Christ laid down specific Instructions regarding HOW His Disciples and ministers were to conduct themselves as Overseeing ‘Shepherds’ of His Flocks. In varying degrees, those instructions have been reasoned around. What should WE as members do in response to any disregard of Christ’s mandate?
Knowing well the natural tendencies buried deep within the human psyche, Christ saw need to explain the distinct difference He expected His True Disciples to operate under when overseeing their administrative responsibilities within His Church. He explained that there is a WAY that one would typically encounter when dealing with any political entity in the world. He clearly mandated that His servants were to NOT operate on a similar basis.
You Will NOT Be That Way!
On at least two separate occasions, the matter came up among and between the disciples as to who among them would be the greatest. The first recorded occasion was as they approached Jericho in the final few weeks of Christ’s ministry on earth. That occasion is recorded in Mark 10:42-45 and Matthew 20:25-28. For some unexplainable reason, the matter wasn’t fully resolved in their minds, as it arose again, on of all occasions, at the Passover meal just before Christ was taken for trial! That other account is in Luke 22:25-27.
For convenience here, I include a single composite rendition of the ‘near Jericho’ accounts.
Who Is the Greatest?
Mark 10:42 (& Matt.20:25-28) “But Jesus called them to him, and said unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; (Matthew says ‘exercise dominion’) and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, among you shall be servant of all.
45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
The later incident in Luke is quite similar. A verbal ‘rivalry’ erupted among them! When God emphatically says something more than once, we should be especially attentive. We can presume they, at least, got the message with this second repetition, as three NT writers saw fit to record the instruction in their Gospel accounts. The question remains, does our present day ministry get it?
The account of the later event in Luke reads thus:
Luke 22:25 “And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; (clearly not a ‘superior’) and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
27 For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.”
Let’s consider the Matthew / Mark accounts more closely for what they say:
We should also be aware of the words used:
‘lordship’ is Strongs #2634 katakurieuo; lordship over / exercise dominion / subjugate (Peter used the same word in 1st Pet. 5:3)
in Luke, it’s #2961 kurieuo; rule over / exercise lordship over
in Matthew, dominion is again #2634 lordship
‘authority’ is #2715 katexousiazo; exercise full privilege over / exercise authority upon
in Luke it’s #1850 exousiazo; exercise authority upon them
‘minister’ is #1249/1247 diakoneo; (deacon) minister / servant, attendant to the needs of others.
Let’s consider the ‘mandate’ as Christ gave it to His disciples for what it says, but with certain amplified definitions, for greater clarity.
“But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise a lordship which subjugates them; and their great ones exercise full unrestricted authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your attending servant: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, among you shall be servant of all, including those who serve. (In other words, servants of the servants.) For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” In this final sentence, we can see that there is no intent to take advantage of or to suppress others, but to make even a full and extreme self-sacrifice on behalf of others! That is a key difference.
In light of His emphatic mandate, how could God’s True Servants ever consider that their servanthood should translate up into an oppressive overlording authoritarian administration over God’s flock? A culture of repression. But, thus it seems, it is inevitably manifest among the ministers of the Church throughout history. Especially, when the Church experiences gains in numerical strength.
In various organizations within the Churches of God, at times in history, the administrations have in fact generated cultures of oppression and repression: Overlording, as the scriptures word the phenomenon. It was not just a ‘modern’ manifestation. An Old Testament passage alludes to a condition, where the people willingly surrendered their God given responsibilities over to a ruling ministerial class. Consider Jeremiah 5:31. “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” What we see described in this situation is a professional ministry class who are divorced from God’s Truth. (We shouldn’t identify these as the true priesthood of that generation, but another reprobate priesthood.) The people had given up on their responsibilities, and yet have chosen to fund the administration that misleads them! It wasn’t that the ministry was self-endowed financially, the people made them wealthy! These ‘priests’ are described as bearing rule over them, and the oppressed are glad to fund them in doing so!
