All scripture quotes are from the NKJV unless otherwise
Because of certain things written and spoken on this topic
of late, it is needful I write more and give my answers to
arguments not addressed in the body of this work.
The argument is that ALL and EVERYONE in the body of Christ
should be teachers. That all can take turns in the church to
teach or be elders. With this argument comes the idea that
James is NOT contradicting this notion, but is saying that
people should not become "GREAT teachers" or "be not GREAT
BIG(DEAL) teachers." Teacher with proud swelled heads of vanity
and dictatorial authority.
But is this the truth of the matter. Was James meaning an
"attitude" of mind, or was he simply telling his readers that
many should NOT ASPIRE to want to be ELDERS/overseers(who must
teach - 1 Tim.3) in the church congregations?
The truth is found from the Greek.
This is one instance where the peculiarities of the Greek
language can cause confusion. "polus"(many) can mean "great big"
or "much" (but not "deal"). However, the word in James 3:1 is not
"polus"(singular) but "polloi"(plural).
As Zhodiates says:
".....(II) In the pl.masc. polloi......means many. With
nouns of multitude it means great, large." (i.e. a great large
In James 3:1 the plural "polloi" IS followed by a "noun of
multitude," namely "didaskaloi" (teachers). (i.e. be not a great
large multitude of teachers).
Here's how the NRSV puts it:
"Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and
sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with
You may want to look up this verse in many other
translations. I have not found any that translate it as "great
big deal teachers" or conveying an attitude of mind.
If James was trying to convey a meaning of "great big deal"
teachers he would have used something along the lines of
"hyperlian" (as in 2 Cor.11:5 for "superlative") or, another word
with "hyper-" or other in it.
THE WORD - HIERARCHICAL
The question of the use of this word in regards Church
Government keeps being raised. There is I believe some confusion
in some minds as to HOW and as to WHAT is meant by this word in
the context of CG(church government). Some are saying GOD is
hierarchical - always was and always will be, and has always
governed as a hierarchy and will always so do. Some say God is
not under the NT(New Testament) governing in a hierarchical
manner, and never did even under the OT(Old Testament). Both
sides accuse the other of being theologically incorrect.
What is happening here is the misunderstanding of how each
side is using the word hierarchy and what context it is used in.
The GODHEAD(God) is indeed hierarchical. It is written, "God
is the head of Christ." Jesus Himself said, "the Father is
greater than I." And, "the one sent is not greater than he who
So God has always ruled as a hierarchy - from the TOP DOWN,
and always will so rule. God the Father is supreme in authority,
then comes Christ Jesus, second in authority. Then it is written,
"Christ is head of the Church." And as Jesus said it is the
Father who will determine who sits on the right and left hand of
Christ, in the Kingdom.
The question then is, WHERE does the hierarchy go, if it
goes anywhere, in relationship to the physical members of the NT
church in this age?
And this is where all the debate about Church Government
really lies. The debate is not really over the hierarchy of God
per se, but: Is the NT church to be hierarchical in human
structure of persons? Or, trying to make this as clear as I can
to the reader, the question is: Does the Bible, especially the
NT, teach that the church Jesus built is to be STRUCTURED and
GOVERNED like the human hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church
- one single flesh and blood human who has all and final
authority over all other elders and ministers and lay persons on
matters of doctrine, ethics, morality, and administration?
This is the argument and question, not whether God rules
hierarchically, but whether the physical ministers and lay
persons within the NT CHURCH are to organize themselves in
structure as have the people and ministers of the Roman Catholic
church, and/or, is the NT church run on a democratic form of the
congregational persons voting into office elders and deacons and
Has God decreed for the NT church that it is to have ONE
supreme physical man as head, with all final authority over all
things that pertain to the running of the church?
This is the question that concerns many today in the Church
of God. This study has addressed THAT question, and I believe
given the truth of the matter as found in the plain teachings and
examples of the NT.
ANCIENT ISRAEL - DID THEY HAVE A HIERARCHICAL SYSTEM?
Among all the debating over this topic, there has now risen
another question: Did God institute a human hierarchical system
in ancient Israel?
Some say it is clear God did do so. Others say He never did.
