13. Artificial Divisions Are Harmful

The “Church” Paradigm (a la Tozer)

Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Psa. 109:8 π Ezek. 18:20 π Mt. 10:1 π Mt. 18:17 π Mt. 20:25-26 π Mk. 10:42-43 π Lk. 22:25-26; 2nd π Jn. 1:12 π Jn. 15:5 π Acts 1:20; 2nd π Acts 15:22 π Rom. 11:13 π Rom. 12:4 π Rom. 13:1 π Rom. 13:4 π 1 Cor. 1:30 π 1 Cor. 5:4-5 π 1 Cor. 14:33 π 2 Cor. 5:10 π 2 Cor. 6:14 π Eph. 4:11 π 1 Tim. 3:1 π 1 Tim. 3:1-13 π 1 Tim. 3:10 π 1 Tim. 3:13 π Heb. 13:7 π Heb. 13:17

All quotes from A.W. Tozer are from his book, God Tells the Man Who Cares unless otherwise specified.

Tozer wrote:

Deeper and more far-reaching in its effects is the old practice of dividing the Christians in any communion into two classes, called respectively laymen and the clergy. This has grown out of a partial truth and is for that reason extremely hard to correct.

It is true that God has ordained that some in the church should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and some teachers, and He has, furthermore, invested these with certain limited authority in the congregation of the saints; but the notion that they constitute a superior or privileged class is wholly wrong. They do not, but the exercise of their proper offices within the church easily leads to the idea that they do and this makes for division. (“Artificial Divisions Are Harmful,” p. 57-58)

Tozer here would have us believe that the clergy/laity distinctions have “grown out of a partial truth.” To support this idea, however, Tozer uses words that are heavily infested with religious definitions that are not necessarily found in the New Testament. He says that God ordained the so-called fivefold “ministers,” invested them with limited authority and that “the exercise of their proper offices” leads to the mistaken notion that they are “a superior or privileged class.” Let us examine these three notions in a better light than was available to Tozer for, when we do, we may see that it is the very definitions of these words that embody a large portion of the “church” paradigm.

First, there is the word “ordain.” This word was used (in various tenses) 24 times in the King James Version New Testament but used only 4 times in the New King James Version New Testament. How do we account for this significant change in wordings? In part, it is because the word has come to mean “to invest officially with ministerial or priestly authority.” (Webster’s 9th Ed.) This official investment often, but not always, involves the laying on of hands and the conferring of some new title on the recipient. So did God ordain these men Tozer has in mind? That is, did God really give special ministerial or priestly authority to the men of Eph. 4:11 ? (top) Does He give them new titles? No. God gives the men to the people to equip the people do the work of serving the needs of the people.

Second, there is the question of limited authority in the “congregation of the saints.” Do “church” leaders have any different kind or amount of authority than does the youngest follower? Jesus said, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs [leads] as he who serves.” ( Lk. 22:25-26; top ) If the leaders’ authority is of a different kind or amount than that of the least in the assembly of saints - note well that many questions and concerns about order disappear when one no longer tries to maintain order within the mixed multitude! – then the authority being exercised is of a different nature than the authority of Christ for it is no longer an assembly of equal brothers.

How can this be? There are several distortions and deceptions at work here simultaneously. The first is that the authority given by Christ is independent of the Headship of Christ. That is, the one who receives the “greater” authority of leadership (purportedly from God) is then free to give out edicts and commands as he thinks best, right, appropriate and/or beneficial. No other part of the Christian life is attained to apart from Christ ( Jn. 15:5 , 1 Cor. 1:30 , etc.) but somehow authority, once given, is irrevocably and uncontestably in the hands of the man to do with as is right in his own eyes. No! The only authority freely given by Christ to His followers is the right to become the sons of God ( Jn. 1:12 ) and the power to heal the sick and cast out demons. ( Mt. 10:1; top ) Try any of these things apart from Christ and see how far you get! Authority exercised apart from the direct working of Christ by His Spirit is only a work of the flesh that will have dire consequences for all concerned.

