*** DOWNLOAD THIS RESOURCE FOR FREE ***

FIVE BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT

(That You Have Never Ever In Your Entire Life Heard Preached From A Pulpit)

by Gerald R. Thompson

Spiritual Authority and the Right to Rule

First:   Introduction; Caution
Prior:   Diffusion of Authority, Priesthoods & Clergy
Also:   Church as Institution, Association & Corporation
And:   The Visible Church in Real Life
Last:   The Office of Pastor & Religious Corruption

3rd Principle
SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY AND THE RIGHT TO RULE

No sacramental authority, spiritual gift, or spiritual office – whether expressly stated or reasonably inferred – justifies anyone in the Church having authority to lead the Church or to rule over other believers.

So far, we have established that all Christians have equal spiritual authority flowing from the Great Commission and by virtue of their membership in the universal Church. Plus, no one can rightfully claim to be an exception to this rule of equality by reason of their status as a member of a priestly class or the clergy. Now, the question is whether anything else in the N.T. might confer spiritual authority to lead or rule over others by reason of any sacramental authority, any spiritual gift, or any spiritual office.

[Note: By spiritual authority, I mean divinely delegated authority – as separate and distinct from religious authority and ecclesiastical authority. Spiritual authority refers to authority which flows from membership in the Church God has created. It does not apply to all people, but only to those who participate in the Church covenant in Christ. Anyone who claims to have spiritual authority within the Church is claiming, in essence, to have received that authority from God via a divine delegation. In other words, spiritual authority never comes from other people.

Religious authority, while still originating with God, is something all people have as a matter of inalienable right – what we typically refer to as the right to religious freedom. It is bestowed on all people by reason of physical birth, not spiritual birth. Thus, religious authority is not something that only Christians have. All people have religious authority no matter what they believe. However, I am not concerned with church-state relations or the authority of civil government over religious matters in this essay, so I will refrain from discussing religious authority here.

Ecclesiastical authority, by contrast, refers to the authority structure within a particular visible church. It is, essentially, a type of administrative authority or command structure within the organization. Ecclesiastical authority is derived from a delegation of authority made by the members of an association of people, via the consent of the governed. Thus, ecclesiastical authority comes from men, not God. It is merely a form of managerial authority, like you would find in any business or other organization, where some people put other people in charge of certain things.]

Sacramental Authority

Let’s now look at sacramental authority as described in the scriptures, to determine whether there is anything about it which indicates who is in charge of the Church, or who (if anyone) has the right to rule other believers. But first, what is sacramental authority, and is it a type of spiritual authority, religious authority, or ecclesiastical authority as described above? Sacramental authority is simply the right to observe and perform whatever sacraments (baptism, communion, etc.) your local church believes in.

As between any individual and civil government, sacramental authority is a type of religious authority. That is, it is not the place of governments to interfere with, regulate, license or tax any person’s practice of sacramental functions, since such things are a matter of religious freedom. But this, as I said, is not our concern here.

What about within the Church? Is sacramental authority spiritual or ecclesiastical? Which is to ask, does sacramental authority come from God, or from people? I suggest the answer is pretty simple. If the particular sacramental function (i.e., religious rite) is claimed to be a duty owed to God, then the authority to perform it must also come from God. In other words, it is a matter of spiritual authority. But if the particular sacramental function is merely a duty imposed by people (such as a condition of membership in the visible church), then the authority to perform it must come from the people. In other words, it is a matter of ecclesiastical authority.

You see the problem, right? In most churches, church sacraments are claimed to be duties owed to God, but the performance of them is restricted to certain persons who have ecclesiastical authority granted by men. In this, there is an inherent, and unresolvable, contradiction. We have the associational authority of people (the right to form a local church) purporting to limit the way others observe the duties they owe to God.

We have, in essence, the will of men being used to vest a special class of persons (clergy – the people with ecclesiastical authority) to act as gatekeepers for everyone else in performing the sacraments. Whereas God expressly gave everyone equal authority to observe and perform any duties owed to Him (including church sacraments). What we have, in sum, is the creation of a priesthood in the churches, when God provided that there should be none.

