Church Leadership Authority
Church Leadership Authority
From Scripture Christians usually gain the understanding that church leaders have a limited authority. That is, regarding the running of church organization and in matters of clear Biblical doctrine, Church Leaders have authority. But that is the limit of their authority. For example it is within a church leaders’ authority to refuse to marry a Christian and a non-Christian since there is a clear biblical command on this issue. However it is not in the Church Leaders authority to refuse marriage between a single Christian man and a single Christian woman, the most the Church Leader can do is offer non-compulsory advice. In other words the church leader runs the church organization, but does not run the lives of the church members.
(Please note, in this paper we shall refer to the proponents of unfettered authority as “Super Apostles”)
However Super Apostles, like the cults, insist that the Church Leaders have unfettered authority. When a Christian joins their church that Christian come under their authority and must obey them in all matters. This includes matters of money, relationships, doctrinal understanding, ministry, occupation, time, place of residence, etc. To refuse is to resist God himself since the Super Apostle has God’s mandate to rule; he is the head of the “Church Government”. With their authority they can define what God’s rules are. In other words the commands of the Super Apostle are almost on the same level as the commands of the Bible. To disobey Biblical rules is to sin; to disobey the Super Apostles’ rules is to sin also. So the Super Apostle controls the church organization and in practice also the lives of the church members.
So which is it?
Do Church Leaders have limited authority, or do they have unfettered authority?
Are Church Leaders merely teachers of God’s word and managers of churches, or are they God’s representation on earth?
Are Super Apostles vested with divine authority to shape the lives of those under them?
Does the Bible teach that churches are to have their own Governments running them?
In this paper we will examine the arguments for unfettered authority, and the arguments against. Also we will examine the arguments for and against the concept of Church Government.
The Arguments for Unfettered Authority and Church Government
In this section we will examine the reasoning employed by the Super Apostles to justify their claim of unfettered authority. All of the arguments presented in this section have been taken from the Super Apostles’ own teachings.
Please note, for the present we will not be including any indication of who the Super Apostles are. This is because we hope they will withdraw from their practice of unfettered authority without the need to publicly name them. If they do not turn from these practices then eventually we will be forced to name them. If that happens then this article will be amended with references for each instance where we quote their teaching.
You must submit and obey Church Government according to Romans 13:1-8
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
The use of these verses show us clearly what the intentions of the Super Apostles are. They are the rulers, you must submit to them. You must submit because God has instituted and established them as the authorities. To not do so is to rebel against God himself.
Those trying to twist scripture often take verses out of context by viewing the verse in isolation to the verses around it. However here we have an instance of verses being taken out of context when the context is contained within the quoted verses themselves. Clearly this is a command to obey the secular authorities that govern. Nowhere in the New Testament are there examples of Church Leaders being “agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrong doer”, nor to Church Leaders who “bear the sword”, or Church Leaders who collect taxes and revenue. But all of these attributes match secular authorities. The courts and police bear the sword and bring punishment on wrong doers. The tax departments collect taxes and revenues. This is the sort of government being referred to. “Church Government” is not the subject of these verses. Therefore the Super Apostles cannot use them as justification for the authority they claim.
God sets out the pattern for Church Government in 1 Corinthians 12:27-28
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.
The Super Apostles want us to believe that these verses describe a hierarchical authority structure that God ordains for the Church. Here is evidence, they say, of a “Church Government”, with apostles over prophets, over teachers, and so on.
But there are other ways of understanding these verses that do not fit so neatly with the interpretation the Super Apostles insist on. The words “first”, “second”, and “third” could be describing a sequence rather that an authority structure. It could be saying that first God appoints apostles, then prophets, then teachers and so on. In which case no hierarchy can be inferred.
It could also be that Paul is referring to levels of importance rather than authority. Trevor Mander, a graduate of Southern Evangelical Seminary in the USA, states “Apostles are eyewitnesses to the resurrection (Acts 1:22,26) so they are the most important to the Christian faith and the church, which rests on their accounts first in person and then in the Bible (Eph 2:20). The context of these verses is building up and edifying the church, as opposed to ruling the church.”
Trevor’s discussion of context is an important point. The surrounding verses are about building up and edifying the Church, nothing is said about authority structures. Because of the context we can be quite sure that 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 is not laying out a hierarchical authority structure for the Church.
The book “When Cultists Ask” (Baker Books), by the erudite scholars Geisler and Rhodes, consider these verses to be speaking of the foundation of the Church. On page 231 they state, “According to Ephesians 2:20, the church is ‘built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.’ Once the foundation is built, it is never built again. It is built upon. Scripture describes the work of the apostles and prophets as foundational in nature.” If the foundational view is the correct understanding of these verses then the Super Apostles cannot claim the authority they seek, since any present day apostles must be lesser in power than the foundational apostles. The Super Apostles therefore could not continue to claim the authority of the foundational apostles.
In summary the Super Apostles cannot use these verses to prove their case; their interpretation is not compelling in context, and other more likely interpretations exist.
The government will be on Jesus’ shoulders Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
This verse in Isaiah refers to Jesus. One cannot help wondering if the Super Apostles have merely run a search through the Bible for every appearance of the word “Government” and then sprinkled them through their teaching to support their position. Yes, Jesus will be at the head of the government, but from the context of the Bible it seems this means the government of everything. Everyone knows that Jesus will be our ruler, our Lord. But how can it be deduced from this verse that the Church will have it’s own government run by the Super Apostles?
To despise government and speak evil of those in such position is to be presumptuous, self-willed and lacking the fear of God according to 2 Peter 2:10
For context we have quoted 2 Peter 2:1-12, the verse the Super Apostles use is underlined.
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)– if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. 12 But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.
The title statement “To despise government and speak evil of those in such position is to be presumptuous, self-willed and lacking the fear of God (2 Peter 2:10)” comes from a study on “Church Government” by a church ruled by a Super Apostle. When the verse is seen in context it is hard to understand how this statement is supported by it. The surrounding verses are talking about false prophets and false teachers, not ordinary church members. We have no reason to assume that the words “despise authority” do not refer to secular government that was defined as an authority in Roman 13:1-8. Immediately around the referenced verse we see the context is not church life but the wider scope of life in general, judgment, and celestial beings. One thing we can be certain of is that Church Government is not mentioned or implied here. The best the Super Apostles could hope for from this verse is that it refers to the authority of Church Leaders, but if it does it tells us nothing of the scope of authority that Church Leaders have.
If the Church does not have a Government it will fall into chaos according to Judges 21:25
In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.
