QUESTIONING LEADERSHIP

Social IssuesReligion

  • Author James Rondinone
  • Published March 16, 2022
  • Word count 7,644

13

TO LEARN ABOUT TEACHINGS THAT ARE DESIGNED TO CONTROL US

AUTHORITARIAN DOCTRINES

THE TEACHINGS AND DECISIONS FROM LEADERSHIP CANNOT BE QUESTIONED

I can’t begin to tell you how dangerous this teaching is not only concerning our spiritual growth but our very physical welfare. There are some teachers of the Word of God who claim that every word they say is anointed (received directly from the person of the Holy Spirit) such that whatever is commanded is to be obeyed without question. Where do they derive this kind of perspective from? Believe it or not, it does have a biblical basis in the Old Testament. However, does it have the same relevance for the New Testament saint?

In my younger years, following my conversion to the Christian faith, I became involved in a non-denominational church that I was and still am thankful for. I learned that I’m a new creature in Christ. I learned that Christ finished the Father’s work for all mankind on the cross. I learned to rely on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And I learned that God wants to be ever-present in my life.

However, there were times when I would hear certain teachings that just didn’t seem right. In some cases, the assembly was asked to sell their real estate holdings and give all of the proceeds to the church. There were stories of certain church members, some of whom were in leadership, that held a different perspective on certain non-foundational biblical topics other than the doctrinal platform of the church and were approached and asked to change their view or leave. Questioning leadership about areas of sinful public actions that some in leadership were engaged in were usually responded to by rebuking those who brought them up. For me, this was very confusing and troubling.

As a young Christian, I didn’t have enough of a solid foundation in doctrine in order to be able to discern biblically what was scriptural and what was not. And the last thing I wanted to do was make the leadership mad at me. I enjoyed what I perceived as God’s working in the ministry (e.g., Bible studies, children’s ministry, street witnessing, Bible school, Christian radio, etc.).

However, the day arrived when all of this came to a head. Many of the leaders whom I had become acquainted with from when I got involved in this church had left the ministry. Attempts to rewrite unscriptural-based church theology were thwarted. Accusations from the church hierarchy were made against those who tried to express their concerns and see changes come about that they were not supportive or faithful to the ministry anymore.

How could a church that was so fruitful on the one hand become so oppressive on the other?

This is what we’re about to take a look at in this study. Unless a believer is solidly grounded in Scripture, it might be difficult to understand what were the factors that were behind what I would call an unreasonable use of power.

In the book of 1 Peter, there are some verses that exemplify this sentiment. Please go to chapter 5.

1 Peter 5:1-3

1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:

The Apostle Peter was addressing the elders (the pastors) of those churches made up of Christian Jews, who were living in foreign countries, thus being strangers to their native land. In his address, he contrasted those qualities of leadership that are God-centered and those qualities of leadership that are self-centered. Let’s begin with those qualities that are God-centered.

2 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;

3 Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

An elder is to care for the church over which they are called to preside, i.e., as a shepherd cares for his flock. A shepherd should protect his sheep from thieves and marauders; go before the herd and search out the land for grazing, making sure that there was nothing there to harm them (e.g., poisonous plants; dangerous animals; snakes; pits; etc.); seek out a wayward sheep and give it personal attention; discipline a sheep that was too rebellious; carry a sheep if [it] got [injured,] and at the close of each day would examine each sheep and anoint their bruises with healing oil and remove briars from their wool.177 They would be characterized in their care for the well-being of the flock by being willingly (according to God’s will), of a ready mind (cheerfully; from the promptings of divine love), and as being ensamples to the flock. What are ensamples?

Ensamples are those believers who imitate the character of Christ in their life. They live in such a way to be emulated by others. They are those whose authority is by [the] influence of reason, persuasion, and example.178 And they are also those who feed them with knowledge and understanding?179 Jeremiah 3:15.

