By Jim Sparks
Now, let’s take a look at the position of the modern day pastor. As it is today, I believe the position is unscriptural. No doubt, many good men have started out right, but have fallen into this snare, by being put, or putting themselves into an unscriptural position. First of all, nowhere in the Bible will you find that a church was ruled by one man. Nowhere! Yet most churches today are. But, where does the Bible say that a church should be run by one man? If you know of one clear example or one Scriptural command, please let me know.
The word “pastor” (“poimen”), is used without end today, and is mentioned only once in the New Testament, (Eph. 4:11, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;). The word pastor means to “feed” or to “shepherd”. According to the context of the passage in Eph. 4, it appears that “pastoring” is a spiritual gift, not a position or a calling. However, the most common words used in the Bible for leaders in the churches was “elders” (“presbuteros” which means older) and “bishops” (“episkope” which means overseer). “Elder” was the Jewish name and “bishop” was the Greek name for the same office, and they both are interchangeable. “Elder” is an older man, and “bishop” is the word for his office (work), or ministry as an overseer. They represent the same person. This is proven in Acts 20:17. “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.” Now, look down at verse 28. “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Notice that here in this verse he refers to the elders (presbuteros) of verse 17, as “overseers” in verse 28. Paul calls the men “elders” and says that their ministry is to be “overseers”. Note carefully that the Greek word used here for the word “overseer” is “episkopos”, the very same word as for “bishop.” Hence, he is calling these leaders of the church “elders” in verse 17 and “bishops” (overseers) in verse 28. The words are interchangeable. They were “elders” and it was their job to “oversee” the church. This refutes the idea that the pastor of the church is the only bishop, and the other mature Christian men who lead in the church are the elders. No, this verse says that Paul called the elders of the church of Ephesus, (and there is no mention of a pastor or a single elder), but it was the elders’ job to be overseers or bishops. There is no mention or even a hint to a single pastor of this church in Ephesus. Referring to these leaders in the churches, they are always plural in each church. Notice in Acts 20:17, that Paul called the elders (plural) of the church. One church (Ephesus), but many elders, or mature spiritual men who were the leaders in the church.
Look at some other examples where leadership in the early church was plural. “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi , with the bishops and deacons” Phil 1:1. Notice, the church at Philippi had bishops (plural), or overseers. These were the elders of the church (no mention of a singular pastor over the church).
“And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed” Acts 14:23. Notice they appointed elders (plural) in every church. (No mention of one singular leader, a “pastor”, being appointed over each church).
“And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and [of] the apostles and elders…” .Acts 15:4. This verse says one church in Jerusalem, but elders is plural. (No singular ruler of the church of Jerusalem mentioned). When the apostles died, that left only the elders as leaders.
“For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee” Titus 1:5 (Bible Dict. says each of these cities in Crete had only one church).
“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church;” James 5:14. (clearly, one church, plural elders, or overseers in the church)
1Thes 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.” He is speaking to the local, church of Thessalonica (who the letter is written to) and saying to “know them” and “esteem them” for “their work’s sake” (all plural). This is speaking of the elders in the church at Thessalonica. No pastor mentioned. It did not say, to know him which labours among you, and is over you in the Lord, and admonishes you; and to esteem him very highly in love for his work’s sake.
There are many other similar verses, but I think these will do. If you disagree, then please show me a church in the Bible where one man was the only leader. I will help you. I can think of one example. It is in Third John 1:9-11. “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth [them] out of the church. Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God”. Preeminence means first place. He had the preeminence or first place in the church and loved it. He was running the church, forbid-ding others in the church to receive brethren, and was casting people out that opposed him. Sounds like this church was run by one man, but John condemned it. Now, today, a pastor holds a POSITION in the church which will put him in a place of preeminence. Even Diotrephes didn’t have the position of being a singular leader as do modern day pastors. He, as an elder, just gained more power from the church over the other elders and became preeminent and ran the church. A modern day pastor may be a good man, or he may be a bad man, but the position automatically puts him in the place of preeminence. Now, the question is, “Should there be that one position of authority in the local church?” I believe the Bible teaches that it is wrong.
Don’t think that no one else believes this. C. I. Scofield said in his notes in the “Old Scofield Bible,” “There is no instance of one elder in a local church…. Elders are made or set in the churches by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28). At first they were ordained by an apostle (Acts 14:23), but in Titus and 1 Timothy the qualifications of an elder become part of the Scriptures for the guidance of the churches.” Scofield’s note for IIIJohn says, “The aged Apostle had written to a church which allowed one Diotrephes to exercise an authority common enough in later ages, but wholly new in the primitive churches. Historically, this letter marks the beginning of that clerical and priestly assumption over the churches in which the primitive church order disappeared. John addresses this letter to a faithful man in the church for the comfort and encouragement of those who were standing fast in the primitive simplicity.” (These two notes have either been omitted or changed in the updated “New Scofield Bible”).
Some say that the pastor can have many assistant pastors (as in a big church), then that is a plurality of elders in the church. But, that seems to make “the Pastor” the senior pastor or chief shepherd. If so, that statement is bordering on blasphemy. The Bible says that Jesus is the Chief Shepherd or Pastor. “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd (Jesus, the Shepherd (“poimen”) which means pastor) and Bishop (Overseer) of your souls.” (IPeter 2:25). “And when the chief Shepherd (JESUS) shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” Thus all the elders in the local church are the undershepherds all on the same level. There is no provision from the Scriptures for a senior elder or senior pastor over the others. The pastor is not the head of the church. Colossians 1:18 says, “And he (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all [things] he might have the preeminence.” Now, you tell me, how can they both have the preeminence? You say, “Well, the pastor is in that position to be a servant to the flock. He represents Christ in the church. He is the undershepherd. Christ can’t be the literal head of the church, so the pastor is the visible representative of Christ in the church.” Did you know those are dangerous words? What you are saying is the same thing the Roman Catholics say about the Pope, that he represents Christ on the earth to the church in doing the Lord’s will. Are you saying that the pastor is in the place or position of representing Christ? Surely, you don’t believe a man takes the place of Christ in the church, do you? The Bible clearly says that Jesus IS the Head of the church, and if a man, “the Pastor,” is going to be His representative head in the church, the Scriptures would have told us. But, you won’t find it. So, men should not twist Scriptures to make it appear that way.
