Should We "Blindly" Obey Ministers?
Should we "OBEY THEM that have the rule over" us (Heb. 13:17), or "OBEY GOD rather than men" (Acts 5:29)? Do ministers have a right to "BIND and LOOSE" (Matt. 16:19; 18:18; John 20:23) or don't they (Matt. 23:8)? We see many churches organized in a hierarchical, pyramid structure, telling their congregations to OBEY the minister. What kind of authority do ministers possess? Are they really our MASTERS? Our Lord said, "Neither be ye called MASTERS: for one is your MASTER, even Christ" (Matt. 23:10), "and all ye are brethren" (Matt. 23:8). "No man can serve two masters" (Matt. 6:24).
Korah's Gainsaying: "Thou Make Thyself Altogether A Prince Over Us"
Numbers 16:2-4 states, "And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves ABOVE the congregation of the Lord? And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face." Then in verse 10 Moses reveals that these men sought the priesthood, an office which God hadn't given them. Then some of these men, in verses 13 and 14 said to Moses: "Is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except THOU MAKE THYSELF ALTOGETHER A PRINCE OVER US? Moreover thou hast not brought us into a land that floweth with milk and honey, or given us inheritance of fields and vineyards: wilt thou put out the eyes of these men? we will not come up." Then in verses 31 through 35, God destroys these men.
Are We Disobeying God When We Disobey a Minister?
When the Israelites refused to hearken to God’s servant Samuel, God said, "they have not (only) rejected thee, but they have (also) rejected ME, that I should not reign over them” (I Sam. 8:7). Do we reject God himself when we reject a minister's teaching? Is disrespecting a minister tantamount to disrespecting God Himself? That is the argument some ministers use to justify their ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY. To fully understand this account, we need to read it thoroughly. The Israelites wanted a HUMAN KING (1 Sam. 8:19) rather than GOD speaking through his servant. This would be equivalent to wanting to follow a HUMAN RULER rather than allowing the BIBLE to be preached in churches today. Samuel was a faithful minister of God, teaching God's commandments. Therefore, it is really the BIBLE that the people rejected in favor of a HUMAN RULER in the "church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38). Jesus Christ is the living head of the true church (Col. 1:18) -- not any MAN. Christians are able to talk to him DIRECTLY in prayer and listen to him DIRECTLY through Scripture. Any interference in that relationship is IDOLATRY. But the people in Samuel's day rejected that DIRECT relationship and wanted to put a HUMAN KING in between God and them. Samuel warned them that the HUMAN KING would take their money, their land, and their sons and daughters -- just as many HUMAN church LEADERS today try to put themselves between us and our Bibles; and also take our money. This Scripture teaches us just the OPPOSITE of what an AUTOCRAT would have us believe.
"We Ought to Obey God Rather Than Men" (Acts 5:29)
Both the Old and New Testaments teach the PYRAMIDAL form of government (Ex. 18:21-22; Eph. 2:19-22). But notice that God and Christ our Lord are at the TOP -- not men. Leaders were APPOINTED by those over them (Acts 6:3; Titus 1:5), rather than VOTING. Once "they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:24–26). Deliberate selection and prayer played their parts in this APPOINTMENT as well as the lot. The lot was a sacred institution in ancient Israel and was a well established means for ascertaining the DIVINE WILL (cf. Pr. 16:33), being in fact the principle of decision by Urim and Thummim. This is the first and last occasion of the employment of the lot during the period between the ascension and Pentecost; Jesus had gone, and the Holy Spirit had not yet come.”
Paul said, "Let the elders that RULE well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine" (1 Tim. 5:17). Also "one that RULETH well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity, for if a man know not how to RULE his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God?" (1 Tim. 3:4). And "he that RULETH, (should do so) with diligence" (Rom. 12:8). Paul advises "that ye SUBMIT yourselves unto such" (1 Cor. 16:15-16) and again "OBEY them that have the rule over you, and SUBMIT yourselves" (Heb. 13:17). A minister has authority. Notice, "shall I come unto you with a ROD, or in love"? (1 Cor. 4:21) And "put away (DISFELLOWSHIP) from among yourselves that wicked person" (1 Cor. 5:13). "I write this ... that when I come I may not have to BE SEVERE in my use of the AUTHORITY which the Lord has given me" (2 Cor. 13:10; cp. 2 Cor. 8:10). An apostle is "one sent forth" with Christ's gospel message, including the supervision of proclaiming that message to the world by means and persons other than himself. Also an apostle was given supervision over all the local congregations or churches (1 Cor. 16:1). The apostle Paul had oversight over the churches of the Gentile world (2 Cor. 11:28). In Acts 15:7 there was first much "DISPUTING" (or discussion) and then Peter stood up and pointed to the will of God in the matter. Then James, pastor of the HQ church, made the decision official and BINDING on earth, as Peter had made plain it was in HEAVEN. God "hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers" (1 Cor. 12:28). Or, as stated in more detail in Ephesians 4:11 (RSV): "And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers."