The Super Apostles would have us believe that without them and their Church Government the church would collapse. Therefore it is vital to have one person at the top directing everything. Firstly it is odd they do not quote the next verse since it starts ”In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine…” so things were not as chaotic as they would have us believe because the Judges ruled, which is probably why this book of the Bible is called “Judges”. Secondly they completely discount the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life. During the Old Testament times every man did not have the Holy Spirit. Christians, however, have the Holy Spirit who counsels them directly. ”In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” -Acts 2:17-18. ”And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” - John 14:16-17. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – John 14:26. With the Holy Spirit guiding Christians we have the ruler ship the Super Apostles lament as missing.
Divinely Appointed Realms of Government
The following is a quote from a study by a Super Apostle’s Church on Church Government.
“Divinely Appointed Realms of Government
- Government of heaven, the universe, and the angelic realm (Ps 145:10-13)
- Government of the nation, involving state and human government as established by God under the Noahic Covenant (Genesis 9:5-6, Romans 13:1-8)
- Government of the Church. The Church is a society within a society, a community within a community a(sic-no comma) nation within the nations, and a divinely governed institution. It is his Kingdom, a Theocracy!
- Government in the home, involving husband, wife and children (Ephesians 5:22, 6:4).”
There are several items of note from this statement.
Firstly it is interesting that Romans 13:1-8 used before to support Church Government is only used here to support the definition of secular state government.
Secondly, with the third point, they define “Government of the Church” as the very subject of their study, yet it is the only bullet point without a supporting verse. Surely there should be a verse that clearly states the Church is to have a Government. Since they do not quote one we must assume they could not find one, which is not surprising because we couldn’t find one either.
Thirdly, with the fourth point, neither verse referenced to mentions a Government within the home; true elements of government are mentioned, but a full blown government arrangement can not be deduced from these references. Has anyone ever heard of a Husband imposing a tax on his wife and children? Can a husband punish his wife for breaking his rules? The husband has limited authority, yes, but does it qualify as a government? Government implies authority, but authority does not always imply a government.
God’s Government is a Theocracy!
The following is a quote from the second study by a Super Apostle’s Church regarding Church Government.
“Government of the Church: Theocratic
God’s Form of government is theocratic in character. That is to say, God chooses, calls and equips certain persons to be leaders and rulers over his people, investing and delegating them with degrees of authority according to His will. Their persons are most commonly called ‘Elders’ (Bishops, Overseers), and in any given group of Elders, God places the mantle of leadership upon one Elder. This establishes Him as the ‘set man’, the ‘chief elder’, ‘Senior Pastor’ or ‘Apostle’, and sets him in responsibility.”
Here we have the pattern of Government that the Super Apostles desire to create within churches. The Oxford Dictionary defines theocracy as “A form of government by God or god directly through a priestly order.” The Super Apostles want to be the head priests with lesser priests under them.
The idea that churches are to be run by a government thus far has not been argued well by the Super Apostles. But they require this to be true before they can claim that the Church is a one over one theocracy. The Church must be run by a government, that government must be a one over one theocracy, and only after those two steps have been proven can the Super Apostles lay claim to the power they seek.
What proof do they offer that the Church, if it is meant to have a fully-fledged Government at all, actually is a one over one theocracy?
The Super Apostles quote many verses from the Old Testament to support their assertion. But these we shall ignore these because it is clear that God used this method of governance before Jesus’ death and resurrection. In the Old Testament no one had the Holy Spirit, except for those leaders like Moses, Joshua, and a few select others (Numbers 11:29, Isaiah 63:11). These men could lead because they were being guided by the Holy Spirit. But in the New Testament we are told that every Christian has the Holy Spirit.
Also the Bible is very clear that the old priesthood has passed away, Hebrews 7:12 states “When there is a change in priesthood, there must also be a change in the law.” So the old priesthood has been changed, and hence the law that defined it has been changed too. When the Super Apostles use Old Testament examples regarding the operation of the priesthood as support for their position they are referring to obsolete law. Hence their proofs are rendered invalid.
So what evidence is there that that a one over one theocracy is God’s will for the New Testament church? What strong evidence do we have that the Apostles had the scope of powers the Super Apostles are claiming for themselves? Surely if God considered it to be so important he would have ensured it was taught clearly in scripture. We should expect a clear lesson on the approved form of church management. What does the New Testament say? We shall now examine the New Testament verses the Super Apostles use as their evidence.
Peter was the leader of the twelve since the keys of the Kingdom were given to him – Matthew 16:18-19
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
The Super Apostles seem to have taken their interpretation of these verses from Roman Catholic teaching. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma states on page 418 that “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” means “supreme authority on earth over the earthly empire of God. The person who possesses the power of the keys has the full power of allowing a person to enter the empire of God or to exclude him from it…the power to forgive sins must also be included in the keys”
Scholars disagree about exactly what these verses mean. The verses might be referring to the confession of Peter that Jesus “is the Christ, the Son of the living God” that occurred in the preceding verse and that confession is the rock on which Jesus will build his church. Or it maybe that Peter is the rock since Ephesians 2:20 indicates that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets”.
Whatever the meaning, it does not support the Super Apostle’s case. Remember the Super Apostle’s are trying to prove that they deserve unfettered authority. We are not debating whether there are to be leaders in the Christian church. Rather we are discussing the leaders’ scope of power. This verse in no way eliminates the commonly held view that Christian’s leaders have limited authority. The Super Apostles are the ones putting forward the claim of a one over one theocracy to be run by leaders that cannot be questioned. Since they are the ones proposing this novel idea the burden of proof is upon them. If they cannot Biblically prove their case then we do not have to listen to them.
In fact if we were to accept that Peter was the leader of the twelve then that deals a deathblow to the Super Apostle’s teaching. To understand why, you need to know that the Super Apostles teach that it is wrong for someone under a leader to try and correct that leader. Only those above that leader are allowed to correct him. Here is a quote from one of their studies, a section titled “Don’t Mess with Authority”
“It is important to realise that should your authority figures be in the wrong it is not your job to correct them. That job is reserved for the person to whom they are accountable for the responsibility they have been given. If that happens to be the Lord then we are to take our hands off the situation. Pray with an uncritical heart and trust Him to do His job. If we presume to do God’s job for Him we can be assured God is under no obligation to intervene for the better.”
Now the Super Apostle’s dilemma is found in Galatians 2:11 where Paul opposes Peter.
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. – Galatians 2:11
Hang on a minute. Paul must have been under Peter if this one over one theocracy idea is correct. Peter was the one given the keys, not Paul. Paul did not walk with Jesus, he only met him in a vision. In Galatians 2:1-2 Paul travels to Jerusalem to have the apostles verify he was preaching the correct gospel, not the other way around. The book The Church In The New Testament, from which the Super Apostles have borrowed much of their authority studies, even says on page 86 referring to Church Government “The development of this is from Christ the Head, then through the Twelve, and then on through Paul to Eldership as laid out in the New Testament.” So even the Super Apostle’s primary source agrees Peter was over Paul. Finally Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:9 “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Yet Paul the lesser corrects Peter the greater in Galatians 2:11.
