Pulpit authority scriptural or not?

Pulpit authority scriptural or not?

In my last post called 1 Timothy 2, authority and the magical pulpit, I was waiting for someone to bring up Hebrew 13:17.  Since no one brought up this verse in the comments, but I did receive an email that asked me to respond to how this scripture fits in with my last post, I thought my response should make a separate post of its own.

Let’s first take a look at Hebrews 13:17 in the NIV, the version which was quoted to me:

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Does this passage teach that the Christian leaders have authority over the sheep?  Let’s have a look at this passage in a more literal translation:

Hebrews 13:17 (LITV)  Yield to those taking the lead of you, and submit, for they watch for your souls, giving an account, that they may do this with joy, and not with grieving; for this would be unprofitable to you.

The first thing that we can notice about a literal reading of the passage is that the word “authority” is missing in the Greek.  Now let’s go through this passage piece by piece to pull out the intended meaning.

The word that is translated “obey” in some versions and “yield” in others is the Greek word “peitho”.  The primary meaning of this word is to persuade or be persuaded.  The WordStudy Dictionary says:

To persuade, particularly to move or affect by kind words or motives.
(I) Act. voice, to persuade.
(A) Generally, to persuade another to receive a belief, meaning to convince, and in this sense used mostly with the acc. of person (Act 14:19; Act 18:4, “he…persuaded the Jews,” meaning he sought to convince them;

(II) Mid./pass., meaning to let oneself be persuaded, to be persuaded.

(A) Generally of any truth. Used in an absolute sense, to be convinced, believe.

So in the original Greek wording, we are to allow ourselves to be “persuaded” by our leaders.  Why?  Because Paul says they “watch over your soul”.  The word “watch” means without sleep.  Spiritually, they are to be watchful and attentive to spiritual things.  These overseers are the ones who are responsible before God to warn us as watchman regarding false teaching and errors in the faith.  We are told by Paul to allow ourselves to be “persuaded” or to be “convinced” by the leaders who are watching out as watchman on the wall.  If we are submissive to their work to spiritually protect us, they are able to do their work with joy instead of grieving over our falling into error when we do not listen to their warning.  While they will not give account to God for us, they will give account to God regarding their place as spiritual overseers or spiritual watchmen, watching out for the enemy.  If they fail to warn us, God will hold them accountable.  When we submit to their spiritual warning, we will bring them joy because they will see us protected.

It is very important to note that the onus is on us to submit.  Why?  Because these overseers do not have authority over us.  They have no power to force us to obey because Jesus said that the leaders are not to lord it over the sheep.  The power is in the hands of those who submit, because there is no authority given to the leaders to force obedience from the sheep.

The entire sense of the Greek words can be easily seen in the Greek interlinear.

Notice how reading it from the actual interlinear without the added words that are not in the text show the meaning that I have explained above.

This Hebrews passage is a wonderful passage showing the importance of submission and the lack of authority of the leaders to force us to do something against our will.  The world’s understanding of submission is one of inferiority and weakness while the Lord Jesus turned this completely on its head by making submission a Christian act of power under control.  The one who submits does so in order to serve another or else the submission is done in order to be served by others.  Hebrews 13:17 is one fine example of submission done in order to be served by the church’s servant watchmen on the wall.

59 thoughts on “Pulpit authority scriptural or not?

  1. Why has that verse been corrupted by human thought?

    It is an assumption that if one spiritualy leads that therefore they spiritualy have authority over those they lead. Why has the assumption as seen in corrupt ‘translation’ been made? Can the addition of word ‘authority’ even be considered translation at all? If the idea of leaders having authority simply because they are leaders does not even exist in the text, then it cannot be ‘translation’ but rather more like first reading into the text and then literaly a thought transference into it.

  2. Translation is an art, the translator(s) that used “authority” thought that was what was meant, for whatever reason.

  3. ‘Translation is an art, the translator(s) that used “authority” thought that was what was meant, for whatever reason.’

    I understand that translation can be an art. But the rest does not compute, Don. How does one get ‘authority’ out of what they think is meant in the Greek when there is nothing written there to indicate even such a notion?

  4. Authoritarian type churches quote this verse, so one needs to know what it means in the Greek, to allow oneself to be persuaded (if possible). 

    This means letting the leader explain his teaching and see if it persuades you, hopefully also allowing for asking of questions.  But if it does not persuade you, then it does not.

  5. It’s interesting that in the original there is nothing written about what belongs to the leaders. Yet in the NIV we read ‘their’ possesive case, ‘authority’. That verse is not even about what leaders have/posses but in part about what they ‘do’ but part of the verse has been made into being about them, as in what they have which changes the color of what they ‘do.’  Interesting.

  6. “…to pull out Paul’s meaning.”

    I’m nitpicking but it is doubtful Paul wrote Hebrews.

    I’m going easy on ya though cuz I make that error all the time when I’m talking about Hebrews because it sound so much like Paul!

  7. davidbmc,

    Good catch!  I corrected the error.  I don’t believe that Paul wrote Hebrews.  I think I have been dealing with 1 Timothy 2 for so long I have Paul on my mind.  I do love Paul, but Hebrews isn’t one of his works.  Go ahead and nitpick me all you want!