One might say, “Well, the pastor is not the head, but a servant to the church.” But, whether he is a servant or not depends on the man, not the position. He can be a servant and serve the church without being in this elevated position of authority that exists today. We probably get this idea from the term “office of the bishop” in the Scriptures, “This [is] a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work” (1Tim. 3:1). But, the word “office” simply means a “service”, a “ministering”, or a “work”. In other words, “the work of an overseer.” The work of any overseer in the church is to feed, watch over, and protect the group. You can’t say that it refers to a singular position of authority. It is for any qualified man, elder, in the church that desires it. It never represents an elevated position in the church over the brotherhood, for that would divide an equal brotherhood that Jesus spoke of.
When the Bible speaks of an “office of a bishop”, it is not referring to one position in the church that has authority over all other members in the church. For example, did you know that Judas was a bishop? Did you know that he also had a bishop’s office? But, Judas was not a pastor of a church. Speaking of Judas, Acts 1:19 says, “For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.” But, look what that passage in Psalms says, referring to Judas: “Let his days be few; [and] let another take his office” Ps 109:8. “Bishoprick” means office of a bishop. So, Judas had an office of a bishop or a bishoprick. (One of twelve offices or “bishopricks”). But, Judas had no church, nor authority, and was not over the other apostles. Jesus called him to a service, a ministry, a work, or an “office”, and sent him out with the other disciples to preach the gospel. The elders in a local church, however, were “not called” to a service or office, but only had to “desire” it, (“If a man desire the office of a bishop”). But, an elder did have to meet the qualifications for it, given in 1Tim. and Titus. So, any qualified, spiritually mature man in the church, who desired the work of a bishop or overseer, could have a bishoprick in that local church. “And when they had ordained them elders in every church,” Acts 14:23. Who? The mature, spiritual men who desired it and were qualified. This in no way indicates one position of authority in a local church by a pastor. So, this position in the church where the pastor rules over the church is not the “office of a bishop”. It may be a distortion of it. Let me be very clear. It is not the man that is wrong, it is the position which in many cases, will with time make the man wrong. He will tend to gradually gain more and more authority and responsibilities in the church while the people become more accountable to him and less accountable to Christ. (That is why followers of men are carnal, as Paul pointed out to the Corinthians). Any person only has as much power as is given to him. The more authority that the people of the church give the pastor, the more powerful he becomes. In many cases he gains this power from the people by reminding them of his “position”, and twisting Scriptures to support it. The position of singular leadership in the church will make him preeminent in the church and divide an equal brotherhood into clergy and laity.
The men of the church will become more accountable to him and less responsible to Christ. Little by little, he will take the place of Christ. Now, we did not get this from the Scriptures, but like many things in the church that are traditional, we got this idea of a separate level of “clergymen” from the Catholic Church. They were the ones that developed an hierarchy in their church consisting of a pope, bishops, cardinals, priests, etc. Changing the name to pastor doesn’t change anything. But, the Scriptures say that Jesus is to have preeminence in the church in all things. He is the Head. Only He should be in that position. Each man in the church is responsible to the headship of Christ. Service, ministering, and leadership should come from an equal brotherhood of elders in the church.
Peter also condemns it. Not only did John condemn it, but Peter did also. Listen to what Peter says: “Neither as being lords over [God’s] heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1Peter 5:3). They are not to be lords, but examples to the flock. They are not to be preeminent, or in a position that automatically puts them in first place. They are not to be lords. A lord can be good or bad, but he still is a lord. They are to be a servant and an example to the flock.
Paul condemns it. Look what happened at the church of Ephesus. “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. (skip to verse 28) Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” Acts 20:17-28. Notice the leaders in the church were: (1) to be plural, (2) to oversee or protect the flock, and (3) to feed the flock. Look at verse 29, where Paul says after his departing that some of them would draw men after their own selves, to have men be their disciples. Each of these wicked elders tried to get men to follow them so each could have preeminence. Now, this did happen as Paul predicted. Look at Ephesus in the year 96 AD. Jesus said, “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden Candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” Rev 2:1-6. Jesus said “thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.” These are the “grievous wolves” Paul mentioned in Acts 20, those claiming to be apostles, and trying to draw men after themselves. Notice, right after this statement of men claiming to be apostles, you find for the first time the word “Nicolaitans.” Look at verse 6, and you will find that Jesus complimented the Ephesians for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans. The word Nicolaitans is a compound word, “nikao” which means “to conquer”, and “laos” which means “people”. Put it together and you have “conqueror of the people”, or “conqueror of the laity”. This was an attempt to usher in a priestly order or clergy. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? We know they later became successful because in Rev. 2:6, the “deeds” of the Nicolaitans later became the “doctrine” of the Nicolaitans in Rev. 3:15 at the church in Pergamos. But, Jesus condemns this modern idea of a clergy which divides an equal brotherhood. Remember, Jesus said in Matt 23:8, “But be not ye called Rabbi : for one is your Master, [even] Christ; and ALL YE ARE BRETHREN.” So, we are not to have spiritual masters or leaders, because Christ is our spiritual master and leader. He said you can’t serve two masters.
Distorted Position of the Pastor It is important that you realize that there was plurality of elders in the church, because one man would easily be tempted to run the church, thus becoming the head of the church. But, the pastor is not the head of the church; Jesus is. The Bible clearly states that Jesus is the head of the church, and that it is not to be run by one man. Remember, the saved people make up the church and Jesus is to be their head. Modern day clergy claims to be the “undershepherd”, serving in the place of Christ to that local church. They get this from I Pet 5:4, “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away”. But, if you look at the previous verses, it says that Peter is writing to the elders, not pastors. Elders are not to lord over God’s people, but to be examples. They also are not to receive base gain; “not for filthy lucre” (or money; note below). Other verses elsewhere say that they are to feed the flock, serve as overseers, and to take care of the church. This sounds like being a helper, not a ruler or lord. The position has become distorted probably because the church has become distorted, being more like a business requiring a businessman to run it. God did not Scripturally organize a church to be like a business, so there was no foundation for a “minister” to be like an executive.
Important note: Also, you will not find one example of a minister in the Bible who received a salary. Not one. However, the Bible is very clear that Christians support the poor and give offerings to meet needs of those in full time ministry, but never did they give a salary. Even Jesus received offerings for His work while on earth. [not a tithe; the tithe went to the Temple] But, He did not receive a salary. Paul worked and supported his ministry along with those who helped him, but he received no salary either. Today, we have professionally trained pastors, ministers, and missionaries who receive salaries. The Bible states that gifts of financial help should be given to poor brethren, but that doesn’t mean they receive a salary. Likewise, the Scripture teaches that those who minister in the gospel should receive financial help, but for a minister to receive a salary for his services seems to put him into the category of a hireling receiving “filthy lucre”. You say it depends on why he is doing it. True, but the idea of a salary is foreign to any servant in the Bible. Only the O.T. Levites were commanded to receive tithes from the people, because they had no inheritance in Israel. Furthermore, you will not find any of God’s servants that were professionally trained or educated specifically for the ministry.