Then Peter conveyed to them what should not characterize the care for the spiritual well-being of the flock. The spiritual care for the congregation should be not by constraint (not by compulsion) and not for filthy lucre (to not take care of the believers merely for the sake of a salary, but from a real desire to serve). Then he made this final comment as to what we’re talking about here. And that pastors should not be lords over God’s heritage (God’s possession; the church). The words lords over have a few meanings. This refers to someone who exercises unreasonable power over others. Someone who is continually shouting orders. Someone who exercises dominion. Someone who exerts strict control, is oppressive, and unjustly severe.

This doesn’t mean to say that there won’t be times when a pastor or anyone in leadership has to make difficult decisions. There could be an instance when a believer no longer believes in a foundational truth of the faith (e.g., the deity of Christ, the Trinity, the resurrection of Christ, etc.). Another occurrence might be that of someone in the assembly evidencing an egregious sin (e.g., adultery, fornication, homosexuality, etc.) that needs to be addressed.

So, when someone in leadership emphatically proclaims that their teachings and decisions cannot be questioned, what might be the biblical basis for supporting such a pronouncement?

The first thing we’ll take a look at is how do they perceive themselves in the eyes of God?

Let’s begin by going to the book of Exodus.

Exodus 3:1-4:12

3:2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

When Moses kept his father in law’s sheep in Midian, an angel of the Lord appeared to him out of the midst of a burning bush.

3:10 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.

The angel conveyed to Moses that he had seen the affliction of his people and would like him to bring them out from their slavery to a land flowing with milk and honey by going to Pharaoh to ask him for their release so that they could travel three days into the wilderness and sacrifice unto their God.

4:12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

As soon as Moses heard that he would have to go before Pharaoh and speak, he freaked out. You see, he had an issue with stuttering and thought that this should disqualify him from being the one chosen to undertake this directive. But God told him, I will take care of that issue and will teach you what you should say (I will tell you what to [say] at the right time180).

What someone in leadership might take from God’s response to Moses was that, like him, God would let him/her know what to say when the time comes. And if this is indeed the case, then those in leadership can’t be questioned for what they say because God gave them the words to speak. Another example like this one is found in the book of 2 Samuel.

Suggested Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-17

5 Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the Lord, Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in?

King David was thinking about the fact that the ark of the covenant was located within the curtains of a portable tent-like structure called the Tabernacle. His desire was for a permanent dwelling to contain the ark. He conveyed this sentiment to one of the prophets of Israel named Nathan. That night, the prophet received a direct word from God. Some of the words of this direct revelation were Thus saith the Lord.

There are the keywords. At various times, God spoke by direct revelation to individual leaders (e.g., Moses, Joshua, the prophets, the kings of Israel, etc.). Whether this was to provide an answer in regard to making a pivotal decision. Whether this was an answer to prayer. Whether this was to declare to the children of Israel His instructions, they were to respond to what they heard without complaining or disobedience.

By using this perspective, a leader in the New Testament church might conclude that as the children of Israel were to be obedient to their leaders, so should the assembly of believers be submissive to the spiritual leaders of the church (e.g., apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers) without questioning.

What else might seem to support a leader’s view that what they say goes, i.e., what verses are used to support a biblical perspective on any particular topic?

There is a saying that goes something like this; the Bible can say anything that we want it to say. This is actually a true statement. This holds true for us as well as for those in leadership. Another avenue that could be used by those in leadership to support their assumption that they have absolute authority as to a doctrinal position, decision, or teaching is whether they use Old Testament verses and perceptions to provide a narrative as to how to translate New Testament verses to substantiate a doctrinal perspective. Those leaders who use this approach are called non-dispensationalists. This means that they can use any verse or verses from the Old Testament to perpetuate a doctrinal position that must be followed by the assembly of believers in the New Testament church. Let’s give you one example of what I mean. Please go to the book of Psalms.

