Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Assumption of Church Authority

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 17, 2018

Originally published August 15, 2016

The word “assumption” can have at least two meanings. It can mean to take on or take over for oneself as a responsibility. It can also refer to a starting point of an argument; a premise from which a logical conclusion is drawn. In the case of “church authority”, both definitions are applicable.

Protestants must be aware of the assumption, the beginning premise, held by the “church leadership”, the logical conclusions of which produce the resulting behavior observed by so many who come to this ministry seeking answers. Those in so-called “church leadership” have an assumption (self-appointed) of authority based on a faulty assumption (premise).

As a result there are some questions that must be asked:

  1. Is it reasonable to assume that elders and pastors, being fallible men (because after all doesn’t “total depravity” apply to them as well?), could ever possibly be in error regarding doctrine and Biblical interpretation?
  2. If the answer is yes, then what mechanism is there in place, either from Scripture itself or a “church’s” own documented governing principles, to be able to determine if the leadership is in error, thereby making their claim to authority void?
  3. Maybe the same question only stated another way, if a discerning church member were honestly persuaded by his own personal study and illumination of the Holy Spirit that a pastor or elder was in error and promoting false doctrine, and the elder/pastor refuses to hear him, what recourse does that church member have (aside from leaving the church)? (The assumption here being that the member loves his church so much that he is concerned for the spiritual well-being of the church in general and the pastor, elders, and the rest of the laity in particular).
  4. If, on the off chance that an elder or pastor ever conceded the fact that the possibility exists that he himself could be in error concerning doctrine or Biblical interpretation, how would he know that? How would an elder or pastor know if he was wrong? (Of course that begs the question, would he ever admit to it?)

degreeThe answers to these questions should be obvious because this is the assumption: the leadership is assumed to never be wrong because they are the authority! The basis for their self-appointed authority is rooted in the simple notion that they know something that you and I don’t know – the knowledge that man cannot know real truth.  If you ever make the “mistake” of presuming that you know something, that only reinforces the reality of your own depravity and disqualifies you from taking action for good.  It is what testifies to your need for their authority to compel you to good action (“good” as defined by them of course).  Their basis for authority IS authority.

This of course is a logical fallacy. Nevertheless, an elder or pastor will ALWAYS defer to some other authority. His answers regarding doctrine and interpretation are never going to be based on sound reason from his own personal study. He will always make an appeal to the authority that instructed him (i.e. seminary, et al).

The only real difference between you or me and the elder/pastor is the amount of money spent on certification training. The man standing behind the pulpit paid good money for nothing more than a piece of paper that tells him that he knows that man cannot know.  But the Bible clearly states that all authority rests with Christ. The elder/pastor gets his authority from a framed document hanging on a wall in his office.

Whenever the basis for truth is an appeal to authority, there is no need for persuasion or reasoned debate. Only force and coercion.

~ Andy

A Warning To The Watchmen

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 14, 2018

Today, Facebook’s “On This Day” feature reminded me of a scripture passage I had posted a few years ago from one of my daily Bible readings. It was a blessed reminder to me because when I stumble across verses like this it only serves to affirm or reinforce a scriptural truth I have already learned in my constant study.

1 Timothy chapter 3 lists the qualifications of an “elder” or “bishop”. In the Greek, the word επισκοπος (epi-skope-os) is a compound word. “Epi” means “over”. The word “skopos” is where we get the word “scope”, and it means to look outward; to see from a distance; to watch carefully and attentively. The word is really better translated “overseer.”

The function of an overseer is not one of authority. The etymology of the word actually describes someone who stands at the top of a fortress wall as a sentry looking outward for any signs of danger. A sentry has no authority. He has no power to command or enforce action. His job is simply to send out the warning cry when danger is coming so that appropriate action can be taken by others.

This is the way it is with an elder in an assembly. He may be gifted to teach, but his role is that of a sentry looking out for danger and warning others to take appropriate action. Note: he has no call to compel the action. He cannot force others to take action. All he does is sound the warning cry.

With regard to 1 Timothy 3, in most of your bibles you may see the expression, “if a man desires the office of a bishop.” The manuscript says nothing like that. The word “office” is not in the manuscript. In fact the word “man” isn’t even in there. The way this verse literally reads in the Greek is “if any desire oversight,” or “If any desire to be overseen.” The desire to have an overseer begins with the assembly. Overseers are optional. The assembly gets to decide if it wants an overseer or not.