  8. Pinklight,

    What is also interesting is that the email I received where Hebrews 13:17 was quoted had “authority” in italics which shows that it isn’t in the original so it should have been obvious that authority is not in the text.

    I put this one text in the category of 1 Cor. 11 where the words “a symbol of” is added to “authority” to change the meaning of the woman’s authority to that of the woman being under a man’s authority.  I would just rather the translators translated the puzzling verses just the way they are instead of putting their own interpretation into the text.  I go to commentaries when I want interpretation and I go to the biblical text when I want translation.  There is a difference.

  9. All translation, even word-for-word or  interlinear, involves interpretation, as it involves word choices, so interpretation cannot be helped.  Some are more interpretive and some less, but all are interpretive.  This is one reason why some denominations create their own translations, so they are in control of the interpretation choices.

  10. Perhaps I should clarify.  By interpretation I mean putting into the text what we think the writer means not what is actually said.  This is where all the extra words come into play i.e. “a symbol of” added to the text.  This is what has driven me to the original languages because added words can change the entire meaning of the passage.

  11. We should also be aware of the heavy influence the KJV has had on almost every Bible translation that followed. And we should add that the process by which the KJV was translated was most definitely agenda-driven:

    http://www.nomorehoaxes.com/content/view/24/1/
    http://www.dtl.org/versions/article/king-james.htm

    The “divine right of kings” was heavy on James’s mind, and his deputy in overseeing the translation committee was most zealous to see to it that the king’s wishes were carried out.

    Now this is not to say the KJV is a bad translation. For its time it was very good and an admirable piece of English literature. The Gospel is there, and in many places it is more “egalitarian” than modern translations. It has many fine qualities. But this is no excuse to ignore or whitewash its faults, or to underestimate its negative influence on translation for generations to come.

    Personally, I don’t have issues with “adding words”, but with adding ideas or extra-Biblical teachings. It’s the thought that counts! We have to take whole sentences and letters in order to try, to the best of our fallible ability, to determine the intent of the writer, and in this there is no way to avoid some form of bias. So having a large number of people working on the same translation has obvious advantages, provided the members come from a variety of prejudicial angles.

    But even then we must recognize the universal nature of prejudice against women and in favor of chains of command. These two things run deep in human history and are not easily overcome. An example of this need to keep women behind men is seen here:

    http://englishbibles.blogspot.com/2007_01_01_archive.html
    Scroll down to Junia, the apostle: part 17. Here is an excerpt:

    No, Epp is fascinated by how it came about that something which is evidently not so, could have been considered so. How on earth did this happen, how did a non-existant name Junias, enter the text and the lexicon (BADG) and why has Junias now been removed without an all-out confession of male bias?! That is what fascinates Epp. Are the men responsible simply going to sweep the male Junias under the carpet? So it seems.

    We see in this case that not even a committee can safeguard us against these universal prejudices. But now, with access at least to interlinears and awareness of these problems by more people, there is hope that we can finally free the scriptures from their long imprisonment. The last hurdle, I believe, is to make sure that we can get access to up-to-date dictionaries.

  12. Paula, Good point.

    We must take into consideration that KJV translators were laboring under a church/state mentality.

    Cheryl, one reason you may not have gotten a posted question about Hebrews is because most of us have studied that passage in depth. I have a series about it on my blog that goes into this verse in depth.

    Also, taking that verse into context with all of NTscripture negates the ‘authority over’ translation. If we are to believe other passages about ‘not lording it over’, etc., then it cannot mean what it has been translated to mean. Another interesting point about this passage is that the word ‘elders’ is not in the passage. 

    Here is an excerpt from a blog series http://coffeetradernews.blogspot.com/2007/02/elders-rulers-or-servants-part-2.html  I posted a few years back on this verse:

    “Now, go through the verse and pick out the word “elder.” If you cannot find it in the verse, look for it in the context. You are right! It is nowhere to be found. Is it not strange that the main text to which those who advocate “Elders Rule,” does not even mention “elders”? It is assumed beyond a shadow of a doubt that verse 17 is talking about elders. Then, it is welded into a law of God that this verse gives elders the authority to rule over the congregation.

    Two other verses in Hebrews 13, verses 7 and 24, are very similar to verse 17. It is unclear who the Hebrew writer had in mind. Verse 7 reads: “Remember them that had the rule over you, men that spake unto you the word of God; and considering the issue of their life, imitate their faith.” Notice the past tense treatment of “had the rule.” Verse 24 states: “Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints….” It is very possible that those “that spake unto you the word of God” were the first to preach the gospel to them, including the apostles themselves.

    Robert Milligan, a great scholar of the nineteenth century, published a commentary on Hebrews in 1875. Commenting on verse 7 Milligan wrote:

    “Remember them which have the rule over you: Or more literally, Remember your leaders (hegoumenon) who spoke (elalesan) to you the word of God; carefully considering the issue of their manner of life; imitate their faith. The reference is to such men as Stephen, James the brother of John, and other faithful preachers of the Gospel who had formerly proclaimed to the Hebrews the good word of God…”. (Commentary on Hebrews, p. 375}.