You can’t have a one over one theocracy where the lesser rules over the greater. The lesser cannot correct the greater as the Super Apostles have pointed out. Oh dear, Matthew 16:18-19 has backfired on our Super Apostles.
It is important to realise that should your authority figures be in the wrong it is not your job to correct them.
Now before we move on lets think a bit more about the Super Apostles’ claim that those under a leader cannot try to correct their leader. Galatians 6:1 says
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
So the Bibles instructions are for those who are spiritual to restore the leader. Being spiritual does not imply that you are above your leader in a positional sense. If the Super Apostles teaching were true then we would expect this verse to read “…you who are more spiritual…”, but it does not.
In addition Acts 17:11 says
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
So the Bereans had a more noble character for verifying the correctness of what Paul was teaching? What do you suppose they were meant to do if they had discovered Paul was wrong? According to the Super Apostles basically nothing; except to pray for Paul. But we have Paul’s own example in Galatians 2:11 of opposing Peter (the greater apostle) to his face. One example like this is enough to refute the Super Apostles ‘don’t talk just pray’ idea. The Apostle Paul would have welcomed such questions since he feared God more than man, and the last thing he would have wanted to be is wrong.
A leader gains doctrinal authority by being correct, not by virtue of his position. He must be able to defend his doctrinal position with solid argument and reasoning.
A Godly Christian Leader should welcome challenges to his doctrinal position from wherever they come; firstly because it will makes him think about his position more; secondly because if he is correct the challenge will make him more confident of position; thirdly because if he is wrong then he would want to know about it, since almost nothing should scare a preacher more than teaching wrong doctrine. In summary a Godly Christian leader never feels threatened by well meaning criticism, where a cultic leader has everything to fear from it.
In our experience with cults, the reason these sorts of fear-based restrictions are taught is because the cult leaders do not have the answers. Stray away from their well-trodden set of scripture verses and their arguments go down in flames; deep down they know this, so they ban the very mechanisms by which valid questions could be asked. In fact, like the Super Apostles, the cult leaders ban even discussing these things with other members who are on the same level as you. And really sophisticated cult leaders program their members to feel they have sinned by even thinking that their leaders could be wrong.
Now, I wonder, where did we put our copy of George Orwell’s 1984?
After Peter left Jerusalem James became the senior shepherd – Acts 12:17, Galatians 2:12, Acts 15:13-29, 21:18
Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the brothers about this,” he said, and then he left for another place. – Acts 12:17
Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. – Galatians 2:12
When they finished, James spoke up: “Brothers, listen to me. Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: ” `After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ that have been known for ages. “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers. With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul– men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. – Acts 15:13-29
The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present.- Acts 21:18
Again these verses do nothing for the Super Apostle’s case even if James was the “senior shepherd”. These verses do not provide any evidence of a one over one theocracy in action. We have no justification here for the scope of power that the Super Apostle’s seek.
What is more, these verses do not even prove that James was the replacement “senior shepherd” as is claimed. Acts 12:17 is not proof that James was the chief leader because when read in context the verse only tells us that James was not at Mary’s house praying when Peter was there. We do not even know which other apostles were in the house. Galatians 2:12 tells us that James sent some men, but it does not tell us that James had an exclusive ability to send people. We cannot discern from this verse that James was above any of the others. In fact the verse implies that James sent some men who harbored error, surely the “Senior Shepard” would know better than to do that. In Acts 15:13-29 notice how James said, “it is my judgment”. Why did he not say, “the judgment is” if he has final authority? It could be that James summed everything up so well that everyone agreed with him. He ended the debate. But ending the debate does not mean he was the ultimate leader. Then it carries on to say “the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them ”, why didn’t James decide this if it was a one over one theocracy? Surely if his judgment was final then he would be the one to decide. This sounds like a form of God directed democracy, not one over one theocracy. Later we discover the letter they wrote said, “So we all agreed to choose some men and send them”, which reinforces the image of a democracy. Normally letters containing orders will quote the highest authority behind them. For example “Her Majesty the Queen” or “The Office of the Prime Minister”. But in this letter the highest authority is the agreement of the apostles, elders, and the whole church. If this was a one over one theocracy with James at the head then his name should have been there instead. It was not. Therefore we can conclude that James was not the theocratic “senior shepherd”, and that a form of democracy was in effect. Read the verses again and you will see that the text supports a democracy, an “us”, while a one over one theocracy cannot be inferred. Finally Acts 21:18 merely tells us that Paul saw James and all the elders. It does not say how many, if any, of the other apostles were present. This does not prove that James was the big boss, nor does it support a one over one theocracy.
As we can see, the Super Apostles are still to provide us with convincing evidence of their position.
The elders of the Ephesian Church recognized the mantle of Paul’s apostleship as leader – Acts 20:17-30
From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.
Yes, the Ephesian church would have recognized Paul’s apostleship. But nothing in these verses is compelling regarding the question of whether Paul was the overlord of the Ephesians or not. Paul was rushing to Jerusalem and sent for the elders presumably so he would not have to make a detour to see them. The most we can tell is that the Ephesians held Paul in such high regard that they made the fifty-kilometer (thirty five mile) journey to hear him. Is this consideration of Paul enough to justify the Super Apostle’s claim that Paul was their supreme leader? No. And even if Paul was their only leader how does that eliminate the accepted position of limited leadership authority and usher in a one over one theocracy as the only option? It does not.
Timothy became the “set man” over the church of Ephesus – 1 Timothy 1:3
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer
This does not show that Timothy became the “set man” over the Church in Ephesus. Paul sent Timothy to command certain men to stop teaching false doctrine. We have no evidence that Timothy arrived and took command of the Church there. Timothy may have worked alongside the other leaders in Ephesus to oppose the false teachers. This verse does not help the Super Apostle’s one over one theocracy stance; in fact this verse damages it further. Notice that Paul only urged Timothy to stay, he did not command him. Indeed if a one over one theocracy was in action here we should have read something like “Timothy, stay in Ephesus and command those certain men…” Instead Paul only urged Timothy. Therefore this verse supports the standard view of limited authority and not that of unfettered authority.
Timothy was Paul’s son in the faith and his apostolic representative in the region – 1 Timothy 1:2-3
To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer
Yes Timothy was Paul’s “son in the faith”. But as for these verses proving that Timothy was Paul’s “apostolic representative in the region” those concepts are not even mentioned. It would seem the Super Apostles are filtering these verses through their cherished doctrine, rather than filtering their doctrine through these cherished verses.
Timothy is also recognized as an apostle – 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2:6
Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. – 1 Thessalonians 1:1
We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, - 1 Thessalonians 2:6
Regarding 1 Thessalonians 1:1 just because Timothy is mentioned in the same breath as Paul the apostle does not make Timothy an apostle. If you receive a letter from your mother and your sister does that make your sister your parent also?