Paul goes on to say further that if you want an overseer, that is a good thing. It is probably a good idea to have someone on guard duty. If there is danger out there, and there is, you probably want to have someone who is adept at finding it; seeing it early, and warning others to take action. But such a person has no call to exercise authority to compel others to take action.

To help us better understand this role of “overseer”, consider a passage in the Old Testament that uses a similar word: “watchman.”

1Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: 3if when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; 4then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. (5He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him.) But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.

6But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.

7So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. 8When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 9 Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

10Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live? 11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

~ Ezekiel 33:1-11

I realize that this is a rather long passage, and I am not going to break down the whole thing, but I wanted you to see the context. God uses a metaphor that Israel can clearly understand: national defense. The implications are clear. If you have a watchman (i.e. overseer) on a wall who sees danger coming on the horizon and does not sound the alarm, that watchman is culpable for any lives that are lost as a direct result of his negligence. God makes it clear to Ezekiel that his role as a prophet is the same as a watchman. He has been given a message by God to deliver to the nation of Israel. It is Ezekiel’s responsibility to sound the warning cry.

But what should be obvious from this passage is that the only responsibility the watchman has is to sound the alarm; to give the warning. It is not his job to compel the action of those who hear his warning. Notice that God did not give any authority to Ezekiel to compel Israel to action. Ezekiel did not have the power to coerce Israel with “church discipline” if they did not heed his warning.

(On a side note, notice that God specifically says in this passage that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked! Yet you have men like John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Jonathan Edwards who blatantly contradict the plain teaching of scripture.)

The words of Ezekiel should be a stern reminder to both the elders and laity in the institutional church.   Elders have no authority. It is their role as overseers to be on the lookout for false doctrine that would do great harm to Christ’s assembly. Instead it is very often the elders themselves doing the harm; teaching for doctrine the traditions of men rather than the plain sense of scripture and compelling the laity to obey them unconditionally and abusing them for their own self-interest. These men will have to answer to God one day for these things. You who follow these men must understand that they will not be the ones standing in your place giving an account for you in eternity. While they will indeed have to give an account for the miserable failures that they are as watchmen, you will be accountable for your own actions (or inactions) as well.

~ Andy

It’s All About the “O” – Mohler, DeYoung, Lucas: We Own You

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on September 10, 2017

ppt-jpeg4Originally posted September 15, 2012

Join an authentic Reformed Protestant Church if you will, but let it be known: they now own you. Newsflash for the husbands: Calvinist elders believe they have the ultimate say and authority in your home. And another thing: the gospel they hold to rejects synergism in sanctification as works salvation. So, guess what? If your wife buys into that, you are now in what they call a mixed marriage. You are now dangerously close to divorce court as the divorce rate in these churches has skyrocketed.

At the TANC 2012 conference, in his third session, author John Immel nailed it—it boils down to who owns man: in the Christian realm, does Christ own you or Reformed elders? In the secular realm, does man own man or does government own man? Recently, our President stated that government owns man. Recently, in a trilogy of articles by three Reformed  pastors published by Ligonier Ministries, it was stated that the church owns Christians, and I will give you three wild guesses as to who represents the authority of the church. That would be the elders.

So it’s all about the “O.” It’s all about “ownership.”

As we shall see, these articles plainly state the Reformed tradition that came from Catholic tyranny. The Reformers never repented of the same underlying presuppositions concerning man’s need to be owned by enlightened philosopher kings. The Reformation was merely a fight for control over the mutton with the Reformers seeing themselves as the moral philosopher kings as opposed to the Romish ones. Their doctrine was just a different take on how the totally depraved are saved from themselves. But both doctrines reflect the inability of man to participate in sanctification.

The three articles posted were: Should I Stay or Should I Go? by Albert Mohler; Where and How Do We Draw the Line? by Kevin DeYoung; and, Who Draws the Line? by Sean Michael Lucas. All linked together for your indoctrination convenience.

Al Mohler states in his ownership treatise that Christians have “no right” to leave one church for another because of preferences. Emphasis by underline added:

Swami Albert Mohler

Swami Albert Mohler

Far too many church members have become church shoppers. The biblical concept of ecclesiology has given way to a form of consumerism in which individuals shop around for the church that seems most to their liking at that moment. The issue can concern worship and music, relationships, teaching, or any number of other things. The pattern is the same, however – people feel free to leave one congregation for another for virtually any reason, or no reason at all.