    Milligan did not understand these verses as granting authority to groups of elders in congregations as is conceived in the twentieth century. He did see that among groups of Christians there were those who would be respect-fully followed as spiritual leaders, among which would be preachers and teachers of the word of God.”

  13. Lin,

    Excellent series!  Thanks for posting that link on my blog.  The amount of detail that you brought out is worthy of people reading the entire series.

    The reason why I was surprised that Hebrews 13:17 had not yet been brought up on my blog is not because of those who regularly visit this blog, but because this blog is now getting a large amount of hits that are coming from search engines plus other blogs and I assumed that my post was going to be controversial to the point that someone would bring up that verse.

    For some reason those who are now finding their way onto my blog have tripled since August.  This is especially of interest to me because of what happened to me in August with someone very intent on making sure that people stay away and not read what I have to write on the issue of women in ministry.  What some meant for harm has been turned around by God to bring a blessing so that the message is getting out using this little insignificant blog.

  14. Paula,

    There is no doubt that every version has its problems even if minor problems.

    By interpretation I mean putting into the text what we think the writer means not what is actually said.  This is where all the extra words come into play i.e. “a symbol of” added to the text.

    When I wrote this I was referring to extra wording that was put into the text that is not what the writer meant by the passage.  This is why I think it is a good idea to have a bible that places these additional words into italics.  I tend to read without the added words and I do not find it hinders the meaning from coming out but does help to remove unwarranted additions.  Extra words are not bad in themselves if they are not adding or taking away from God’s intended meaning.  Extra meaning is bad. 

    Because languages render ideas differently, sometimes there may be a need for extra words in English.  However extra meaning is always bad no matter what language we are talking about.  Extra words that import an additional meaning hold us captive to a man’s idea.  Changing of words to make a female into a male is manipulating the text to man’s tradition and just as Jesus said, these things invalidate the word of God.  If we truly love the word of God we will want to note where tradition has changed his inspired word and we will not pay attention to that tradition.

  15. Don,

    “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” must be the song you are singing.

    This made me smile!  God does have a sense of humor, I am very convinced of this.

  16. Cheryl #14,

    Aren’t you glad that religion and the coercive power of the state have not been allowed to ride in the same cart since they ratified the U.S. Constitution?

    I know you’re Canadian, but consider for a moment that there are those who want you silenced, and would not hesitate a nano-second to enlist the power of the state to do it, because you threaten their power and constituency.

    They would be more than happy to do the same thing to you as they did to Anne Hutchinson in the 1600’s.

  17. Greg,

    Sadly, there are those who will use whatever means they can to silence a voice that they find too persuasive because it threatens their security blanket.  At this time there is nothing that can silence me.  I have been stalked, my ministry partners have been badgered and so has my pastor.  Those who cannot refute the message will try to tar and feather the messenger.  It is the only thing they have left when all else has failed.  But these actions actually expose people for who they really are and so there is no point at all in trying to stop them from attacking.  At the same time Jesus promised a reward for those who are unfairly attacked because of him and he said that we are to be joyful that great is our reward in heaven for patiently enduring.  My pastor preached on this today and I must agree that we are called to experience persecution and to patiently endure it for the sake of Jesus Christ and his gospel.

    I am so grateful to God that he protects and strengthens the messenger so that no attack, no threat and no amount of tar and feathers will make me silent with the message that God has given me.  God gives courage to speak and I am only one little stone that is crying out.

  18. “For some reason those who are now finding their way onto my blog have tripled since August.  This is especially of interest to me because of what happened to me in August with someone very intent on making sure that people stay away and not read what I have to write on the issue of women in ministry.  What some meant for harm has been turned around by God to bring a blessing so that the message is getting out using this little insignificant blog.”

    Praise God! (I had not thought of that) I hope they know that questions and comments are welcome here and it is a safe place to question and disagree. That has been one of the things I have loved most about your ministry…. the way you approach controversy with humility and love even in the face of unbelievable attacks. The goal is truth of scripture not winning an arguement. Several of us regulars have disagreed on interpretations of secondary doctrines but know that iron sharpens iron.

    And those of us who have witnessed the unfair attacks on you, know that you gone to great lengths to pursue peace and understanding while standing firm on truth.

  19. Mom,

    There are are few more instances where there seems to be authority given to a leader to act, even forcefully:  2 Cor 13:10, 2 Cor 10:6,10.  2 Cor 10:6 is particularly intriguing.  At any rate, we know that the authority given to Paul was for building up the church and not tearing it down, but nevertheless, it seems that he has been given authority to “punish” those who continue to refuse to listen.

    How would you understand this in light of the discussion of this and your previous posts?

  20. I’m somebody’s mom, so I’ll take a shot. 🙂

    I think that if someone was trained directly by Jesus or was a first-generation disciple of one who was, that person has a unique authority to speak for Him. This is one reason why I consider the canon of scripture closed. But mainly, it means that no one else has authority, including any and every “pastor” there ever was. For this reason I believe that the argument over “authoritative teaching” is fundamentally flawed. The authority and power is all in the words inspired by God, not the vessels appointed to pass on the words.

