same office. In Titus 1:5-7 the terms "elder" and "bishop" are applied to the same office; in 1 Peter 5, the same ekklesia leaders are called "elders" (v1), pastors (poimaino or shepherds, v2), and bishops (episkopeo or overseers, v2). The hierarchical form of ekklesia government which places bishops over elders is un-Biblical - a pastor-elder is a bishop, and a bishop is an elder.
3. Every ekklesia is to have its own leaders and 'government' (Titus 1:5; Acts 14:23) - this is clearly the New Testament pattern and any outside form of control over the New Testament ekklesia is un-Biblical.
4. Every pastor is to be God-called, scripturally qualified, and ordained (Acts 14:23; 1 Tim. 3; Titus 1) - New Testament ekklesiae are not to be led by non-ordained men or by men who cannot do the whole work of a pastor-elder-bishop; every pastor is to be both a teacher, a spiritual protector, and a ruler or overseer (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9-11; 1 Pet. 5:1-2).
5. Deacons are never referred to in the capacity of ruling or overseeing ekklesiae - The deacon is a servant of the pastors and the ekklesia and not a ruler. Ekklesia ruled by a 'deacon board' (or 'diaconate') is un-Scriptural and has caused great harm in many assemblies.
6. There is no Scriptural support for any other sort of board that has authority over the pastor or pastors.
There are three major areas of pastoral responsibility, with corresponding authority:
1. A pastor has the responsibility to teach and shepherd the ekklesia (Acts 20:28; Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Pet. 5:1-4). Pastors, therefore, have the authority to oversee all aspects of such ministry and to make the final decision concerning what is taught and by whom - and to judge all things that are taught to make certain it is entirely Biblically correct (1 Corinthians 14:29).
2. A pastor has the responsibility to protect the ekklesia from false teaching (Acts 20:28-31; 1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Tim. 4:1-6; Titus 1:9-13). Pastors also have the God-given responsibility and authority to determine what is taught and preached and by whom, as well as to forbid the brethren from getting involved with anything false (e.g. Bible studies conducted by the heretical teachers, meetings in which un-Biblical doctrines or practices are promoted, un-Biblical music etc. - Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
3. A pastor has the responsibility to oversee the entire ministry of the ekklesia (Acts 20:28; 1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Pet. 5:1-2). The pastor's position of overseeing the ekklesia is similar to that of a supervisor or manager and he is not to do all of the work of the ministry but is responsible for training the people for their individual ministries and to also supervise the work of these ministries (Heb. 13:17).
The authority exercised by a pastor is to be distinctly different from that exercised by leaders in the secular world (1 Pet. 5:3; Mark 10:42-43).
1. It is a ministering authority - the authority of a shepherd (Acts 20:28; 2 Cor. 13:10; 1 Pet. 5:2). The authority of a pastor is for the purpose of building up and protecting God's people and work and not to please and glorify pastors but to please and glorify the Lord.
2. It is a humble authority - the authority of a steward (Mark 10:42-45; 1 Cor. 3:9; 4:1; 12:7; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:10; 5:3-5). The pastor is to rule under the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ, by Christ's mind and will rather than by his own mind or will; ruling in a "self-willed", pompous manner, rather than humbly according to God's Word, is un-Biblical. The ekklesia is God's property; the people are God's people; the work is God's work (1 Cor. 3:5-9) and pastors are merely stewards or caretakers (cf. the ministry of proud, willful Diotrephes - 3 John 9-10).
3. It is a loving authority - the authority of a father (1 Thess. 2:7-11). The pastor is to have a godly, loving, tender, sacrificial consideration for the welfare of the people and his rule is not to be overbearing or self-serving while his goal is to mature the members so that they can both interpret the Bible properly for themselves and find direction for their lives directly from Christ through the indwelling Spirit.
4. It is a liberating authority that builds up and does not hold down (2 Cor. 10:8; Ephesians 4:11-12). The ekklesia is a body and a godly pastor is not to hinder the Spirit's working through the body of believers by exercising an oppressive type of "pastoring" that cripples individual vision and initiative. His role in the ekklesia is to build up the body and mature the flock so that it prospers spiritually, all of the various gifts function, and Christ can be Lord throughout the entire body to freely accomplish His work. We have experienced pastors (q.v. 'Savage Wolves' ) who were so self-centred (instead of Christ-centred) and jealous of anyone who might be striving to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit (in the ministry of the God-given gifts He gave them) that they foolishly accused the sheep in the flock of challenging their authority and drove them out of the ekklesia. Thus they hindered and crippled the work of God by turning the ministry of the Lord into a "one man show" and would not allow the people to rise above the level of their personal servants and prevented them from ever maturing to the true liberty in Christ that we read about so clearly in Scripture.