Suggested Reading: Psalm 51:1-4

This was a Psalm of David when Nathan, the prophet, came to him after he had sexual relations with a married woman named Bathsheba. Some commentators say that nine months had elapsed after David’s illicit relationship with Bathsheba and his directive to have her husband, Uriah, killed in battle. Still, he had not repented of his sins of adultery and murder. The murderous act that David committed displeased the Lord. So, He decided to send the prophet Nathan to tell him that there would be consequences for his actions, such as:

●Evil would arise against him from his own house. ●His many wives will have relations with others. ●His child with Bathsheba will die.

2 Samuel 12:13 And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.

David responded and finally repented for his transgressions, and the Lord granted him mercy by not inflicting upon him the penalty of death.

Psalm 51:4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

And then he made this incredible statement as to whom he was accountable for in respect to the sins he had committed. He said that against God, and God only had he sinned. He apparently wasn’t responsible for confessing his sin to Bathsheba for his indiscretion of taking her for himself. Neither was he accountable for going to her deceased husband’s family and confessing sorrow for his actions toward their son. And neither did he declare to the nation his egregious sins and express contrition for what he had done.

As we can see, a New Testament leader might take these verses and this approach in respect to the committing of their own sin against someone in the assembly. Let’s say a leader has had an affair with a fellow believer’s wife, and the husband finds out about it and decides to try to address the matter.

Matthew 18:15-17 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

When the leader is approached by the husband alone, his response to this inquiry might be to mention Psalms 51:4 and say that he is only accountable to God for discipline. Second, he could also say that the word brother in verse 15 only refers to a fellow believer and not someone in leadership. So, therefore this would substantiate his perspective that the offended husband has no scriptural basis to address his or any leader’s sin. He might further offer the husband advice to give the matter over to God to handle it.

There could be one more avenue that a leader could use to support his/her claim that the words and decisions from their mouth are from God, and that is that their declarations and decisions can appear justified by using one verse or one section of scripture from the New Testament.

An example of this is found in the book of 1 Corinthians.

Suggested Reading: 1 Corinthians 4:1-16

15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

Paul was addressing one of many issues that were going on in the church at Corinth. This one had to do with the inclination of the assembly to listen to the teachings of many instructors instead of following those like himself, who were identified as being a spiritual father.

6 And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

As far as their perception about those in leadership, some of them were evaluating ministers by their own personal preferences and prejudices, which could be in regard to talents, gifts, knowledge, etc., instead of a mindset that was based on the Word of God. And if it’s true that a minister differs from another minister in these things, then Paul stated that this comes from God and therefore gratitude toward Him should be expressed for such. However, whatever it is that has been received from Him shouldn’t be used as the basis for a leader to boast or likewise for those who follow the leader to boast.

What did the Apostle Paul mean when he said that the Corinthian believers had become followers of ten thousand instructors and no longer of those considered as fathers? The words ten thousand instructors refer to the many instructors during the culture who were known as Paedagoguses. A Paedagogus was a slave to whom boys were entrusted on leaving the care of the females, which was somewhere about their sixteenth year. He was often a foreigner, sometimes educated and refined, but often otherwise, for Plutarch complains that seamen, traders, usurers, and farmers [were] engaged in this capacity. The office was one of general guardianship, not of instruction, though sometimes the Paedagogus acted as a teacher. He accompanied the boy to school, carrying his books, etc., and attended him to the gymnasium and elsewhere.181 To emphasize, what I wanted you to remember was that for the most part, this instructor accompanied the child to school but was not their special teacher. Who is a special teacher?

A special teacher was alluded to by Paul as one whom he called a father. This was someone who caused the Christians at Corinth to have a personal relationship with Christ through the presentation of the gospel and their response to it, as was not the case for the myriad of instructors who were simply guardians. And as one of these fathers, the apostle himself made the following statement.

16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

With that said, there are those in leadership who, because they believe they are God’s ultimate spokesperson, would translate the word followers as those in the assembly who were to follow their church leaders exclusively. If we were to hear such teachings from the pulpit, I’m sure that we might agree that those who are called to any of the leadership positions (e.g., apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers) in the New Testament church are to be obeyed unequivocally when they bring forth a message or decision that they allege is from God. Right?