Church shopping violates the integrity of the church and the meaning of church membership. When members leave for insufficient reason, the fellowship of the church is broken, its witness is weakened, and the peace and unity of the congregation are sacrificed. Tragically, a superficial understanding of church membership undermines our witness to the gospel of Christ.

There is no excuse for this phenomenon. We have no right to leave a church over preferences about music, personal taste, or even programming that does not meet expectations.  These controversies or concerns should prompt the faithful Christian to consider how he might be of assistance in finding and forging a better way, rather than working to find an excuse to leave.

Where to begin? First of all, while many authentic Reformed Protestant churches will bring you up on church discipline for leaving because of “unbiblical” reasons, those reasons vary from church to church. So, not only do the reasons for leaving vary among parishioners, but so does what constitutes proper “biblical…. ecclesiology” in regard to departure varies as well. Mohler states in the same post that doctrine is a valid reason to leave a church, but yet, one of the more prominent leaders of the Reformed movement (CJ Mahaney), who is strongly endorsed by Mohler, states that doctrine is not a valid reason to leave a church. CJ Mahaney substantiated that Reformed position and clearly indicated what authentic Protestant theologians are willing to do to enforce that position when he blackmailed the cofounder of SGM, Larry Tomczak:

Transcript of Phone Conversation between C.J., Doris and Larry Tomczak on October 3, 1997 pp. 10-11:

C.J.: Doctrine is an unacceptable reason for leaving P.D.I.

Larry: C.J., I’m not in sync with any of the T.U.L.I.P., so whether you agree or not, doctrine is one of the major reasons I believe it is God’s will to leave P.D.I. and it does need to be included in any statement put forth.

C.J.: If you do that, then it will be necessary for us to give a more detailed explanation of your sins [ie, beyond the sin of leaving for doctrinal reasons].

Larry: Justin’s name has been floated out there when there’s statements like revealing more details about my sin. What are you getting at?

C.J.: Justin’s name isn’t just floated out there – I’m stating it!

Larry: C.J. how can you do that after you encouraged Justin to confess everything; get it all out. Then when he did, you reassured him “You have my word, it will never leave this room. Even our wives won’t be told.”

I repeatedly reassured him, “C.J. is a man of his word. You needn’t worry.” Now you’re talking of publically sharing the sins of his youth?!

C.J.: My statement was made in the context of that evening. If I knew then what you were going to do, I would have re-evaluated what I communicated.

Doris: C.J., are you aware that you are blackmailing Larry? You’ll make no mention of Justin’s sins, which he confessed and was forgiven of months ago, if Larry agrees with your statement, but you feel you have to warn the folks and go national with Justin’s sins if Larry pushes the doctrinal button? C.J., you are blackmailing Larry to say what you want!―Shame on you, C.J.! As a man of God and a father, shame on you!

This will send shock waves throughout the teens in P.D.I. and make many pastors’ teens vow, “I‘ll never confess my secret sins to C.J. or any of the team, seeing that they‘ll go public with my sins if my dad doesn‘t toe the line.”―C.J., you will reap whatever judgment you make on Justin. You have a young son coming up. Another reason for my personally wanting to leave P.D.I. and never come back is this ungodly tactic of resorting to blackmail and intimidation of people!

C.J.: I can‘t speak for the team, but I want them to witness this. We’ll arrange a conference call next week with the team.

Doris: I want Justin to be part of that call. It’s his life that’s at stake.

C.J.: Fine.

(SGM Wikileaks, part 3, p.139. Online source)

Of course, this example and many others makes Mohler’s concern with the “integrity” of the church—laughable. But nevertheless, Mohler’s post and the other two are clear as to what common ground Protestant elders have on the “biblical concept of ecclesiology.”

sean-lucasBesides the fact that parishioners “have no right” to leave a church based on preference, what do Protestants fundamentally agree on in this regard? That brings us to the article by Sean Michael Lucas :

Because the church has authority to declare doctrine, it is the church that has authority to draw doctrinal lines and serve as the final judge on doctrinal issues. Scripture teaches us that the church serves as the “pillar and buttress of the truth.”