All sacramental authority in ancient Israel was exercised by the Levitical priests, who conducted all religious services at the tent of meeting, the tabernacle and the temple – that is, a designated place of worship that was literally the house of God. The authority of the priests in such matters was exclusive. Anyone else who attempted to interfere with priestly functions or to undertake to perform those functions on their own were under a death penalty. See, Num 3:10; 18:7.

However, in the Church age, the priests were the very people God went to some lengths to eliminate from any further spiritual service. Not only did He abolish the Levitical priests from Israel, He instituted a universal priesthood of all believers in the Church under the priesthood of Jesus Christ according to the order of Melchizedek, which precludes any one else from serving as a priest.

It only makes sense that if the priests themselves were kept out of the Church, of necessity all the special priestly things they did would also have to be kept out of the Church. Thus, in the Church there are no animal sacrifices or physical offerings. There are no special feast days or holy days. See, Rom. 14:5 and Col. 2:16. There is no physical temple, no segregated class of temple workers (whether Levites or clergy), and no financial system in place to support those workers (i.e., tithing). In the Church, everyone is allowed to own property and produce income (whereas the Levites could not).

Similarly, of necessity, there can be no carryover of any if the spiritual authority exercised by the Levitical priests into the Church. Whatever spiritual authority the priests had, they had as mediators between God and men. The mediators and the priesthood (one and the same thing) have been eliminated. Thus, there is no one who can today stand in the shoes of the former priests and claim to have or exercise the authority of a mediator in the Church.

Specifically, since every Christian has direct access to God, it means every Christian has equal authority to perform and/or administer whatever religious rites or sacred rituals are a part of the life of the Church. In this regard a common religious tradition produces a curious result. I do not make the claim, but it is often claimed by those who call themselves clergy, that the sacraments of the Church are a means of dispensing the grace (or favor, or blessing) of God. This grace is dispensed to, or through, those in the Church who have access to God (supposedly).

So if we assume that all believers have equal access to God (actually, we have proved this point), then the more the sacraments of the Church are related to God’s grace, the more they are related to having access to God (from which the grace flows). And the more they relate to having access to God, the more they must be equally available to all believers, because all believers have equal access. Thus, the more you insist the sacraments of the Church are a means of dispensing God’s grace, the more you argue for the fact that all believers can tap into that grace on an equal basis without going through a mediator. Ironic, no?

Because of this equality of access, there is no hierarchy of spiritual authority with respect to Church sacraments. And here is the applicable rule: every Christian has equal authority to enter God’s holy places. Heb 10:19.

Under the Mosaic system, what did the Levitical priests do when they entered the holy places in the temple? They administered and performed the religious sacraments of Judaism. So, access to holy places is equivalent to the authority to perform holy ceremonies. Without the right to access to the holy places, the sacraments could not be performed. If that was true for priests in the Old Testament, it must also be true for priests (meaning every believer) in the New Testament.

Specific Sacraments

Let’s examine two of the so-called Christian sacraments more closely. Protestants and Catholics disagree on how many of those sacred rituals are part of Christianity, and what they are specifically. But as far as I know, nearly all Christians accept that water baptism and communion (a/k/a the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist) are valid religious observances of the Christian faith. Let’s set aside the questions of whether such rituals are truly sacramental (agencies by which the grace of God is dispensed), or whether these observances are prescribed as ordinances, because these questions have no bearing on our analysis.

Take water baptism – is it something every Christian can do, or is it something only certain people within the Church can do? What do the scriptures say?

The logical place to start, of course, is with the Great Commission itself: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Mat 28:19. There is no need to rehash what has already been shown. All believers derive equal authority from the Great Commission. Therefore, all believers have equal authority to perform each of its component parts, including baptism. Res ipsa loquitor.

There are no words of limitation in the Great Commission as to who may or may not carry out its tasks. In fact, there are no words of limitation anywhere in scripture as to who may or may not perform water baptisms. What we have is an express authorization for every Christian to perform baptisms. To argue against that, we need a limitation on such authority expressly stated elsewhere in scripture – but there is none. You can’t prove the existence of a limitation from silence, from extra-biblical writings or edicts, or from the customs and practices of Christians through the centuries. Or from mere inference derived from a peculiar interpretation of other scriptures.

