By Femi ARribisala
Frustrated by the magnitude of the miracles attending Jesus’ ministry, the chief priests and elders of the Jews challenged him in the temple. They demanded to know by what authority he was doing the things he was doing and who it was who gave him the authority.
In his reply, Jesus presents a dichotomy between what is of God and what is of men. He asks them: “The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?” (Matthew 21:25).
The question is loaded. By implication, Jesus maintains what is of God cannot be of men and what is of men cannot be of God. This dichotomy between God and men finds its most eloquent expression in Jesus’ categorical assertion that: “What is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15).
It is pertinent, therefore, to ask whether the ordination of pastors today is of God or of men.
The answer is straight-forward: the ordination of pastors today is of men and not of God. It does not come from the commandments or teachings of Jesus. It comes from the writings of Paul.
Paul does not say Jesus specifically instructs him to create ministerial positions in the church. Instead, he bases his authority for doing this on a messianic Old Testament scripture. With reference to Psalm 68, he writes: “This is why it says: ‘When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’” (Ephesians 4:8).
Undertanding that this scripture foretells Christ’s resurrection, Paul then says: “(Jesus) himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
However, on investigation it becomes apparent that Paul’s position misquotes and even distorts the original psalm. The psalmist says: “When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train; you received gifts from men, even from the rebellious- that you, O LORD God, might dwell there.” (Psalm 68:18).
Can you see the difference? The psalmist says men gave gifts to the Lord. Paul, in quoting the psalmist, changes this to say the Lord gave gifts to men.
Unauthorised ministerial posts
Apparently, Paul wanted to create posts in the churches he established so as to bring them more effectively under his control. So he twisted an Old Testament scripture to make it seem as if it was the Lord who authorised it. As a result, there are people today who insist the Lord has called them to be pastors and teachers, not knowing that Jesus does not envisage any of these positions under the New Testament.
This is what Jesus says: “I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes.” (Matthew 23:34). Nothing here about pastors and teachers. On his resurrection, he said furthermore: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone.” (Mark 16:15). This means all believers are called to be evangelists, it is not a special calling for a select few.
In creating unauthorised posts, which have since spawned many others such as popes, arch-bishops, and right-reverends, Paul enshrined the spirit of the Pharisee in the heart of Christianity, contrary to the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus discourages honorific titles and warns that those who exalt themselves will be humbled. He mocks the pomposity of the Pharisees, insisting that we should not follow their example: “Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates.” (Matthew 23:8).
This show Jesus permits no differentiation among his followers. We are all equal. The pope is no different from the lay Catholic. The arch-bishop is the classmate of the members of the laity. None of them is greater in status than the other. So how come some classmates are now calling themselves teachers?
Nevertheless, Paul tells Timothy: “I was appointed a preacher and an apostle–I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying–a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” (I Timothy 2:7). This cannot be true because Jesus expressly forbids this: “Do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. (Matthew 23:10).
Moreover, Jesus tells us God, and not men, will be our teacher: “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” (John 6:45).
Jesus says furthermore: “Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do.” (Matthew 23:9). This means the pastor is not the head of a church. He cannot lord it over members of his congregation. As a matter of fact, pastors are now anachronistic. Jesus says: “There shall be one flock and one pastor.” (John 10: 16). This establishes Jesus as the one and only “Good Pastor.” (John 10:11).
God the Father is the source of all authority and from him it flows to Jesus, the Son. Does it then flow from Jesus to the pastor, the bishop, or the pope? Certainly not! On his resurrection, Jesus declared to his disciples: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18). The authority remains firmly with Jesus.
Jesus says: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to ser-ve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28).
What are we to conclude from all this? All those who call themselves pastors are not disciples of Jesus. Their authority is not from heaven, but from men. They are fake pastors with Jesus being the only legitimate pastor. David says: “The Lord is my pastor, I have all that I need.” (Psalm 23:1). If Jesus is our pastor, we don’t need fake pastors. Jesus does not outsource his church to pastors. He says: “I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18).
Wittingly or unwittingly, pastors today disobey the voice of Jesus by heeding instead the voice of Paul. Eternal life is not in the words of Paul. Eternal life is in the words of Jesus. (John 6:68-69). Jesus, not Paul, is “the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2). Therefore, Jesus’ words are the only acceptable basis of church doctrine.
The Holy Spirit does not speak on his own authority; he only says what he hears. (John 16:13-15). Not so with pastors. They insist on being answerable to themselves. Jeremiah says: “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” (Jeremiah 5:30-31).