So, even in cases where Protestants believe that doctrine is an acceptable reason for leaving a church, guess who decides what true doctrine is? “But Paul, he is speaking of doctrine being determined by the church as a whole, not just the elders.” Really? Lucas continues:

In our age, this understanding—that the church has Jesus’ authority to serve as the final judge on doctrinal matters— rubs us wrong for three reasons. First, it rubs us wrong because we are pronounced individualists. This is especially the case for contemporary American Christians, who have a built-in “democratic” bias to believe that the Bible’s theology is accessible to all well-meaning, thoughtful Christians. Because theological truth is democratically available to all, such individuals can stand toe to toe with ministerial “experts” or ecclesiastical courts and reject their authority.

Creeped out yet? Well, if you are a blogger, it gets better:

Perhaps it is this individualistic, democratic perspective that has led to the rise of websites and blogs in which theology is done in public by a range of folks who may or may not be appropriately trained and ordained for a public teaching role. While the Internet has served as a “free press” that has provided important watchdog functions for various organizations, there are two downsides of the new media, which ironically move in opposite directions. On the one side, the new media (blogs, websites, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter) allow everyone to be his own theologian and judge of doctrinal matters. But because everyone is shouting and judging, the ironic other side is that those who are the most well known and have the biggest blogs gain the most market share and actually become the doctrinal arbiters of our electronic age. In this new media world, the idea that the church as a corporate body actually has authority to declare doctrine and judge on doctrinal issues is anathema.

Lucas continues to articulate the Reformed tradition that holds to the plenary authority of elders supposedly granted to them by Christ:

For some of us, again reflecting our individualism, such understanding of the church unnecessarily limits voices and perspectives that might be helpful in conversation. But restricting access to debates and judgments about theology to those who have been set apart as elders in Christ’s church and who have gathered for the purpose of study, prayer, and declaration actually ensures a more thoughtful process and a surer understanding of Christ’s Word than a pell-mell, democratic, individualistic free-for-all. Not only do we trust that a multiplicity of voices is represented by the eldership, but, above all, we trust that the single voice of the Spirit of Jesus will be heard in our midst.

So, bottom line: the priesthood of believers is a “pell-mell, democratic, individualistic free-for-all.” Still not creeped out? Then consider how they answer the question in regard to elder error:

Of course, such slow and deliberate processes do not guarantee a biblically appropriate result. After all, the Westminster Confession of Faith tells us that “all synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred” (WCF 31.3). Sometimes, entire denominations err significantly as they prayerfully consider Scripture and judge doctrine. Such error, however, does not negate Jesus’ own delegation of authority to the church and set the stage for a free-for-all.

This brings us to another issue that DeYoung propogates in his post: since Reformed elders have all authority, their creeds and confessions are authoritative and not just commentaries. Hence, they declared in the aforementioned confession cited by Lucas that even though they may be in error, they still have all authority. Whatever happened to the Apostle Paul’s appeal to only follow him as he followed Christ?

DeYoung:

deyoungThose who wrote the ancient creeds, such as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Chalcedonian Definition, were not infallible, but these creeds have served as effective guardrails, keeping God’s people on the path of truth. It would take extraordinary new insight or extraordinary hubris to jettison these ancient formulas. They provide faithful summaries of the most important doctrines of the faith. That’s why the Heidelberg Catechism refers us to the Apostles’ Creed, “a creed beyond doubt, and confessed through the world,” when it asks, “What then must a Christian believe?” (Q&A 22–23).

FYI: If you see something in your own Bible reading that contradicts a Reformed creed or confession, you are partaking in visions of grandeur.

This is the crux of the matter, the question of authority. It is almost crazy that Christians don’t have this issue resolved in their mind before they join a church. You could be in a church that is subtly indoctrinating your family with the idea that they are owned by the government; in this case, church polity.

Let there be no doubt about it, Reformed elders are drooling over the idea of another Geneva theocracy with all the trimmings. And someone shared with me just the other day how this shows itself in real life. “Mike” is a local contractor in the Xenia, Ohio area. He is close friends with a farmer in the area who lives next door to a man and his family that attend an authentic Reformed Protestant church.

One day, his new Protestant neighbor came over to inform him that he needed to stop working on Sunday because it is the Lord’s Day, and the noise of his machinery was disturbing their day of rest. Mike’s friend told him, in a manner of speaking, to hang it on his beak. Mike believes what transpired after that came from the neighbor’s belief that he was a superior person to his friend, and that his friend should have honored the neighbors request by virtue of who he is.