Those on the side of "no He never did'' say that Exodus 18
was only of human institution - namely Jethro and Moses without
God in the picture. They claim that God gave His Spirit to other
men(i.e. Num.11) so Moses was NOT the "chief" among the physical
Israelites. They say that the supreme "one man rule" of the Kings
of Israel was of human request and not the desire of God.
I have great difficulty accepting their arguments and
reasoning not the least is just a simple reading of the OT. It
seems clear to me that God DID, most of the time RULE or tried to
rule(if the people would respond) ancient Israel through the
leadership, guidance, and inspiration of a DOMINANT authoritarian
leader that had final authority in matters of God and the ways of
Let's go back to Exodus 18. Was this JUST of men? Or was it
also of God? Was this ONLY an idea of Jethro? Or had God given it
to Jethro(at least backed him in it) and did He inspire Moses to
adopt Jethro's advice?
Notice what is missed by many, it is found in verse 23. "If
you do this thing, AND GOD SO COMMANDS YOU, then you will be able
Jethro did not want Moses adopting his idea and suggestion
without consulting God about it!
Obviously Moses did consult God and God did approve because
we then read "So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and
did all that he had said"(v.24). The account in Deut.1 would also
bear this out.
This pyramid structure of government - Moses as "top chief"
- the supreme in authority over other lesser rulers of people,
who were over still lesser rulers - this Roman Catholic structure
of OT church government - WAS FROM GOD, it was ORDAINED of Him,
sanctioned and set in order of Him. Just because the empire of
Babylon, or Egypt had an established religious "priesthood" does
not mean God could not establish His own priesthood for Israel if
He so chose. God's probably came first, and other nations copied,
for Satan is the great counter copier of the truth, but he
God giving His Spirit and rulership ability to others
besides Moses is only wise and just. But that does not take away
the plain truth that Moses was HEAD and SUPREME human authority
over all other humans in the organized state/church of Israel. It
was Moses who commanded them at that time to do the things they
needed to do(Deut.1:18). He still maintained the number one
leadership role under God. All the hard matter they were to bring
to him for settlement.
I have no trouble with that fact, because it is clear from
reading the OT that God, organizationally, did operate
DIFFERENTLY with different people at different times.
After Moses, the supreme human authority over Israel was
passed to Joshua. After Joshua there were a number of individual
leaders God used from time to time to guide and judge Israel. The
Lord even used a woman, one single person, to judge Israel -
Deborah. She lived in mount Ephraim and "the children of Israel
came to her for judgment"(Judges 4:4,5).
Samuel was the last of the judges to directly under God,
lead and rule and guide the nation and church of Israel.
Again, I just can not see any other way but to accept the
fact that from reading the story of Samuel, he was chosen by God
to be the ONE human authority over all other humans(including the
priesthood) in the state/church of Israel. He was directly
inspired and talked with God as did Moses.
Sure it was the people of Israel who humanly wanted a KING
to reign and rule them, and not God's desire, but the CHURCH
government side of the state/church of Israel still had its
Levites, priesthood, and HIGH priest who was "chief" over the
Yes, there were others who had the "spirit of the Lord" -
who worked in the state religion of God, did the Lord's work and
served the people, yet there still was a high, top of the line,
The example of ELIJAH and ELISHA is a classic. There was a
school of prophets, many were "with" Elijah, but to me it is
evident from just reading the story, Elijah was TOP GUN, with top
authority under God in doing the work of God. When the Lord
called it a day for Elijah, Elisha was chosen to take over number
ONE position in the work of God.
So, by and large, under the OC as God dealt with Israel and
Judah, especially in religious matters, there was most of the
time, a human structure of rule that was Roman Catholic in
nature(as shocking as that seems to some today). And this worked
for God towards His people for that time BECAUSE 1) He often
directly, verbally, and in some cases VISIBLY, inspired and
talked to the one head man over His work, i.e. Moses, Samuel,
Elijah. 2) God had judges that were filled with His
Spirit(Num.11). 3) God instituted the URIM and THUMMIM for often
judgments and decisions(see a Bible Dictionary).