  21. My take is that Paul was an apostle (or missionary) that helped start these churches.  As such his influence would be huge, as they would naturally look to him for guidance.  Also, his credentials as an apostle (numerous beatings, etc.) gave him a credence that few others had.  If someone is willing to go thru those kinds of things for you, it behoves you to listen to their guidance.

  22. Ha…too many mom’s out there.  😉

    I agree with Paula and Don… first that the apostles were special in their commission because it was given them directly from Jesus and also because they were given the revelation of God… and also that Paul had a special place in these churches because he helped start them and also suffered much for Jesus’ name’s sake and the gospel.  However, despite the fact that the authority is based on the Word of God and does not come from onesself, it still does seem that there are times when Paul suggests that he would exercise an authority over believers which extended beyond just trying his best to convince them to do what is right.  And in fact, in 2 Corinthians, he was exhorting people in this church to carry out their responsibility to discipline (against the will of the person being disciplined), so this kind of authority does not belong to Paul alone.  We have to remember that we are talking about professing believers, and not those outside the church (don’t profess to follow Christ).  According to 1 Cor 5:12, we as the church have both the right and responsibility to judge professing believers. It is an authority which comes from God’s Word, but it has been delegated to those who shepherd God’s flock.

    In John 20:23, it would seem that Jesus (to whom belongs all authority) has also given believers the authority to forgive and to not forgive.  This did not belong to the apostles alone because Paul said that the Corinthians also had this authority in discipline (2 Cor 2:10).

    Interested in hearing all your thoughts on this.

  23. Yes, we have some delegated authority in proportion to our responsibility. But these examples of authority point to that done by the entire congregation and not selected individuals such as “pastors”.

    Teachers, for example (see James) will be held to a higher standard. Why? Because they are looked up to as examples. Yet even so, they are never given authority to rule or boss as individuals. Even elders were to be publicly reprimanded if they strayed (1 Tim. 5), and the minimum 2 witnesses were not specified to be from any select group. So while leaders have some authority and responsibility, it is not absolute; even they must answer to the people.

    But all of this depends upon how “authority” is defined. The authority taken by leaders in The Institution has no basis in scripture. It is an autocratic rule which the people are not to question. It stifles the expression of various spiritual gifts and calls only some of them “authoritative” and thereby off-limits to many. It demands that all others follow its “vision”. It is very much like that taken by Diotrephes.

    That would be an interesting study: why was Diotrephes someone John intended to rebuke? How was Diotrephes’ leadership wrong?

  24. As Matthew 18 says, “… tell it to the church” that is the congregation.  For these kinds of discipline issues, the congregation decides the boundary, who is in and who is out.  I see this as analogous to MY body deciding to expell disease, so that my body remains well.  Paul is making no quibbles about how he expects this process to go.

  25. Yes, indeed.  The final authority in Matt 18 rests on the congregation as a whole which upsides the world’s pattern of authority.  So it is not an aristocracy (in the human appointees), nor is it democratic (in that rule is by popular vote)… it is the duty of the congregation to carry out discipline.  And it always has been since early times.  When a stoning was required, the witness(es) who testified against a person were to cast the first stone followed by the entire assembly.

    The duty of the pastors (or shepherds) seems to me to be responsible to lead the congregation to function as it ought, not to take autocratic authority over it… though Paul does seem to suggest that if they do not function as they ought, then he would discipline them.

    hmm… this is an interesting thought: since the body of Christ is not divided, I wonder if such a thing were to happen today, if one local congregation shouldn’t be disciplined by another healthy congregation?  Often even the overseeing body (ie. the Baptist General Conference, for instance) strays in its teaching or practice.  It should be that another part of the body can discipline them as well, should it be necessary.

    Thoughts?

  26. For a congregation, the max consequence is disfellowship from that congregation.  God can go further, but not us.  Unless one congregation asks for help from another, I do not see another getting involved.

  27. Hello Don,

    As I read it, the consequence is not mere disfellowship from a congregation, but from the body of Christ, which should include all congregations.  The body is not to execute final judgment and put someone to death (that is God’s responsibility), since it is still possible for them to repent and to be fully forgiven and restored to fellowship.  However, disfellowship has little meaning if one can simply move to another local fellowship (until they find one that lets them continue in their sin).

    It would seem that your view would result in the fracturing of the body into many small and independent congregations, whereas in my understanding, there would be accountability between congregations which would unify and not fracture the body and would present a much different picture to the world.

    Thoughts?

  28. Of course the statement that being expelled from “the body” should be clarified to extend only to the visible community of believers, as opposed to being literally severed from salvation. Just to clarify.

    But I agree; if we are not to be fragmented, there has to be a way for all local congregations to communicate on the matter of believers in good standing. There could be letters of recommendation such as Paul mentioned, or in today’s world maybe a database.

    But then the problem is about where the lines are drawn. The reason we have denominations at all is because people part company on so many different and sometimes trivial issues. I really don’t know the answer to solving that (beyond everyone seeing things exactly as I do!).

  29. I do not know what to do about the concern of going from one congregation to another.  It is often the case that another denom. will simply welcome a new potential member.

  30. Paula, being expelled from the body corresponds to being cut off.  Unless the branch that is cut off is grafted back in, it is in dire danger of being gathered and thrown into the fire.  For all intents and purposes, if it is not for God’s patience and an actual repentance, the one who is expelled is cut off from the community and also from right-standing with God…

    “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” (Matt 18:18, NASB).