How would we know what church leaders have said in their teachings or the decisions they are asking the assembly to implement are from God?

We wouldn’t. What could we do that might help us in this regard? The answer is multi-faceted. Study the Word. Pray to God for guidance or direction in this area. Get tapes, books, videos, etc., that pertain to the topic of the teaching at hand or the decisions that are being commanded to be implemented. Now we know why some New Testament leaders might require the congregation to obey them in everything they say and do. This brings us to the next question.

Is there any scriptural basis for not supporting the conjecture by leadership that their teachings and decisions must be obeyed and cannot be questioned?

Some leaders will say that Moses was a type of those believers who are called to leadership positions in the New Testament church. As he heard from God and instructed the people, so they heard from God and instructed the people. However, what we’ll find out is that Moses was not a type of leader in the New Testament church as being a mediator between the assembly of believers and God the Father.

Let’s take a further look at this by going to the book of 1 Corinthians.

Suggested Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

The Jews were under obligation to Moses in the experiences of the Exodus, such as when they passed through the Red Sea as it rose in walls on each side providing safe passage from the ensuing Egyptians, and when they were under the cloud, the "Shechinah" - the visible symbol of the divine presence and protection that attended them out of Egypt. This went before them by day as a cloud to guide them, and by night it became a pillar of fire to give them light.182 What we could say about Moses is that he could be considered as the mediator between them and their God (Jehovah).

However, the insinuation that Moses was a type/mediator of the leadership of a New Testament church and because of such Christians are obligated to submit to church authority (e.g., apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers) with regard to all of their teachings and decisions is scripturally unfounded. If a leader in the New Testament is not a mediator between the assembly and God the Father, then who is? Please go to the book of 1 Timothy, and we’ll find out.

1 Timothy 2:3-6

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

The Apostle Paul was conveying to Timothy that it’s God’s (the Fathers’) desire for all men not only to be saved but to come to the knowledge (advanced knowledge) of the truth (doctrine; an organized body of Christian teaching or doctrine183). Coming to the full knowledge of the faith is not only for their spiritual growth but also so that they would be able to recognize false teaching and not be led astray.

Then Paul declared as to who it is that provided certainty, which would allow someone to have the opportunity to be saved. He said that this spiritual benefit was because of the one who is the mediator between God the Father and mankind, and that person is Christ Jesus. The word mediator means a middle person, one whose office it is to reconcile two parties at enmity; … a [peacemaker]. God was offended with the crimes of men; [and] to restore them to his peace, Jesus Christ was incarnated. But this reconciliation required a sacrifice on the part of the [peacemaker] or mediator184, which He accomplished.

What we can conclude is that those in church leadership are not mediators between God the Father and mankind. However, we must consider that certain things that took place in the Old Testament also took place in the New Testament, such as the disclosing of hidden truths by means of direct revelation, which is an act of God the Holy Spirit imparting to the Bible writers, truth incapable of being discovered by man's unaided reason (2:10-12); [and] inspiration, the act of God the Holy Spirit enabling the Bible writers to write down in God-chosen words, infallibly, the truth revealed (2:13).185 So, what I’m saying is that there were certain times when New Testament leadership spoke words given to them by direct revelation.

The question that now remains is, once the canon of Scripture was completed, were the words spoken then and now by those in leadership still received by direct revelation?

In order to find this out, please go to the book of 1 John.

1 John 2:27

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.

Before we translate this verse, we’re told according to Ephesians 4:11-12 that God calls and qualifies some believers to the office leadership gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher.

Ephesians 4:11-12 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

This calling is for the collective purpose of the perfecting (for the mending, repair, or correcting all that is deficient; to restore to a proper place) of the saints; for the work of the ministry (in order to do what they should do as believers; spiritual service of an official character); for the edifying (through the instruction of divine things) of the body of Christ so that every member might become mature or fully grown. As we might assume that in order for those in leadership to be able to carry out the purposes mentioned, they themselves would need to have been taught by others of these divine things; they would have needed to have learned how to address the weaknesses of their flesh by confession and recovery, and they would have needed to have been involved in ministry work. You can’t give to others what you don’t have or what you haven’t received. With that said, let’s translate the verse from 1 John.