I have no difficulty in accepting that God did work under
the OC with Israel on a human pyramid structure of rulership. I
believe that is QUITE EVIDENT from a reading of the OT.
BUT the question is: IS GOD WORKING ON A HUMAN PYRAMID -
ONE AUTHORITARIAN, ALL POWER, MAN - WITHIN HIS NT CHURCH?
The body of this study has addressed that question and
answered from the pages of the NT scriptures.
JESUS - THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY AND FOREVER?
In showing that the NT church of God was never to be
organized with any ONE single human being, having all power and
all authority over all ministers and members of the church,
further confusion in some minds has been thrown up by those who
find it difficult to accept the truth that God does CHANGE the
way He does things from time to time.
The confusion arises from people "shouting out" the verse in
Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ, the SAME yesterday, today, and
I will now spend some time and space to answer this.
Recently within the church of God, this verse has been one
of the most MISUSED and MISUNDERSTOOD verses of the NT.
In the context of Church Government, those who see that God
used a human pyramid with Israel under the OC, cling to Heb.13:8
and say God must then be using a human pyramid structure of
government for His NT church under the NC age. So they
must try to fit the NT scriptures into their idea and really do
some magic tricks with some pretty plain verses, that would blast
their notions out of the water.
Then on the other hand those who see the truth that the NT
scriptures teach no such doctrine for God's church as a Roman
Catholic structure of ministerial pyramid authority and "rank"
system, they, based upon Heb.13:8, must try to prove that God
NEVER EVER had a human pyramid system in ancient Israel under the
Both sides are missing the bulls eye and causing confusion
in people's minds. They are running with only one leg on TWO
1) They do not see or have forgotten, that God DOES CHANGE
things at times in His plan, as His plan unfolds from age to age.
He does make adjustments and amendments from time to time as
needed and as He sees necessary, according to His will.
2) They do not see what the MAIN TRUTH and PURPOSE is for
God does CHANGE and is not the same in certain things. Most
of you know it, so don't jump too hastily to say I'm
When did God institute circumcision? Was it with Enoch? Or
was it with Shem? Was it with Noah? NO! It was with ABRAHAM and
his seed! Before Abraham it was NOT THERE as a covenant for
God's people! With Abraham and Moses it was! No male could
become a full OC Israelite unless they were circumcised in the
flesh! No male could partake of the Passover unless circumcised!
So important had physical circumcision become to Israel
under the OC that some were teaching within the NT church that it
was still necessary to "be saved." The issue had to be brought to
a head in the Jerusalem conference of Acts 15.
The NT shows plainly that physical circumcision is NOW under
the NC of no religious concern (Rom.2:28,29; 1 Cor.7:19; Acts 15;
God has CHANGED circumcision(physical) from a MUST under the
OC to a NOTHING under the NC.
Whatever way you slice it, there has been a change in
physical circumcision from the OC age to the NC age, and all of
it was instituted and de-instituted BY God!
God has not always been the "same" in some respects.
The law of TITHES was a certain way to a certain TRIBE under
the OC. That was decreed and instituted by God. Now the NC makes
it very clear that there is a CHANGE, and that change is decreed
and instituted by God. See Hebrews the seventh chapter. Note the
very word 'change' is used in verse 12.
There was a certain type of priesthood involving a certain
tribe(Levi) under the OC. Now under the NC there is a NEW
high-priest from another tribe, with a new priesthood of His
own(see again Heb.7 and note verse 12).
All this was decreed and instituted by God - a CHANGE for
Him, not the same as before!
Remember the God of the OC was the one who became the Christ
of the NC(you may want to request the article that proves that
Under the OC physical animal sacrifices were instituted by
Christ - God. They were a MUST for all Israelites under the OC.
Now under the NC there is a CHANGE - animal sacrificing is NOT
DESIRED or required by God (see Heb. 10:1-18). There is NO
Levitical priesthood, and NO temple. Animal sacrifices CAN NOT be
offered to God, even if those two physical requirements were in
place the NC shows it is NOT required in this age.
God has CHANGED the way He does things, He is not always the
same in all operations of His plan.