1 Thessalonians 1:1 makes more sense for the Super Apostles when coupled with 1 Thessalonians 2:6. However, note that Silas is also with Paul and Timothy. It could be that Silas was an apostle and Timothy was not. That would account for Paul using the plural “apostles”.
Now was Timothy an apostle or not? Either way it does nothing to help the Super Apostle’s case for a one over one theocracy. Yes, there were apostles. Yes, there were Christian leaders. How do these facts lead us to a “Church Government” which was a hierarchical theocracy? They do not. They fit in just as well with the standard understanding of Church Leaders with limited authority. They also fit with forms of consensus leadership.
Titus became the “set man” in Crete – Titus 1:5
The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.
Paul left Titus as his representative in Crete to handle some unfinished business and to appoint elders in each town. But there is no evidence that Titus became the “set man” above all others in Crete. Perhaps Titus worked alongside the other Christian leaders there, doing the tasks Paul directed him to finish. No information is provided either way. We cannot tell that Titus became the dominant leader in the region from this verse.
This verse also fits in perfectly well with the accepted standard of limited leadership authority. Titus was working, as Paul’s representative, after Paul had left Crete. Paul directed him to do certain things within the scope of church leadership. None of this is earth shattering. A director of a church group may send one of his people to do certain things within individual churches, but that does not mean that person has become the leader over all those churches.
Also if it was a one over one theocracy then Titus should have been ordered to appoint eldersand a chief elder per church. That he was instructed to choose only elders alludes to a form of democracy rather than the Super Apostle’s warped form of theocracy.
Titus was the spiritual son of Paul – Titus 1:4, 2 Corinthians 8:23, 12:18
To Titus, my true son in our common faith: - Titus 1:4
As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. – 2 Corinthians 8:23
I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not act in the same spirit and follow the same course? – 2 Corinthians 12:18
Yes. So how does that help the Super Apostle’s case? It in no way moves us from the accepted view of limited leadership authority to being compelled to accept a one over one theocracy.
Also notice in 2 Corinthians 12:18 Paul again urges rather than orders. Why say “urged” which implies Titus had an independent choice? If the Church really was a domineering theocracy Titus had no choice but to obey Paul.
Epaphroditus was the apostle in control of Philippi according to Philippians 1:1, 2:25, 4:18
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: - Philippians 1:1
But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. – Philippians 2:25
I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. – Philippians 4:18
The Super Apostles claim that the word “messenger” in Philippians 4:18 actually means “apostle” in the Greek. The word in the Greek is “apostolos”; Strongs number G652. But the translators have translated apostolos in it’s broader sense of “messenger” in this verse, and the reason why is clear from the context; since Epaphroditus taking gifts from Philippi to Paul. Taking items from point A to point B is what messengers do; therefore the “apostolos” is best-translated “messenger” here.
What is more, the Philippians sent Epaphroditus, “whom you sent to take care of my needs.” But surely you cannot order your apostle around? If Epaphroditus was an apostle, and if apostles do have the power the Super Apostles claim they do, then surely Epaphroditus would have sent himself, or perhaps sent someone else?
These verses work against the Super Apostles position either way. If Epaphroditus was an apostle then the verses actually suggest that apostles can be commanded by their Churches to go places and perform tasks. The Super Apostles would not like this, because they are the ones who do the commanding! But if Epaphroditus was not the apostle over Philippi then their argument falls flat, and indeed these verses do not prove Epaphroditus was the controlling apostle, or even just an apostle.
New Testament says one person has the mantle of leadership
The following is a quote from a study by a Super Apostle’s Church on Church Government.
“You will not find any one person designated ‘pastor’ in the New Testament, yet it is always seen that one person had the mantle of leadership upon them to give direction under Jesus to God’s people. Such were ‘chief men’ among the brethren (Acts 15:23)”
With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul– men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell. – Acts 15:23-29
Surely if one over one theocracy was God’s chosen church management method he would have mentioned somewhere in Scripture it’s structure. Here the Super Apostles admit that the one person as leader concept is not present in scripture. But one person as leader is the basic unit of a theocratic hierarchy; the very thing the Super Apostles would have us believe. The Super Apostles respond with “yet it is always seen that one person had the mantle of leadership upon them to give direction under Jesus to God’s people” and then quote Acts 15:23-29 as their proof text. But how these verses prove that “one person had the mantle” we do not know. Instead these verses seem to imply a consensus agreement instead of one person dictating how things are to be.
Thus far the Super Apostles have not proven that God commanded “Church Government”, nor have they proved their required next step of one over one theocracy. The very foundation of their argument is weak. Are these the only New Testament verses they have to validate their position? Only people reading the texts through the Super Apostles eyes could come to the conclusions they insist on. So the accepted understanding of limited authority for church leadership remains intact.
Once having tried to set the stage of a one over one theocracy the Super Apostles typically move on to declaring their authority. Yes God’s Church is meant to have a government they say. That government can only be a (their definition of a) theocracy. And by the way we are the leaders (under God) over that theocracy. Cross us and you cross God! Lets now examine their claims to authority.
Jesus and the Centurions gives us a template of the authority structure for churches – Matthew 8:5-13
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 ”Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, `Go,’ and he goes; and that one,`Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, `Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.
The Super Apostles try to use Matthew 8:5-13 to imply that this military structure is the authority structure that God orders them to use. See Jesus had authority, therefore we must have the same authority. From one of their own studies lets listen to them expand on Matthew 8:5-13.
“This short Biblical account brings out some very important truths we all need to understand if we are going to serve God effectively.
- The Roman centurion perceived Jesus to be a man of spiritual authority who was Himself under God’s authority
- His perception of Jesus’ spiritual authority was obviously somehow connected to his understanding of natural military authority.
- The centurion was himself a man under authority, in a descending chain of military authority, with soldiers under him.
- The centurion perceived that Jesus’ spiritual authority had the solution to his servant’s spiritual problem even through the symptoms were physical
- Jesus did not rebuke him and call him a little Hitler a control freak, worldly, or Jezebel for using words like, ‘Go, Come and Do’
- The centurion’s perception and request caused Jesus to marvel and address the crowd about this mans ‘great faith’ (note: the scriptures only ever record Jesus marveling at two things, faith and unbelief – Mark 6:6). There is an obvious link between great faith and being under authority.
The two great truths we learn from this story are as follows:
- Authority flows down, so in order to have authority, first you must be under authority yourself. To have authority in the military, you first must be under military authority. To have spiritual authority you first must be under spiritual authority.
- Faith and authority are inseparably connected. Gods gift of faith isn’t given to us to act independently with, but to use under the directions of our leaders authority (Romans 12:3, Ephesians 2:8)”
The Super Apostles are using this verse completely out of context. It in no way refers to authority for Church Leaders; rather, it is a testament of Jesus’ authority. Since Jesus is God incarnate it is hardly surprising that he had ultimate authority. But for them to claim this authority for themselves is suspect. No scriptures are offered to justify this equivalency of power except for Romans 12:3 and Ephesians 2:8 which do not seem to support their case at all.