Only God can limit what God has authorized. An express limitation is required to override an express grant of authority. Men do not have the authority to contradict God or limit what He has said. Yes, I know Protestants and Catholics take different positions on this issue. That’s what the principle of sola scriptura is all about. But you’re not going to convince me that people can limit what God has said unless and until you can show me in the Bible where God has expressly delegated that type of authority to people. And that can’t be done.

Or consider communion. On the night of the Lord’s Supper (the Last Supper) Jesus said, “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Mat 26:28. Notice Jesus did not say his blood was poured out just for the apostles, nor that only certain people could administer this ritual. He simply said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Like the Great Commission, this statement was made to a limited number of people, but its intended effect was to apply to all future believers as well.

Thus Paul, when he addresses the Corinthians regarding the unworthy manner in which they observed the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:17-34), tells them (in essence) to shape up and stop observing the Lord’s Supper in the way they had been doing. What was his solution – for everyone to stop serving themselves and to delegate the task of administering the elements to the elders, or to deacons, or to pastors? Or that they needed to wait in line and receive the elements from a central dispensing agent? God forbid.

No, what he said was, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” 1 Cor 11:28. Also, “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another – if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home.” 1 Cor 11:33-34. In other words, the solution was for the exercise of better individual self-government. Not to turn the matter over to someone in the Church with more authority, but to exercise the authority God had given each person in a decent manner. This is the biblical model of observing communion.

Thus, there is no indication anywhere in the N.T. that only certain persons can perform water baptisms or officiate at a communion observance. Once again (repeat, repeat, repeat) God treats everyone one in His Church equally. What a surprise. Are we supposed to infer that some people are called or placed into positions of leadership in the Church by reason of any sacramental authority? I don’t see how, if everyone is equal.

Spiritual Gifts

Granted, we must acknowledge that the universal priesthood of believers, although putting each believer in equal standing before God, does not make every person the same. God distributes gifts to believers – not equally, but severally – so that each one may build up the Church, the body of Christ. Paul tells us to “think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For [we] … do not all have the same function.” Rather, we each have “gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.” Rom 12:3-6. Further,

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Cor 12:4-7.

So clearly, spiritual gifts are not distributed uniformly, that is, not everyone gets the same gift. But does the Bible indicate that any of the spiritual gifts have any different level of authority compared to the other gifts, whether as a mediator, a person in charge, as a supervisor or an agent on behalf of others? Or to rephrase, do the spiritual gifts have an inherent authority structure? To answer that question, we have to know what the possible spiritual gifts are.

Rom. 12:6-8 lists prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, generosity, leadership, and mercy. 1 Cor. 12:8-10 lists words of wisdom, words of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, speaking in tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. Finally, 1 Cor 12:28 says, “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.”

I would ask you at this time to put apostles, prophets and teachers on the back burner in your mind, as we will come back to these when we discuss offices in the Church. Spiritual gifts are talents or abilities, whereas offices are positions within the Church, making these two separate things.

So, are any of the things denominated as spiritual gifts things that can reasonably be interpreted as having a special authority compared to the others? Most of the gifts, I suggest, such as healing, generosity, mercy, discernment of spirits and speaking in tongues (among others) have no possible ruling authority or leadership role attached to them as a self-evident truth.

What about service, which the KJV renders as ministry? I like the definitions given by Noah Webster (1828), because unlike modern definitions he gets right to the heart of the authority question. Thus, service is defined as “labor performed at the command of a superior, or in pursuance of duty, or for the benefit of another.” Ministry is defined as “the office, duties or functions of a subordinate of any kind.”

With either of these definitions, the gift of service is hardly something that would put a person in charge of sacraments, persons or other gifts. You don’t call someone a subordinate and then treat them as being in charge. Although, a fair number of ministers see themselves as being in charge.

However, if it is true that ministers serve their congregations, it means the congregations are the principals (i.e., the “superior” according to Webster) and the ministers are their agents. However, few clergymen look at themselves that way. It also means the members of the congregation, as principals, can withdraw their authorization and perform the service themselves, bypassing the clergy. See what I mean? The gift of service does not lead to leadership. Same analysis for the gift of helps, I suggest.