Obey "in the Lord"
"Children, obey your parents IN THE LORD: for this is right" (Eph. 6:1). "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit IN THE LORD" (Col. 3:18). "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you IN THE LORD, and admonish you" (1 Th. 5:12). What does "in the Lord" mean? It means as long as they teach what the Bible says. If they deviate from Scripture, we should "obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29) when the two disagree. Notice yet another place: Paul urged two Christian men to "be of the same mind IN THE LORD" (Phil. 4:2).
What Is Moses' Seat?
Moses was a judge (Ex. 18:13-16). In Exodus 18:16 we find that Moses merely made "them know the statutes of God, and his laws." Bibles today serve the same purpose. After he died, Joshua and other judges successively took Moses' place. They sat in Moses' seat, so to speak. It was governmental authority. Turn to Deuteronomy 17:8-12 for a definition of Moses' seat.
What Do Peter's KEYS Represent?
Christ stated, "I will give unto thee (Peter) the KEYS of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 16:19). What do these KEYS represent? In Luke 11:52, Christ interprets what the KEYS of the kingdom of heaven are. He says, "Woe unto you, lawyers! For ye have taken away the KEY of KNOWLEDGE; ye entered not in (to the kingdom of heaven) yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered." The KEYS given to Peter were KEYS of KNOWLEDGE. The KEYS which open the doors into the Kingdom of Heaven are nothing more than an UNDERSTANDING of what God requires of Christians. A knowledge of the true doctrines like the Sabbath, Holy Days, and Tithing. Christ gave Peter KNOWLEDGE, but also warned him not to bind (require) or loose (not require) what was not already bound or loosed in heaven. Otherwise Peter would be taking "away the KEY of KNOWLEDGE" like the lawyers and binding "heavy burdens" like the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23:4).
"Binding and Loosing"
The New American Standard Bible does a good job translating Matthew 16:19 and 18:18. “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth SHALL HAVE BEEN bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth SHALL HAVE BEEN loosed in heaven" (NASB, Matt. 18:18). The Greek text in the phrase that most versions translate as, “will be bound in heaven” does not have a simple future tense, as “will be” implies, and the verb “bind” is passive in the Greek text, so “shall have been bound” or “must have been bound” are good translations of the Greek. [The “to be” verb in Matthew 18:18 is a future passive periphrastic perfect indicative. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1930), p. 149.].
Is Peter A Title Of Rank?
Yet some people would have you believe that Peter was given absolute authority over the church in matters of doctrine.
In Matthew 16:18, Christ stated, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter (Greek "STONE". Petros has a masculine ending.), and upon this ROCK (Greek "massive rock". Petra has a feminine ending.) I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Revelation 2:6,15 says, "But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.... So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate." What were the deeds and doctrine of the Nikolaitans? The Greek actually means Niko (conquer) Laos or laity (the people). Nikolaitans were rulers over the laity, forcing everyone to submit to the arbitrary dominion of men, rather than each following his Bible. But Christians are warned against "being lords over God's heritage" (1 Pet. 5:3). Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18) -- not men. "One of the most common forms of modern IDOLATRY is the making of an idol out of one’s church. If you BLINDLY OBEY the dictates of your family, your church or society instead of the direct commands of God, you are guilty of IDOLATRY. That group or institution becomes an IDOL to you in place of the true God!...You must study God’s Word -- willingly be corrected by it -- and TREMBLE before its authority over your very life!" (Meredith RC. Second Commandment. Plain Truth, March 1960, p. 27).
Church Government -- the "Image of the Beast" -- Originated in Babylon
The religion of ancient Babylon had a purpose. That purpose was "to bind all mankind into BLIND and absolute SUBMISSION to a HIERARCHY" (p.7, Hislop's Two Babylons). Long after ancient Babylon had been conquered, we read about another "Mystery Babylon" portrayed as a woman (Rev. 17:4-5). We know that a woman represents a CHURCH (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:22-27). But she is a HARLOT -- an immoral woman -- ruling over many nations (Rev.17:1,15). She sits on, or controls, the Roman Empire. (17:3). She is "that great city, which REIGNETH over the kings of the earth" (17:18) -- Rome. She makes the world "drunk" (17:2). How? By "OBEYING your confessor you obey God" (p.554, The Spouse of Christ). When a person enters the Catholic Church, "he has no further use for his REASON. He enters the Church, an edifice illuminated by the superior light of revelation and faith. He can LEAVE REASON like a lantern, at the door." (p.76, Explanation of Catholic Morals). "Finally, far from claiming, like Protestants, that everyone has the RIGHT to determine the meaning of Scripture, far from declaring every man the JUDGE and ARBITER of his belief, we say that it belongs to the Church, assisted by the Holy Spirit ... to determine the meaning of the sacred text" (pp. 354-355, Catholic Apologetics).
