Subjecting Yourself to Church Leadership?

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.

  • 1 Timothy 4:1-10

“‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign Lord. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.

  • Ezekiel 13:8-9

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

  • Matthew 7:15-23

“1 Clement is a letter written from the Church at Rome in about AD 96 to the Church at Corinth. It is traditionally ascribed to Clement, a leading figure in the Roman Church at that time, though his name does not appear in the text. The Corinthian Church had sacked all its leaders and Clement wrote in response to the ensuing division. There is a great emphasis on the importance of due order in the church, reflecting traditional Roman values as well as biblical influence. Clement also stresses the need for orderly succession in the Christian ministry. God sent Christ, who sent the apostles. They in turn appointed bishops and deacons. These then appointed their successors and those who have duly succeeded them are not to be removed without cause. The Corinthians should therefore restore their deposed leaders to office. While Clement taught the importance of ministerial succession, it is important to note that he was unaware of the later threefold pattern of ministry: bishop, presbyters and deacons. In I Clement, as in the New Testament, the words ‘bishop’ and ‘presbyter’ refer to the same person.
“Ignatius was bishop of Antioch at the beginning of the second century and was taken to Rome to be martyred. On the way he wrote seven letters, to five churches in Asia Minor, to the Roman Church and to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. Ignatius is the first writer clearly to present the threefold pattern of ministry: one bishop in a church with his presbyters and deacons. He argues vigorously in defence of this pattern, an indication that it was not yet fully established. His letter to Rome is conspicuously silent about a single (monarchical) bishop there, showing that the threefold pattern had not yet reached the West. Ignatius’s main concern is with the unity of the church. The bishop is seen as the focus of unity against both schism and heresy. Finally, his own impending martyrdom preyed heavily on his mind and he welcomed it as the seal upon his discipleship.”

  • Tony Lane, A Concise History of Christian Thought

“Shun divisions, as the beginning of evil. Follow your bishop, as Jesus Christ followed the Father; and the presbyters as the apostles; and to the deacons pay respect, as to God’s commandment. Let no one do anything pertaining to the church apart from the bishop. A valid eucharist is one that is under the bishop or someone to whom he has committed it. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be, even as where Jesus may be, there is the universal [catholic] church.”

  • Ignatius, Smyrneans 8

“l want all men to know that I die for God of my own free will. Let me be given to the wild beasts, for through them l can attain to God. l am God’s wheat and l am ground by the teeth of wild beasts that I may be found pure bread. Entice the wild beasts, that they may become my sepulchre and may leave no part of my body behind, so that l may not, when l am fallen asleep, be burdensome to anyone. Then shall l truly be a disciple of Jesus Christ, when the world shall not so much as see my body.”

  • lgnatius, Romans 4

Clement I (35?-99) and Ignatius of Antioch (?-108, or 135 or 140?) both wrote on the same topic, essentially.  Rebellion was rebellion against those who Jesus had placed in authority, by degrees and through ascension, and rebellion against Jesus is a bad thing.

Clement used a “family tree” as his argument, from Jesus to the Apostles, to the bishops that the Apostles appointed, to the continued appointments to this day.  But at what point is the wrong person appointed?

But Dr. Lane said that Ignatius stated that the bishop was the protection from schism and heresy, but if the bishop was the source of the schism and heresy, then what of that protection?

But today, schism abounds.  When we first moved to our little town outside Pittsburgh, there were five Presbyterian churches.  Now, one is an apartment building, and another is a storage room and overflow Sunday school room for the church next door.  And of the other three, one of the churches has less than ten people who attend.  The pastor basically teaches a Sunday school lesson.  But why five churches that supposedly teach the same thing?  We asked, and we were told that people did not bring up the subject because the wounds were still fresh.  And each of the five churches felt they were right and the other four were wrong.

I was given a tour of another village in our hilly area of Pennsylvania.  The proud local resident told of one man in the mid-1800s that started five different churches and all five churches were still in existence.  The local tour guide said that he was a great evangelist, but what I thought was that the guy had a hard time getting along with the others in the church.

In Clement’s family tree concept, that worked wonderfully from Jesus to the Apostles.  With the Holy Spirit being so strong among the Apostles, it might have worked for that next generation, but then the doubt creeps in more and more with each passing generation.  Until you have the false prophet being the bishop who elects his cronies as the next generation.

As for the church in Corinth, were they correct in ridding themselves of all their leadership or was Clement correct in ordering that the leadership be reinstated?  We may never know.

Regardless of who our church leaders are, we should always study the Scriptures and determine for ourselves.  Jesus would not have told us to do so in the Sermon on the Mount if false prophets were not on the horizon.  Paul warned Timothy of the same thing.  Paul was not alone.  Second Peter 2 and 1 John 4 also warn against false prophets.  Even Ezekiel foretold of false prophets.  This trend of heresy will all come to a head when the Antichrist will gather all the world governments under himself and elevate himself as god.

Thus, with all these warnings in Holy Scripture, we need to hold our church leaders accountable rather than blindly following them because some man-made polity placed them in their positions.  And if we cannot resolve the issue, there are other churches that may be closer to a true biblical understanding.

And note that while the Roman Catholic church establishes Clement the first as a pope from 88-99, the commentary on Ignatius of Antioch indicates that the papacy had not been recognized 10-40 years after the death of Clement, depending on which historian is correct on the death of Ignatius.  Revisionist history does not bode well when you insist on blindly following those who are elevated to church leadership.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

2 Comments

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  1. Excellent insight, Mark! Looking forward to more! Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

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