Friday, March 28, 2014


What may very well be the most used passage in all of the New Testament by those who teach that pastors or elders have a "ruling" role in local church life is that well known, though not well understood, passage in Hebrews 13: 7,17, 24.

These verses say.....

"Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation." Hebrews 13:7

"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." Hebrews 13:17

"Salute (to draw to one's self) all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you." Hebrews 13:24.
There are several things that must be pointed out for these verses to be rightly understood.

For one thing, it would do us all well if we were to recognize that neither of the two words most frequently used in modern day church life are found here at all. Neither Pastor nor Elder are here. Period! One may say they are implied, but that's debatable. It is a fact that they are not found exegetically.

But just as significant is the fact that the word "over" is not here either. It has been added in translation in all the verses where the word "rule " is found, but "over" as a word is not to be found exegetically.

It also needs to be pointed out that 13:7  is written in the past tense and is incorrectly translated by the KJV as being in the present tense. In the KJV that verse is translated this way...

"Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation." Hebrews 13:7

But, it is better translated this way...

"Remember those who were your guides, whose faith you are to imitate, taking note of how they were faithful to the very end of their life."

This seems to me to be a verse that, rather than telling anyone to submit to Elders, is in fact reminding the Hebrew believers about all those mentioned in chapters 11 and 12 and is saying they should be remembered.

Add to that the fact that it does follow verse 6 which refers to not fearing man, which those people in chapters 22 and 12 did not do and gave their lives because it, you have further reason to think it's actually addressing people who have gone before.  It could possibly be including the Apostles themselves, but to make it mean "elders" is not an option textually.

But the real issue to me is simply the meaning of certain words which must be textually understood. I'm going to take some words in the order of appearance in the passage to address this.

Take the word "rule." In the Greek language it is the word "hegeomai."

Strong's Word Studies says this about it. "This word means, to lead, to go before, to be a leader, it does not carry the idea of "ruling over," but of giving leadership."

As you can see, Strong believed, and I agree with him, that is is speaking of leadership as nothing more than going ahead.

Then there is the ever puzzling word "obey."

In the Greek in this passage it is the word "peitho." This time we'll look at Vine's Expository Dictionary for the meaning.

Vine says, "Peitho" means to persuade, to win over, in the Passive and Middle voices it means to be persuaded to be listened to. [Acts 5:40, Passive Voice, "they agreed"] The obedience is not by submitting to authority, but results from being persuaded."

So Vine says  the word "obey" in this passage does not mean obedience because of authority at all. That would be an external cause for following but here it is an internal cause that beings about a reasoned decision one because of the persuasiveness of the leader and NOT the leaders authority.

Boy, is that different than you usually hear from teachers of this passage.

Now, the final word is of course, "submit." In the Greek [I'm beginning to think the original Greek was important!] it is the word "hypeikete."  It's interesting to note that this is the only place in scripture you will find this word. Most scholars agree that the word probably means yield here. It could mean to follow and, as a present imperative active verb, it could even mean submit, but in context it would have to be voluntary and not inherent authority.

There is a Greek word that means to "be subject to" and "obey." It is "peitharcheo" (peith-ar-KAY-o), one of the words built upon "arche" meaning "ruler." It is found three times in the New Testament, twice in Acts (5:29 and 27:21) and once in Titus (3:1). There, and in other writings out­side the New Testament, it describes obedience to someone who is in authority, civil or God. But that word is NOT used here.

So the best possible translation of the Greek language for these verses with this clarification would be....

"Remember those who had [past tense] been your guides, who led the way with the Word: whose faith imitate, considering the strong way they ended their life." [Heb. 13:7]

"Choose to yield to those who are out in front leading you because you are persuaded they  are likewise being faithful in their task, knowing they will be held accountable." [Heb. 13:17]

"Embrace all those who are your guides or leaders, as well as all the Saints. They of Italy embrace you as well." [Heb. 13:24]

So for myself, I just cannot see a concept of Lording it over or the idea of the members serving under the rule church leaders in this passage at all. In fact, I just don't see that there EVER IS that kind of thing in the New Testament.

There is simply NO TEXTUAL justification for an office of any kind in the New Testament local church with inherent authority vested in it where the congregation does what they're told.

This is NOT to say there are not ministries that can be called pastor or elder or even deacon in a local Church. But it is to say that New Testament local Church authority was totally different than any cultural concept of "being over."