Under the OC vows were permitted and wow to him who did not
follow through with them. Under the NC there are to be no vows or
swearing but a "no" or a "yes" for the Christian. There has been
a change - Jesus is not doing things exactly the "same" today as
Jesus said to the Pharisees that "divorce for any reason"
was permitted and allowed under Moses - the OC. But "from the
beginning it was not so." Jesus under the NC does not allow
divorce for every reason, the law is changed. Jesus is not
governing the NC Israel as He did OC Israel - things are not the
same with Him in certain respects.
The OC itself is CHANGED. Who instituted the OC? Why Christ
did, the God of the OT. The OC is changed to the NC, which is
based upon BETTER promises and is a BETTER covenant (see Heb.8).
The OC never automatically gave the "Spirit of God" or
"eternal life" to those under it. The NC gives BOTH! That is a
CHANGE, that is not the same, that is a change in the way God -
Christ, has acted and done things differently in different ages.
Under the OC God did not give them the HEART to obey
(Deut.5:29; 29:1-4) - under the NC all that has changed (see
Heb.8 again). The promise from God is not the same!
Now, do you see the truth of Heb.13:8? The words "the same"
must be understood in the light of the TOTALITY of the word of
God as to HOW Paul was using them. and the CONTEXT Paul was using
them in will also give us the correct understanding of what
is the "same" about Christ in the past, present, and future.
Let's look at the context of Hebrews 13.
Verse 7, Paul tells his readers to remember (look to,
esteem, take note of) those who rule(lead - mrg. reading) them.
He tells them to remember those ministers who have led them and
spoken the word of God to them. He tells them, "whose FAITH
Did he mean by those words - doctrine, certain technical
ideas of theology? I think not, for sometimes even God's true
ministers have incorrect doctrines at times(remember how we
observed Pentecost on a Sunday for 40 years or more before
finding we were wrong).
The context again shows us what Paul meant by the words
"whose faith follow." The next words and sentence make it clear,
"considering the outcome of their CONDUCT." They were to consider
their CHARACTER OF PRACTICAL DAY TO DAY LIVING.
Paul was not first of all concerned with small points of
doctrine, of course he knew that God's leaders they were to
remember, would have the correct BASIC doctrines of God right, or
he would have warned them about false leaders coming as wolves in
sheeps clothing. That was not his concern in verses 7 and 8. His
concern was they look to and follow the faithful servants of God
in their CONDUCT of character and living, which matured or
evidenced (outcome) in "Jesus Christ - the same yesterday, today,
The true leaders of God(whatever they may have had in small
errors of doctrine) speaking the true word of God, were trying to
set the right example of faithful living in holy character of
daily conduct AS JESUS CHRIST HAS ALWAYS DONE IN THE PAST, IN
THE PRESENT, AND WILL IN THE FUTURE FOREVER.
This is what Paul wanted them to see and follow in those
leaders - the HOLY RIGHTEOUS CHARACTER OF CONDUCT AND PURITY OF
LOVE, JUSTICE, PEACE, MERCY(all the fruits of the Spirit) that
was the sum total of Jesus Christ from past eternity to future
He started to talk about DOCTRINE in verse 9!
He was not talking about theological issues as the changing
from the OC to the NC and what was not the same with them, or
other "not the same" as before doctrines, in verses 7 and 8.
Verses 7,8 are concerned with HOLY RIGHTEOUS CHARACTER in
daily living not about doctrinal changes God may have made from
one age to another age (i.e. circumcision, baptism, covenants,
tithing, priesthood, vows etc.).
When Jesus was dealing with Adam and Eve, when He was
dealing with Enoch, when He was dealing with Noah and others
under THAT age, when the doctrine of circumcision, Levite
priesthood, rigorous animal sacrificial system and other OC laws
of Israel were NOT in effect, He - Jesus - was HOLY and PURE and
RIGHTEOUS and JUST in all His CONDUCT towards those He was
When Christ was dealing with Moses, the people of Israel and
all under the OC(with instituted laws of physical circumcision,
tithing to Levi, a priesthood, sacrificial system, vows, divorce,
and the like, that would change later), He was HOLY and PURE
and RIGHTEOUS and JUST in character towards those He was ruling
in THAT age.