The anointing, the person of the Holy Spirit, which you have received of Christ abides (has taken up permanent residency) in you. And you need not that any man teach you, meaning that no teacher, even a God-appointed one, is the only and ultimate source of the saint's instruction.186 The same anointing, the Holy Spirit, teacheth you of all things (under the guidance of the Spirit you must test the teaching of men as you search the Bible for yourself (cf. Acts 17:11)187; he endues us with judgment and discernment, lest we should be deceived by lies188). This doesn’t tell us as to how much of what a leader says is directly given to them by the Holy Spirit, but what it does say is that not everything they teach and the decisions they impose are from the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

With what we have just learned, a better definition of the anointing can now be enumerated as to the words conveyed by those in the leadership positions of the church. As to the words spoken under the anointing, these words are merely men’s words, but the Holy Spirit is especially present to help our infirmity in conveying the best sense or meaning. Furthermore, it’s impossible for God to be present in that which is untrue or unbiblically impossible that false and unscriptural teaching be anointed teaching at the same time.189

I know we have covered a lot of ground and have mentioned some new terminology. But the response to the question at hand wouldn’t be complete without adding this extra tidbit. I think we would agree that at times there were those leaders in the early church that spoke by means of direct revelation, where we could define the word revelation as meaning something not known to them, a new truth previously unveiled and eventually written down in the New Testament canon. With that in mind, here is the question to consider.

Once the canon of Scripture was completed, is it possible for a church leader to continue to speak by divine revelation?

Please go to the book of 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 2:15

But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.

This is an interesting verse in that it tells us that he that is spiritual, judges (discerns; evaluates) all things along with the people of the Spirit. What does it mean when someone is referred to as being spiritual? The word spiritual will help us clarify whether a leader in the church can continue to declare that they have received direct revelation from the Holy Spirit. This word means one who is under the influence of the Spirit. It can also mean someone to whom divine insight is imparted.190

I don’t know if you ever heard of this before, but there are two words that can refer to the impartation of divine insight by means of the Holy Spirit?

Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

The first word is rhema, and the second is illumination. What does the word rhema mean? Rhema means the word which the Lord speaks the second time.191 This is the word of God that He has already spoken and which He conveys to us personally. It could be a verse, a word or words, or a section of Scripture. In this verse, the English word is transliterated from the Greek word reema.

Luke 24:31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.

The word illuminate means that the Spirit conveys to us divine insight about a word or words in a verse or section of Scripture. This is the idea behind the words And their eyes were opened. So, with that said, the terminology of saying that a believer has received revelation from God is no longer appropriate.

Now, let’s address the second aspect of this topic as pertaining to using Old Testament verses to provide a perspective for New Testament doctrine.

In most cases, the verses that are used to support a doctrinal position on salvation and sanctification for the New Testament believer should not come from the commands of the Old Testament. This might appear to be a surprising statement, so let me try to clarify what I mean. There are certain scriptural studies that use verses from the Old Testament that will enhance our learning about a biblical topic. For instance, if we were doing a study on God’s attributes, verses from the Old Testament could definitely illustrate these in a more realistic way because of the many stories that are recorded there. Another consideration for using verses from the Old Testament would be in the realm of doing a study on prophecy (future events that have come to pass and future events that have not come to pass). And still, when trying to get a full understanding as to why a Savior/Messiah was needed, the Old Testament can provide a wealth of knowledge on this. Furthermore, there are practical lessons that we can learn such as watching what we say with our words; if married, discern those instances when we’re attracted someone else; be careful as to how much alcohol we consume, etc. One more thing which we shouldn’t forget is the examples of those Old Testament saints who confided in God amidst trials and persecutions and God’s faithfulness in response to them, which gives us hope that He will do the same for us.

