In the Old Testament, the God of Israel insisted that one man alone should never rule over His people. 

Every leader must have limited authority. 

  • Moses was national leader and prophet but not a priest.
  • Samuel was Prophet and High Priest but not King.
  • David was King and Prophet but not a priest. 

Kings who performed priestly functions were violating God’s order and they were punished by God. King Saul was a dramatic example. 

Likewise in the New Testament no one man was allowed to be the supreme ruler over God’s people. 

The only exception was Jesus the Messiah Himself, the Son of God, who is the supreme Prophet, the High Priest of the New Covenant and the King of Israel. 

  • However, even Jesus will not be fully revealed as Prophet, Priest AND King until the Second Coming.

The modern nations which were formed under the influence of the Bible, evolved a system of government which reflected this division of powers.

  • In Britain the King or Queen is subject to the power of Parliament, which is elected by the people. The judges are independent and cannot be told what to do by either the elected government or the Queen.
  • In the USA, the President, the Congress and the Judges have separate powers and no one man has unlimited authority. 
  • This principle of the separation of powers has been copied by former British Colonies and by European countries like modern Germany.

It is based on the Bible.

In the New Testament, the first church was governed by a team of Apostles appointed by Jesus. 

This was a new idea and even more radical than the Old Testament division of authority between Prophets, Priests and Kings. 

  • When Jesus first introduced the idea of team leadership, the apostles found it confusing.

Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. Luke 22:24 (NKJV)

Jesus turned this into a lesson on humility and most preachers explain it that way. 

  • But there is something more to the story which is usually overlooked.

Jesus had told the disciples He was going away. They didn’t fully understand but they knew He was leaving them. 

In the Old Testament, every supreme leader was supposed to have a successor.

  • The High Priest or King would be followed by his son. 
  • David was followed by Solomon. 

Also some major prophets trained up a successor. 

  • Moses was followed by Joshua.
  • Elijah was followed by Elisha.

It was natural for the disciples to assume that one of them would be appointed the supreme Apostle to rule over the others. 

But this was the farewell dinner before Jesus left them and none of them had been appointed to rule over all. This was totally confusing.

So they started discussing this puzzle amongst themselves. 

Who would be the supreme leader ?

We must not assume that each one was pushing himself forward.

But even when Jesus interrupted the conversation, He still didn’t settle the question by nominating a successor as number one.

  • He never did!

Just because Peter took over the role of chairman and the first evangelist, it does not mean he was the supreme number one. If we assume this, we are falling into the same trap of limited human thinking which confused the disciples at the Last Supper.

In Galatians, Paul speaks of his visit to the church leaders in Jerusalem. He describes a team leadership.

… and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Galatians 2:9 (NKJV) 


Notice that Paul refers to the joint leadership of the Jewish church as THEY and to the leadership fo the Gentile church as WE (Paul and Barnabas). 

  • Paul’s thinking about leadership is collective. 
  • Jesus is the ONLY one man ruler, the ONLY supreme chief Shepherd. 

Let’s grow out of the church tradition of one man rule, the dictatorial Senior Pastor, the Man of God who controls everything.

Some people claim this is God’s principle of leadership. 

It is not.

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