5. The difference between Scriptural pastoring and 'lording' it over the flock (1 Peter 5:1-5) -Scriptural pastors love the flock and lead by compassion, but self-styled 'lords' typically despise compassion and don't encourage but demand (1 Thess. 2:7-8) in a very worldly manner (Titus 2:15; Mark 10:42-45). Pastors should never forget who the sheep belong to and that they will have to give an account for the way they treated them (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4; James 3:1; 1 Corinthians 3:17) and treat the people as they would want to be treated (Matt. 7:12), with equality (1 Tim. 5:21) and not favouritism. A pastor should aim to build up the people, encouraging them to have a personal vision of God's will and to regularly seek His will in prayer that new ideas for the Lord's work might be produced (Eph. 4:11-12) - if that is possible (while being aware of the plethora of foolish 'ideas' that Satan has tried to introduce into the body through men such as Rick Warren in our day!) while discouraging sin and false teaching. He is also to produce other leaders who will work alongside him to multiply and expand the ministry (Acts 13:1-3; 20:4). Everywhere in the New Testament we see a plurality of workers and leaders, both in individual ekklesiae and in missionary work. Scriptural pastors will not fear sharing their authority and ministry with other godly men so that the Lord's work can make good progress.
He must resist the temptation to be proud and to exalt himself (Mark 10:42-45) for the position of a shepherd is a lowly one. The pastor has authority but it is the authority of a servant under a Master and not a lord in his own right. The pastor is a spiritual ruler and leader (aka - a bishop, or overseer) with a unique relationship with those whom he rules. He is a shepherd but at the same time he is one of the sheep! While ekklesia members are likened at times to sheep and have some of the characteristics of sheep, they are not exactly like the animals by that name because they are not dumb beasts and they do not exist for the shepherd's profit and pleasure. Each ekklesia member is not only "a sheep" but is a child of Almighty God, a member of the "royal priesthood," and a free citizen of that "holy nation" (1 Pet. 2:9). Ekklesia members are not only likened to sheep but to members of a body, and the pastor must ever be mindful that their one true Head is not an earthly pastor but the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18).
Pastors must receive criticism in a godly manner, for the pride of the flesh is hard to overcome - it hates and despises criticism of its own wordly wisdom. But godly wisdom is very different and, as James 3:17 informs us, it is "easy to be entreated" (Gk. eupeithes - good for persuasion). When people questioned Christ He didn't get angry, vindictive, or boastful, but answered Scripturally. A pastor must model himself on Christ's humble example and not forget that he is not an authority unto himself, certainly does not know everything, and is not always right - and he must respond Scripturally (Rom. 12:16-20).
The pastor's sole authority is God's Word and he is not to be "self-willed" (Titus 1:7) but must also not give his authority to those who are not pastors, such as deacons, or men or women in the ekklesia who exert influence from "behind the scenes" (a fairly common problem in some ekklesiae!).
A pastor should allow the congregation to be involved in some, fairly limited, decision making - as shown in the book of Acts when the congregations participated with the pastors in two major decisions (ref. the selection of deacons and the sending of missionaries - Acts 6:5-6; 13:1-3). The Holy Spirit called the missionaries and the ekklesia leaders and the congregation recognized the call, laid hands on them, and sent them forth.
On the other hand we must recognise that every sheep in the flock has a Scriptural responsibility to maintain the correct relationship to the pastor(s) and must:
1. Respect and love them (1 Thess. 5:12-13). "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves"
2. Obey their teaching as they lead Biblically and seek to build up the ekklesia for the service of the Lord (Eph. 4:11-12: "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ").
3. Follow their examples. "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation" (Heb. 13:7). "Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples (examples!) to the flock" (1 Pet. 5:3). This shows the importance of God's standards for pastors. If the ekklesia leaders do not lead godly lives and maintain godly homes, they cannot be an example to the flock and God's work inevitably becomes corrupted. We have known of local leaders in some of the most well known cults who have resigned from their position in their organisation when they recognised that their children were no longer obeying them as Scripture instructs (1 Timothy 3:4: 'One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity') - but how often does this occur in Christian ekklesiae?
4. Submit to their oversight (Heb. 13:17: "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you")
5. Pray for them "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you" (2 Thess. 3:1; cf. Heb. 13:18; Eph. 6:18-19; Col. 4:2-3).
6. Provide for their physical needs (1 Tim. 5:17-18). "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And the labourer is worthy of his reward." While modern ekklesiae (certainly in many parts of the UK today!) may well find that they are starting from ground-roots again and require that their leaders have a secular job while, and if, the ekklesia grows, in prosperous times an ekklesia that is penurious with a pastor violates this Scripture. It would be hard to imagine a single pastor being able to shepherd a large flock of hundreds of sheep while holding down a day job too! An ekklesia that attempted to overwork a shepherd in an un-Scriptural manner would inevitably lack spiritual power or progress (2 Corinthians 9:6-10).