However, the Super Apostles’ comments about these verses show us clearly what they want – military style authority over Christians. In the military you are told what to do. You are told where to live, when to eat, when to exercise, when to train, when to fight, how to look, how to act. If you disobey your leaders you are severely punished. The Super Apostles want this sort of power. They demand this obedience. Notice they claim also that their power is to encompass all Christians whatever they do. “Gods gift of faith isn’t given to us to act independently with, but to use under the directions of our leaders authority”. Christians are not to act independently of the Super Apostle’s control; if it’s not under their leaderships’ control then God will not bless it. Even the military are not as strict (active members of the military run organizations outside of the control of their leaders ranging from medieval re-enactment societies to medical helps for the poor).
God’s Descending Chain Of Authority
From one of the Super Apostle’s studies we have this chart.
(Note, as explained earlier, all names have been removed)
“Authority flow in our churches
God the ultimate source of all authority
Jesus Christ the head of the Church (Ephesians 1:22)
Pastor [Name Removed for now] – Apostolic ministry under the headship of Jesus Christ
Local Pastor – Under delegated authority of Pastor [Name Removed] (1 Timothy 1:2-3, Titus 1:4-5)
Local Eldership – Plurality, co equality of eldership as far as persons but not as far as divine ability and gifting and experience are concerned
Ministry overseers, department leaders – i.e. youth, children, cell groups, worship team, ushers, security etc
And the chart is preceded by this text
“Jesus was a perfect example for us in the way He totally submitted and came under the authority of God the Father during his life on earth. Even through he retained the nature of Deity, He laid aside His right to act independently as God and gave us an example to follow in His total submission and obedience to the will of God (John 5:19, 30; 6:38, Philippians 2:5-8).”
Now wait a minute. Our submission and obedience to God should be total, and this is what Jesus is showing us by His example. But can you spot the Super Apostle’s twisting? See how Jesus “totally submitted and came under the authority of God” say the Super Apostles, and so you must yield to us! We expect from you the same “total submission and obedience” as Jesus gave to God. You must give up your “right to act independently”. They don’t say it plainly, but in effect they want to take God’s place in the Christian’s life. They want to be between God and the Christian. God will direct you through us; you cannot act independently.
From the same study come these words,
“For people to now reject delegated authority and to profess that they are under God’s direct authority is to reveal their Biblical ignorance, their unwillingness to submit to God’s government, and that they lack the fear of God (Jude 12)”
These are powerful claims to make when your biblical proofs are so weak. But at least now we understand what the Super Apostle’s truly desire.
The Church isn’t Democratic, it’s a Theocratic Kingdom Revelation 3:14-21
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, `I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
The Super Apostle’s use Revelation 3:14-21 as their proof that democracy is not allowed in the church. They explain with this comment “Laodicea literally mean (sic) ‘mass rule or the rule of the people.’ Sadly in this Church Jesus is seen standing outside knocking and desiring access.”
Let’s assume that Laodicea does mean “rule of the people”. So what? It does not follow that the Laodiceaian church was a democracy. Nor does it follow that Jesus was upset even if it was. In the New Zealand city of Auckland we have a suburb whose translation from the native Maori tongue means, “Burnt Skin”. Does it then follow that every church in that suburb burns skin?
If Jesus had been concerned about their method of church management surely he would have mentioned it. Instead we learn that Laodicea was lukewarm and finding security in money rather than God. Jesus tells them to instead buy from him “gold refined in the fire” so they can be truly rich. Democracy is not mentioned. As we have seen, the Super Apostle’s other proofs are rather weak, but this one can truly be called insipid.
Finally in regard to whether “Laodicea literally mean (sic) ‘mass rule or the rule of the people.’” Trevor Mander, graduate of Southern Evangelical Seminary in the USA, questions where the Super Apostles get such a definition. “As far as the history of the word goes, the first bit might have originally come from ‘laos’ meaning people. The second bit is unrecognizable as any other Greek word. Doxia (glory) has an ‘o’ not an ‘i’. And rule (‘arkeh’) is completely different.” The Super Apostles themselves provide no references or backup to how they came about their meaning for Laodicea.
Divinely Appointed Realms of Authority 1 Peter 5:6, Hebrews 13:17
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. – 1 Peter 5:6
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.
- Hebrews 13:17
1 Peter 5:6 instructs us to be humble and we will be lifted up in due time. Good advice for every Christian to follow. Notice though that God is the one who does the lifting up, not men. Surely if the Super Apostle’s concept of Theocratic hierarchy was correct it might be your leaders lifting you up. This verse seems to suggest that God does interact directly with his people.
Hebrews 13:17 is the chestnut verse of the cults. They quote it whenever they can, and always from the NIV (New International Version) translation of the Bible because that is the only translation which has added the word “authority”. The word “authority” is not found in the Greek text itself, and this is why no other translation including The King James Version, the American Standard, Revised Standard Version, New American Standard Version, New King James Version, and the New English Bible have included it.
The NIV Study Bible offers this commentary about this verse, “Dictatorial leadership is not condoned by this command (see 3 John 9-10), but respect for authority, orderliness and discipline in the church are taught throughout the NT.” This is a sound commentary even with the added word. Church Leaders have a duty to run the church and watch over their flock. Their authority is real, but limited. It does not extend as far as the Super Apostles would have us believe. Remember, the burden is on the Super Apostles to substantiate their case. Hebrews 13:17 does not do this since it is perfectly consistent with the current view of limited authority.
The Devil’s Plan
“The Devil’s plan is to get people out from under God’s authority so He (sic) can get them under His (sic) authority. The Devil knows the power of Authority and how people of divine authority are a threat to His (sic) kingdom, so He (sic) attacks all forms of authority and government, because He (sic) is “the lawless one” and wants to bring about a lawless society. Like the Devil, he who doesn’t submit to authority sets himself up as an authority. To reject God’s authority is to set yourself up as your own authority (Judges 21:25)”
If the Devil’s plan is to get people out from under Authority then where does that leave the Super Apostles? Since the Super Apostles are normally under no authority themselves, except that they claim that God is directing them. But then that is the same claim numerous cult leaders have made throughout the ages. How do we tell that God really has appointed these Super Apostles? This is one issue our Super Apostle friends are rather nebulous about.
“so He (sic) attacks all forms of authority and government” Is it always the Devil’s plan to get people out from under authority? Would the Devil really have wanted people to get out from under Hitler’s authority? Would the Devil have wanted people to get out from under communist authority, since they are so zealous in suppressing Christianity? The Devil, it can be surmised, is only interested in getting people out of under authority if it benefits his purpose of deceiving the Body of Christ and those who may one day join the Body of Christ.