And while there could be a few more reasons as to why Old Testament verses could teach us, there is clearly one thing that won’t help us, i.e., in respect to a New Testament believer’s salvation and sanctification (by sanctification I’m referring to the renewing of the mind). Do you know what this is about? When I say it, then please hold onto your hat. It’s what has to do with the various types of mandates under the Mosaic Law. Uh, Oh. This is the institution that the Jews were given to obey by God both for their spiritual welfare and physical well-being.

If we were to take a general snapshot of what the Mosaic Law pertained to, then this is what we would be referring to.

●Statutes - The Spiritual Code - the ordinances of the Law (e.g., the Tabernacle, the Holy Days, the Offerings, the High Priest, the Meat Offering, the Trespass Offering, the Levites, etc.) Exodus 26-31; 35-40; Leviticus 1-24; Deuteronomy 16

●Commandments - The Moral Code which included not only the ten commandments called the Decalogue (e.g., honor thy father and thy mother…Exodus 20:12-17) but more than one hundred other commandments (e.g., thou shalt have no other gods before me; the Sabbath,…thou shalt not do any work…; thou shalt truly tithe… Exodus 20:12-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21; Deuteronomy 12; Deuteronomy 14:22

●Judgments - The Social Code, which are the laws belonging to civil government. (e.g., dietary, marriage, military, conservation, etc., along with the related consequences (punishment). Deuteronomy 14-28

●Testimonies - The laws directing the commemoration of certain events (e.g., Seventh year Sabbath rest; the fiftieth year, the year of Jubilee; the ordinance of the Passover; the feast of unleavened bread; etc.). Exodus 12:43-50; Numbers 28: 16-25; Deuteronomy 25-26

You might respond by asking what scriptural proof is there to support the conjecture that a Christian is no longer mandated to keep any of the many commands of the Mosaic Law?

Please go to the book of Acts.

Suggested Reading: Acts 15:1-30

1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.

5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.

24a Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised,…

There were certain Jewish Christians who contended with Paul and Barnabas, teaching that the Gentile believers must be circumcised in order to be saved. In other words, what they were saying was, "A Gentile must first become a Jew before he can become a Christian! It’s not sufficient for them simply to trust Jesus Christ…"192 It’s obvious that they wanted to incorporate some of the aspects of the Mosaic Law into the requisites of repentance and belief for salvation. To say this in another way, repentance and belief were not enough to receive the Holy Spirit along with additional blessings.

So, Paul and Barnabas decided to go to the Jerusalem church in order to discuss this matter with the apostles and elders, who were ministering there. After much discussion, a conclusion on this issue was arrived at, which stated that an epistle would be written and given in the care of four men, Paul, Barnabas, Judas, and Silas, who would take and read it before the assemblies of the churches of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia informing them as to what were the obligations that the Gentile believers needed to abide by. But if not for salvation, what about adherence to the Mosaic Law for spiritual growth?

24b and keep the law…

But there was something else that these Christian Jews believed, and that was after someone was saved by circumcision, they must keep the Mosaic Law. Another way of saying this was, whatever the protocol for a New Testament Gentile believer to grow spiritually, the keeping of the Law was also to be a part of this process.

What was the response to these declarations? Did a Gentile convert need to keep the Sabbath; did they need to tithe, did they need to attend the synagogue, did they need to keep the Ten Commandments or any other aspect of the Mosaic Law? The answer to this was the same answer as to whether a Gentile believer needed to be circumcised in order to be saved. Are you ready for it?

24c …to whom we gave no such commandment:

My perception of what this response said was that a Gentile believer was not obligated to obey the Mosaic Law for salvation or sanctification. None of the tenets of the Mosaic Law are to be included in the salvation process of repentance and faith. And none of the tenets of the Mosaic Law can be included in the sanctification process of the Spiritual Growth doctrines, some of which are the confession of sin and recovery, the renewal of the mind, and being under the rule of the Spirit.