Someone may ask, "But doesn't Acts 20:28 indicate that the elders were over the congregation?" There it is said of them..."Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over [en...which is better translated "among" rather than "over."] which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with His own blood."

This little word "en" translated "over" in the KJV is used 2,700 times in the New Testament and is nowhere else translated "over." It is a simple Greek preposition which means "in or among." In fact, Peter instructed the elders to be very careful that they don't "Lord it over" the flock. [See 1 Peter 5:3]

So what does local Church authority look like in the New Testament?

The scriptural model for Church life is one of gifted people__ anointed by the Spirit and recognized by the people__ functioning as a gift to the whole body__ who then serve by equipping ALL of the body to do the work of ministry__ as described in Ephesians 4:11-13.

This is far different than a few office-holders [Pastor or Deacon] doing the work of ministry and all the people doing what they are told by those in office. It moves from viewing the Church as an organization or institution to seeing Her as an Organism or a body__ properly called__ the Body of Christ.

I will attempt to explain this in the fourth and final part of this post topic next time.

Paul B.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Last time I mentioned that there are a couple of false concepts from my perspective that are held by many, especially leaders in local churches, that have fostered a propagating of the belief about church authority making it a " being over" thing rather than a true biblical pattern of "serving one another" thing.

One of those concepts is an unfortunate division between clergy and laity where the former does the work of ministry and the latter pays the salary of the former as a kind of professional minister. Though I would think there is nothing wrong with paying pastors if it isn't to buy them off as professionals who do ministry work. The other is the "office" idea for Pastor and Deacon having an authority inherent within the "office," which is simply not found in the text when correctly translated.

Neither of these concepts is the biblical viewpoint for authority in local Church life as I'm attempting to show in this now going on three part series of posts.

I'll take the second concept first.

For the first 25 years of my 50 years in pastoral ministry, I 
viewed being a "deaconas being one of several men [notice men with no reference to women] ordained to an office that was for the leading [notice leading instead of serving] of a local church. During that time I would use this phrase "office of deacon" without any hesitation at all. But with this post I will take that view first, to illustrate what I've come to believe was an unbiblical concept I held back then and unfortunately had accepted as scriptural without question.

I don't deny that there were in the New Testament some who were set aside to serve the saints in the first century church in more practical ways for the meeting of practical needs. Acts 6 certainly shows this, as well as some other passages. However, when New Testament writers used the Greek word "diakonia," [We use the English word "deacon."] to describe what was to be done within that early congregation, I'm thinking what they had in mind was what had been seen in Jesus who had "made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant..." [Philippians 2:7] 

They had observed Him washing the feet of His followers, feeding the multitudes, healing the sick, always being one who was ready to serve and, thus, He left us all an example that can only be explained with the Greek verb "diakonia," [deacon is the noun] which means "ministry or serving." But there was no hint in their minds of any "authority" being inherent in that word or even an office implied by it with due respect to the KJV.

In fact, the general sense of the word was and is "to assist" which indicates not just a work in general, but a work that benefits someone else. This would be true whether it was a ministry of waiting on tables or a ministry of the word. It was a serving ministry [Acts 6:2-4]

Paul used the word diakonos [one who serves] to describe himself as a servant of the Lord (1 Cor. 3:5), a servant of God (2 Cor. 6:4), a servant of the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:6), a servant of the gospel (Eph. 3:7; Col. 1:23) and a servant of the church (verse 25).  All those passages reflect a serving but has no inherent authority attached to it AT ALL.

Paul noted that many of his co-workers were also servants in this way: the woman Phoebe, although when the KJV sees the word "diakonos" linked to a woman it, for some strange reason,  translated it "helper." (Rom. 16:1) But when the men were in view such as  Tychicus, (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7) Timothy, (1 Tim. 4:6) and Epaphras,  they were all called "diakonos." [deacons] (Col. 1:7).  Jesus said that all of his followers SHOULD BE servants. [diakonos] (Matt. 20:26; 23:11; John 12:26) This is with absolutely NO gender specificity at all.

So, with ALL CHRISTIANS  doing the work of a deacon. [diakonos]  as deacons [diakonos] of Christ, deacons [diakonos] of his message and deacons [diakonos] of one another, one is hard-pressed to find "authority over" in that word.