Three different kinds of churches concerning its leadership. First, there is the church that is run by the people. The Bible calls it the Laodicean church. (“Laos”= people, “dicea” = rule by) It is run by the “laity” or the people. All decisions are made by the people. The people run the church. They just have a vote by everyone in the church in a business meeting. Needless to say, there is no Scripture for this method.
Secondly, there is the church that is run by one man, the pastor. Now, we swing all the way to the other end of the pendulum. Some are run by a hierarchy of clergymen with one man in charge of the church. But, in many, it is usually the pastor ruling alone. He may pretend to let others in on the leadership or act as his advisors, but there is no doubt that he is in charge. He is “God’s man”. The Bible refers to this as the Nicolatian church, or the conqueror of the people. He really makes the decisions, and the people “rubber stamp” them because he is the “man of God” and God directs His will through His “man”. The people feel that God will direct him, so they will usually go along with him. Most all churches today are run by one of the above methods, and most people don’t realize there is a third way, and the right way.
Thirdly, there is the church that is not run by the people, nor is it run by a man, but by the Lord Jesus. It should be, because He is the Head of the church. It is His church. I admit you won’t find many of those today, because churches are not meeting Scripturally. Jesus is outside the church, knocking on the door to get in. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” Rev 3:20. Here He is speaking to the church of our age, the Laodician church, or the church run by the people. But, He isn’t in the Nicolatian church either, which is run by a clergyman, because He said He hated their deeds and doctrine (Rev. 2:1-6). So, you ask, how does Jesus become the head of His church? The Bible indicates that He guides the church by the Scriptures by a group of men in the church called elders that the Holy Spirit has “raised up” (Eph. 20:28). They are all equal brethren that are not “professionals”, but have been raised up through that church, not hired. They have equal authority with one another and they have Jesus as their Head. These men are to help other Christians to follow the Lord, and by no means were they to be in an elevated position to be rulers over the others in the place of Christ.
Now, look at today’s clergy. You see, a clergy, or priestly order, or “men of God”, or what ever you want to call them, did and does today divide an equal brotherhood. Some of these men today call themselves “men of God” or “God’s man”. They claim to have a special “calling” or anointing. Funny, they talk so much about a special calling, and you can’t find it anywhere in the Scriptures, other than the call to be an apostle or a preacher, but no calling for pastor, elder, or bishop. Everywhere it was for the people of the church to recognize these men whom the Holy Spirit had raised up among them. The office of a bishop was for anyone who desired it and met the qualifications; there was no special calling from God mentioned. So, they claim to have a special call or anointing that others don’t have, and that God will lead His people and show them His will for their lives through these “men of God”. Since there is no position in the Bible for these clergymen, they have created one, and they call it the “office of the pastor”. But, what office are they using as their pattern? I believe they could be claiming one of the following offices, and then renaming it (pastorate) whenever they claim to be “the man of God”.
(1) Old Testament Prophet? Many of the pastors today compare their leadership to that of Moses or others that were God’s men in the Old Testament. They claim to be the “man of God” leading God’s people today. They say, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” Ps 105:15. This is a favorite verse of the clergy today to hold over the heads of the people. But, are these so called “men of God” today who claim to have a special calling from God to lead His people, claiming to be some kind of Old Testament man of God? Well, first of all, the verse in Ps. 105:15 about “touch not mine anointed” was referring to the nation of Israel, not to a man (Read verses 9-14). You see, God is saying in these verses that all His children in the nation of Israel were His anointed. Furthermore, in the New Testament, I John 2:27 says that all Christians today are anointed, “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” So, all Christians are anointed of the Lord. This verse says that all Christians have been anointed by the Holy Spirit, and He teaches us all things, so we have no need of a “man of God” to spiritually lead us. The Holy Spirit and the Word of God leads us. Others can help show what the Word says, and rightly divide the Word for you (as I am doing), but if you really learn anything that is “spiritual” it takes the Holy Ghost to reveal it to you, and you must be given the liberty to allow Him to. In other words, you can learn of God by the Holy Spirit just as well as any other man, including the leaders in the church. God will not just enlighten or reveal spiritual things to a pastor to relay to others. All saved people are “spiritual” and can discern spiritual things.
Position of the Pastor II “God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit……but which the Holy Ghost teacheth: comparing spiritual things with spiritual” 1Cor 2:10&13. This in no way says these spiritual things are comprehended only by spiritual leaders in the church, but states clearly that all saved people can and will know the truth when it is revealed to them. Even a carnal Christian will know the truth when it is revealed to him. He may not do it, or accept it, but he will know it is true, if he is saved, because the Holy Spirit is in him and will bear witness of the truth. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and He will lead us (all saved people) unto the truth. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” John 16:13. Not “may” guide. Jesus said that He “will” guide us into all truth! “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.”
Let me illustrate. A “man of God” says that God has revealed to him some new twist on salvation, whether if it’s God electing certain ones for salvation, or that you can lose your salvation, or that it’s by works, or some other crazy notion that he may get. What do most people in the church do? Many will say, “Well, he is “God’s man,” so surely God has spoken to him. I don’t fully understand it, but God leads him in order to lead us, and since I want to be a good submissive Christian, and support my pastor, I will follow him.” And, many people in the churches do just that, and the whole church goes into heresy. But, the Bible says we are all His anointed and not some clergyman only. God teaches and speaks to all of us by His Word through the Holy Spirit and each of us will be held accountable to God. All saved people are His “priesthood”. ” Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood , to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1Peter 2:5). We all will be held accountable; every single Christian. It has been said, “Individual Christians must do their own believing, just as they must do their own dying. ”
Maybe you like making a man your spiritual Head, so that you can get out of making Christ your Head. It may make you more comfortable and less committed, but you will always be a carnal Christian, because you have the wrong Head and you will answer to the Lord Jesus someday at the judgment seat of Christ. And, it may be more serious than we think, to make man our head. It is all right to follow good men, learn from good men, and even hold them up as an example to be like, but remember, Christ is your Head.