What about the Jewish Christians? I think the message was pretty clear. What is good for the Gentile believers is what is good for the Jewish Christians. However, this doesn’t mean that the Jews could no longer keep any of the cultural aspects of the Law in respect to the Messiah/Savior, Jesus Christ, whom they now believe in, and can subsequently use these teachings as a schoolmaster (the Law was like a person who was making us behave193) to bring others to Christ. I hope this helps to inform us as to the significance of the Old Testament Scriptures and what they can provide Christians with aside from salvation and sanctification.

Are you ready to look at the final aspect of this study as to whether the implication that one verse or section of Scripture could be used to support the conjecture that a leader’s teachings and decisions cannot be questioned?

We’ll begin by going to the book of Acts.

Suggested Reading: Acts 17:10-14

Paul and Silas have left Thessalonica and have arrived in the city of Berea. They entered the synagogue and preached unto them the gospel. What they found out was that the Bereans were willing to listen and examine as to whether the promises and types (of the Old Testament) corresponded with the alleged [fulfillment] in the person, works, and sufferings of Jesus Christ.194

11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

The Bereans searched (made careful and exact research against) the scriptures daily in order [to] see if what Paul had said agreed with what the Scriptures said.195 In like manner, you and I should make careful and exact research against the Scriptures concerning what has been taught to us by those in leadership. And when we do this, hopefully, we’ll incorporate a process known as hermeneutics while operating under the guidance of the Spirit. This protocol refers to scriptural interpretation based on an analysis of grammatical features, whether of Hebrew for the Old Testament Scriptures, the Koine Greek for the New Testament Scriptures, and Aramaic for both the Old and New Testaments, along with the historical background (the cultural background) of the text.

What we’re going to take a look at next is a verse that affirms the conjecture that a believer should examine scripturally whenever someone in leadership says that such and such must be obeyed.

Please go to the book of 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 2:15

But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.

There is someone who is able to judge (discern) all things spiritual, and that is he who is spiritual (one who is under the influence of the Spirit; to whom divine insight is imparted196). Each believer, and not just those in leadership, has the opportunity to be spiritual. There is not much left to say.

A verse that we’ll take a look at next clearly indicates that whether we’re called to a leadership position in the church or not, if we learn how to walk in the Spirit, then God will put His laws into our minds and write them in our hearts. We’ll find this verse in the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 8:10

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

Those who are being referred to here are spiritual Israel, i.e., those Jews who are born-again. While contrast is being made between the Old and New Covenants, those Jews who repented and believed in Christ will have His laws put into their mind and written in their hearts. What does this mean? The word laws mean that they would not be mere external observances but would affect the conscience and the heart. Some would say that these are the laws from the Old Covenant, those given under the institution of the Mosaic Law. However, what Scripture makes clear is that the New Covenant under grace has different laws. These are mentioned in the book of James.

James 1:25

But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

The word law means teaching. And the words perfect law of liberty means [or, teaching] that sets us free from sin and death.197 The idea being expressed here is that no one has exclusivity in receiving teaching from God that benefits them spiritually.

THE FINAL THING THAT WE’LL TAKE A LOOK AT IS WHAT OUR RESPONSIBILITY SHOULD BE WHEN WE HEAR WHAT WE BELIEVE TO BE INSPIRED MESSAGES.

1 Thessalonians 5:20-21

Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

The Apostle Paul was warning the Thessalonian believers not to formulate a mindset where they think that they no longer have a need for continual prophesyings (inspired and intelligible messages198). On the other hand, they shouldn’t be lax in just listening to anything that is said and believe it. He told them to make sure that they Prove all things.

The meaning of these words is that they were to carefully examine everything proposed for their belief. They were not to receive it on trust; to take it on assertion; to believe it because it was urged with vehemence, zeal, or plausibility. In the various opinions and doctrines which were submitted to them for adoption, they were to apply the appropriate tests from reason and the [Word] of God, and what they found to be true they were to embrace; what was false they were to reject.199

And so, if the Word of God clearly advocates that whatever we hear from someone in leadership should be tested according to the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then likewise those in leadership should be those who exemplify such protocols in their teachings and decisions.