    The intention, if scripture is followed accurately, is that there is no disagreement between heaven and earth.  Therefore, one cannot be cut off from the body of Christ on earth but remain in good fellowship with God in heaven.

  31. My understanding of the illustration of branches being grafted in or cut off is to represent Jews (natural) and Gentiles (wild). But I won’t get into a debate here on eternal security. I also don’t take Mt. 18:18 as applicable to the issue of disfellowshipping, but instead to the following discussion about asking God for something. Jesus was talking about an individual sinning against another person, not about teaching falsehood or any other congregation-wide issue.

    Also remember that Jesus spoke these things before the Cross. While many things were re-emphasized by the apostles after Pentecost, I don’t believe a church-age believer can be removed from the Body. When Paul told the Corinthians to throw a man out from their fellowship, he stated the purpose: so that the man could be taught not to blaspheme, and we don’t “teach a lesson” to those outside the Body. Later the man was reinstated into the fellowship for repenting. Some may cite this as a case of regained salvation but I don’t.

    At any rate, we can see from this thread how difficult it would be for Christians world-wide to agree on who should be disfellowshipped and how they should be reinstated. The best I think we could hope for is that no congregation should accept someone from another congregation without some statement about the person’s standing where they were before.

  32. By the way, this shows that the teaching of (eternal) perseverance of the saints (the ‘P’ in Calvinism’s TULIP), is in error. Scriptural perseverance doesn’t teach mean that a branch in the vine (someone who is “safe”) cannot be cut off and therefore be lost.  The teaching that “once a saint always a saint” is unscriptural and should be rejected.  I believe that the saints will persevere, but only if they continue in the faith, and that faith means to not harden your heart toward God and to continue in repentance. If we put ourselves into the hand of God, nothing can take us out; however, if we would rather do things our own way and take ourselves out from under His protection, we will get what we desire…unless we repent.

  33. And as much as I despise the TULIP, I hold to Eternal Security, but of course for different reasons. Many think one has to be a Calvinist to believe in Et. Sec.

  34. My understanding of the illustration of branches being grafted in or cut off is to represent Jews (natural) and Gentiles (wild). But I won’t get into a debate here on eternal security. I also don’t take Mt. 18:18 as applicable to the issue of disfellowshipping, but instead to the following discussion about asking God for something.

    Paula, please explain for me Rom 11:20-22 which seems to disagree with your interpretation:  “Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.  Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.” (NASB)

    Here Paul is speaking to those who are “in the vine,” and in particular those who are unnatural branches.  He says (post-cross) that it is possible that they will not be spared just as is the case with the natural branches who do not continue in His kindness.

  35. On Mat 18:18 my understanding is that this was said to the original disciples and is a Jewish idiom for deciding about something, to bind is to forbid and to loose is to permit, which is exactly what happened at the Jerusalem council.

  36. On security, I do not believe in eternal security or eternal insecurity.  It is possible to walk away from God and keep walking.

  37. Paula, you can believe in security as the bible teaches it without having to believe that someone who once believed can not fall away in this life.  The doctrine of eternal security is a dangerous teaching.  You’ll have to examine the scriptures and come to your own conclusion, but this teaching is a serious problem in the church today.

  38. A few thoughts about Paul using his authority. We see this displayed in Philemon, too. However, Paul ‘appeals’ to Philemon but tells him he could use his authority to demand it but does not. My take is that his authority to demand such a thing is based on the Word and what is right. Not on Paul having earthly authority over Philemon but I am open to being corrected on this if I am wrong and it can be shown by scripture..

    Just a side note on Matthew 18. A well known large reformed church in the South had a big conference on ‘True Church’ discipline last year. I was appalled that no one spoke out about the step these well known preachers added to the Matthew 18 process. The step they added was to take it to the elders of the church BEFORE they took it to the whole church. We can debate all day on whether that is wise or not but the fact is they added the step in and taught it as if it were there. And no one said a word.

  39. Don wrote:

    On Mat 18:18 my understanding is that this was said to the original disciples and is a Jewish idiom for deciding about something, to bind is to forbid and to loose is to permit, which is exactly what happened at the Jerusalem council.

    Don, if something is forbidden and you continue to do it unrepentantly, you are cutoff… right?  From this scripture, I do not see a teaching that says the original disciples were able to add to God’s word or subtract from it. I see perfect agreement with what Jesus said, that if they forgive someone, they will be forgiven, and if not, they will not be forgiven. The revealed will of God is constant, but declaring that someone is bound to their sin or not is something that is wrought out through the process of church discipline. And this is where binding and loosing comes into play.

  40. I have no idea what “declaring someone is bound to their sin” means.

    To bind is to forbid some act and to loose is to permit some act, as a Jewish idiom used in the Mishnah.  At the Jerusalem council the disciples decided that gentiles did not need to be circumcized (that is, become Jews) and could remain gentiles, but please do not do these 4 things that disturb Jewish sensitivities.  So they loosed the need for conversion to Judaism and bound the 4 things.

