The False Authority of the Pastor, By Femi Aribisala
The ordination of pastors is of men and not of God.
Frustrated by the magnitude of the miracles attending Jesus’ ministry, the chief priests and religious elders of the Jews challenged him in the temple. They demanded to know by on 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. In a similar vein, he told Nicodemus: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6). 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 therefore pertinent here to ask the question: is the ordination of pastors today of God or is it of men?
Authority of men
The answer is self-evident: the ordination of pastors is of men and not of God. The ordination of pastors comes not from the teachings of Jesus, the Son of God, but from the writings of Paul, the servant of God.
Paul used an Old Testament scripture as the basis for creating a whole array of ministerial positions in the New Testament church. In his letter to the Ephesians, he cites Psalm 68 as the authority for doing so. With reference to that psalm, 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).
What are the bogus gifts Paul then claims God gave to men? “He 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 writing is a deliberate misquote and distortion of the original psalm. Observe the difference in the original: “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 distortion? The psalmist says men gave gifts to the Lord. Paul, in quoting the psalmist, changes this to say the Lord gave gifts to men.
Authority of Paul
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 today, there are people who insist that the Lord has called them to be evangelists, pastors or teachers; not knowing that Jesus did not establish any of these positions under the New Testament.
In creating these 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 mocked the pomposity of the Pharisees. He warns that we should not follow their example: “Do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for one is your teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for one is your Father, he who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for one is your teacher, the Christ.” (Matthew 23:8-10).
Observe here that Jesus permits no differentiation among men. He says: “you are all brethren.” I like Eugene Peterson’s translation of the same verse in the Message Bible. He says “you are all classmates.” That means 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 is higher or lower than the other. So how can some classmates are now calling themselves teachers?
Nevertheless, Paul goes ahead anyway to establish not only teachers upon teachers, but a whole set of apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastors as well. And to add insult to injury, he tells Timothy that Jesus himself called him to be teacher, the very post Jesus expressly warns us not to arrogate to ourselves: “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. (1 Timothy 2:7).
But Paul was lying. Jesus does not appoint teachers. Jesus is not a hypocrite; he does not contradict himself. To repeat for emphasis, this is what the Lord says: “Do not be called teachers; for one is your teacher, the Christ.” (Matthew 23:10).
If Jesus maintains we should not be called “teachers” and insists he alone is our teacher, he could then not have called Paul to be “a teacher to the Gentiles in faith and truth.”
Authority of Jesus
Jesus discourages honorific titles and warns that he who exalts himself shall be humbled. He tells his disciples that none of them is greater in status than the other. This means that a pastor does not have any authority over the members of his congregation. He is not their head. He cannot lord it over them. Jesus warns: “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).
The Father is the source of all authority and from the Father it flows to Jesus, the Son. Where does it go from the Son? Does it go to the pastor, the bishop, the pope, the husband or the government? No! All authority remains with Jesus. Jesus says: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18).
Jesus did not transfer his authority to his disciples or to the church administration. The flow of authority is direct without mediation from Jesus to the believer. Jesus remains today the only pastor we have. David says: “The Lord is my pastor, I have all I need.” (Psalm 23:1).
What are we to conclude from this? All those who call themselves pastors are followers of Paul and not followers of Jesus. Their authority is not from heaven but from men. That is one more reason why all pastors are bad shepherds. Wittingly or unwittingly, they disobey expressly the voice of Jesus.
This is dangerous because eternal life is in the words of Jesus. (John 6:68-69). The church belongs to Jesus. Therefore, his 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. Jeremiah observes with amazement that they are answerable to no one but themselves: “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.” (Jeremiah 5:30-31).