With these thoughts in mind, the translation of a verse that we looked at earlier from the book of 1 Corinthians would be entirely different.

1 Corinthians 4:16

Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

If a spiritual leader, like the Apostle Paul, says, be ye followers of me, what should be deduced is follow my example as I follow Christ in the special virtues of humility, self-denial, and faithfulness.200

In summary, don’t take everything you hear from the pulpit for granted. This doesn’t mean that we’re always trying to find something wrong with what was being said, but what it does mean is that it should be tested. If a leader you are listening to says that he/she has exclusive access to God and that you should submit to their every word and directive, then jump on your spiritual horse and ride out of there.

We have answered a lot of questions as to whether a leader’s teachings and decisions could be questioned by any member of an assembly. Because of such, I’m going to leave you with a bullet list for easy referral as to what was found.

●A pastor should not exercise unreasonable power or strict control over God’s people. 1 Peter 5:3

●Moses, Joshua, the prophets, and some of the kings of Israel received direct revelation from God and, as directed by Him, conveyed these instructions to the Jewish people. Exodus 3:10, 13

Likewise, direct revelation was given by God to certain leaders of the early church. Galatians 1:8-9 While Moses and others in the Old Testament acted as mediators between God and men, in the New Testament, the mediator between God and men is Jesus Christ. 1 Timothy 2:3-5

●Once the canon of Scripture was completed, there was no longer any new revelation. Messages that are brought forth should be under the anointing, i.e., under the guidance of the Spirit, who helps convey the best sense or meanings of the words spoken. 1 John 2:27 The Spirit can also provide each believer with a rhema (a personal word that God has already spoken) Ephesians 6:17 and illumination (divine insight about a particular word or section of Scripture). Luke 14:31

●The direct revelation that God gave to certain ones in the Old Testament, which was then spoken to the people, was to be obeyed by them; otherwise, consequences would be incurred. Deuteronomy 4:1

However, for those who are called to the leadership positions of the New Testament church, what they communicate to the assembly should be tested according to the Word of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. 1 John 2:27; Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21

●New Testament saints cannot be saved or grow spiritually by obeying any of the commands of the Mosaic Law. Acts 15:1-30

●One verse or section of Scripture should not be used to support any doctrinal perspective or decision, let alone the conjecture that a New Testament leaders’ teachings and decisions must be obeyed and not questioned under any circumstances. Acts 17:10-14; 1 Corinthians 2:15; Hebrews 8:10; James 1:25

That was a lot of information disseminated. However, there is more to study and uncover. Another Authoritarian Doctrine that we’ll look at next is one that I really haven’t heard or read much about over my thirty plus years of being a born-again Christian. It’s one that I haven’t even studied before. Are you ready to find out what this pertains to?

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Endnotes

177The Bible Exposition Commentary.

178Barnes' Notes.

179Adam Clarke's Commentary.

180UBS Old Testament.

181Vincent's Word Studies.

182Barnes' Notes.

183UBS New Testament.

184Adam Clarke's Commentary.

185Wuest.

186Weust.

187The Bible Exposition Commentary/New Testament.

188Calvin's Commentaries.

189“REPORT ON “THE BIBLE SPEAKS,” Gospel Ministries, Page 8. 08 May 2020 .

190Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament.

191“Rhema (doctrine),” WIKEPEDIA. 08 May 2020 .

192The Bible Exposition Commentary/New Testament 1989, 16 February 2022 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.

193UBS New Testament.

194Adam Clarke's Commentary.

195UBS New Testament Handbook Series.

196Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament.

197UBS New Testament.

198UBS New Testament.

199Barnes' Notes.

200The Pulpit Commentary.

My name is James Rondinone.

I grew up in Massachusetts and began my own spiritual journey early on in life.

I attended Bible college, having completed a two-year Christian Leadership course of study, and graduated as Valedictorian (summa cum laude).

I’ve written and published a number of spiritual books on various biblical topics.

These books can be found online.

Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2RB0Y7D Website: https://makingtheonerightchoice.com

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