  41. “hmm… this is an interesting thought: since the body of Christ is not divided, I wonder if such a thing were to happen today, if one local congregation shouldn’t be disciplined by another healthy congregation?  ”

    This is exactly why we have so many denominations. Could be for rightly or wrongly disfellowshipping, disagreement on doctrine or discipline gone awry. Still, true believers are ONE Body even if in different denominations.

  42. “I would have said a word or 3 if I had been there.”

    I was watching on the internet but I would have said something, too. But then, I do not think they would take kindly to a woman correcting them. :o(

    I have learned a lot from these pastors but it only goes to show we must all be Bereans no matter who is teaching. These particular folks are real big on elder rule.

  43. Ryan,

    As I said, I didn’t want to debate E.S. here, as it’s really off-topic. You can see my commentary on that and all the NT letters at <a href=”http://www.fether.net/downloads/”>This PDF</a> as well as my overview of salvation at <a href=”http://www.fether.net/2006/12/01/2006-12-01-go-to-heaven-salvation/”>Go To Heaven!</a> and one specifically on ES <a href=”http://www.fether.net/2006/03/01/2006-03-01-eternal-security-salvation-saved/”>Here</a>.

    But I must object to the statement “The doctrine of eternal security is a dangerous teaching.” It is common to accuse ES as a “license to sin”, but in reality the “eternal insecurity” (EI) view has the same problem. Its proponents lead no better lives than those of ES, and the only difference is that when the EI repents they think they’re getting saved again, while the ES thinks they’re restoring a relationship that was strained but not severed. They both wind up doing the same things, slipping up and repenting. And since the EI can repent and be repeatedly re-saved, they too have the same “license to sin”.

    And here again we see some of the difficulties in trying to make all churches draw the same line on fellowship.

  44. Don wrote:

    To bind is to forbid some act and to loose is to permit some act, as a Jewish idiom used in the Mishnah.

    I must ask, the day before the Jerusalem council met, was circumcision required by God for the salvation of the Gentiles? Or were the gentiles permitted to continue in sexual immorality and now they must not? I think that in this Jerusalem council, nothing was changed but the minds of the Jewish believers who were trying to impose on the Gentiles something that is neither required for the Jewish believers nor the Gentile believers… neither before nor after the council met! They were merely coming to a recognition of Christ as the fulfillment of the ceremonial laws, that the moral commandments of God still stood for all (“For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath,” Acts 15:21, NASB). If at this council they had decided to the contrary that physical circumcision of the Gentiles was required, most likely Paul would have stood up and condemned them all for it. They had no power to change what God had already established.

    I have no idea what “declaring someone is bound to their sin” means.

    Perhaps Numbers 15:30-31 will help:
    “But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him.” (NASB)

    So perhaps it would have been better to say that the guilt of sin is what is bound; the unrepentant person is not released from their sin and its burden…and its curse.

  45. Paula, thanks for your response.  I will try to read through your articles when I get a chance.  My intention is not to derail the discussion on authority and what kind of authority is given to people, but to discuss it in light of some illustrations… such as the doctrine of binding and loosing.

    PS> I also appreciate the ministry of Paul Washer and John N. who were a part of the True Church Conference.  I also would have said something here.  It was because of a similar teaching which resulted in me not even being taken before the deacons or the church and being expelled in the privacy of the pastor and his group of elders.  In case any of you are wondering what I was expelled for, it was for calling the pastor to repent for subverting the gospel message he was preaching in outreaches. My other sin, and I have this in writing, was “rebellion to authority”…..of the pastor, of course.

  46. Ryan,

    The Bible says one cannot divide up a covenant that it is a unity, so I do not partition the Mosaic covenants except for discussion purposes.

    Circumcision was required of gentiles to participate in Jewish Passover, for example.  The question is what was required for gentiles to be saved; it was a fair question with a disputed answer; so it was proper for the Jerusalem council to decide on it in an explicit fashion.  At the very start of Acts all the 120 were Jews and all the first converts were also and it took Peter’s vision for him to see Cornelius, to go to a gentile’s house meant you were unclean according to the Pharisees, ala guilt by association, hence a fence around the Torah.
    There was a place where all 4 things in Acts 15 were done and that was pagan temples, so IMO, what the Jerusalem council is requesting gentiles to avoid those places when those types of things are happening, avoding the appearance of evil.  They could not avoid them entirely as they also served as banks and keepers of public records; but they did not need to be around when pagan sacrifices were done, promiscuity, etc.  This was so gentiles could have table fellowship with Jews, who would otherwise be grossed out. 

  47. I don’t think it is at all unreasonable to conjecture that what the writer of Hebrews had in mind with the “authority” issue is the type of authority that comes with the knowledge of a particular subject, in this case knowledge of the Septuagint—which is what the Jews generally had for scripture in those days.

    I also think that it is not entirely out of the domain of reasonable conjecture to say that copies of the Septuagint back then, were a very costly item, few and far between, and that readers may have had to travel to view a copy, and possibly pay a viewing fee too.

    If this thesis is not too far off the mark, then the argument for the sense of authority as “boss over” is weaker than the one that would argue for “bearer of knowledge.”