A second distortion is that leaders can act independently of the followers. That is, the leaders can decide, without input or unanimous agreement of the followers, directions to take, whom to disassociate/disfellowship from the group, etc. In Acts, we find assemblies of Christ’s people acting in one accord and the leaders simply confirming the Lord’s will. (see Acts 15:22 for example; top)

A third distortion is that the leaders are supposed to enact punishments or discipline on those who disobey or refuse to submit. “Church” leaders will quote Rom. 13:1 (“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.”) and apply that to the “church” leadership. But they fail to read on to v. 4 where we find the authority gets to carry and use swords! The use of arms is not any qualification of an elder or deacon. (see 1 Tim. 3:1-13 - it just isn’t there!) When a rebellious, unrepentant brother is to be ostracized and disfellowshipped, it is the whole of the local ekklesia who is to do so. ( Mt. 18:17 , 1 Cor. 5:4-5; top )

There are some who go so far as to teach that leaders have so much authority that, should anyone obey their commands, the follower will be held guiltless by God – even if their leader is commanding the follower to commit blatant sin! This not only cannot be found anywhere in the Scriptures, it contradicts what is found in the Scriptures! The LORD said to Ezekiel, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” ( Ezek. 18:20 ) And Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” ( 2 Cor. 5:10 - emphasis added; top) There will be no excuse for doing evil before God. We will not be able to say, “But Pastor said it was alright” or “Pastor told me to do it.” We might as well try the ling, “The devil made me do it” as far too often the “pastor’s” strings are pulled (if not outright owned and controlled) by the demonic. But the sin, the guilt and the consequences of our actions belong to ourselves alone.

The distortions and deceptions surrounding authority are helped along by poor renderings of passages like Heb. 13:17 (“Obey those that have the rule over you.”) In spite of the obvious contradiction this poses to Mt. 20:25-26 , Mk. 10:42-43 and Lk. 22:25-26 , this rendering is the ace in the hole for every Nicolaitan clergy power monger. But the more accurate rendering, pointed to in nearly every Greek dictionary of merit, would be, “Be persuaded by what those who have gone before you have said.” In fact, in Heb. 13:7 (top), the leaders have gone so far ahead that we’re supposed to note the end of their lives – the leaders of Hebrews 13 may very well be already dead! But the Nicolaitan-tares need their proof text to hide among the genuine wheat so this rendering has remained somewhat obscured until this final hour.

“The exercise of [the fivefold ‘ministers’’] proper offices within the church,” Tozer wrote, “easily leads to the idea that [the clergy constitutes a superior or privileged class] and this makes for division.” (emphasis added) When we turn to the most up-to-date versions of the New Testament, however, there is never any usage of the term or concept of “office” in connection with the fivefold giftings within the ekklesia. Those who would attempt to use Acts 1:20 - the only time the word “office" is used (NKJV) in connection with the disciples of Christ – have to overcome the fact that this happened before the ekklesia was born in the outpouring of the Spirit, that it was applied to a man who was to act as an official witness of Christ’s resurrection and that it is a quote from an Old Testament prophecy applied to Judas Iscariot! (see Psa. 109:8; top ) Even without the above problems, one verse is just not enough to clarify a central tenet of practice in modern “Christianity.”

“Office” was used 5 times in KJV ( Rom. 11:13 , 12:4 , 1 Tim. 3:1 , 10 , 13 . Interestingly, the KJV inserted “bishoprick” into Acts 1:20 apparently in an effort to justify the Nicolaitan offices, positions and practices of the 1600s.) None of those 5 usages are justified in the original – three were changed even in the Revised Version of the KJV text and all were amended to a better rendering in the NKJV. “Office” has seven definitions (with five additional variations!) in Webster’s 9th Ed. Dictionary – many of these definitions contain elements that contradict with other aspects of following Christ in spirit and truth. With all this confusion (and God is not the author of confusion – 1 Cor. 14:33 ), it ought to be evident that the Spirit carefully avoided the word “office” in the New Testament Scriptures regarding ekklesia and that another spirit has managed to insert them into various men’s minds as they translated the texts at hand. Other men, Tozer included, have carelessly and Spirit-lessly applied the idea of “office” to the leadership roles of the ekklesia. The whole of life in Christ is one of utter and complete dependency on Him and His Spirit. But for some reason, leaders are unquestioningly considered mature enough to wield power and influence over others according to what is right in his own eyes. No! Lawlessness is still lawlessness and it still has nothing in common with righteousness, what is right in God’s eyes. ( 2 Cor. 6:14; top ) There simply are no “proper offices” for the fivefold men to fulfill! That whole notion is simply and only an addition to God’s word!

It is thus easily seen that the reason the fivefold men so easily slide into clergyism is because they subconsciously insert themselves into an office created and defined by the demonic and they take unto themselves authority that Christ did not give them. Division among the ranks of those who follow Christ can be the only result.

12. Perils of the Preacher (Part 2) π 14. The Responsibility of Leadership
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