But, then the verse adds, “and do my prophets no harm.” But, surely they don’t claim to be an OT prophet. These men in the Old Testament held a special office, and were called by God to proclaim His word and His will to the nation of Israel. They performed great miracles and predicted future events. God gave them special revelations. “….. but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). In that day, God spoke to the prophets with an audible voice or through dreams and visions. Most OT prophets came out of the desert or wilderness to proclaim their message. Most wore a coarse dress of hair cloth, as did Elijah and John the Baptist. They often led a wandering and unsettled life and were very simple in their manner of life. Lastly, most OT prophets I know in the Bible were martyred. These were all qualifications for people to recognize God’s true prophets. Surely, today’s “men of God” are not claiming to be OT prophets. They don’t qualify, and besides, that office is not for today.
(2) New Testament Apostles? Could it be that they are trying to be like the apostles, “God’s man” in the New Testament? But, the qualification for an apostle was that he had to be “called” to be one, and he had to have been an eyewitness of Jesus’s life and an eye- witness of his resurrection. “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?” (1Cor 9:1). Paul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus. That knocks everyone out today. There are no apostles today. There’s not many today that would admit they’re trying to be an apostle. They’re smarter than that, but they are trying to behave as one, and trying to get people to treat them as one. They get by with it by renaming the office, substituting the phrase “man of God” for the word apostle. They don’t claim to be an apostle, but they do claim the office. You hear them say, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also [am] of Christ” (1Cor 11:1). But, wait a minute! Paul said these words, and he was a true apostle. The New Testament was in the writing stages, so in order for churches to know the will of God, they asked the apostles, and God spoke through them. He still does today, not through pastors, but through the apostles’ writings; the Scriptures. So there is no need for modern day apostles or “men of God.” Now, when you hear someone say, “I’m going to follow my pastor because he is ‘God’s man’,” you’d better be careful. You’d better be sure he is following the Scriptures! But, better yet, why don’t you follow the Scriptures? God holds you accountable to follow the Scriptures, not a man. During your judgment someday, you will not give an account of how you followed a man, but how you followed the Scriptures. Your total life will be judged according to your obedience to the Scriptures. The middle verse in all the Bible says, “[It is] better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man” Ps 118:8. Over in 2 Tim 4:3-4, it says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth. ” An elder, or bishop is to be a helper to you, and to assist you by pointing out Scriptures. His attitude should not be “follow me”, but “let me help you follow the Lord.” Jesus is your head. He is the head of the body, His church. He leads you, teaches you by the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, and makes you grow as a Christian. Jesus is your head. He is your authority. How? By the Word of God, the Scriptures. You follow Jesus today by following His Word.
Pastors Today Claim More Authority than the Apostles did in the Bible Did you know that many pastors or “men of God” today demand more from you than the apostles did? Even the apostles didn’t demand and expect the obedience that pastors do today. Look what Paul who was a true apostle said, ” Be ye followers of me, even as I also [am] of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered [them] to you. (from God, to Paul the apostle, to man) But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ;” I Cor 11:1 Notice that Paul, as an apostle, said to follow him as he followed the Lord, and to obey the commands that he had given them, but then he quickly added, “BUT I WOULD HAVE YOU KNOW, THAT THE HEAD OF EVERY MAN IS CHRIST”. He is, even as a true apostle, reminding them that Jesus is their head or authority and not Paul. Follow Paul. Yes, but Jesus is their Head. They will give an answer to Jesus someday, not to Paul. And, you, my friend, will give an answer some day how you followed Jesus, not a man. Paul also said (remember, he was a true apostle), “Not for that we have dominion over your faith , but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand” IICor 1:23. So, elders, the ones who take the leadership in the church, should be helpers, not lords, for a lord is one who has dominion over others. By the way, who did Jesus put into a position of leadership over the other apostles after He left? Nobody. Now, Peter would have no doubt been a good leader, and many of the other apostles probably looked to him for leadership, but he was not put into a position of leadership over the others. Jesus did not say, “Well, I’m getting ready to leave you, but don’t worry, I’m going to leave Peter in charge while I’m gone. He will take my place, so you need to follow him.” No, Jesus did not do that. He did not create a position and leave someone in charge to lead the others. Now, Peter did seem to be a leader, and the others looked up to him. He said, “I go a fishing”, and the others went with him. He did have influence. He had been very close to the Lord, and was very qualified to be their leader, but Jesus did not put him in a position to be their leader. Why? Because Jesus left someone else to take His place over them. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth : for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew [it] unto you” John 16:13,14. Jesus did not appoint any man to take his place, but He sent the Holy Spirit to take his place on earth. I am not against leadership, because the Bible teaches that the more spiritual men should lead in the church, to whom the Bible refers as elders or overseers, but I am against a singular position of authority in the church. You hear many pastors say, “you are not to submit to me, but to my position. I may not be much, but you should honor my position.” Now that, friend, is dangerous. You better make sure the man is worthy to be followed, that he loves the Lord, and meets the qualifications in ITim. and Titus, because the position is wrong. He is using that remark to bring you under his authority. The word “position” means rank or status, so when they speak of position, they are saying that they outrank you in the Lord because of their position, whereby we get the concept of the clergy-laity division. But, Jesus said, “But be not ye called Rabbi: (a position of a spiritual leader. Today we would say Reverend, Pastor, Doctor, or some other spiritual title), “for one is your Master, [even] Christ; and all ye are brethren.” Jesus is saying that we are all on the same level. He told his disciples they were all equal brethren; not one of them was to let others put any of them in a higher position, and they were not to put someone else in that position either. Jesus said it was the Gentile’s nature (our nature) to want to have authority over others. “But Jesus called them [to him], and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all” Mark 10:42-44. Gentiles (non-Jews) like to have authority over others. It is their nature, Jesus says. But, a servant is not a lord and a lord is not a servant. They are opposites. A servant does not and cannot exercise authority. He is a servant. He serves. If he is greatest (closest to the Lord), then we ought to submit and learn from him. A person may be closer to the Lord (as Peter and John were), thus you should submit to them to learn more about the Lord. But, you are submitting to a person, not a position.
(3) Old Testament Priests? So, I have clearly shown you that modern day pastors are not prophets or apostles in any way, shape, or form. What their position might closely resemble – yet they would deny it – is the office of the Old Testament priests. In the Old Testament, the priests were from the tribe of the Levites. They were to care for the Temple or the “house of God.” They received tithes from the people for their livelihood. They were an intermediary between God and man. They performed the sacrifices in the Temple.
The modern day pastor in most churches likewise is in a special group of spiritual leaders (like the Levites), called the “clergy”. They also preside over the “house of God” or their building the church meets in. They also receive tithes from God’s people, from which part of it goes for their livelihood for their services in the “temple”. Some churches even have “Temple” in their name. They in many ways act as an intermediary between God and man. “Follow me as I follow Christ.” “God will lead me to lead you.”
