Call No Man Father
8. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
9. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
10. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
11. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
12. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
Call no man father –so much for the Catholic priesthood. But before you Protestants in the audience get too smug, note that no man should be called Rabbi, either. Rabbi means teacher. How many Protestant churches give every member equal status; how many give only one man the option of taking the pulpit and preaching?
This is a call for a great deal of equality within the Christian ranks. But this is a call for vertical equality, not horizontal equality. Different people have different roles. St. Paul explained this using the human body as a metaphor:
4. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5. So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7. Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8. Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
27. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
28. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
29. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
30. Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
31. But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
—1 Corinthians 12
In two separate places St. Paul indicates that the running of the Church should be divided up. There is no priest or minister who runs the entire show. There are administrators (governments in the King James), but administration is rather far down the list of spiritual gifts.
Think of the nerds and absent minded professors you know. The mental abilities that make for a good scholar or college teacher are often separate from good social or administrative skills. The person who is good for officiating your wedding or comforting your dying grandmother is not necessarily good at explaining the Bible, admonishing sinners, or running an organization. Likewise, the skills needed to do outreach/evangelism are separate: college teachers are often introverts; evangelism is often the work of extroverts. Note how Paul separates teaching from exhortation; motivation can be a separate skill from teaching.
Have you ever been subject at church to the verbal equivalent of home movies week after week? Perhaps you had a pastor who was gifted with people skills but not with the gift of teaching.
The Church would be far stronger by dividing up the roles as St. Paul described. But note that there should be division even within each function. Even the best scholar/teacher of the Bible is subject to error. Jesus warned against this. All people are fallible.
Consider the descriptions of the synagogues and the Temple during New Testament times. Jesus and the apostles frequently preached in these venues. Imagine trying to do the equivalent today. How many churches would allow a complete stranger from out of town to take the floor and give a sermon? The closest modern arrangements I can think of are the Quaker churches.
But note also how these sermons did not go unquestioned. Members of the synagogues frequently argued with Jesus and the apostles. How many modern Christian churches allow members to argue with the preacher as part of the service? Suppose modern Christian services were to go back to this model?
- Sermon time would be far more mentally stimulating.*
- The speaker would no longer be the authority; the word of God would be.
The second point is crucial! Throughout Christian history, horrible errors have occurred because people followed human leaders instead of the Bible. And Jesus warned of this repeatedly.
*Some care must be taken here, however. Debate can turn into argument, creating divisions [2 Timothy 2:22-26]. And even when harmonious debate is mastered, there is the temptation to dwell obscure points – edge conditions in the Law, obscure prophesies, or even Bible codes – while neglecting the important basics of the Christian Way [1 Timothy 1:4-8, Titus 3:8-11]. That said, I think these dangers are less than the dangers that arrive when intellectuals are bored to the point of leaving or when debate is squashed by following earthly leaders instead of the world of God.blog comments powered by Disqus
Copyright© 2007, Carl S. Milsted, Jr. All rights reserved.
Quotations from the NET Bible®, copyright© 1996-2006 Biblical Studies Press L.L.C. All rights reserved. Used by permission from http://bible.org. (The NET Bible is available in its entirety as a free download or online use at http://netbible.org)