The neighbor has clout in the community, and to make a long story short—found many ways to make Mike’s friend miserable through legal wrangling about property line issues; according to my understanding, 8” worth. It was clear that Mike’s friend was going to be harassed until he submitted to this man’s perceived biblical authority.

Protestants have serious authority issues, and you don’t have to necessarily join in official membership to be considered under their authority. A contributor to Mark Dever’s  9 Marks blog stated that anyone who comes in the front door of a church proclaiming Christ as Lord is under the authority of that church.

It’s time for Christians to nail down the “O.” Who owns you? Are you aware of who owns you (or at least thinks so)? And are you ok with that?

paul

Love Your Local Institutional Church

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 18, 2017

Originally published October 29, 2014

One of the advantages of having Calvinist friends on my Facebook friend list is that little gems like this one appear in my news feed from time to time. The article is entitled “Do You Love the Church Like Jesus Does?”*  It was written by a young man named Mark Perry, former Associate Pastor of Westerville Bible Church in Westerville, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, and now a missionary candidate to Chile.  Mr. Perry could be considered to be of the “young, restless, and reformed” variety.

The opening caption of the article asks the question, is it possible to love Jesus and not love His church? Obviously, a question such as this establishes the premise that such a thing is not possible.  We are to assume that these two things are not compatible.  If you don’t love the church then you must not love Jesus.  The purpose of the article seeks to first define the “church” and then make the argument of why and how we are to love it.  I have reproduced the body of the article in this post so that I can offer a review of Mr. Perry’s arguments (in italics) and insert my comments to relevant sections that I want to point out to you.

Do You Love the Church Like Jesus Does?

What is the church?

We use the word “church” in many different ways. How can we pinpoint what that means? In Ephesians we are told that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). We can identify the church by asking for which “church” Jesus died.

The church is not the building in which believers assemble. We often use the word church to refer to the building: “What a lovely church!” or “The church could use a new coat of paint.” But surely this is not the church for which Jesus died. In fact, New Testament congregations met in members’ homes (e.g., Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Philemon 1:2). In many parts of the world today, our brothers and sisters in Christ meet in homes, parks, or public locations. It is not necessary to own property or have a physical building dedicated to the regular assembling of Jesus’ body.

So far so good. All very well stated. These are all things that Paul and I have both stated on regular occasions. I would agree with Mr. Perry on this point.  Notice how he establishes that the church is not a building.  In fact, he goes to some length to establish what the church is not, thereby framing his argument to follow. Reading on:

The church is not the meetings or ministry programming. Another way we use the word church is to refer to a worship service or ministry program: “Church was great this morning; I really enjoyed the sermon.” “My church has so many ministry opportunities available.” Many people see the church as the sum of services or ministries offered: children’s ministries, fellowship opportunities, teaching and preaching, or other benefits offered to members or adherents. But did Jesus die to secure singles’ ministries, Vacation Bible School, and youth groups? Did Jesus love a certain style of music or preaching so much that he left heaven to give his life? Every generation of believers since the book of Acts has had to work out how to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples in their culture.

Ok, here he starts to drift a little. First of all, we don’t have to “work out” how to obey Jesus’ commands.  His commands are clear.  We either do them or we don’t.  The way we make disciples or “learners” is by teaching them exactly what Jesus said to do.  The message of the Gospel of the Kingdom is not culture-specific.  It is the same for all men everywhere.  We don’t have to “figure it out.”

The other thing I notice in this statement is the implication that evangelism takes place within the confines of the institutional gathering or its ministries. This is patently false.  Evangelism is an individual mandate.  We don’t bring the unsaved to the church through the means of some “program” or “ministry” in order to get them saved.  We as individuals go out to them and preach the gospel to them. When they hear and believe and become saved, we then invite them to fellowship with the assembly for the purpose of edification.

Moving on…

The church is the regular assembly of believers in Jesus. We often say, “The church is the people”

This is correct. Yay! The reason we often say it is because it’s true.

and we are right—almost.

Wait…Huh?  What do you mean “almost?”