But, nowhere in the Bible will you find a command from God that one man should act as a priest in a New Testament church. He is not an intermediary between God and man. As Spirit filled Christians, we each are our own “priesthood”, and have no need of a priest or intermediary. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood , to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. But ye [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood , an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light,” I Pet 2:5,9.
(4) The Vicar of Christ? This one, friend, is the scary one. Does a modern day pastor of a local church claim to be the “vicar” or representative of Christ to that local church? He may if he carries his position too far. Many do claim to be the representative head of Christ in that particular church. (Don’t they say that they are the “undershepherd” representing the Shepherd?) However, it is the position that has been created that makes him the representative head of Christ. Disagree? Then what church in the New Testament had a position for a single pastor? If he claims to be the “spiritual leader” in the church, then he is getting close to becoming the “vicar”. Now, the word “vicar” comes from a Latin word “vicarious”, which means substitute. The Pope outwardly claims that he is the Vicar of Christ. He claims that he has been given authority by God to act as Christ’s substitute on the earth and to the church. He is Christ’s representative on the earth. Now, friend, this is heresy! The disciples asked Jesus …..”what [shall be] the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many…” Matt 24:3-5. Now, I have never heard many people come right out and say that they are Christ, but, are they claiming his position in the church? The pope sure does. He outwardly claims to have a position of being Jesus’ representative or substitute head in the church. In other words, Jesus can’t be here, so He put me in his place to represent Him. The World Book Encyclopedia says that the “pope” is the head of the Roman Catholic Church. The members regard him as the visible head and Christ the invisible head of the church.” Again, that is heresy! Nowhere did Christ say that he was choosing someone to represent himself as the head of the church. Christ is the Head of the church. The Bible makes that very clear. Now, surely a pastor would not want to be identified with that kind of a position. But, what does a pastor mean then, when he says, “It is not me, but my position that you are to respect and follow”? Or, “You are to submit to my position as your pastor.” When he says, “Follow me as I follow Christ”, what is he actually saying? What does he mean when he says, “Christ will lead and direct the church through me?” Is he claiming the position of Christ in the church? This kind of pastor is saying that as the Holy Spirit leads him, he will lead the church. Where is this in the Bible? He becomes the intermediary or link between Christ and the other men of the church. Do you see then that when he speaks this way, he is being like a pope to that local church. He is the “clergyman” and everybody else is the “laity.” By the way, the word “pope” means “papa”. But, Jesus said call no man “father”, for you have but one father in Heaven. He is claiming to be your spiritual “papa”, or your spiritual leader. So, have denominations substituted the word “pastor” for the word “pope”or “vicar of Christ”? Friend, if you haven’t figured it out yet, this is cultish. The definition of cult is “an obsessive devotion to a person or idea.” The person can be the pastor, and the idea can be his position. Your devotion should not be to a person or a position, but to the Lord. You should be devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ, not some man or his position. That is why Paul sharply rebuked the Corinthians, because they were making men their leaders. “I’m of Paul”, “I’m of Cephas”, “I’m of Apollos”, but these good men would not allow others to make them their heads. As I have said before, you may learn from good men, and follow good men, but your devotion and service is to the Lord. He is your head. He is your spiritual authority. The Bible says we should follow good men that help us follow the Lord. You are to follow what you see in them, if it is of the Lord. “Remember them which have the rule (a standard or guide) over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: WHOSE FAITH FOLLOW, considering the end of [their] conversation” (behavior). Also, notice here it doesn’t say to follow the men, but to follow their faith, and beware of their behavior, because men may go wrong. This sounds like you are to look for examples or patterns to follow. You should want to follow men who are close to the Lord and display His character.
Learn from them how to be more like the Lord. Then you are following their example or life, if it is Christlike, and you are learning those characteristics. You are following their example not a position of authority. “Neither as being lords over [God’s] heritage, but being ensamples (examples) to the flock” (1Peter 5: 3) We are to follow their exampleship, yes, but not their lordship, because there should not be any. These elders in the church are not bosses. They are not to exercise lordship. They are not to be lords. They are to set the example according to Scripture, and the others will take notice and follow them. But, they are to make sure these men are following the Scriptures. When one of the elders in a church (see III John) became preeminent and began to practice bad habits, John told Gaius to not follow him, but to follow one of the others. Now, John could not have made that statement if Diotrephes held the position of a pastor. If a pastor is in the position of authority in the church, then he is in charge. He is the authority. He becomes the head of that particular church. He may say he is not a lord, but rather a servant. However, the position makes him an authority over others in the church, thus making him a lord. Again, the Bible clearly teaches that Christ is the head of the church. There is no mention of him placing someone else in charge of his church. Why? Because Jesus is the Head of the church. “And hath put all [things] under his feet, and gave him [to be] the head over all [things] to the church” Eph 1:22. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” Eph 5:23. “And he is the head of the body, the church…. that in all [things] he might have the preeminence” Col 1:18. Christ is the head of the church. How? By the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Vicar of Christ on earth. The Holy Spirit is the representative or Vicar of the Lord Jesus Christ to his church. The Bible also says that Jesus is the head of man. “But I would have you know, that the head of EVERY MAN is Christ; and the head of the woman [is] the man; and the head of Christ [is] God. I Cor. 11:1. How? By the Word of God, the Scriptures.
What is the “church”? Saved men, women, boys, and girls. Jesus, head of the church, is also head of the men of that church. The men in turn are the heads of their wives and children. “Yes, I know, but who is the authority in the church?” I’ve already told you, Jesus is. “How?” By the Holy Spirit and by the Holy Scriptures. The older Christian men are the elders in the church, and it is their responsibility to submit to Christ. The qualified elders who take on the responsibilities of overseers in the church are to feed the flock, act as overseers (protectors), and to be examples or patterns to follow. But, they are not an authority over the spiritual lives of others in the church. They are workers among the men, not over them. “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you (more mature) in the Lord, and admonish you;” I Thes. 5:12. There is a big difference between elders leading and working among the men, than if the elders became a class of clergymen and labored over them. Ever wonder why many preachers or pastors cannot have close fellowship with their people, but must find it with other pastors instead? This is true. That is proof there is a separation of the brotherhood in the church, clergy and the laity. Comparing the church to a family, an elder should be like an older brother to the others rather than being like a father. But, friend, you will never find a position of authority for one man given in the local church in the Bible. It is not there. As I have said before, Christ did not give any command for one man to take his place in being the head (or “father”) of the church. When Jesus was on the earth, he led his disciples. When he left them, he did not put someone else in charge. He did not appoint somebody to take his place. He had several good men to choose from that would have made a good choice. But, Jesus left no one in charge to take his place. Jesus said that he would leave the Holy Spirit to take his place, and that He would lead us by the Holy Spirit. The more spiritual men, or elders should know how to follow the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures, and then it will be easy for the others to follow them. If they don’t, then you don’t follow them. It’s that simple! Now, that is the position of authority in the church. Jesus, the head of the church via the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Men should submit to that and we should help other men to do likewise.