As we have shown in the 'Savage Wolves' articles, the Bible uses very strong language about the nature of pastors as well as submission to pastoral authority. But, if the pastor begins leading contrary to the Bible, we are given very clear instruction as to our line of action (1 Timothy 5:19-20):
'Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear'.
As we have also shown, when a bullying pastor controls and cows his fellow elder(s) and diaconate the necessity of bringing him before witnesses who can attest to this is necessary. Submitting to a Biblical, Christ-like, pastor is not difficult and rather like a wife unto a husband while the husband is striving to be Christ-like (Ephesians 5:19-33):
'Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the ekklesia: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the ekklesia is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the ekklesia, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious ekklesia, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the ekklesia: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the ekklesia. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence (Greek: phobéo, pronounced fob-eh'-o - to frighten, i.e. (Passively) to be alarmed; by analogy, to be in awe of, i.e. revere:--be (+ sore) afraid, fear (exceedingly), reverence) her husband'.
Likewise, the ekklesia member does not submit merely to a man but submits to the Lord who has established the office of the pastorate and who has put that man into the office. While the reality swings from some ekklesia members believing it is their duty to advise and correct the pastor in many matters, even when their Scriptural grasp is incorrect, we should always hope that God has lead the ekklesia to install His chosen shepherd. Testing pastors against the Word of God (Acts 17:11; 1 Thess. 5:19-22 - and the many relevant passages from 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) will always reveal if he is leading Biblically and, after seeking every opportunity to encourage him to correct faults (but not waiting until he has shredded and savaged the flock!), the flock must bring him before at least two or three witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19-20).
Some ekklesia problems arise because of personality conflicts and self-will, and even the attempt to exalt personal preference and tradition over Scripture, since the New Testament does not contain laws on some things there are areas of Christian liberty (cf. Rom. 14) where each believer is relatively free to do as he pleases before the Lord and therefore he cannot push his preferences on others and judge others by his standards. For example, minor issues such as dietary rules and holy days, which cults such as the Seventh-Day Adventists make considerable issues of - to such an extent that their false prophetess, Ellen G. White, declared that the 'keeping of the Sabbath-day' issue would be 'the mark of the beast' (i.e. non-Seventh-Day Adventists would not be saved!) - cannot be thrust upon others. This partial freedom is obviously nothing like the so called 'freedom' some 'Once Saved Always Saved' adherents claim is part of the New Covenant - to such an extent that they encourage Antinomianism for, according to their 'doctrine', we 'do not have to keep the Ten Commandments because we are not under the law now, but under the law of Christ'!
We must strive to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) and attempt to correct others while guarding our own hearts and doing so in the spirit of meekness (Gal. 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:24-25; James 3:14-18). Paul's attitude toward the ekklesia at Corinth is noteworthy for, while correcting its serious errors lovingly, he thanked the Lord for them on many points (1 Cor. 1:4-9; 2 Cor. 1:11-14).
The importance of keeping our eyes focussed on the Lord Jesus Christ rather than on men in this world cannot be over-emphasised:
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2).
The Lord Jesus will never disappoint us, but men will always disappoint us in one way or another and pastors are only imperfect men who are still battling with the effects of sin and can therefore make mistakes. We should never stop praying for our pastors/elders and deacons and we will see God at work and our own hearts will be kept tender toward those for whom we intercede.
We should keep in mind the New Testament ekklesiae established by the apostles who proved to be very imperfect: Corinth was carnal and characterized by division, fornication, lawsuits, drunkenness during the Lord's supper, misuse of spiritual gifts, and false teachers; most of the seven ekklesiae mentioned in Revelation 2-3 had serious problems; Philippi revealed the existence of two women who were at odds with each other and had to be corrected (Phil. 4:2) - while Peter's hypocrisy had to be rebuked publicly by Paul (Gal. 2:11-14). We must strive to overcome these kind of problems and remember that ekklesiae are not perfect because they are made up of very imperfect sinners saved by grace.
We must strive to exercise spiritual discernment, distinguishing between major and minor issues, and remembering Jesus' warning (Matthew 23:23):
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."
Everything in the Bible has some importance, but not everything is of equal importance and knowing the difference requires a thorough knowledge of God's Word and keen spiritual discernment (Romans 15:14):
"And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another".
"For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb. 5:12-14).