“Like the Devil, he who doesn’t submit to authority sets himself up as an authority.” Like the Super Apostles have set themselves up as an authority? Sorry, of course, God set them up didn’t He.
What is the gist of this statement from the Super Apostles? Simply that there is nowhere else you can be except under their authority. They are the only valid authorities. To be under them is God’s plan, to not be under them is the Devil’s plan. To follow God you must follow them.
The Umbrella of Divine Protection
From their studies,
“Think of God’s authority as an umbrella of divine protection from the evil in the world that would otherwise rain down on us and destroy our life.
- Under God authority………. Protection, safety, covered.
- Not under Gods authority…. Exposed, naked, uncovered”
This is a typical fear tactic used by the cults. Submit to us or terrible things will happen to you! For more information on the psychological aspects of control view the Cultwatch articlewww.HowCultsWork.com.
Of course “Umbrellas of Divine Protection” or “Umbrellas of Authority” are rarely mentioned in scripture. Well OK, they are never mentioned. Also there are no “Raincoats of Godly Defense” or “Mackintoshes of Holy Security” either.
It can be argued that an “umbrella of divine protection” is a type of virtual lucky charm. While not physical like a horseshoe or cloverleaf, it still supposedly provides protection from evil for those who trust in it. Instead of trusting in God, the followers of the Super Apostles trust that their obedience to the Super Apostles will keep them under this mythical umbrella. But trusting in obedience rituals to provide spiritual protection is the same as trusting in a luck charm. Instead, we would recommend people place all their trust in God alone.
The really strange thing is that those Cultwatch have spoken to who have left the Super Apostle churches have found life much better on the outside. They are able to follow God more easily and profitably. And no more evil drops on them from the sky than usual, since they are safely under God’s wing; now there is a metaphor you can find in scripture.
Submission to Authority – Colossians 3:22-24
Colossians 3:17-4:2 has been quoted for context with the Super Apostle’s selection underlined.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven. Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
It is unbelievable that the Super Apostles use these verses in one of their authority studies. Firstly because the Super Apostles are using them completely out of context. The master/slave relationship cannot be transposed onto the Church Leader/Church Member relationship. The only real application of these verses in modern society is the employer/employee relationship, and even then not fully since an employer is not the equivalent to a master, and the employee is not equivalent to a slave. Even back in Early Church times we can be sure these verses were not used to teach Church Members to “obey your earthly masters in everything”, where their masters were their Church Leaders. The second reason their use of these verses is so unbelievable is because of the sheer audacity of their twisting. How could they even consider using the Word of God in this way? Their use of these verses along with their use of the verses regarding Jesus and the Centurion is reprehensible. Even the established Mind Control cults do not go this far.
Summary of Super Apostles arguments
After having examined the Super Apostle’s arguments we can summarize them as:
1) God commands the Church to have a government. A basic management structure is not enough.
2) That government must be a one over one theocracy. It cannot be any form of democracy.
3) At the head of this theocracy is God who directs an apostle.
4) This direction to the apostle is unquestionable. If the apostle does something wrong only God himself can correct him. No one else is allowed to correct him. To openly criticize the apostle is a great evil.
5) Everyone else is under the apostle and must obey him completely. Like Jesus obeyed God, so you must obey the apostle. Like a slave obeys his master, so you too must yield.
6) To rebel against the apostle is an unspeakable act. Terrible things will happen if you do.
In fairness, the Super Apostles usually point out that they cannot order anyone to do anything that clearly goes against the Bible. But any other matters, including all the “gray areas” where the Bible is not crystal clear, the Super Apostle’s directions are as God’s directions.
In practice, the Super Apostles extend their assumed authority deep into the lives of Christians. According to testimonies Cultwatch has collected, money, relationships, doctrinal understanding, ministry, occupation, time management, place of residence, and conviction of sin are all areas they seek to influence.
This is the view the Super Apostles would have us accept. To justify their view biblically they obviously searched through the Bible for any references that seemed to support their view. However they have failed to present a compelling biblical argument. Verses are taken out of context. Scriptures applying to one area are twisted to support their cause. Some scriptural proof texts are so tenuous that we wonder how anyone could accept them. Nothing they presented justified the need for a “Church Government”, nor a one over one theocracy, nor the “total submission and obedience” they demand.
Finally they failed to eliminate the established position of limited authority for Christian leaders. Christian leaders have authority in running church matters and in enforcing major doctrinal issues. Orderly services, sound teaching, and the guarding against false teaching are within Church Leader’s scope. What is more, from the Super Apostle’s own proof texts we see consensus management, their hated Democracy, at work.
Now that we have discounted the Super Apostle’s best arguments, we can move on in the next section to examine the arguments that directly reject the domineering control they seek.
The Arguments Against Unfettered Authority and Church Government
What do Church Leaders do? They provide worship teams, premises, equipment, pastoral training, counseling, biblical teaching, and officiate at weddings, baptisms and funerals. To protect their flock they can order people to leave their church if they reject major doctrinal positions, especially if they are spreading their false teachings. They have a duty (like all Christians) to help reach the lost, and to teach Christians sound doctrine. They help manage contributions to the poor, the aged, and the ill. And of course Church Leaders do many other things.
From the Christian’s perspective Church Leaders provide a vital service. Without them, finding Christian fellowship would be difficult and the provision of corporate worship time would be sorely missed. Church Leaders provide the Christian with regular Bible teachings that are essential for Christian growth. They organize corporate giving for the support of missionaries and helps for the poor that the individual Christian would struggle to afford alone. They provide counseling services that have helped many Christians deal with various problems. Those Christians in ministry, within or separate from their church, gain support from their Church Leaders as they do the good works God has called them to do.
To help Church Leaders perform their duties, the Bible gives Church Leaders a degree of authority. With this limited authority Church Leaders can run orderly services, prohibit false teachers, and direct those working under them. And so the Bible gives Church Leaders all the authority they need.
However the extended scope of power the Super Apostle’s seek cannot be justified. The Super Apostle’s want to control those areas of the Christian’s life that are the domain of the Holy Spirit. They want unlimited authority within their churches, and within the lives of their members.
The Christian’s purpose in life is not to do the will of the church, but rather to do the will of God. Every Christian is part of the Church universal. But the individual church organization is merely an important part of the Christian life; it is not all encompassing. For the Christian, it is the Lordship of Jesus Christ that is all encompassing. The Christian owes his allegiance to the King of Kings, not to one of the King’s servants.
Let’s examine the scriptures that line up to oppose the Super Apostle’s power play. Scripture is the word of God. God does not contradict Himself, or change His mind two thousand years later. Nothing the Super Apostles say can override scripture. No matter how “anointed” they claim to be; no matter how much they say they hear from God; no matter how good an orator they are; no mater how you feel after you have heard them speak, if what they say is error, it will be cut asunder by the sword of scripture and smashed on the ramparts of truth.