What about the gifts of leadership, or administration? Any different result? It’s true, what people say – some are born leaders. Plus, no organization can long survive without effective administration. But being a born leader or administrator doesn’t actually put anyone in the position or office of leading or administering. A person may have the talent to lead or administer, but that’s not how the authority to lead or administer is acquired. No one is born with the authority to rule others, remember? (All men are created equal; all men are born free.) A gifted person may in fact be put in a position of leadership, but the position does not directly follow from merely having certain talents.

Where does leadership authority come from? There are only two options. If from God, then it must come via a divine covenant, or some other express delegation in scripture. Then the burden is on the person claiming authority to show how it is expressly derived from a divine covenant or other scripture. But none of the O.T. covenants apply to the Church, and everything about the Church covenant screams equality. Which leaves the other N.T. scriptures which we are right now in the process of examining. (Guess what? We’re not going to find any express delegations of leadership authority there, either.)

The other option is the authority which comes from men, which we call by another name, i.e., ecclesiastical authority, or (if you’re a lawyer) consent of the governed. But that’s not the authority people claim by way of a spiritual gift, is it? Spiritual gifts aren’t given solely to ministers, or to clergy, are they? No one claims they have a spiritual gift because they have ecclesiastical authority, or that only those who have ecclesiastical authority have spiritual gifts. The thing about spiritual gifts is, everyone in the Body of Christ has one (or more). Spiritual gifts simply are not tied to human authority.

So, make no mistake. Leadership authority does come from other people. Spiritual authority and spiritual gifts do not – they come from God alone. The two can never be mixed. One does not give rise to the other.

Therefore, none of the spiritual gifts reasonably denote a leadership (or ruling) authority compared to the others. Conclusion? That there is no structure or hierarchy of authority inherent within or among the spiritual gifts of the Church. Yes, the various spiritual gifts are different from each other. But none of them are in charge of, or in authority over, the other gifts. If there were an authority structure to be found among them, God would have told us in scripture and not left it to mere inference. And He has not told us any such thing.

While Paul does admonish us to desire the higher or best gifts (1 Cor. 12:30), he never indicates which ones those are, except to hint that prophecy is one of the gifts to be most desired. 1 Cor 14:1. Still, scripture nowhere indicates which gifts we receive depend on or are influenced in any way by what we desire. To the contrary, the distribution of spiritual gifts is determined in the sole discretion of the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor. 12:11.

Notice also, none of the spiritual gifts relate to performing any sacraments, including without limitation, baptisms, administering communion, hearing confessions, dispensing forgiveness, or performing weddings or funerals. For that matter, none of the spiritual gifts even relate in any way that I can find to preaching. So, is preaching a spiritual gift? Apparently not. Whether preaching relates to any of the spiritual offices, we will consider next.

Notice further, there are no gifts (by any express language in the scriptures) for ruling over others, running or leading the Church, having command authority over other believers, or spiritual authority to supervise the activities of other members of the Church. Therefore, be extremely skeptical if anyone claims to have spiritual authority over you either by reason of sacramental authority or spiritual gifts. In fact, don’t believe it.

Spiritual Offices

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers. Eph. 4:11. (ESV) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers. Eph. 4:11. (KJV).

The Nature of Spiritual Offices

According to Eph. 4:11, God gave the Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and/or teachers. The KJV expressly states what other Bible versions imply, that “he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” Whether the word some appears in the text or not, it is clear from the context that not everyone in the Church is an apostle, or a prophet, or an evangelist, or a pastor and/or a teacher. These are the spiritual offices in the Church.

By using the term spiritual office, I intend a meaning which is consistent with the terms spiritual authority and spiritual gifts. In other words, each of these are something only God can confer. Anything spiritual does not come from oneself or from other people. A spiritual office is a position God confers in the universal (or heavenly, or spiritual) Church. By definition, a spiritual office is not something God confers in an association formed by people, such as a local church organization. Nor is it something people confer in the spiritual realm. Human authority is limited to organizations formed by people, and divine authority is limited to that spiritual Body which God has created.