  48. My internet connection was down and then I was away for most of today.  Wow a lot of comments have come in since I was last on line.  Great questions and comments.

    Ryan wrote:

    There are are few more instances where there seems to be authority given to a leader to act, even forcefully:  2 Cor 13:10, 2 Cor 10:6,10.  2 Cor 10:6 is particularly intriguing.  At any rate, we know that the authority given to Paul was for building up the church and not tearing it down, but nevertheless, it seems that he has been given authority to “punish” those who continue to refuse to listen.
    How would you understand this in light of the discussion of this and your previous posts?

    What authority is Paul talking about in 2 Cor. 13:10?

    2 Cor. 13:10   For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down.

    The authority for building up, as Paul claimed, is found in the gift from God.  Ephesians 4:11-13

    Eph 4:11  And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
    Eph 4:12  for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
    Eph 4:13  until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

    Each person who has a gift has the authority to use that gift for the service of the body of Christ:

    1Pe 4:10  As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
    1Pe 4:11  Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

    An apostle of Jesus Christ is a gift given to set up the foundation of the church.  Paul said that his authority was to build the church.  The church was to judge Christians who are practicing sin and those who are unrepentant they are to send out of the church.  Yet the church was not following the call to judge other believers living in sin.

    1Co 5:1  It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife.
    1Co 5:2  You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.

    While Paul taught the church how to judge those who were unrepentant sinners,  and the church did follow the example set by Paul by sending a man out of the church who was living with his Father’s wife, others were not being disciplined and the practiced sin was allowed to remain in the church:

    2Co 12:21  I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced.

    Paul’s authority was to build up the church but in doing so the sin must be purged for the church to remain pure and free from defilement.  As a foundational apostle Paul needed to discipline a church that failed to discipline its own sinning members.  Even with Paul’s authority to discipline given to him by Jesus himself, Paul appealed to the church to make righteous judgments and to deal with unrepentant sinners in their midst.  The discipline was to be done by the church and not by one leader inside that church.

    Even Jesus in Matthew 18 said that if a person who has offended you will not listen to you or listen to you and another witness, you are to take it to the church to have the person disciplined.  Jesus did not say to take it to the pastor or to one of the elders.  It is the church who has been set up as the method of authority to purge the sinner from our midst.  The fact that Paul fought so hard not to have to exercise his apostolic authority to get rid of sin in the midst of the congregation shows that the pattern is set that the church does the discipline.

    Paul’s place as an apostle of Jesus Christ set up to build the pure foundation of the church is an example of a spiritual father disciplining his spiritual children.  It is not an example of an office of authority over the believer and no such position of foundational apostle or spiritual father was continued after the apostles died.

    No “authority” in the body of Christ can take away a person’s gift given by Jesus himself and no rule is set up to have an “authority” to make decisions for the believers.  We are to grow together in wisdom and in truth with each part ministering as they are gifted.  None of us is allowed to say that another part of the body is not needed, nor has any of the body been given authority over another part of the body.  This is foreign to the text.

  49. Even with Paul as an apostle of Jesus Christ, his authority still would have to stand to be tested by the word of God.  Paula rightly said:

    The authority and power is all in the words inspired by God, not the vessels appointed to pass on the words.

  50. This appears to be one of the first men in the early church who took it upon himself to have authority over other Christians including name-calling of one of the Lord’s apostles.  Shameful.

    3 John 1:9  I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say.
    3 John 1:10  For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.

  51. “PS> I also appreciate the ministry of Paul Washer and John N. who were a part of the True Church Conference. ”

    I do, too. Which is why that extra step they taught in Matthew 18 broke my heart.

    ” I also would have said something here.  It was because of a similar teaching which resulted in me not even being taken before the deacons or the church and being expelled in the privacy of the pastor and his group of elders.  In case any of you are wondering what I was expelled for, it was for calling the pastor to repent for subverting the gospel message he was preaching in outreaches. My other sin, and I have this in writing, was “rebellion to authority”…..of the pastor, of course.”

    I was not expelled but had something similar happen and it was over horrible  sin in the camp of elders! They did not want it to be public.  So, I am attuned to any false or extra biblical teaching on this subject. Having a title conferred on one by other men yet having no fruit is not what scripture was talking about. Elders are the spiritually mature and would be very humble.

    I was also very concerned about the extra step they added in to Matthew 18 at the True Church conference. I was a bit saddened to see Washer make such a big deal about elder rule in his 10 Indictments of the church sermon to even imply that not having elder rule means it is not really a church. There are plenty of churches without official elder boards (which look like fortune 500 boards) but have ‘elders’ who are spiritually mature and do care for our souls and for scriptural  truth being taught. They just do not seek power over others. They ‘oversee’ with love and humility.

  52. To the average reader (like me who is new to the site), it would appear that what you are pushing is the idea that nobody has any real authority to do anything – calling leaders impotent, while empowering the average Joe – makes no sense to me… 

    Then why would they be leaders, if they have no real purpose or no authority?  Doesn’t somebody have to have some kind of authority?  Without it, aren’t we all subject to the whims that blow along – like what Israel experienced in the book of Judges – they did that which was right in their own sight..?  Maybe that is where we really are today in the church, and why we have so many problems..?