The Super Apostles say you must obey them and submit to their authority. To disobey them is rebellion. They are the military commander; you are the private. They are the master; you are the slave.
But scripture says in Matthew 20:21-28, with the primary text underlined
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers.Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave– just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
You won’t find these verses in the Super Apostles’ authority studies. Here, two of the twelve make a power play to become the rulers of the others. Jesus rebukes them by saying, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.” This is not a hard teaching to understand. We are not to “lord it over” others. We are not to “exercise authority over them”. Jesus is very clear, “Not so with you.” That is what they do; you are not to do that. The type of authority that is being banned here is the kind that the Super Apostles seek. Biblical authority for Church Leaders is not what is being discussed. Rather it is that overbearing dominating authority like that found in the military or dictatorial civilian governments. Jesus served as an example for us all, including those who claim to be apostles. Jesus served and so that is the way Christian Leaders ought to act. The craving to “exercise authority” over God’s people is a desire that does not originate from the Holy Spirit. It comes from somewhere quite different.
The Super Apostles obviously want to be great among the Body of Christ and so they should heed Jesus’ instructions, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave– just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The Super Apostles say you must obey them and submit to their authority. To disobey them is rebellion. They are the commander, you are the private. They are the master; you are the slave.
But scripture says in Mark 10:41-42 says
When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Everything in scripture is important. However when something is repeated in more than one Gospel you should take special attention. Jesus said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.”
No so with us; it is so simple
The Super Apostles say you must obey them and submit to their authority. To disobey them is rebellion. They are the commander, you are the private. They are the master; you are the slave.
But Luke 22:25-26 says
Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.
One. Two. Three times. Jesus commands “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that.” But you are not to be like that. This command includes Super Apostles; they are not exempt from God’s instructions.
The Super Apostles say you must obey them and submit to their authority. To disobey them is rebellion. They are the commander, you are the private. They are the master; you are the slave.
But 2 Corinthians 1:23-24 says
I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.
This is a very interesting set of verses. They verify that there are two levels of authority noted in scripture- the limited kind that is allowed, and the domineering kind that is not allowed. Paul had authority of course, the limited kind that we have discussed. But in case the Corinthians thought he was moving into the area of illegal authority Paul added this disclaimer “Not that we lord it over your faith” This is a clear reference to Jesus’ teaching in Mathew 20, Mark 10, and Luke 22. The inference is that another authority is involved in the Christian’s faith and Paul was not about to encroach on the territory of that authority (Paul understood the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life). Instead, Paul explained that he worked with the Christian, not over them, “Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy”.
Another interesting piece of information can be deduced from the last verse. “Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.”Why end the sentence with the words “because it is by faith you stand firm”? Unless the implication is that if someone lords it over your faith then your faith will somehow be weakened, and may not allow you to stand firm.
Why would a Christian who allows himself or herself to be dominated by a Super Apostle end up with a weakened faith? Because the Super Apostle acts as a counterfeit Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life. A Christian grows stronger as they grow closer to God, not as they grow closer to a Super Apostle. A Christian must grow attuned to the Holy Spirit’s voice, and that can be difficult if He is being drowned out by a counterfeit.
Go against Apostle Paul’s advice and you have not sinned.
1 Corinthians 7:25-28 says
Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
Here the Apostle Paul gives advice rather than relaying a command from God. Paul states clearly that if you do not follow his advice then “you have not sinned”. In other words while Paul would suggest you follow his advice, you do not have to. You have the ability to choose independently (now there is a word which will have the Super Apostles foaming at the mouth) your course of action. Again it looks like Paul is allowing room for the Holy Spirit to move and guide the Christian. Also it must be understood that the will of the Christian is an important factor. As a Christian grows in the Lord they automatically make the correct decision by themselves. The Christian’s will becomes aligned with the Lord’s will and so Scripture and the Holy Spirit are needed less and less to guide everyday life.
The Super Apostles might reply that they are saying that their commands are from God; therefore they should be obeyed.
Firstly there are serious questions about whether these “Super Apostles” are really apostles at all. Their fruit is an important way to examine their claim to apostleship. Broken, burnt out Christians, greedy lifestyles, disunity in the Body of Christ, narcissistic showmanship, unbiblical financial demands, separation of poor and rich within the Church, nepotism, the twisting of Scripture, the preaching of motivational platitudes rather than sound doctrine, cultic domination and control, and so on, are fruits that are not found in the biblical apostles. (And no, building a large church does not make one an apostle.) The Super Apostles may be a certain type of apostle though; a false apostle like those mentioned in Revelations 2:2.
Secondly we can assume that God ensured all the generic guidance required was recorded in Scripture. Therefore we can conclude that any areas left open, or not mentioned, in Scripture are relatively unimportant. Because, if they were important, God would have included directions regarding them. Hence it can be argued strongly that the apostles like Paul who God had record the Scriptures could relay commands of God, but our present day apostles cannot. They cannot because there is no need for them to. God has recorded all the vital commands already. Those areas which have no biblical directions recorded are left for the individual Christian, who is guided by the Holy Spirit, to decide upon. A present day apostle can offer advice regarding those areas, but cannot presume to augment God’s Word by adding new commands; even if the apostle claims his new revelation is from Go.
Can you disagree with and disobey an apostle?
Acts 15:36-41 says
Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Here we see Barnabas having a “sharp disagreement” with the Apostle Paul. Barnabas even decided to go a separate way to Paul. Now in the world of the Super Apostles Barnabas would have been called “rebel” and “traitor”. Barnabas was in effect starting up his own independent ministry! However from this scripture we cannot find any indication that Barnabas had done anything wrong in God’s eyes. Barnabas certainly would now be out from under Paul’s “umbrella of authority” (if there were such a thing), and surely he deserves at least a dressing down in scripture. But no dressing down is given. And we find no later record that Barnabas’s ministry was a disaster. Barnabas was not struck by lighting, swallowed up by the Earth, nor is it recorded that he suffered some terrible disease.
It would seem the Holy Spirit was with both of them and the disagreement they had, while unfortunate, was not sin. These verses were a perfect opportunity for God to detail the adverse consequences of disobeying an apostle. But He did not. Therefore the Super Apostles’ claims of disobedience towards themselves leading to doom and disaster are bogus.
Paul did not command the giving of money.
2 Corinthians 8:7-8 says
But just as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us – see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.
The Apostle Paul did not command people to give money. Yet the Super Apostles invariably do issue such commands. The Super Apostles record their members’ giving and there are consequences if members miss their targets. The Super Apostles often rant about giving money and not robbing God. Some of these lectures are so hysterical that the Super Apostles have them edited out of videos and audiotapes least they fall into public hands.
