There is a lot of debate, and concern when it comes to biblical authority, headship, and leadership. The three terms are of course not synonymous, but coming from a very legalistic background like I am, these terms were morphed into one synonym; Pastor.
Modern Christianity that bends towards authoritarian leadership style focuses heavily on finding Scripture that teaches, ‘I am in charge’, often teaching ‘submission to man’ as if it was the greatest commandment, that ‘oversight’ means spiritual fatherhood and headship. Does it?
“But I want you to understand that Christ is the head (authority over) of every man, and man is the head of woman, and God is the head of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:3, AMP
There are a couple very interesting notes to take when reading 1 Corinthians 11:3.
1) The only headship (ruling authority) listed in Scripture is Christ over every man (including the church body), and the man is the head of his wife.
2) 1 Corinthians 11:1 begins with Paul stating, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ“. As we approach the Word that declares Christ as man’s authority and man as woman’s authority, Paul made it very clear he was not demanding obedience or headship.
3) 1 Corinthians 11:3 starts with a pivotal phrase, ‘But I want you to understand…” which is important, considering v2. “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.”
Paul reminds us to imitate him, keep the ordinances he gave us, but provided a reminder that he was not a ruler of God’s flock. He was an example, not a dictator. He gave ordinances, not demands.
Well, what are these ordinances?
The word used here for ordinances was translated also as traditions in other Bibles and comes from the Greek word par-ad’-os-is.
From G3860; transmission, that is, (concretely) a precept; specifically the Jewish traditionary law: – ordinance, tradition.
Wait just a second! Is Paul here telling us to obey the Law?? God forbid. In Acts 15, what I have called the Council on Legalism, the early church fathers sent Paul to teach the only parts of the law that was to remain and to combat those who would attempt to cause the Gentiles to keep the law.
Act 15:19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
Act 15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
Act 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
Act 15:29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
So no, most definitely Paul was not teaching the Law and he certainly was not taking authoritarian control of God’s people. If God intended his disciples and Apostles, and later Pastors as we know them today to take authoritarian control of the flock, then many Scriptures must be erased.
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. – 1 Peter 5:3, KJV
Controlling pastors love 1 Peter 5:2 which says, ‘Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight…’, using the word oversight as authority. Yet, oversight means nothing of the sort. Here is the Greek definition of oversight.
From G1909 and G4648; to oversee; by implication to beware: – look diligently, take the oversight.
Also, as found in our article The Fallacy of Spiritual Fatherhood/Delegated Authority, Jesus condemned the leadership mentality of control and authority in his disciples.
But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. – Matthew 23:8-10 KJV
And feeding the flock certainly is not authoring their lives! Feeding is just that, feeding! Cooking dinner and putting it on the plate, and in this case, that is preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the early church, they even literally fed people! This is why the office of the Deacon was created so that the Apostles could minister the Word.
Why is this important?
First and foremost, it is our responsibility (you and I) to rightly divide God’s Word and to hide that in our hearts. But, this article is focused on the reality that there are men, wolves in sheep’s clothing, who know if they can make you believe that they are Christ’s authority, like the Pope, then they will be secure in their authoritarian positions.
If we truly believed that the Pastor has equal authority as the Word, then truly they have the Author’s pen and permission to write, but that would be adding to the Gospel and that was expressly forbidden!
Without us properly discovering the meaning of God’s Word, their mission is made easy. And this isn’t to attach pastors, and their place, if they keep their proper place. But men who use the pulpit to bully, to control, to gain, are not pastors.
Jesus gave Peter and the original Apostles the commandment in Matthew 23 by voice not to become lords, masters, spiritual fathers (authorities) over God’s flock. Jesus later gave Paul that same teaching by revelation, as Paul never saw Jesus face to face.
The shepherds, now known as Pastors, were not to rule over God’s people, and most certainly not, as Jesus declared in Mark 7:7, to create their own commandments (traditions, ordinances) and call them doctrines, meaning that they would be equal to Scripture.
Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Romans 14:22 is a Scripture I love, and not because I want to mash into it an ‘anything goes, nothing is sin’ mentality, but because it correctly states that the convictions we are supposed to be authored by and kept between our Lord and Savior, and ourselves. Why? Because Christ is the head of every man!
The faith which you have [that gives you freedom of choice], have as your own conviction before God [just keep it between yourself and God, seeking His will]. Happy is he who has no reason to condemn himself for what he approves.