On one hand, the universal church includes all believers in Jesus from the Day of Pentecost until the Rapture. At the moment of Jesus’ return in the air, the universal church will be assembled for the first time: “those who have fallen asleep” and “we who are alive, who are left” (1 Thess 4:14, 17). But until that time, the church exists on earth in localized assemblies of believers who meet regularly for prayer, Scripture reading, teaching of apostolic doctrine, and fellowship (Acts 2:42). The Greek word translated “church” (ἐκκλησία) means assembly or gathering and sometimes in the New Testament it even refers to groups of unbelievers (e.g., Acts 19:32, 39, 41).

Ok, while I don’t see the NT making any distinction between “universal church” and “local church”, nevertheless his other points here are spot on. And he would have been better served stopping right there, but he didn’t. Read on…

The church is the church when it is assembled.

WHAT? Read that again. He said, “The church is the church when it is assembled”? The logical inverse of that statement would necessarily follow that the church is not the church when it is not assembled. But he just said the word “church” is the word “ekklesia” which means “assembly.” The reality of his statement indicates that the church does not exist when it is not assembled. That would mean the church only has relevance when it is assembled.

At the beginning this author made points about what a church is not. It is not a building, it is not a program.  But please notice his emphasis is still on some group entity over the individual.  In Reformed and Protestant orthodoxy, there is no relevance or meaning or existence outside of the group! To them, our relevance as believers only matters within the church. So, when we are not assembled, we don’t matter.

It is those believers who regularly gather in Jesus’ name. Therefore, the church that Jesus loves and for whom he died is the gathering of believers. These local assemblies or gatherings of believers are the only church we can know this side of heaven.

I would dare to ask Mr. Perry that if the church is the Body, and we are individual members of that Body, each with our own function, then do we cease to be a part of that Body when we are not assembled? Are we only part of the Body when we meet on Sundays (or Wednesday, or Saturday, or any other required meeting time/place)? I contend that our relevance as believers extends far beyond that which we do when we gather for fellowship.  And our not being assembled together in fellowship at any given time does not preclude our identity as a member of the Body of Christ.  He continues:

What does it mean to love the church?

We are commanded to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph 5:2). In other words, we are to love the church just as Jesus does. The command to love Jesus’ church is the same as the oft-repeated New Testament command to “love one another” (e.g., Rom 12:10; 13:8; 1 Thess 3:12; 4:9; 2 Thess 1:3; 1 Pet 1:22; 4:8; 1 John 3:11; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 1:5). So we love Jesus’ church when we love the brothers and sisters in our local assembly.

What about other brothers and sisters in other assemblies around the world who are not part of our cult group assembly, who don’t necessarily share all the same beliefs in matters of practice? Are they not a part of the body because they don’t assemble with us?  Is our church somehow better/superior to their church because we don’t “worship” the same way they do, because we “do church” the “right way”?  Are they any less a part of the body of Christ?  Are they part of the assembly because they are born-again believers in Christ or instead because they regularly assemble at our “church”?

And this is where it gets difficult. We may love our church’s beautiful building, we may be enraptured by our favorite preacher’s sermon series, or we may appreciate the array of ministries and opportunities our church offers, but loving these difficult, obnoxious, unkind, and sinful people is a different matter entirely! Jesus’ love for us is our example to love his church. What about the sinful people in my church? Jesus loved me while I was a sinner (Rom 5:6–8). What about the cantankerous or antagonistic people in my church? Jesus loved me while I was his enemy (Rom 5:10). What about the people who have weak consciences or unreasonable standards in my church? Jesus served others, not himself (Rom 15:3; Mark 10:45).

Mr. Perry must not think very much of the members in his church. Look at what he calls them: “difficult, obnoxious, unkind, and sinful people… cantankerous or antagonistic… people who have weak consciences or unreasonable standards”. Wow, I sure want to be a part of that church now that I know what the pastoral staff thinks of me!  The view of the continued total depravity of the saints is clearly evident in this paragraph. The Bible does not call believers “sinners”.  That is what we were in the past. Let us not forget the rest of 1 Corinthians 6:11, “…but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God…”  Believers are righteous, Mr. Perry, because we have the righteousness of God the Father.  We have His seed in us that cannot sin! (1 John 3:9)

As I continue to read these last points, the emphasis of the church as an institution (…our church’s beautiful building…preacher’s sermon series…array of ministries and opportunities…) vs. a body of individuals is apparent. The “church” is referred to in terms that place the emphasis on this “entity” that is something other than the body of Christ. It is very subtle, but the implications are there.

How can we love the church?

How then can we “walk in love” and serve one another through love (Gal 5:13)? Here are four practical ways.