Nor is there any hint of anyone holding an "office" called "deacon" which gives one authority over other Christians. You may very well ask,

"Then where did the idea of the "office of deacon" come from?"  [Or "office" for that matter?]

There are a couple of places where the KJV translates the word "diakonos" in a manner that goes well BEYOND the true meaning of the word and winds up adding concepts to the original text that were never intended. One is the verse in 1 Timothy 3:13 where it says... 

"For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." 

The words..."have used the office of a deacon" were all used to translate the ONE Greek word, "diakoneo", which is translated by A H Strong as: "To be a servant, attendant, domestic, to serve, wait upon." W.E. Vine adds this..."The R.V. rightly omits "office" and translates the verb diakoneo to mean simply "to serve." 

Notice that Vine admits that the word "office" is NOT FOUND in the verse. 

Throughout the entire NT the word "diakoneo" is NEVER used to imply or show an "office" and it certainly doesn't imply "rule." It is the service done by one who is a servant to another person.

The use of the words "have used the office of a deacon" I have to assume was an attempt by the KJV translators, to connect the verse to an office that was ALREADY in operation at the time of translation and to continue it by including a phrase in the text to support it. Thus, a hierarchical office is assumed by the KJV translators, but is done so with no textual reason at all.

 So, I'm guessing it was because of the cultural bias and desire of King James and the 70 scholars he enlisted to maintain what had ALREADY become a religious hierarchial system of the day. But ladies and gentlemen, that's called "eisegesis," which means reading something into the text not there, instead of "exegesis," which means extracting from the text what is actually being said. That's a big no-no as any student of scripture knows.

But it isn't just the incorrect inclusion of "office of deacon" in 1 Timothy 3:13 that helps lead us astray. Unfortunately, it is also found in the KJV rendering of 1 Timothy 3:1 where Paul said this about a "bishop" according to the KJV, "This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." 

But the problem is, the word "office" is not present in that verse either and the word "bishop" is really the Greek word, "episkopos" which means "to tend or to oversee." So the word "office" was incorrectly placed in the verse as well and the word "bishop" was used to translate "oversee,"  again, one has to assume it was because the translators already had bishops in King James's day and, it appears to me at least, that they wanted to maintain their hierarchy of offices.

 A proper translation of 1 Timothy 3:1 would simply be, "If a person sets their heart on overseeing, it is an honorable work they desire to do." There is no "office of Bishop" at all in the text. It is just a person desiring a ministry of overseeing to which the Apostle is referring. And God does give some people to serve in practical matters as well as a ministry of the Word.

The only other instance in the NT where "office" is found is Romans 12:4 where the KJV says..."For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same "office." But the KJV simply DOES NOT properly translate "office"  here at all. It is the Greek word "Praxis" which means a "doing or deed or function." It is the same word in Romans 8:13.."for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the DEEDS [praxis] of the body, you will live." So Paul is saying there are many members in the one Body, but all members "do not do or perform the same deeds."

The "office" of pastor/elder/bishop or deacon simply does not exist in the New Testament.

But the biggest proof-text for the idea of someone "ruling,"[being over others] in the Church and particularly with the Elders doing so, is found in Hebrews 13, verses 7,17,and 24. These verses say.....

"Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation." Hebrews 13:7 

"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.Hebrews 13:17

"Salute (to draw to one's self) all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you." Hebrews 13:24

That nails it doesn't it! Pastors are to rule over the people, are they not!.

Does it? I think not. But I will save my argument for what is really meant for the third and final part in this series next time.

Paul B.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


I will briefly be addressing, albeit in a two-part post, what is one of the more talked about Church issues of our modern times. Yet it may be the single issue that is most burdened with incorrect translations of the text of the scriptures themselves. [For reasons we will see.] The subject is, "Authority in the Church."

I say briefly because this is neither a theological study on the subject of authority nor an exhaustive exegesis of the many bible texts that do refer to it. It is simply a blog post, with all it's limitations,  that I trust will add a little bit of clarity on how we got to where we are today and what the bible really does say about Church authority when it does speak about it. So this post is intended to be a little bit of a guide to any person wishing for more insight into a local congregation and it's relationship to authority in light of the text of scripture instead of tradition and history alone.

First, I want to address a major PROBLEM WE FACE....