Ancient Babylon took the sacred vessels used in God's temple to worship Him, and poured wine in them to toast and worship FALSE GODS, which resulted in DRUNK IDOL-WORSHIPPERS (Dan. 5:1-5). In the same way, the "image of the beast" (Rev. 13:15) -- the Roman Catholic Church -- took the Holy Scriptures and used them to justify IDOLATRY which resulted in deceived "Christianity". Roman Emperor Constantine summoned the Nicene Council, which decided against Arius' anti-trinitarian doctrine, and enforced trinitarianism and Sunday-keeping. It was Constantine who introduced into the (false) church the idea of a committee or HIERARCHY to decide doctrine. Constantine made his decisions on doctrine, as decided by church rulers on a board, the basis of FELLOWSHIP and UNITY in the Church. The first real Popish ruler was Leo I (440-461 A.D.), for whom "the plan of GOVERNMENT of the Roman Empire was an obsession. He applied and adapted that form of GOVERNMENT to the church, forming the Papacy," (Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, vol. 7, p. 529). Myers' Ancient History says that the Church, under Leo I, set up "within the Roman Empire, an ecclesiastical state [government] which, in its constitution and its administrative system, was shaping itself upon the imperial model." The Pope was WORSHIPPED and BLINDLY OBEYED just like the Emperor of Rome had been.
The true church began at Mt. Sinai -- called "the church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38). Christ was her GOVERNMENT HEAD and leader (1 Cor. 10; Heb. 13:8; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16; John 5:37). But Israel wanted a HUMAN KING -- "Give us a king to judge us" (1 Sam. 8:6). Although Christ had married Israel, she rejected Him as King, and was divorced (Jer. 3:8). The punishment for disobedience was "they that HATE you shall REIGN OVER you" (Lev. 26:14-28). Christ had warned them, the "gentiles exercise LORDSHIP over them ... it shall not be so among you" (Mark 10:42). Christ did not establish this kind of church government. When asked, "Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6), Christ did not establish it. Therefore, instead of Christ as King, with an apostle UNDER AUTHORITY sent to HEAL and PREACH TRUTH, the church has suffered under FALSE APOSTLES and LIARS (2 Cor. 11:13; Rev. 2:2) who TAKE AUTHORITY NOT THEIRS and don't heal. From 1953, when articles on "Church Government" began to appear in the Good News, till HWA's death in 1986, we see OPPRESSIVE CHURCH GOVERNMENT being imposed on unsuspecting Christians.
Come out of "Blind-Obedience Idolatry" Babylon (Rev. 18:4) -- Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God
There are no human mediators between God and men. God gives his orders directly to each individual via the Bible. Ministers should try to assist that process -- as their very name suggests -- rather than "being lords over God's heritage" (1 Pet. 5:3). No minister has "dominion over your faith" (2 Cor. 1:24). That would be idolatry. You aren't "another man's servant" (Rom. 14:4) or it would be "blind obedience." "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man (any human), in whom there is no help" (Ps. 146:3) "His ye are whom ye obey" (Rom. 6:16). "Let God be true, but every man a liar" (Rom. 3:4). “Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his ARM, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:5) "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). "In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men" (Mark 7:7). "Paul an apostle -- not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father" (Gal. 1:1). "For you gladly bear with fools ... For you bear it if a man orders you around (TEV), puts on airs (NIV) (of superiority), spends your money (Phi), or makes slaves of you" (2 Cor. 11:19-20). "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me" (Hos. 4:6). "He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the WORD that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day" (not what men have said) (John 12:48). It makes a ship-wreck of Christian lives when they forfeit their will and thinking ability to a hierarchy of idolaters. "Come out of her, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins" (Rev. 18:4).
Who Is the "WATCHDOG" Responsible for Warning Both the Innocent and Guilty?
