Frustrated by the magnitude of the miracles attending Jesus’
ministry, the chief priests and elders of the Jews challenged him in the
temple. They demanded to know by what authority he was doing the things
he was doing and who it was who gave him the authority.
In his reply, Jesus presents a dichotomy between what is of God and
what is of men. He asks them: “The baptism of John – where was it from?
From heaven or from men?” (Matthew 21:25).
The question is loaded. By implication, Jesus maintains what is of
God cannot be of men and what is of men cannot be of God. This dichotomy
between God and men finds its most eloquent expression in Jesus’
categorical assertion that: “What is highly esteemed among men is an
abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15).
It is pertinent, therefore, to ask whether the ordination of pastors today is of God or of men.
The answer is straight-forward: the ordination of pastors today is
of men and not of God. It does not come from the commandments or
teachings of Jesus. It comes from the writings of Paul.
Paul does not say Jesus specifically instructs him to create
ministerial positions in the church. Instead, he bases his authority for
doing this on a messianic Old Testament scripture. With reference to
Psalm 68, he writes: “This is why it says: ‘When he ascended on high, he
led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’” (Ephesians 4:8).
Undertanding that this scripture foretells Christ’s resurrection,
Paul then says: “(Jesus) himself gave some to be apostles, some
prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the
equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of
the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
However, on investigation it becomes apparent that Paul’s position
misquotes and even distorts the original psalm. The psalmist says: “When
you ascended on high, you led captives in your train; you received
gifts from men, even from the rebellious – that you, O LORD God, might
dwell there.” (Psalm 68:18).
Can you see the difference? The psalmist says men gave gifts to the
Lord. Paul, in quoting the psalmist, changes this to say the Lord gave
gifts to men.
Unauthorised Ministerial Posts
Apparently, Paul wanted to create posts in the churches he
established so as to bring them more effectively under his control. So
he twisted an Old Testament scripture to make it seem as if it was the
Lord who authorised it. As a result, there are people today who insist
the Lord has called them to be pastors and teachers, not knowing that
Jesus does not envisage any of these positions under the New Testament.
This is what Jesus says: “I send you prophets, wise men, and
scribes.” (Matthew 23:34). Nothing here about pastors and teachers. On
his resurrection, he said furthermore: “Go into all the world and preach
the gospel to everyone.” (Mark 16:15). This means all believers are
called to be evangelists, it is not a special calling for a select few.
In creating unauthorised posts, which have since spawned many
others such as popes, arch-bishops, and right-reverends, Paul enshrined
the spirit of the Pharisee in the heart of Christianity, contrary to the
teachings of Jesus.
Jesus discourages honorific titles and warns that those who exalt
themselves will be humbled. He mocks the pomposity of the Pharisees,
insisting that we should not follow their example: “Don’t let people do
that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single
Teacher, and you are all classmates.” (Matthew 23:8).
This show Jesus permits no differentiation among his followers. We
are all equal. The pope is no different from the lay Catholic. The
arch-bishop is the classmate of the members of the laity. None of them
is greater in status than the other. So how come some classmates are now
calling themselves teachers?
Nevertheless, Paul tells Timothy: “I was appointed a preacher and
an apostle – I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying – a teacher
of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” (1 Timothy 2:7). This cannot be
true because Jesus expressly forbids this: “Do not be called teachers;
for One is your Teacher, the Christ.” (Matthew 23:10).
Moreover, Jesus tells us God, and not men, will be our teacher: “It
is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’
Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to
me.” (John 6:45).
Jesus says furthermore: “Don’t set people up as experts over your
life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let
him tell you what to do.” (Matthew 23:9). This means the pastor is not
the head of a church. He cannot lord it over members of his
congregation. As a matter of fact, pastors are now anachronistic. Jesus
says: “There shall be one flock and one pastor.” (John 10:16). This
establishes Jesus as the one and only “Good Pastor.” (John 10:11).
God the Father is the source of all authority and from him it flows
to Jesus, the Son. Does it then flow from Jesus to the pastor, the
bishop, or the pope? Certainly not! On his resurrection, Jesus declared
to his disciples: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on
earth.” (Matthew 28:18). The authority remains firmly with Jesus.
Jesus says: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over
them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall
not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let
him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him
be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but
to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28).
What are we to conclude from all this? All those who call
themselves pastors are not disciples of Jesus. Their authority is not
from heaven, but from men. They are fake pastors with Jesus being the
only legitimate pastor. David says: “The Lord is my pastor, I have all
that I need.” (Psalm 23:1). If Jesus is our pastor, we don’t need fake
pastors. Jesus does not outsource his church to pastors. He says: “I
will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18).
Wittingly or unwittingly, pastors today disobey the voice of Jesus
by heeding instead the voice of Paul. Eternal life is not in the words
of Paul. Eternal life is in the words of Jesus. (John 6:68-69). Jesus,
not Paul, is “the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2).
Therefore, Jesus’ words are the only acceptable basis of church
The Holy Spirit does not speak on his own authority; he only says
what he hears. (John 16:13-15). Not so with pastors. They insist on
being answerable to themselves. Jeremiah says: “A horrible and shocking
thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests
rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what
will you do in the end?” (Jeremiah 5:30-31).
About the Author:
Femi Aribisala is a scholar and international affairs expert. He is
currently an iconoclastic church pastor in Lagos. He is also a
syndicated essayist for a handful publications in Nigeria.
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