The Greek word for "authority" is "exousia." It comes from a verb that means (1) to do something without hinderance or (2) the right to do something or the right to be over something. The power of authority [influence] and of right. [privilege] 

This word exousia is used 103 times in the New Testament but only used one time regarding believers with other believers and that is in reference to marriage where it is said that each marital partner is to have "authority" [exousia] over the other partner's body in sexual matters. [1 Corinthians 7:4]  You can see that it is a mutually shared right as described by this verse. 

I repeat, this is the ONLY time the word "
authority" [exousia] is used in the entirety of the New Testament when dealing with the relationships of believer to believer and it is with regards to Christian marriage relationships only and BOTH have it. [So much for the man having final say in all matters.]

Someone will ask, "But what about the passages that refer to the husband being the "head over the wife?"  Great question! That word "headKephale in Greek, in Ephesians 5 and Corinthians 11, was NOT a Greek word for "authority" generally speaking at all. In the passages mentioned, the word "Kephale"  [pronounced kef-a-lay] which in common [koine] Greek had an entirely different connotation to it [source or beginnings] and which will have to be a separate study altogether. [Maybe even a part-three to this post.] 

But, regardless, there is only one "Head" [Source/beginnings OR authority] over the Church and that "Head" isn't an elder, pastor, deacon or member.  It is Christ alone. Suffice it to say that Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 11, and chapter 14 in 1 Corinthians as well, are referencing something entirely different than "exousia" or "authority," which was, as you would imagine, frequently used in reference to Christ.

Some of those 103 times when "exousia" was used are times when it is spoken about Christ and are when He is seen...

Executing judgment__John 5:27, having authority over His own life and resurrection__John 10:18, having authority over all to give eternal life__John 17:2, to forgive sins__Mark 1:22, 9:6, Luke 5:24, to heal__Matthew 9:8, to cast out demons__Mark 1:27.

He is said to have ALL authority and because of that He is head over ALL other authorities__[
Matthew 28:18, Colossians 2:10]

I read a study where it was legitimately pointed out that this word was also used of believers when referring to...

Becoming sons of God__John 1:12, casting out demons__Matthew 10:1, to one day have authority over cities at His return__Luke 19:17, and even to access the tree of Life__Revelation 22:14. [Never believer over believer.]

Then it was used of people in general when referring to...

Property__Acts 5:4, the right to eat food offered to idols__1 Corinthians 8:9-11 [translated "liberty"] and several other places for various things.

But what is missing is ANYPLACE in the text of scripture where it is used
concerning believer over believer in the context of the Body of Christ called the Church of the New Testament.

Nor is it ever used with any "office" of pastor or deacon since no office of that nature existed in the early Church, as we shall see further along in this post. 

The Body of Christ [the Church] does have "authority," but it is derived from our Lord's action on her behalf. There is an authority of the Word of God as well. But, as mentioned, He has given all of us who make up the Church "derived authority." It's interesting to note that this authority it is translated "freedom" in 1 Corinthians 8:9 and that authority or freedom is to be used explicitely for the welfare and freedom of others and not for any rule over them  and it is NEVER because of ANY authority residing in anyone's position in the Church.

It is true that historically writers have presented the concept of "authority" in the Church emphasizing the idea of being "over others," but that is a cultural concept and is not a biblical mandate at all. Jesus made that crystal clear, it seems to me, with His rather stark statement in Mark 10:42-45 where He says that, while the Gentiles do exercise rule "over others," [there it is] it is NOT to be that way among believers.

There are two false concepts held by many in the local church historically that have fostered a propagating of the concept of church authority as" being over" rather than a true biblical pattern.

One is an unfortunate division between clergy and laity where the former does the work of ministry and the latter pays the salary of the former as a kind of professional minister. I'm not saying to pay someone on staff is wrong. But what I am saying is that the division between clergy and laity is not biblical as all believers are called to be ministers and there are no elevated positions. 

The other is the "office" idea for Pastor and Deacon with an authority inherent within the "office," which is simply not found in the text when correctly translated.

Neither of these concepts is the biblical viewpoint for authority in local Church life as our study to follow will reveal.

Both of these concepts will be dealt with next time in the second part of this post.

Paul B.

Monday, March 10, 2014


Who of us would argue that sin in the life of a person is a fact! Christian or not! 

If it isn't adultery or drunkenness [or worse], it’s theft or embezzlement. Then, of course, for those who say they aren't guilty of things of that nature, there is always the possibility of either lying about not being guilty or pride that they're not. 