Such discernment requires spiritual maturity, which only comes through diligent study and through exercise of the senses to discern good and evil, as Paul informed the ekklesia at Rome (Rom. 15:14). As we mature in Christ and in our knowledge of the Scriptures and in godliness, we are able to correct others and to be a blessing to the ekklesia.
Normally, if we have a problem or question about matters in the ekklesia we should go directly to the pastor(s) or to the people involved. Asking the right questions can quickly determine where the problem lies and, if it is a matter of doctrinal error or un-Scriptural behaviour, careful examination of the facts and Scripture can reveal whether a serious issue exists or not. The action to be taken may be fairly difficult or obvious and can readily be handled by the pastor/elders of the ekklesia. But what if a pastor/elder is in error in the matter and has even coerced other members of the ekklesia, co-elder(s), and deacons so that they are rendered almost incapable of Scriptural action? And what about cases where un-Scriptural outside 'archbishoprics', 'superintendents', or related false 'overseers', have been given power over ekklesiae so that their opinion holds significant, almost irresistible, power over the decisions of the ekklesia? Anyone who thinks this cannot happen should read the Case Histories in 'Savage Wolves' (ref. this page cf. also ). Even in such difficult circumstances it is still essential to hold to the strongest Scriptural position - even when the ekklesia has been allowed to become liberal and lukewarm and seems incapable of determining the truth from the facts of the case and Scripture!
Pastors have been given greater authority and responsibility in the ekklesia and will rightfully earn the love and respect of the ekklesia as long as they are serving the Lord faithfully and remaining as close to the Word of God as is possible. While we do not 'strain gnats' (Matt. 23:23ff.) as sheep we follow the Scriptural admonition to 'make sure of all things' in both Word and Spirit (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22) and to thus assist our elder-teachers to remain faithful to the Word of God. If we ever hear something in a sermon, or other teaching occasion (ekklesia meeting/house group etc.), that puzzles or worries us we should seek out the speaker if possible and seek an answer or clarification - and the speaker should clearly be mature enough as a believer to ensure that you are helped in this as far as possible! We know that this does not always happen from instances we have witnessed personally.
Pastors have many responsibilities and must give account for their works even more than we will (James 3:1), so we should allow for the limited time they may have to answer some questions and be prepared to seek other avenues for answers, on some occasions at least. We have met more than a few people who finished up listening to Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons who came to their doors simply because they could not find the answers from their 'pastor' or other (hopefully mature) Christians - resulting in them joining the 'caring cult'!
Ultimately there comes a time when we may have to separate from an ekklesia over serious error, but we must exhaust every reasonable and utterly Scriptural avenue open to us before we do this and try to remain fruitful and a blessing to the fellowship and its leader(s) throughout.
We must not allow anything or anyone to easily drive us away from an ekklesia that - we trust - God has led us to join (by prayer and fasting, both at our joining and throughout serious and not-so-serious issues!). There may be occasions when we are forced to leave an ekklesia over serious doctrinal and moral issues, but we must not allow such serious disappointments to prevent us from seeking another ekklesia as soon as possible. The Lord Jesus Christ established His ekklesia (Matt. 16:18), and there are more than one hundred references to ekklesia ('church' or 'churches'!) in the New Testament and most of the books were written directly to ekklesiae, such as the 'ekklesia at Ephesus' and the 'ekklesia at Philippi' (q.v. Revelation 2-3; Acts 2:47; Acts 5:11; Acts 7:38; Acts 8:1 etc.; Hebrews 10:25; 13:7, 17; James 5:14). The importance of the ekklesia to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Father is obvious and every believer should therefore seek to be a useful, zealous, member of the assembly to which we have been called.
The old illustration of a coal fire glowing beautifully and producing much light and heat and thus blessing the whole household is still applicable; but if one coal is removed from the fire and left separated on the hearth it soon loses its glow and becomes cold and lifeless! May that never be our fate.
Trusting in His unfailing love to keep you on fire for the Lord, be assured that we are praying for you as we hope you will pray for us.
In the Precious Name of the Lord Jesus Christ,
[TCE: Dear John - If you are reading this again, I trust and hope you and your fellowship (ekklesia ('church'!) are still going forward strongly with the Lord and, should you read this (published on the website early 2020!), that you know how much your brethren (Note: that includes all believing men and women, regardless of race, nationality etc.) love you as a fellow servant of the Most High God who has taken us out of the world to serve Him on earth and into Eternity as 'kings and priests' (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6; 5:9). And all because of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Perfect Saviour and Friend! Alleluiah!
P.S. Because of ill-health I have added this 'post-script' to your e-mail because of the unknown and perhaps significantly limited time that may be left to me - but be assured - I rejoice with Paul: 2 Corinthians 5:6; Phil. 1:21-22!].
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