Any man that puts himself into a position to exercise authority over a church is following the same error the pope does. It doesn’t matter what he calls himself, he is a pope to that church. He claims to be in the place of Christ in the church. He claims to be the visible head representing an invisible Christ. He is the “vicar of Christ” or “substitute” of Christ. “Vicar” means substitute. This man, the Pope, is also an “antichrist”. “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there MANY antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” I John 2:18. Friend, did you know that anyone who takes the place of Christ is an antichrist? The word “antichrist” means “against Christ,” “taking the place of Christ,” “instead of Christ,” or “usurper of Christ’s name and rights.” When a man says that he is in a position of authority representing Christ in the church, WATCH OUT! “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: [(but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also]” IJohn 2:18-23. This verse says that anyone that denieth the son is an antichrist. I always thought that the word “deny” here meant to not believe or declare untrue, and it can mean that, but “deny” can also mean to “refuse to acknowledge” or “IGNORE”, because the verse ends by saying, “but he that acknowledgeth (admit or recognize) the Son hath the Father also.” So, a person that does not acknowledge Christ is also an antichrist, either by not “admitting” He is Christ or by “ignoring” Christ. In other words, one may say that he believes Jesus is the Christ, (the Devil knows that), but to refuse to recognize or acknowledge him as Christ in your life or in the church indicates otherwise. That is ignoring Him.
When a pope, a pastor or any other man, tries to take the position of Christ in the church, and get the people to submit to him rather than Christ, then he becomes as antichrist. He is ignoring Christ, because it is Christ’s position. He thus, is against Christ. So, when they say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” You’d better watch out! When they say, “It is because of my position that you should obey and follow me.” You’d better watch out! “I am God’s man, so you should follow me.” You’d better watch out! “I will lead you as Christ leads me.” You’d better watch out! He is trying to take the place of Christ in the church and you are falling for it. He wants to be your spiritual authority, your spiritual head. He wants you to commit spiritual adultery with Christ. My wife is submitted to my authority. I am her head, and Christ is my head. How? By my submission to His Word. Your wife should be submitted to you, and you should be submitted to Christ. He is your head. It is wicked for your wife to become your authority, or your head. Why? Because Christ is. The Scriptures are very clear on that. But, you shouldn’t allow anyone else to be the head of your life either. Christ is to be the head of your life. How? By your submission to His Word. If you allow anyone to come between you and Chris
Position of the Pastor III If you allow anyone to come between you and Christ, then you are committing spiritual adultery. In their field of authority, you are to submit to teachers, employers, laws, law officers, elders in the church, etc. But, Christ is the head of your life, or should be if you are saved. If Christ has not been the head of your life, then you probably are not saved. How is He your head? By the Scriptures. They are the written Word. The Holy Spirit that lives in you, if you are saved, will guide you to understand His will. Are you submitted to His Word? It’s all right to follow a man, or group of men, but is the Word your final authority?
Jesus said that his relationship to the church is similar to a marriage. When I got saved, I repented of my sins and rebellion against God, and submitted myself to the Lord Jesus and His Word as my authority. I remember at the time I thought it was like a marriage, that I was being married to Him. I found out later that the Bible taught this very fact. “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 church” Eph 5:30-32. Christ is the groom, and we are the Bride, the Bible says. In the Old Testament, we find that God the Father called the nation Israel his wife. However, the Jews got in trouble because they mixed their faith in God with the pagan religions around them. The most popular one was the worship of Baal. Their worship was some kind of combination of Baal worship with the worshipping of God, and so He referred to them as an adulterous wife. “And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce..” Jer 3:8; “And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that [were] round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth” Judges 2:12,13. Did you know that the word “Baal” means “lord”, “possessor”, or ……”husband?” Yes, the wife, Israel, left her “husband” God, and chose a new husband, Baal. Likewise, we are the wife of Christ. He is our groom or husband. We should keep ourselves pure, and not commit any kind of spiritual adultery against Christ. “But, to be a good Christian, I always submit and devote myself to the authority of my church, and follow our church constitution and bi-laws.” You are committing spiritual adultery against Christ. “I submit to the authority of my pastor, and follow him, because he is ‘God’s man’.” You are committing spiritual adultery against Christ. Your life should be submitted to Jesus Christ, your Groom. You do this by submitting yourself to the Scriptures. “If ye love me, keep my commandments. He that hath my commandments, (not the constitution and bi-laws) and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father,” John 14:15 How about it? Are you a good, chaste, virgin bride to Christ? “Come hither, I will shew thee the bride , the Lamb’s wife.” Yes, the Lamb here is Jesus, and we, the church, are and will be His Bride. Rev. 21:9, the last invitation in the Bible, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come.” Rev 22:17.
Proper Leadership in the Church is by the Elders in the Church God has chosen to provide leadership for his saints in the churches by older, spiritually mature Christian men in the churches called elders. “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.” (skip to vs. 28) “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Acts 20:17,28. Paul called the elders (plural) of the church of Ephesus, and says that the Holy Ghost had made them overseers in the church. No mention of one pastor leading the church of Ephesus. These were not men of the clergy, but the Holy Spirit had raised them up from among the other men to be overseers. Whenever Paul and others led people to the Lord in a certain area, they returned on their next missionary trip about a year later, and appointed men from the group to be overseers in that local church. Furthermore, in 1Peter 5:1-3, Peter says , “The elders which are among you (not over you, but among you) I exhort, who am also an elder,…… Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight [thereof], not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over [God’s] heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” Here, Peter says that elders are to 1) feed the flock, 2) be overseers, and 3) be examples, not lords. Now, an elder was not the pastor, as many say. This refers to all older Christian men in the church. This is proven in 1Tim 5:1-2. “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat [him] as a father; [and] the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity. Some say this elder in verse one is the pastor, and it may seem that way since it is a singular collective noun, but it can’t be, because Paul says after that to treat (1) younger men as brethren, (2) elder (older) women as mothers, and (3) younger women as sisters. So, where are the older men mentioned? How are you supposed to treat the older men? Did he forget about them? No, when he says rebuke not an elder, he is talking about the group of older men in the church. The word “elder” here is referring to older men, so you can’t say that this word means pastor. This is also proven in Paul’s same command to Titus. “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. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded” Titus 2:2-6. Paul says “elders” to Timothy and “aged men” to Titus. They are the same.