Meet regularly with Jesus’ church. Don’t turn your back on Jesus’ church because you don’t like the facilities or prefer a different ministry emphasis. Don’t abandon Jesus’ church for something that is not the church. Jesus has promised his presence with his church until the end of the age (Matt 28:20). Jesus meets with his church—do you?

There is a veiled threat in this point regarding abandoning the church. What happens to the one who abandons the church?  What is the “something that is not the church”?  Do you not see the equivocation here that if you are not part of the church then you are not a part of the Body, ergo, you are not saved?  Whether or not it is stated plainly, reformed orthodoxy functions under the belief that salvation is found within the institution.

Pray for Jesus’ church. If you see problems [sic] When you see problems in your church, pray for your church.

Yes, by all means, we ought to pray for each others’ needs as we fellowship together. We ought to pray that our fellowship time is efficacious.  We ought to pray that we would be on our guard for wolves who would do violence to the flock and that we would be discerning regarding false teaching.  But that is not what this author has in mind.  His concern here is with the actual institution itself.  Consider report after report of spiritual abuse and scandals that have rocked the religious word in the last few years.  But yet it is these same institutions that must be preserved for the “cause of Christ”, regardless of the problems that exist.  Look at this next paragraph:

Are you concerned about your church? Remember Jesus loves his church—he died for her—and he cares for your church more than you ever could (Rev 1:12, 20). We pray with confidence when we pray according to God’s will (1 John 5:14), and we know what God’s will is for the church—that she becomes like Jesus! This is what God is at work doing (Phil 1:6; 2:13). Pray the God-breathed prayers of the New Testament for your church (e.g., Eph 3:14–21; Phil 1:9–11; Rom 15:5–6; 1 Thess 5:23–24). Jesus prayed for his church (John 17:20–26) —do you?

Notice the collectivist emphasis in terms. The individuals are expendable.  The “church” must become like Jesus, not individuals.  We must pray for God’s will for your “church”, not the individuals.  Jesus died for the “church”, not the individuals.  Jesus prayed for the “church”, not the individuals.  But consider that last reference in John 17 carefully.  When Jesus prayed that night in the garden, he wasn’t praying for a church, he was praying for you and me!  He was praying for the PEOPLE, the individuals that comprised His Body.

Follow the spiritual leaders Jesus has placed over his church. If you don’t like or don’t “click with” your church leadership, you might be tempted to turn your back on Jesus’ church. In fact, disagreement with the teaching or ministry direction of our leaders is a very spiritual-sounding reason for abandoning the group of brothers and sisters to whom we have committed ourselves

It’s more than just “spiritual-sounding”, it is commanded by Scripture! Come out from among them and be ye separate. Earnestly contend for the faith.  Mark and avoid those who cause divisions because of contrary doctrine.  But somehow this is abandonment?

 But if Jesus was going to show us something new from his Word or to correct a misunderstanding we had about the Bible, how would he do that? Wouldn’t he use the leaders and teachers he has given to his church for that very purpose (Eph 4:11–14)? It seems the Chief Shepherd would use the shepherds he has set up over his church (1 Pet 5:4–5) to “keep watch over your soul” (Heb 13:17). Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, entrusted the church for which he died to your elders (Heb 13:20–21; Acts 20:28)—do you follow them?

First of all, there is nothing “new” in the Bible. We’ve had it for 2000 years or more.  Are leaders and teachers giving us new revelation?  Do they have some special dispensation or gifting that enables them to speak for God?  Has God divinely appointed them (predetermination) to be in a place of authority, and so we must obey them?  No because pastors and teachers are gifts given for the purpose of equipping and edifying the assembly, not for the purpose of authority or speaking for God. There is no mediator between God and man other than Jesus. We don’t need men to interpret God’s word for us.  God gives discernment to  every believer through the Holy Spirit.  Each believer is responsible to test EVERYTHING (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21).  We don’t passively wait for some authority to do the testing for us.  Shepherds guard and protect, they don’t rule. They see to the needs of the flock so that each believer can be effective in his own ministry. They don’t dictate to the flock how to think and act.

Put the spiritual needs of Jesus’ church above your own preferences. Often our opinions about how the building should be decorated or the way in which the meetings or programs should be set up are more important to us than the spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters.