So do the Super Apostles think they are greater than the Apostle Paul? We doubt that they would think they were. Then how come they step over a line that the Apostle Paul himself dared not cross?
Are Christians allowed to make decisions by themselves?
In the Old Testament no one had the Holy Spirit, except for those leaders like Moses, Joshua, and a few select others (Numbers 11:29, Isaiah 63:11). These men could lead because the Holy Spirit was guiding them. But in the New Testament every Christian has the Holy Spirit. Therefore Christians must, at the very least, be able to lead their own lives without an intervening external human power.
Now we are not meaning that Christians should not work together in a corporate ministry like a church organization under the limited authority of the Church’s Leaders. Those leaders have the vision that God has given them for that ministry and so within the context of the ministry’s running need to be obeyed. Rather we are talking about the Christians personal walk with God. Areas like their relationships, their finances, and their ministry, their family, their job, and their relationship with God.
However the Super Apostles say, “For people to now reject delegated authority and to profess that they are under God’s direct authority is to reveal their Biblical ignorance, their unwillingness to submit to God’s government, and that they lack the fear of God (Jude 12)”. From Cultwatch’s examination of practices in the Super Apostle Churches we can assure the reader that the Super Apostles do extend their tentacles of control well beyond the boundaries of their church ministry and into the lives of their members. This is what makes them cultic.
The Holy Spirit convicts of people of sin, not the Super Apostles
John 16:5-11 says,
Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, `Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
Cult leaders sit in judgment of their members’ lives. People are condemned if they visit people they have been told not to see. They are condemned if they do not donate their set amount of money. They are condemned if they miss meetings. They are condemned if they do not baby-sit for the cult leaders. They are condemned if they visit other churches. They are condemned if they question the cult leaders’ doctrine. They are condemned for setting up an independent ministry. They are condemned for being fat. They are condemned for inviting the wrong sort of people to meetings. They are condemned for not acting happy (to impress the visitors). Indirectly, the members are condemned by the impossible standards the cult leaders set for salvation. In fact, being constantly condemned is standard fare for cult members. In a cult there is no end to the things you can be condemned for.
Unfortunately, by claiming the scope of power that they do the Super Apostles have drifted into the cultic realm as they use that power to mess with their members’ lives. Members of Super Apostle churches find themselves not being directed by the commands of Scripture and direction of the Holy Spirit; instead it is the unwritten rules of their church environment that seem loudest in their head. What will the Super Apostle think of this? What will his leaders think, instead of, what does God think?
When Jesus went to the Father he sent us a “Counselor”-the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit counsels the Christian in many areas. Regarding transgressions, the Holy Spirit convicts us so that we may seek forgiveness and avoid that sin in the future. The Holy Spirit never condemns us.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1
Christians can be safe in knowing that whenever a man condemns them that condemnation does not come from God.
So the scope of power the Super Apostles seek shows their fundamental distrust of the Holy Spirit. They seem to say the Holy Spirit needs our help. He must be so weak as to be unable to direct Christians correctly. So we had better assist Him. Well, the news for the Super Apostles is that the Counselor is perfectly able to do His task. A Super Apostle uses “Don’t Mess with Authority” as a heading in one section of his studies. We suggest that the Super Apostles themselves read a study, one with the heading “Don’t Mess With The Holy Spirit!”
The Bible warns against those who seek to control all parts of a Christian’s life.
But 1 John 2:18-27 says
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist–he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us–even eternal life. I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him.
In context we can see John is warning of false teachers who have gone out from the Church and are trying to lead people astray,
“I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him.”
John is not saying that we do not need human teachers to educate us. Rather he is warning of those who would override the anointing of the Holy Spirit within the Christian that “teaches you about all things”. Because the anointing remains in us we do not need anyone to “teach” us in our lives. The teaching of the Holy Spirit is enough to help us remain in Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. The Holy Spirit guides us as He sees fit. We must always be careful to ensure no one takes the place of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Summary of arguments against the power the Super Apostles seek
These arguments were,
1) Scripture instructs us not to “lord it over” one another. But the Super Apostles claim to rule over the Church. Therefore the Super Apostles are wrong.
2) The advice of the Apostle Paul did not have to be obeyed. So why must the advice of the Super Apostles be obeyed?
3) You can disagree with and even disobey an apostle’s direction and not suffer terrible punishments. Yet the Super Apostles say you will suffer terribly if you disagree or disobey their commands.
4) The Apostle Paul stopped short of commanding people to give money. Yet the Super Apostles demand that people give money. Do they think they are greater than the Apostle Paul?
5) Christians have the Holy Spirit and so they can make decisions themselves.
6) The Super Apostles often condemn people for not obeying them. Yet Scripture teaches that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict of sin. And the Holy Spirit does not condemn us.
7) The Bible warns us of those who seek to intrude into the Holy Spirit’s teaching area. But the Super Apostles seem to do that. What does that make them?
This sample of counter-arguments are not all that can be raised against the power claims the Super Apostles make. But even by themselves they powerfully counter the Super Apostle’s claims. We are yet to see any Super Apostle even discuss these points, let alone refute them.
Regarding “Church Government” the Super Apostles have given us no proof that it is required. In fact, the Bible does not rigidly set the administration structures and leadership model of church organization. Why is this?
Perhaps it is because God does not consider it that important. Perhaps His focus is more on saving the lost and growing His Christians. Perhaps some peoples’ concern about Church structure is not a concern shared by God. Perhaps God is more interested in the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life
So the answer to our question might be that the administration structures and leadership models of churches are just not that important; since God did not think it important enough to decree a single method.
Except that God does ban one type of control structure. The “lord it over” authority-exercising model that the Gentiles used. James and John wanted to be the rulers, but Jesus explained that he wanted things done differently in His Church. He wanted the leaders to be the servants of all. And from Scripture we find the Early Church following this model. This is further evidenced since Super Apostles could not produce a single scripture that genuinely supports their “obey us or else” model. And we can assume that the Super Apostles searched extremely diligently for supporting scriptures.
So the burden of proof fell on the Super Apostles and the weight was too much for them. No matter how much they scream, insist, rage, complain, accuse, intimidate, bludgeon, bluster, bounce, bulldoze, bully, bullyrag, cow, dragoon, or hector we are under no obligation to obey them since the Bible says we don’t have to. We can happily continue to serve our Lord in churches run by Pastors who are comfortable with the limited authority God has given them.
Finally take heed of God’s words in Galatians 5:1. False teachers were adding rules to God’s Church, rules they claimed must be obeyed. But Paul instructed the Christians to stand firm against them,
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Geisler, Rhodes. When Cultists Ask. Baker Books, 1998 (second printing).
Conner. The Church In The New Testament. Jointly published through Sovereign World International and City Bible Publishing, 1982.
Ott. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Tan Books and Publishers, 1960.
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