God’s question is, where will that lead? What will you DO when it all comes to its end? A more direct question, does God fully support those who disregard His instructions? Do we have a partial answer in the incessant problems the Churches have experienced of more recent date?
The Apostle Peter also saw the potential for the condition to arise in the Church. Nearly a generation later, in his first epistle, Peter admonishes true and faithful elders: “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: Feed the flock of God which is among you, (not‘under’ your thumb) taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. (1st Pet 5:1-3)
A side point we should acknowledge, the flock is God’s, not theirs! Peter urged them to ‘oversee’, not to ‘overlord’! If only it would register as it should! We can’t overlook his point also, that some would be ‘in it for the money’!
Are WE Unwitting Accomplices?
If you were to become aware of a crime committed by a friend, say a murder, and if you were to keep quiet about it, the law would see you as guilty also in part. An “accessory to murder”, as it’s worded. If you worked for an employer that you discovered was defrauding his clients and did nothing about it, you would be regarded a co-conspirator. If you not only knew, but indirectly participated, say by keeping books, you would be seen as equally guilty! So, IF tacitly accommodating something that was against God’s instructions, disregarding the mandate He gave to His disciples, such as their NOT being ‘overlords’ of His flock in an oppressive manner, and we did little to nothing about it, would we not be regarded as co-commissioners? Would we not to some degree share in their guilt?
“Accommodating” Abuse of Position
Let’s say we are personally put in a situation where we are oppressed. If we meekly allow ourselves to become oppressed, unjustly, do we not facilitate the offense against God? If we see others being oppressed, and we in some way share in that act, by saying or doing nothing in response, do we not indirectly facilitate the inappropriate action? We can become an ‘accessory to’ another’s deeds simply by shirking our personal responsibilities before God.
“Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were some-times darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:” (Eph.5:6-8) We can effectively become ‘partakers’ by not resisting their urging that we join them in what they do! This passage admittedly refers to the wicked, but isn’t a disregard of Christ’s instructions also a form of the same, a disobedience in its own right?
We are admonished in Revelation 18:4 to “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” Though referring to the Beast system, the parallel suggests we can become regarded as ‘partaking’ of her sins by remaining comfortably in place! The Beast system is both an end-time empire of evil, and also a religious system that has existed thru much of christian history: It employs the Nicolaitan system of hierarchal rule, which Christ says He hates!
I am here in no way advocating anyone exit their congregation. Rather, I urge all to dig in and oppose any impropriety being allowed within the congregations of the living God. Take back your congregation! Become the ‘pillars and grounds of the Truth’ that Paul impressed upon Timothy that God’s people were to be! (1st Tim. 3:15) A people who ‘monitored’ the conduct of their ministry and staunchly stood in support of the Truth of God’s Word, opposing any drift into any abusive dynamic or apostate teaching!
It’s when the people who have ‘tasted of the heavenly Gift’ 1 dull their senses, leaving them at the door ‘unexercised’ 2 and allow their ministry to effectively become rogues, violating God’s clear mandate against overlording, that ultimately can doom their congregation, and perhaps their entire church organization. Not to mention the loss of the growth dynamic that ought to be ever present!
Be honest, people! Have we known it to happen? Have we ever ‘lost’ our Church or our congregation, having it taken away from us by irreverent, disobedient ministers, who are in it to push thru their personal agendas, concerned more for their control, for their personal prestige and power base, not caring for the overall welfare of the flock?
God will not spiritually support for long any entity that effectively spurns His instructions on HOW to administer His Church. Nor will He regard us guiltless who accommodate that approach to governing which He specifically, on more than one occasion, mandated against.
Resist Overlording! For the sake of Christ, for the sake of your brethren, for the sake of the Church of God, everywhere you encounter it, OPPOSE carnal overlording!
Having the Mind of Christ, would we do less in this regard?
You can count on His support, if your motives are pure and genuine.
1 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” (Heb. 6:4-6)
2 “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:12-14)