When Jesus deals with those He is leading today under the NC
with its changes from the OC, He is still HOLY, JUST, PURE, and
RIGHTEOUS in CONDUCT and MIND as He has always been and will
always be for eternity.
Also with all this the PLAN and PURPOSE of God in creating
mankind has always been the same, yesterday, today, and forever.
That spiritual character of purpose will never change, it will
always be the same, as before the foundations of the earth were
laid when that plan and purpose was formulated.
When Christ deals with, leads and guides, all the physical
people during the 1,000 year reign(millennium) of the Kingdom of
God on earth, with WHATEVER changes the earth and NC will have
(the prophets say physical animal sacrifices will again be
offered in a temple in Jerusalem by a priesthood) during that
age, He will still be the SAME in Holy Righteous conduct.
On into the WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT age, the NEW heavens and
earth age, and out into eternity. Whatever God decides to do,
whatever His plans, whatever CHANGES, whatever will not be the
same, along the way, one thing will always remain the SAME - the
Holy Righteous conduct of Jesus Christ (and God the Father) will
FOREVER remain unchanged.
Under all situations, under any covenant agreement, under
all circumstances, with all people, God will be always JUST,
LOVE, MERCY, HOLY, PURE, RIGHTEOUS and whatever other word can
describe PERFECT SINLESS perfection of CONDUCT.
The Holy character and divine plan and purpose of God and
Christ is the same today, yesterday, and forever.
Ah, yes, He may change some doctrinal things from time to
time as He wills(after all He is God, not us humans, and can do
what He wishes, when He wishes, in the manner He wishes and with
whom He wishes - we are the clay He is the potter) but His holy
sinless conduct has and will always remain THE SAME!
Now that is the truth of the matter concerning Hebrews 13:8
as it is also with Malachi 3:6.
Truly as Jesus said "the scriptures can not be broken."
There is no contradiction in the word of the Lord, and so the
truth about NC church government does not contradict the truth
about OC church government, and the sum total of both does not
contradict Hebrews 13:8.
LOGIC, AND WHO TODAY COULD BE HEAD OF THE PHYSICAL CHURCH?
Stop and think - let's use some logic. If God has decreed
that His NC church for this age was to be humanly pyramid in
structure, then with all the various BRANCHES of the Church of
God that have "come out" of the one organization called the
"Worldwide Church of God," WHICH human man is chief of the
others, the one with all authority that the other ministers must
say "yes sir" to?
Is it Ted Armstrong or Ron Dart who is "directly under
Christ"? Is it David Hume from the UCG who is next in authority
under Christ? How about Rod Meredith from the GCG, maybe it is he
who is top dog? Then possibly it is none of the above, but
ministers like Fred Coulter of the CBCG, or John Ritenbaugh of
the COG, or John Pinkston of the CGSD? Maybe it is Gerald Flurry
Her's another problem, if it is one of these men, now that
the WCG has split into many organizations, how can this TOP man
exercise authority over the others in any practical way?
Further, if you believe Herbert Armstrong was God's TOP man
in God's NT pyramid structure of human ministers, believing God
has always had a human pyramid hierarchical structure in His NT
church(as the RC church teaches), THEN TELL ME, if you can, WHO
WAS TOP GUN in authority and power BEFORE HWA took over, and
further more, tell me WHEN and WHY did HWA take over from the one
And further still, WHO was the chief minister before that,
and before that, and so on down the historic line?
The Roman Catholic church can tell you as they see it, so
what about the Church of God and those that uphold the same type
of idea as the RC's.
Let's face it, the whole idea of human hierarchical
authority in the context of the NC Church of God is LAUGHABLE
when you recognize the true history of the true Church has been
SPLITS upon SPLITS.
The truth is HWA became leader of ONE part of the true
Church of God, there were other parts teaching the same basic
doctrines in other parts of the world, and yes keeping the
festivals of Lev.23. Such a branch was found by WCG ministers in
South America back in the 1960's.
That has been the norm for God's people since the days of
the last apostle of the first century A.D. - John.