In the visible church, the offices which people confer are not to be confused with the offices which God confers. By that I mean elders or bishops, deacons, and whatever other church managerial positions fall under the category of an ecclesiastical office. Ushers, worship and music leaders, preachers, program directors, and even church secretaries, etc. are all further examples of temporal church offices – offices created and filled by people. I draw a bright line (as I believe scripture also does) between all these man-appointed offices, and the spiritual offices which God appoints.

The number of people in the Church whom God has appointed to one of the spiritual offices will always be a minority – the vast majority of Christians will have other tasks. And the mere fact God appoints these people – they do not volunteer for the position, they are not elected to these offices, nor do they receive an office because of education, training or experience – means that these are specialized tasks to be carried out by those whom God alone has selected.

These are, again, distinguished from the temporal offices of elder, deacon, etc., to which a person may aspire (1 Tim. 3:1), for which a person may be trained, educated or interviewed, or in respect to which a person may even run for office (in a church election). Spiritual offices need no approval or recognition by people to be valid.

Now what is the proper task of each spiritual office? Apostles are those who plant churches. Unfortunately, I have to pause right here. A lot of you are thinking the Church doesn’t have apostles anymore, that those people were only for the early church (the so-called apostolic age). The thought of anyone claiming to be an apostle now scares you.

First, nothing in the scripture ever places a time limitation on this spiritual office. Be careful of taking a position based solely on inference. Second, if the only apostles the Church ever needed are those who saw Christ personally (including Paul), then why does God say He is still appointing apostles (in Eph. 4:11) 30 years after Christ’s death? Third, if modern apostles scare you, it’s only because you think (or the person claiming to be an apostle thinks) the office means something other than merely planting churches. Usually, a person claiming to be an apostle these days thinks they’re in charge. Yeah, those people scare me, too.

The apostle Paul did what? He planted churches, pursuant to his spiritual calling. But in planting those churches, Paul never claimed to be in charge of any of them. Once a church was planted, Paul got out of the way, and let the church come under local leadership. Sure, he often appointed the initial group of elders, but he retained no ongoing appointment authority. Plus, he never appointed himself as an elder or bishop. Paul never claimed any visible church leadership authority. He did not install himself as The Founder of any church, and then build his little kingdom. People who mix the spiritual office of an apostle with local church leadership only pervert the spiritual office.

Prophets are those who proclaim the word of God. Oops – pause again. Supposedly, an office of a bygone age. Combine that with a common misunderstanding of the nature of the office. No, a prophet is not one who necessarily predicts the future. A prophet merely says things based on the word of God that provide additional insight, and/or things which people do not want to hear. They are – to those in power, wanting to keep the status quo – a threat. Which is exactly why I think God thinks we still need prophets today. There’s a lot of stuff done in the name of Christ that needs to be called out and shamed. And it’s also exactly why most churches don’t regard the office of prophet as valid – they don’t want anyone challenging church leaders.

But let me address one other concern, namely, Heb. 1:1-2a. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” First, this text does not say that when Jesus came, prophecy stopped. If that were the case, again, why would God say He’s still appointing prophets after Christ’s death? Read this verse together with Eph. 4:11, and read them in a way that doesn’t result in a conflict. Second, the term last days doesn’t mean prophecy has stopped, nor is it a reference to the end times. It just means, in this context, in recent days Jesus came (in other words, back in 60 AD.

OK – moving along. Evangelists spread the Gospel of personal salvation. No, not every Christian is an evangelist. Some are appointed … Gosh, do I have to explain everything? Sure, be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Pe 3:15. But that verse does not turn every believer into an evangelist, which is a specific spiritual office appointed to some by God. Why would you read any verse in a way which contradicts other scriptures?

Pastors ostensibly shepherd believers. Okay, okay. Not a simple matter. However, I will consider this office in detail later on. Teachers instruct the faithful, primarily as to the commands of Christ, a/k/a the laws of God. Wait – your teachers don’t tell you about God’s laws? Wow, things are messed up. But we want to know what God thinks about these offices, not what men’s tradition holds. Summing up: all these are as necessary and essential for the Church today as they were in New Testament times.