But, how old does a man have to be to be an elder, you may ask? Is there an age given in Scripture for when a male is considered an elder or aged man and not a young man? Yes, there seems to be. Did you know that the Bible seems to indicate that the age is about 30 years old when one becomes a man instead of a young man? The Levites could not begin service in the Temple until they were 30 years of age (Num 4:3,23,30,35,39,43,47). Joseph began his rule under Pharoah at the age of 30 (Gen 41:46), David began his rule as King of Israel at 30 (2Sam 5:4), and Jesus began His ministry at the age of 30 (Matt 3:23).
Now, not all elders or older men will want to serve in the church. There will no doubt be some that will not be close to the Lord, some that will not want to serve, and others that will not be Scripturally qualified to oversee the church. But, they are still elders. However, the Holy Spirit will separate some of the qualified elders in the church (over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, Acts 20:28) to perform the work of an overseer in the church and give them the desire to do their work. The people in the church recognize this and in turn acknowledge each of these elders as overseers. (And when they had ordained them elders in every church, Acts 14:23) “They”, the apostles ordained elders. They were already elders, but these elders were being ordained or appointed as overseers (bishops). So, it seems to me that there are elders in each church that are bishops (overseers) and then there are elders in the church that are not overseers, just “aged men”. Qualified elders in the church should be recognized by the church only if Scriptural qualifications are met so that everyone may use them as a pattern or example to follow. “Neither as being lords over [God’s] heritage , but being ensamples to the flock.” 1Pet 5:3. These elders will naturally lead and care for the flock, and others in the church will and should follow these spiritual men. “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.” IIIJohn 1:11.
The Holy Spirit enables these men by giving them spiritual gifts necessary to perform their tasks. “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, (No more apostles now) secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments , diversities of tongues. [Are] all apostles? [are] all prophets? [are] all teachers? [are] all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?” 1Cor. 12:27- 31. Notice no mention of pastor here, (gift of pastoring is the man himself given to the church (Eph. 4). So overseers in a church have this gift of pastoring. In the early churches, the Holy Spirit would give to the church men to prophesy (forth-tellers of God’s Word) and teachers, those who instruct. We can’t include apostles, because nobody today is qualified to be one. Other spiritual gifts were given to them and to others in the church, such as miracles, healings, helps, governments, tongues, speaking in other languages and interpreters. Tongues disappeared during the apostolic age.
Let’s take a look at Scriptural authority. Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters….” Luke 16:13. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as THE CHURCH IS SUBJECT UNTO CHRIST, so [let] the wives [be] to their own husbands in everything” Eph 5: 23. This says that Christ is the Head of the Church. Man is the head of his wife. “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” Here you have the major heads, or positions of authority. God over Christ, Christ over man, and man over the woman. I don’t see pastor, or even elders here. There are many minor authorities, such as teachers, employers, government officials, church leaders, etc., and we are to obey them in their area of responsibilities, but when their authority conflicts with your major authority, then you have to obey the major authority. You have world order, church order, and home order, each having it’s proper authority limited to it’s order. The man has only one major authority or head, and that is Christ. The woman has only one head, and that is man (husband, or father if not married). Wife is to obey her husband or father, and man is to obey the Lord. Whom will you serve? “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” How do you serve or obey the Lord? Obey the Scriptures. Yes, listen to men, but obey the Scriptures. Let the Scriptures be your Head. Submit yourself to them and you are submitted unto Christ. Whenever you get the smallest inkling that a man is wanting to be your spiritual head, or trying to be the head of your life, then get away from him. Quick!
So, does this mean we have anarchy in the church; everybody does that which is right in their own eyes? No. There is leadership in the church, and people are to follow their leadership in the church. “Obey them that have the rule(guide) 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” Heb 13:17. This is one of the favorite verses held over everyone’s head to get them to submit to the position of a pastor, but notice the word pastor is not mentioned. Here are 3 possible explanations:
(1) It is referring to elders and not one pastor, because it says obey THEM that have the rule over you. Submit yourselves; for THEY watch for your souls, as THEY must give an account, that THEY may do it with joy….. (if there had been one man over each church back then, it would have said, obey “him” that has the rule over you. Submit yourselves; for “he” watches for your souls, as “he” must give an account, that “he” may do it with joy.) But, it doesn’t say that. It says “they” and “them” (all plural). People in the church are to submit to the elders. Elders are to lead in the services and others are to submit in the services, but the elders are not the heads. Jesus is the Head.
(2) This verse could also apply to all forms of authority, not just in the church since it doesn’t say church. It can apply to parents, employers, teachers, government, police officers, etc. The Bible says that even government and civic officials are God’s ministers: “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil. For for this cause pay ye tribute (taxes) also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing” (Rom. 13:3-6).
(3) Lastly, it was written to the scattered Hebrews, so probably included submission to the religious leadership of the Jewish people. The Jews did have a theocracy, being led by religious leaders. Jesus said, “… The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, [that] observe and do; but do not ye after their works” Matt 23. Any of the 3 could apply, but I would not want to take this verse written to Jewish Christians and their submission to their authorities (church or secular) and use it to establish pastoral authority in churches today. But, that is what has been done. The verse has been twisted to apply to a pastor. You as a Christian are to submit to all authorities over you, such as: Government leaders, parents, employers, teachers, policemen, church leaders, etc. Many minor authorities, but you only have one Head, and that head is Christ Jesus. You obey all authorities over you, but when they disagree with Christ, then you must obey your Head, which is Christ. And, you obey Him by obeying the Scriptures.
Interesting Note: Almost all letters today sent to churches would include the pastor’s name, because of their prominent position in the church. “Reverend John Doe of Such and Such Church”. Did you ever notice that with all the letters to the many different churches in the New Testament, not one was addressed to a pastor or even mentions a pastor? Now Paul was a perfect gentleman, and if each church had a Senior Pastor, then Paul would not have ignored him. But, he didn’t have to, because each church that Paul wrote to didn’t have one pastor in charge. Paul wrote to: “the church of God which is at Corinth”, “to all that be in Rome”, “beloved of God”, “called [to be] saints, And all the brethren which are with me”, “Unto the churches of Galatia”, “to the saints which are at Ephesus”, “to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse”, “unto the church of the Thessalonians”, “to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the BISHOPS and deacons,” etc. Now, if churches back then were anything like they are today, Paul would be writing to or at least mentioning the Pastor’s name. But, he never did address the Pastor of a church. Why? Because each church had elders, not a “Pastor”. Never, never, is there the smallest hint of a one man “Pastor” in the Scriptures.