There has never really been UNITY among God's people since
the end of the first century. And even during the apostle Paul's
time a pretty strong case can be built from NT verses that God's
people had trouble with unity even during the life time of
Christ's original apostles(i.e. 1 Cor.l-3).
The plain truth is, if the last 2,000 years says anything
about the true Church of God and unity, it will NOT BE A
REALIZATION until Jesus Christ returns to establish God's Kingdom
Those who cling to the teaching that God is still using the
same form of church government in the NT age as He used with
Israel in the OT age, must somehow try to find verses in the NT
that would seem to support their hypothesis.
The RC church has for centuries claimed that the apostle
PETER was "chief" and authoritarian head of all other elders and
apostles mentioned in the NT.
The body of this study has examined the scriptures they use
to expound the "supremacy of Peter" teaching and has found such
ideas to be totally without any truth in fact.
Now I must answer arguments that have been put forth by some
in one branch of the Church of God, that PAUL had dictatorial
authority over a church and/or churches as well as certain
1 CORINTHIANS 5:1-3 is often quoted to give credence to a
"Supremacy of Paul" idea.
One writer states: "Although he certainly must have had much
information and probably also counsel from other leaders of the
Church, the apostle Paul had authority to make the decision to
disfellowship this sinner. Obviously, he was not seeking
permission from any committee or 'church board' to carry out this
action" (What Is the Biblical Form of Church Government?
GCN-Global Church News, Vol.3, No.5, p.5).
Please turn to 1 Cor.5 and read verses 1-12. Can you find
anywhere in these verses where Paul said anything like: "As I
have authority over you all and your elders, I command you to
disfellowship this sinner." Or, "I am in authority and you MUST
DO as I say, so cast this sinner out from among your fellowship."
Or, "I have sole authority to judge and declare what the rest of
you shall do with this sinner."
No such dictatorial authority can be found in this passage!
If it was a common fact that Paul had some sort of '"supreme
- you must do as I say because I have authority over you and your
ministers" rank, and the Corinthians KNEW IT, then surely
somewhere in the two letters he wrote to them, he would have had
point to tell them. Just look at all the things he had to CORRECT
and INSTRUCT them on!
As I read those letters it comes across to me VERY CLEARLY,
that the Corinthian church, its members and elders, were NOT
standing in AWE of the apostle Paul as some "chief" authority
that they had to bow down before and lick the dust off his feet.
Paul had to correct them on following MEN and not the ONE
and only HEAD of the church - Christ (chap.l-3). Paul had planted
- raised up the church at Corinth, but it was Apollos who
WATERED, yet it was God who gave the increase(chap.2:5,6). Some
were following neither of these two men but were looking to PETER
Paul tells them that all of God's ministers are FELLOW
WORKERS - one is NOT ABOVE the others - God is in charge, not
men. They were to consider THEM (Peter, Apollos, Paul) as
SERVANTS of Christ, none were to be puffed up against another
(chap.3 to 4:7).
Paul tells them they were acting as if they had no need of
ANY minister to guide them(chap.4:8-13).
Here was Paul's opportunity to set them in line and tell
them it was HE - Paul, that had personal dictatorial authority
over them, but he did no such thing.
He goes on to use words not of dictatorial power but one who
was spiritually more MATURE than they, to WARN and INSTRUCT them
as to HOW they SHOULD be living and acting in the Spirit.
"I do not write these things to shame you, but as my BELOVED
CHILDREN I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand
instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in
Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I
URGE you, IMITATE me. For this reason I have sent Timothy who
will REMIND you of MY WAYS in Christ, as I TEACH everywhere and
in every church" (v.14-17).
Do you see how Paul conducted himself towards people? Not as
some "big cheese" authoritative "I am the boss around here" head
apostle with final power over all others. Not as someone saying
"I will make the decision and you all will obey" but he
presented himself as a servant of Christ, a fellow worker with
other elders of Christ, a spiritual mature father of others he
had brought to Christ through the gospel, someone who had to warn
yes, but who also URGED, PLEADED with and ENCOURAGED others
to IMITATE himself as he walked and imitated Christ (chap.11:1).
Yes, and in all of that there could be times when POWERFUL
correction may have to be used(see Paul's instruction in 2
Tim.4:1-4) as he explained to them in verses 18-21.