Members have been told: "In God's Kingdom and His Church, government is from the top down. It is not -- at any time -- a matter of the PEOPLE who are to be ruled DECIDING WHO IS QUALIFIED to rule over them and HOW their rulers shall rule over them! ... That is His (Christ's) job -- not the job of the lay-members. Their job is to find where God's true Church really is ... and to humbly and sincerely SUBMIT THEMSELVES to follow, learn from and be corrected by God's ministers ... We are not all eyes, or ears, or noses, or mouths! Neither are we all HEADS! ... (Are we blind, deaf and dumb then? -- comment mine) God's people must quickly and gladly YIELD THEMSELVES to the decisions Christ reveals through His Headquarters Work! ... Naturally, each individual member of the Church CANNOT BE FREE to come up with his or her INDIVIDUAL 'idea' on every phase and facet of Christian living (no free moral agency? -- comment mine) ... we could never have the 'UNITY of the spirit' or be of the 'ONE MIND' which Christ intends unless we allow Him to direct us ... through his Headquarters Church today! ... When an article in this magazine ... comes your way, realize that it is the Living Christ speaking to you through His Headquarters on earth ... in Pasadena.... Learn to be OBEDIENT and RESPONSIVE -- quickly and gladly -- to His Government in His Church so that you may be there in His Kingdom to come!" (How Church Government Really WORKS by Roderick Meredith, March 1964 Good News). This is unquestioning, blind obedience idolatry!
Members have been told that "God backs him up, even if he is wrong" and to "just TRUST God to lead His Church" or "It's NOT YOUR JOB to second-guess the ministry" or "If he is doing wrong, it is up to God who will remove him. Just pay and pray." Are Christians supposed to HELPLESSLY DO NOTHING in the face of continual ABUSE and blatant PERSECUTION, SLANDER and INIQUITY? First of all, each member of the church is a "STEWARD" of his own tithes and offerings. He is RESPONSIBLE to make sure it is given to a legitimate Bible-teaching ministry. Don't strengthen the hands of evildoers (Jer. 23:14). If a man has repeatedly shown that he is a FALSE PROPHET by prophecies that have not come to pass (Deut. 18:20-21), don't support him. (1975 in Prophecy, "Mussolini Will Fight Christ", "NO American astronaut will return from the Moon ALIVE!", "Britain will be conquered by Nazis", Etc.) HWA's prophecies have FAILED. If a man has repeatedly taught FALSE DOCTRINE, don't support him (Monday Pentecost, Fraud-only Divorce & Remarriage, Church Government Idolatry, Calculated Calendar). One student mentioned that the WCG follows calculated rather than visual calendar when visual came first. Following the molad rather than the crescent can make the festivals fall one day too early. If we use the visual sunset to determine when a day begins, why not a visual crescent to determine when the month begins and a visual equinox to determine the new year? Postponement rules also cause the holy days to be inaccurate. Furthermore, if an organization is IMMORAL, don't support it (Garner Ted Armstrong's ADULTERY with over 200 female A.C. students, prostitutes, babysitters, etc. Herbert Armstrong himself committed INCEST with his daughter Dorothy for ten years. An elder must be "blameless" -- Titus 1:6). Isaiah 58:1 says, "show my people their transgression" and Ezekiel 33 says, "blow the trumpet" or their blood will be on your head and Proverbs 26:5 says, "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes." Leviticus 19:17 says, "Rebuke thy neighbor, lest you bear sin for him" and Matthew 18:15 says, "Tell him his fault." If none of that works, then "flee Babylon" (Rev. 18:4) and take your money with you. Each Christian member is a "WATCHDOG."
"With Force and With Cruelty Have Ye Ruled Them"
"Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye KILL them that are fed: but ye FEED NOT the flock. The diseased have ye NOT STRENGTHENED, neither have ye HEALED that which was sick, neither have ye BOUND UP that which was broken, neither have ye BROUGHT AGAIN that which was driven away, neither have ye SOUGHT that which was lost; but with FORCE and with CRUELTY have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is NO SHEPHERD: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did SEARCH or SEEK after them. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds SEARCH for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am AGAINST the shepherds; and I will REQUIRE my flock at their hand, and cause them to CEASE from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will DELIVER my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will DESTROY the fat and the strong; I will feed them with JUDGMENT. And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I JUDGE between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats. Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have EATEN UP the good pasture, but ye must TREAD DOWN with your feet the residue of your pastures? and to have DRUNK of the deep waters, but ye must FOUL the residue with your feet? And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet. Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD unto them; Behold, I, even I, will JUDGE between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle. Because ye have THRUST with side and with shoulder, and PUSHED all the diseased with your horns, till ye have SCATTERED them abroad; Therefore will I SAVE my flock, and they shall no more be a PREY; and I will JUDGE between cattle and cattle" (Ez. 34:2-22).