Now, some argue that letters are written to a pastor of each church in the Revelations, chapters 2 and 3. “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write” But, the word is “angel”, not “pastor”. You will not find the word “pastor”, “shepherd”, “bishop”, or even”elder” in the book of Revelation (except the ones in Heaven around the throne). The word “angel”, however, is mentioned in 74 verses and it refers to real angels, not pastors. All throughout the book of Revelation, the angels carry out the commands of God. “Well, the word “angel” means “messenger.” So? Even if it was a man, it was the messenger to the church that John was writing to. He was a messenger, or a courier, to take the letter to that specific church. To call him the pastor is a gross overstatement. Some believe this anyway saying that “angel” means “messenger” and “messenger” means “pastor”, so “angel” means “pastor”. That is not interpretation. That’s interpretation of an interpretation, a “copy of a copy”, and everybody knows that a copy is not the same as the original. That’s twisting the verse to make it say what you want it to say. If God wanted it to mean “pastor” or “messenger”, then he would have used that. But, He said “angel”. Others also argue that 1 & 2 Timothy are pastoral epistles written to Timothy, a pastor of the church of Ephesus. Well, they do include material for leaders and qualifications in the churches, but Timothy was not “the pastor” of the church at Ephesus. (We have already shown that the church at Ephesus had elders in Acts 20. The Bible doesn’t anywhere say that Timothy was a pastor or elder. It says that he was an evangelist. “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist , make full proof of thy ministry.” II Tim. 4:5. Timothy and Titus and many others were helpers to Paul, or emissaries, and they went abroad spending time at different churches helping to establish them. But, each church, as mentioned before, was served by a group of elders, who remained there after the apostles or emissaries left.
Does the Bible say how elders in a church should behave in a meeting? Look what Paul says about polity in the Corinthian church. Now, remember, he is writing to them because of chaos and confusion in the church, and he is telling them how they should conduct their services. “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.” Sounds like things are out of hand a little. “Let all things be done unto edifying. If any man speak in an [unknown] tongue, [let it be] by two, or at the most [by] three, and [that] by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. 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 churches of the saints” 1Cor 14: 26-33. Could these “prophets” be the preachers, bishops or elders? I think so. They were men in the assemblies of Christians that were moved by the Holy Spirit to stand and speak, having power to instruct, comfort, encourage, rebuke, convict, and stimulate their hearers. Today, we call them the pastor or the preacher. But, look at verse 29 where it says “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.” Notice, it does not say “one”, but two or three. It doesn’t say two or more, but two or three. There may be several men in the church, but two or three were to speak at a service being led by the Holy Spirit. While each took his turn, the others were to judge. In today’s church, the pastor usually gives the message, but Paul said it was to be by two or three, and each could speak sooner or later. If the early Corinthian church had only one pastor, then why didn’t Paul just say in order to do away with the confusion, “Let the pastor take charge and tell everyone else what to do?” He didn’t because there wasn’t just one man in charge. (You disagree, well, then show me in the Bible where there was one man over a church, or a Scripture that says it should be that way) So, Paul is setting a pattern in the church to be followed and he says in the last verse of the chapter “Let all things be done decently and in order.” He also says in verse 37 ” If any man (in the Corinthian church) think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord”. These are not suggestions by Paul, but commandments of the Lord.
But, you say, if a modern day church was led by a group of men called elders, you would have chaos in the church. Everybody would be trying to take over, and several people of equal authority can’t lead in one church. It is much easier, you say, for one man to lead a church. Well, that’s true if it is like a business, as most churches have become today. But, churches should not be businesses or operate as such. God did not set them up that way. The church is a spiritual body and should operate as one. The Scriptures clearly teach that a church should be led by the Holy Spirit who leads a group of mature Christian men in the church called elders. The Holy Spirit sets them apart for that task, to oversee, to feed the flock, and to set the example. So, there should be liberty in the church for more than one man to speak, teach, exhort, rebuke, etc. (Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.) This is a system of checks and balances that God has put into the church in order to keep out lordship over His church. Now, with one man ruling in a church, you do have a lord or dictator. In most denominational churches, he usually is the pastor, but in other churches, he may be the chairman of the deacons or the most prominent businessman. This makes him head of the church, or the lord, or a “dictator.” What he says goes. Now, not all dictators are bad. Dictators in some countries may appear to be good, but they are still dictators. Likewise in the church. He may appear to be a good man, but he is still a dictator, or lord. When only one man rules in a church, he is automatically a dictator. Maybe good, maybe bad, but still a dictator. But, God said there is not to be a lord in the church. Jesus is the head of the church. There is to be liberty in the church. There must be a plurality of rule in the church. For a democracy, you must have checks and balances. We have it in this country politically and it has worked better than in any other government in history. Christianity has flourished better here than anywhere else. (“where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty”) We have checks and balances in our country by having three different branches: the Executive (President), Legislative (Congress), and Judicial (Supreme Court). They keep checks and balances on each other. The president is not the “head” or lord of our country. He doesn’t rule alone. When he speaks, the other two “judge”. When any of the three speak or does something, the other two “judge”. They are like overseers. They each must approve. Not one branch can rule and dictate over the country. So, our government is based on Scriptural principles. Now, God has set the church up to run the same way. There should always be more than one elder in a church no matter how small it is. There must be these checks and balances to prevent one man from gaining too much power. Whenever one “speaks”, the others judge. “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.” 1Cor 14:29. These are the “checks and balances” in the church that will allow the Lord to have liberty in the church. When an elder is wrong, it is the duty of the other elders to correct the wrong before the church. That can and will happen when you have equal authority among the elders. However, that cannot happen with one man, the pastor, the “man of God”, ruling in the church. It is unheard of for anyone to correct him. He says that he doesn’t have to answer to anyone but God. But, that is not Scriptural. “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. I charge [thee] before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality” 1Tim 5:19-21. Yes, true “pastors” are men who have been gifted by the Holy Spirit to guide, guard, and feed the little flock in a local church. A pastor, or shepherd, elder or overseer is never one man over a congregation, but always two or more men who together excercise spiritual care for the church.