Mr. Perry keeps bringing up these references to the building and ministries after he made it a point early on to emphasize that the church is not either of these. Why do these thoughts constantly preoccupy our thinking? Because it’s been ingrained into our mindset. This beast has created all of its own problems.  Matters of preference or décor or carpet color or music choice or programs or how much to tithe all become moot when we simply get back to a Biblical model of fellowship.

If anyone could have lobbied for his own interests instead of giving himself for his church, it was Jesus (Phil 2:3–8). Jesus gave up his rights and reputation for his church—do you?

This is obviously a reference to Philippians 2:7, “But made himself of no reputation…”, but this same passage also states that Jesus gave up nothing, but instead constantly affirmed His equality with the Father.

Next Lord’s Day, as you gather in Jesus’ name with that group of believers you call your brothers and sisters in Christ, look around and ask yourself this question: “Do I love this church like Jesus does?”

Thankfully, that is the end of the article, because there is much more I could add, but I’d be writing forever. The bottom line here is that consistently the emphasis in the NT regarding the church is the assembly, or the individual members of the Body. We are to love the people, not this thing they call the “church”. Reformed and Protestant orthodoxy equivocate whenever it speaks of “church”, and that is by design. Their double-speak confuses and obfuscates the real matter- their belief of salvation being tied to the institution, and not the finished work of Christ.  When you love the people you are loving the church because we are all members of it every moment, not just when we gather for fellowship. We are individual members of a Body, and no man ever hated his own body.  We have got to be clear what we are talking about when we use the words we use!

Andy
* The link to the cited article is no longer available

The Assumption of Church Authority

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 15, 2017

Originally published August 15, 2016

The word “assumption” can have at least two meanings. It can mean to take on or take over for oneself as a responsibility. It can also refer to a starting point of an argument; a premise from which a logical conclusion is drawn. In the case of “church authority”, both definitions are applicable.

Protestants must be aware of the assumption, the beginning premise, held by the “church leadership”, the logical conclusions of which produce the resulting behavior observed by so many who come to this ministry seeking answers. Those in so-called “church leadership” have an assumption (self-appointed) of authority based on a faulty assumption (premise).

As a result there are some questions that must be asked:

  1. Is it reasonable to assume that elders and pastors, being fallible men (because after all doesn’t “total depravity” apply to them as well?), could ever possibly be in error regarding doctrine and Biblical interpretation?
  2. If the answer is yes, then what mechanism is there in place, either from Scripture itself or a “church’s” own documented governing principles, to be able to determine if the leadership is in error, thereby making their claim to authority void?
  3. Maybe the same question only stated another way, if a discerning church member were honestly persuaded by his own personal study and illumination of the Holy Spirit that a pastor or elder was in error and promoting false doctrine, and the elder/pastor refuses to hear him, what recourse does that church member have (aside from leaving the church)? (The assumption here being that the member loves his church so much that he is concerned for the spiritual well-being of the church in general and the pastor, elders, and the rest of the laity in particular).
  4. If, on the off chance that an elder or pastor ever conceded the fact that the possibility exists that he himself could be in error concerning doctrine or Biblical interpretation, how would he know that? How would an elder or pastor know if he was wrong? (Of course that begs the question, would he ever admit to it?)

degreeThe answers to these questions should be obvious because this is the assumption: the leadership is assumed to never be wrong because they are the authority! The basis for their self-appointed authority is rooted in the simple notion that they know something that you and I don’t know – the knowledge that man cannot know real truth.  If you ever make the “mistake” of presuming that you know something, that only reinforces the reality of your own depravity and disqualifies you from taking action for good.  It is what testifies to your need for their authority to compel you to good action (“good” as defined by them of course).  Their basis for authority IS authority.

This of course is a logical fallacy. Nevertheless, an elder or pastor will ALWAYS defer to some other authority. His answers regarding doctrine and interpretation are never going to be based on sound reason from his own personal study. He will always make an appeal to the authority that instructed him (i.e. seminary, et al).

The only real difference between you or me and the elder/pastor is the amount of money spent on certification training. The man standing behind the pulpit paid good money for nothing more than a piece of paper that tells him that he knows that man cannot know.  But the Bible clearly states that all authority rests with Christ. The elder/pastor gets his authority from a framed document hanging on a wall in his office.

Whenever the basis for truth is an appeal to authority, there is no need for persuasion or reasoned debate. Only force and coercion.

~ Andy

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