Now chapter 5. It had been reported to Paul that OPEN incest
was being practiced and the church was ignoring the situation -
allowing it. Paul had to CORRECT them, show them their ERROR, so
he did. He had to INSTRUCT them the WAY of Christ in regards
to HOW a church should act towards a person doing such blatant
sins and not repenting of it, while still being a member of the
church and everyone knowing what was being practiced by this
Paul told them he personally had to judge the case, just as
if he was there within the congregation, as each of them must do.
And his judgment was that such things CAN NOT be allowed to be
practiced within the church, as if no sin was being done, or as
if grace was to be extending towards the sinner by allowing him
to remain with them while practicing such a sin.
Notice clearly what Paul said: "In the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ, when YOU ARE GATHERED TOGETHER, along with my
spirit, with the power of out Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a
one to Satan"(v.4,5).
Read it again, get it CLEAR! The decision to disfellowship
the sinner out of the church into the unconverted world of Satan
was to be a COLLECTIVE church matter! "....when YOU ARE GATHERED
TOGETHER ALONG WITH my spirit..." Paul wanted them ALL to come to
the SAME judgment as he, a mature spiritual father to them had
come to. The judgment decision was to be passed by THEM
collectively, when they gathered together, and Paul would be
among them in spirit.
If Paul ONLY had authority to make the decision to
disfellowship this sinner, no such language would have been
needed from Paul to them, no GATHERING TOGETHER would have been
needed on their part. Paul would have merely told them he knew
what was going on, he had made a decision, he had authority over
them all including their elders, and they were to tell the sinner
that Paul had disfellowshipped him and that was all there was to
Paul would have said to them that they were to send him this
sinners address and he would write to him telling him that he was
disfellowshipped on the authority of Paul himself. Or he could
have told them that one of their elders was to tell this man that
Paul had made a decision to disfellowship him, and that it would
be announced from the pulpit to the whole congregation on the
He could have told them to tell the sinner "Just tell him
I've judged and he is disfellowshipped."
No such words are here recorded, no such words from Paul as:
"By the sole authority invested in me over you all, I now
disfellowship this sinner. You are commanded to do as I say."
No such words can be found from the mouth of Paul because HE
FOLLOWED CHRIST! And Christ had given the 1, 2, 3, of
disfellowshipping. The local church had FINAL judgement and
authority NOT ANY ONE SINGLE MAN(Mat.18).
That is why Paul said to the church at Corinth "when YOU are
GATHERED together along with my spirit."
Paul went on to say, "with the POWER of our LORD JESUS
CHRIST" not with his(Paul's) power or authority, as some
"highest" court judge, but with CHRIST'S authority. And Christ
had already given His authority on such sinful matters in the
church and how to handle them (Mat.l8).
Paul had previously INSTRUCTED them about the way of Christ
in regards un-repented open sins within the church and how THEY
were to JUDGE such matters inside the church (v.9-13). But in
this matter of a member practicing incest they were NOT judging
when they SHOULD HAVE BEEN! And Paul had to correct and instruct
and URGE them to do the right thing in this situation.
There is a VAST difference between CORRECTING, INSTRUCTING,
URGING, and PLEADING with someone to act upon the way of Christ,
and dictatorially stating you and you alone apart from other
humans or body of humans, have full authority to disfellowship
Of course this kind of individual power is very prevalent in
Paul did not come close to acting with any such demagogue
Notice how he corrects and instructs them about judging, and
courts of law in chapter 6.
Brother was taking brother to the courts of this world for
justice and trouble solving between themselves. Did Paul think
that the church at Corinth did NOT have the ABILITY and the
spiritually mature elders among them to JUDGE? No way! This was a
church full of "spiritual gifts" and prophets (chap.12 through
14). They had the "wise" among them, they had those who could
judge, but they were not using those gifts, and those men, as
they should have, so he had to "tongue in cheek" use SHAME to get
them to see their errors (chap.6:2-6).
He wanted THEM to judge the matters pertaining to the
church. He wanted them to judge the matters between brothers, not
the courts of the unconverted world. He wanted them to judge
matters of serious sins being practiced openly within the church.