    While I generally agree with a lot of what has been said here, I don’t buy the whole nobody is really in charge, the whole body is in charge bit – that is probably the most impractical thing I have ever read – at the end of the day, there must be a real, no kidding, practical answer to all of this.  If there isn’t, then all the discussion in the world is worthless, because we all have to walk all of this out day by day – and we have a great commission to carry out – and what is all that talk about like good soldiers, and all authority in heaven and earth is given unto me, therefore go ye, and wives submit to your husbands, and submit to those in authority over you, and they are ministers of God to carry out justice – while we can argue over each individual piece, we can’t ignore the general theme…

    The world is dying and going to hell, but we are all so caught up in our discussions about whether or not we should obey, or listen to someone; and the obvious flaws in the King James Version; and all the other political stuff – may God help us all!  Because, while all this wrangling is going on, nothing is getting done toward the great commission…

    I’m sorry for throwing a wet blanket on things.  I like spending time blogging and reading as much as the next person, but if we don’t come up with something that is practical and workable, and something that contributes toward fulfilling the great commission and its associated responsibilities – then where does that leave us?  I can see the Lord now; well folks, I’m glad you have great teaching, and can claim great success in your ministries, but it seems you might be missing the point of all of this – so get out there and bring the good news to the lost and dying, please…  😉

    I admit that leaders have obviously and ruthlessly mis-construed their part in the big game; and I admit that there have been horrible consequences due to folks misusing their perceived power; and I admit to major failings in the way we’ve carried out church – abuse of power, etc. yada, yada, yada – its all true!  But lets not throw the baby out with the bath water.  Our military works well because we understand what true authority is and how it is best applied – aside from the occasional anomaly.  The church would do well to learn some lessons about ‘right authority’ and ‘right submission’ – ‘right leadership’ and ‘right followership’ – I think this would be a good topic to address and start a discussion thread on – maybe I’ll just go back to my blog @ http://churchblogm.blogspot.com/ – its not real popular yet, but I’d like to put my thoughts on the table more succinctly – thanks for your patience with me…  😉   MM  

  53. Hi again Mike (posted in the other thread just a minute ago),

    Your comment here is a good illustration of making a critical judgment without having first examined all the details carefully. Let me touch on a few points.

    Nobody is advocating the complete absence of authority. Rather, we believe that authority is only in God’s Word. We do value leaders who rightly divide the Word and help the less experienced to mature spiritually. But this leader/follower arrangement is never to be permanent or based upon the flesh. That is our point. Children should grow up, students should graduate.

    Nobody is given rule over anybody else because we are not a military unit but a Body. The left hand cannot demand that the right hand ask its permission to act; the foot cannot demand the obedience of the eye. We have the Spirit and “the teachings of the Apostles” which is the New Testament letters. Some are proven to be spiritually mature and deep into the Word, while others should observe these and follow their ways until they too reach maturity.

    Whether we’re talking about a “church” or a marriage, there is always at least one leader, but that isn’t always the same person. Sometimes I lead and sometimes my husband does. Sometimes one person here will have a great insight, and sometimes it will be someone else.

    And remember that Jesus said “not so among you”. Leadership among believers is service; “the greatest must become the least”. It is the exact opposite of the world’s model.

    You’re right that believers should concentrate on the gospel, but the reality is that we have enemies both without and within. We are forced to defend ourselves here from control freaks who wish to cripple fully half the Body of Christ. This is a terrible mistake when “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”! We must keep studying the Word and not neglect areas that seem to be a waste of time to some, because it’s all the Word of God and worthy of our attention.

    I would suggest that before you offer criticisms, it would be wise to do a lot of reading to get a fuller understanding of the view expressed here. There is a lot of material here, and I’m sure you’ll find answers to many questions.

  54. Mike,

    You said:

    Then why would they be leaders, if they have no real purpose or no authority?

    First of all there is authority in the church and that authority over us is the Lord Jesus and his Word.

    Leaders on the other hand are called to serve and to lordship.  What Paula has written is right in that the view we wish to express is that the authority is in the word and leadership is advocated but not with a view to take authority over other members of the body of Christ.

    I understand that this may be a brand new concept for you.  I can understand that.  This is the reason why I do not advocate for women taking authority over the church.  It is because no one should be doing this since Jesus said that the greatest leaders should be the greatest servants.  The servants should be sacrificing of themselves to lift us up so that we are empowered to serve.  There has been way too much of superstar leaders who believe that the church is there to serve them.  Their way leads to abuse.  The way of the Master does not lead to abuse.  It is the servanthood model and since Jesus is the one who created this model and showed us how it can be accomplished by his serving the church while he was here on the earth and then taking his servanthood to the ultimate place of sacrifice by dying for us, we should fear God and not even consider lording it over others.

    I do appreciate your thoughts!  Your questions and your concerns are accepted and they keep us on our toes!

    There is much on this blog that can be of service to you.  There is a whole lot of teaching on the hard passages of scripture as well as other articles that deconstruct faulty thinking.

    Go ahead and keep pushing for understanding and your comments are welcome even if you don’t agree.  My purpose here is to serve in anyway that I can so that the body of Christ is built up in love.

    Much blessing,
    Cheryl

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