Over a hundred years ago, in a grammar school in Europe a wonderful old teacher would walk into his class and bow to his students.
He told them he was showing respect because he expected the young gentlemen would one day be very successful and important members of society.
Many Christians have been deceived. We have been taught to believe there are two classes of Christians.
- The lower class are to be humble, gentle and loving church members.
Ephesians 4:2 (NIV) Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
The upper class are the leaders and preachers, who are super Christians with supernatural powers.
Ephesians 4:11 (NIV) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.
Fortunately, the Bible does not teach this at all.
ALL believers are called to be completely humble and gentle and to treat all other believers with love, understanding and deep respect. Senior pastors and apostles are not a separate class.
We are supposed to submit to spiritual authority but ALL believers have been given spiritual authority. If you respect authority, you must submit to all believers.
Ephesians 5:21 (NIV) Submit TO ONE ANOTHER out of reverence for Christ.
Remember the schoolmaster who bowed to his students.
Matthew 23:8-9 (NIV) “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.
And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.
Of course this does not mean a parent, teacher or pastor should let anybody do anything.
- However, even when a leader corrects or disciplines, the aim must be to raise people up to realise their high potential, never to keep them in permanent submission to the leader.
The New Testament books which chiefly deal with church discipline and correction are First and Second Corinthians.
A man in the church has been sleeping with his step-mother and refuses to repent. Paul writes to instruct the church to discipline the man.
Does Paul address his letter to “The Senior Pastor” or “The Board of Elders” or “The Leadership Group?” No.
1 Corinthians 1:2 (NIV) To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy…
Few Churches today would even begin to think like this. We have strayed very far from the ways of Jesus Christ.
And what does Paul say about submission to authoritarian leaders?
2 Corinthians 11:19-20 (NIV) You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise!
In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face.
Paul describes authoritarian preachers as “fools” and rebukes the Corinthians for submitting to them.
Clearly Jesus does not call preachers to establish a hierarchy to which Christians are supposed to submit.
So why does Jesus give power and authority to leaders?
It is not to rob other believers of their freedom, respect and authority.
A leader is called to raise up and equip believers to exercise authority as ministers of Jesus Christ.
Jesus has gifted apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers…
“…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” Ephesians 4:12 (ESV)
Jesus did not heal the sick to be admired. He healed the sick and worked wonders and then sent out his disciples to do the same thing.
Luke 9:1-2 (ESV) And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.
First Jesus sent the Apostles but then He sent out 72 disciples (believers like you and me) to do the same thing.
Luke 10:1-2 (ESV) After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.
And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.