So why is it, that: 1) many churches do not even recognize the contemporary office of apostle; 2) prophets are generally recognized only in charismatic churches, and are always unpaid unless they are the founder of their own cult; 3) evangelists only get paid if they raise their own support or survive on love offerings; and 4) lay teachers are almost universally unpaid volunteers; but 5) pastors are paid employees who get regular salaries? Who made pastors special compared to everyone else?

All these spiritual offices have some things in common. Mainly, that these are things you cannot aspire to, and which men do not elect or appoint. Rather, they are distributed by God according to His grace and in his sole and exclusive discretion. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.” 1 Cor. 12:4. “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” 1 Cor. 12:18. Members of the body of Christ have “gifts that differ according to the grace given” to them. Rom 12:6.

Yes, (remember a few pages back) the spiritual offices of the Church are also spiritual gifts. Recall 1 Cor 12:28, where spiritual offices and gifts are commingled together. “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” So, just as you cannot decide what spiritual gift God will give you, you cannot choose whether God will give you a spiritual office or not, or which one (if any).

You cannot decide to be an apostle, teacher, prophet, pastor or evangelist – any more than you can decide to have the spiritual gift of miracles, healing, helping, administrating, or speaking in tongues. You can, apparently, ask God for the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 12:31; 14:39), but you cannot determine that you will get it, and no man or group of men can determine to give it to you. So either God bestows the gift or the office in His discretion (i.e., sovereignty), or you do not have it. What you want (or what your local church elders want) is irrelevant.

The Authority to Rule

Let’s revisit our key text with an expanded context.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Eph 4:11-16.

I have given you more of the context so we can (hopefully) see more clearly what this scripture does – and does not – say. Does this text contain a delegation of authority – specifically, granting any of the spiritual offices the right to govern or to rule over others? No, it does not. Is there any mention of the leadership of the Church in connection with the spiritual offices? No. Do other scriptures link the spiritual offices with leadership or governing authority? No again.

Of course, each office may be taken to include the authority to exercise its primary function. Thus, the apostle has the authority to plant churches, the prophet has the authority to speak the word of God, the evangelist has the authority to proselytize, the teacher has the authority to instruct, and the pastor has the authority to shepherd (whatever that means).

There is no implied suggestion, much less an overt statement or express grant, that any of the offices in Eph. 4:11 has authority over the others, that there is any hierarchy among them, or that any of them answer to the others for the manner in which their offices are carried out. When it comes to the divine delegation of church authority, the gifts and offices God appoints have no authority structure. Which, as I look at it, simply means (consistent with the Diffusion Principle and the priesthood of all believers) that all spiritual offices are equal in authority compared to each other.

This is exactly as we should expect things to be. It was the same for spiritual authority and spiritual gifts – why should spiritual offices be any different? In the spiritual Church, the body of Christ, all believers are equal. There is no hierarchy, ruling authority, inferiority or superiority as between the members of the body. All believers have equal access to God, equal fellowship with Christ, and equal standing as fellow heirs. This does not make everyone the same, but no one is above or below anyone else.

There are offices in the Church, but none of these are of a higher calling than any other office in the Church, and none are given as full-time ministry more than the others. Further, none carry a greater authority to rule or to lead than the others, and none are inherently worthy of greater honor than other Church offices. The Bible absolutely nowhere indicates there is any hierarchy among these offices, that any of them are full-time while others are part-time or mere volunteers, that any are compensated while others are uncompensated, or that any have authority or leadership over the others.

All of which leads to a simple conclusion: the spiritual office of pastor or pastor-teacher (whatever it may be) puts no one in charge, either of Christ’s body or God’s house. Pastors have no elevated status, no higher calling, no leadership authority, no special sacramental authority, and no greater ministry than the other spiritual offices. But I’ll bet my bottom dollar that’s not the way things are handled in your church, is it?

First:   Introduction; Caution
Prior:   Diffusion of Authority, Priesthoods & Clergy
Also:   Church as Institution, Association & Corporation
And:   The Visible Church in Real Life
Last:   The Office of Pastor & Religious Corruption


ENDNOTES

*   Ver. 4.0   Copyright © 2017-2020 Gerald R. Thompson.   All rights reserved. Used by permission. All Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version.