But have you ever noticed that in scripture we find a couple of different ways of behaving when dealing with people who’s sin is observable? One is what I call the “Jesus method.” There is a reason I’ve named this particular method after Him. He chose to exercise it. It was, of course, the option of love. He was driven by this thing called love. 

I read someone who said it this way,  “Love is what made Him different. He walked in and out of sinner's lives with nothing but actions that expressed love. He was honest with them, but it was always ‘with them.’  He was ‘with’ the harlot. He was ‘with’ the thieving tax-collector. He was ‘with’ the drunkard and wine-bibbers. 
Somehow Jesus didn't seem to register on the scale of judgment in their eyes.”

I'm thinking He likely didn't even refer to  them as "sinners." Don't forget it was the religious elite who called Him a "Friend of sinners." They loved that designation of the kind of people with whom Jesus spent time. My thought is He just referred to them as "My friends." 

That's not to say that they, if unrepentant, would not eventually face judgment. They would of course!  But He registered as an earthquake on the scale of love knowing that what He was going to accomplish on the Cross would REALLY speak to the issue of judgment on their sin, so He, knowing the purpose of the Cross, was able to show His love was real by being "with" them even though He wasn't "of" them.

There is a second way of behaving when dealing with people guilty of sins like this which I call the, “judgment method.”  The Pharisees chose to exercise this one. It made them quite different than was Jesus. They lived out this second way of behaving that was driven by fear. 

The same person mentioned before said this as well, “They [speaking of the Pharisees] were fearful of contamination. To the leper they said, ‘Here's a bell, ring it as you approach so we will know of your disease.’  To the woman with a continuous flowing period they said, ‘You have to live outside the city because you're contaminated.’ To the harlot they said, ‘I've got my stone to throw at you because you deserve death for your immorality.’  They weren't ‘with’ them at all. They feared them. Not being ‘of’ them did not suffice. They refused to be ‘with’ them as well.” 

There you have it! Two different ways of behaving. Love or fear. 

This verse illustrates the method chosen by Jesus. "Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything."  [I Peter 4:8 The Message]

The end result of His way was the Cross, of course, and that is now the message we bring to all who are guilty. We have experienced that same Cross, so we can now, empowered by the Holy Spirit, choose the same method Jesus chose when He was in the presence of those who sin.

As already mentioned Jesus was known as being "The friend of sinners." Guilt laden people felt at ease with Him back then and should be at ease around us as well. He knew He would be taking their judgment to the Cross and He knew that one day He would stand in judgment over Cross-rejectors as well. But until then He sits at the mercy seat and I'm thinking we would do well to be found there as well.    

May "being like Jesus " be more than words to us all.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


"Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature [creation]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians, 5:17.

I read someone who said, "Just like a lost person’s 'good' actions cannot change their sin nature before conversion, neither can a born-again believer’s 'sinful actions' change their righteous nature after conversion."

While many Christians have accepted one side of this truth, the flip side is not seen for what it is really worth. The believer's new nature doesn’t become corrupted every time they sin any more than their fallen nature became righteous every time they do something supposedly holy before they were born again.

Well then, what DOES happen when Christians sin? The answer to that is they play havoc with their ability to enjoy the relationship they have with their redeemer and they will “hide,” much as Adam did in the garden, as they become fearful, experience a loss of rest, and, because they are truly a believer in nature and not name only, they will certainly grieve over what they’ve done, as the Holy Spirit does His gracious work in them.

But “agreeing with God about it all," [confession] restores, not their nature, but their peace, rest, and enjoyment of a REAL relationship that they’ve always had with God since they were born again. He doesn't change and neither does the nature of a true believer.

Since the new birth, as Spurgeon says,

“The believer is a creation nearer to the heart of God than the first creation was. For when He made the world He simply said it was good. But when He makes the new creation, [a believer] it is written,  “He shall rest in his love; He shall rejoice over you with singing.” So gladdening to His heart is the sight of the new creature which His Grace has made, that He sings a joyful hymn over them!”

Our confession of sin doesn’t do anything with God [since He settled His problem with sin at the Cross] except please Him since we are "faithing" [believing] what He’s done to be true. It’s our faith that pleases Him and our confession gets US right in this whole business of relationships and restores our enjoyment of Him.