He did not say anything about them just handling the minor
problems, little sins, while he, as chief authority would
personally judge the "hard" cases and serious sins, and have sole
authority to disfellowship.
Paul wanted them with their elders and the spiritual gifts
they had to JUDGE, and to govern their congregation in the way of
Christ. Paul was CORRECTING yes, Paul was INSTRUCTING yes, Paul
was WARNING yes, Paul was URGING and PLEADING, yes. He was
ENCOURAGING, yes, but it was they - as a collective body and unit
- elders, deacons, and saints, who were to judge and act and walk
the way of Christ Jesus in all things.
The church at Corinth was willing to listen to Paul, they
were willing to be corrected and taught. They did disfellowship
the sinner for his practice of incest.
When he writes his next letter to them he has heard that the
sinner is truly repentant, but the church is holding back its
forgiveness and comfort towards him. He then must INSTRUCT and
URGE them to now do what Christ would do.
See the beauty of this love expressed to the church and
repentant sinner in 2 Cor.2:1-11.
Please read it in the AMPLIFIED BIBLE TRANSLATION.
The sinner was censured for his sin not by Paul per se, but
"by the MAJORITY" (v.6). He tells them in verse 7 to FORGIVE, to
COMFORT, to encourage the repentant man lest he despair. Notice
verse 8 in the Amplified Bible. "I therefore BEG you to
reinstate him in your affection and assure him by your love for
him." The NKJV says, "Therefore I URGE you..." The same language
as in his first letter.
There is no "I command you by my authority" language.
Nothing here about Paul telling them he will allow him back into
fellowship so they must obey. Nothing about Paul writing to the
man and telling him that on his authority only he could come
No, the ultimate DOING was in their hands. Paul could GUIDE,
TEACH, INSTRUCT, CORRECT. He could URGE and BEG them to follow
the way of Christ, to follow him as he followed Christ. He could
PLEAD with them to LISTEN to him, but it was finally, when all
was said and done, UP TO THEM TO DO THE WAY OF CHRIST!
You will note in this also - in this re-instating of the now
repentant sinner - it was THEY who had to do it! Paul did not say
that he would do it. Paul FORGAVE because the sinner was
repentant. They forgave - Paul forgave.
The church at Corinth was not writing to Paul to acquire his
authority for getting this man reinstated. Paul had been told the
sinner had repented and he was INSTRUCTING the church what the
way of Christ would now be. He was URGING - BEGGING them to show
love, mercy, forgiveness, comfort and encouragement to this
man, and to allow him back into fellowship.
The chances are very likely that this man went through all
this - the 1, 2, 3, steps of Mat.18, the final judgment and
decision by the majority to disfellowship, the period of
repentance, the caring, encouragement, forgiveness, and
reinstating to full fellowship again, WITHOUT EVER HEARING THE
NAME OF PAUL!!
I have spent time on this issue because the plain truth of
the subject of excommunication from the church has been greatly
MISUNDERSTOOD, PERVERTED, and ABUSED by a number of denominations
of Christianity over the years, including sadly to say, some
branches of the Church of God.
It seems few really understand what the word of God
correctly teaches on this subject. This is one time when the
voting majority of the church must make the decision to
disfellowship, and not any single elder or group of elders.
I have written in great depth and detail the truth about
this subject in an article called "Disfellowshipping - What the
Bible Really Teaches."
I have to my pleasant surprise also discovered over the
years that some fundamental Protestant churches as well as the
Seventh Day Adventist church not only understand but practice the
truth of this doctrine in their structure of church governing.
When done correctly as Jesus taught and all the NT enjoins, it is
most loving, merciful, and rewarding for the whole church. It
brings the sinner, the elders, the deacons, and the saints
together in a humility that transcends human ideas. It brings the
church together as a FAMILY in a way that only trials, tests,
pain, sorrow, crying, humility, forgiveness, mercy, and love can
Not all the truths of the Lord are easy to accept or
enjoyable to enact (from the human emotional view) but the end
result is the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them who are
exercised thereby. As Jesus said, " You shall know the truth and
the truth shall make you free."
To be continued