Category Archives: Doctrine

Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Part 5 OF 5: CONCLUSION

This is a five part series, authored by Brandon. Please read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

 

As we have looked into Scripture to consider if being forgiven means “it never happened,” the point of critical failure occurs when you insert the backsliding problem.  If (1) sinners must give an account of all of their sins, and (2) if a Christian is capable of backsliding, then God cannot truly forget our sins until we are no longer capable of backsliding.  The only way to maintain that forgiveness means that it never happened is to disprove either of the two premises just mentioned.  I’m not aware of any person that has tried to disprove point (1): we all agree that sinners must account for each and every sin.  The only way to overcome premise (2) is to invoke Calvinism, which I do not think Calvary Temple is interested in doing.  At least not after they so artfully argued that Calvinists are heretics, after several ex-congregants chose to go to a Reformed church.  Actually, it was a chance to hear Jon Miller at his best.  I believe his argument was “Calvinism is stupid.  You would have to be an idiot to believe it.”  No, the irony was not lost on me.

 

Excluding Calvinism, we must conclude that God choosing not to remember our sin is much different from the human notion of forgetting.  There is a sense in which God forgets our sin.  But it must be pointed out that, if we really believe that God lives outside of time in such a manner that He sees past, present, and future simultaneously, and if we further believe that our God is all-knowing, it doesn’t make sense to then assert that He has forgotten our sins in the same way that we might forget things.  He cannot lay aside His omniscience in the sense that He can forget our sin.  Furthermore, Scripture indicates that we must give an account of everything that we have done.  How can we give an account for something that God forgot?  Since we aren’t Calvinist from the perspective of “once saved always saved,” the “forgetful God” argument forces us to hold to the notion that if one were to turn their back on Christ, the sins that God had forgotten would somehow be “unforgotten.”  Of course that is nonsensical.  As we have shown, the Bible indicates that God’s not remembering our sin has to do with a position of finality and right standing before His throne.  He knows where our sin is: it has been vicariously placed on Christ’s account and Christ’s righteousness placed on our account.  This effectively cancels the debt of our sin, but it does not mean that it did not originally occur in the first place.  Such an extrapolation is dangerous because it would be used as a waiver for felonious crimes, and men who deserve to be in jail could justify dodging the law because it’s all “under the blood.”

 

The difference that must be understood is that God’s forgiveness is meant to absolve us of divine guilt, but it does not preclude us from earthly guilt.  It couldn’t.  That would be inconsistent with Romans 13 and 1 Peter 4, as stated previously.  How should we then respond to different levels of sin, especially those that are also felonious crimes?  God does not view all sin equally, and frankly neither should we.  It is folly to suggest that the person who comes to Christ and continues to struggle with mental lust and the person who “comes to Christ” and continues to engage in child molestation are somehow both just learning how to walk out their sanctification.  As Christians we may be called to meekness, but we are not called to be fools.  It is our responsibility before God to use some measure of common sense as we apply the tests for conversion that have been given to us.  We need to understand that the regeneration of a human heart necessarily must cause them to not spend the subsequent years molesting children.

 

Returning to Scott’s claims, it appears that his interpretation of God’s forgetfulness is different than David’s.  Scott has made the jump from (1) “God does not remember my sins” to (2) “It is as though my sin never happened” to (3) “my sin really never happened.”  Basically, he is playing a game of connect the dots and trying to convince you that the three dots on the page make a square.  My point is that there is something missing in his logical sequence to get from step (2) to step (3).  This is a classic case of “extrapolating from an extrapolation” as opposed to “extrapolating from the Bible,” which has occurred due to his prima facie reading of Psalm 103 and Micah 7 that didn’t consider the original context of those passages.  Had he studied it out a little further, he would have noticed that at step (1), “God does not remember my sins in the sense that I have been freed from the divine penalty of my sins,” such that step (2) becomes “It is as though my sin never happened in the sight of God as it relates to the eternal consequence of my sin,” and then step (3) wouldn’t exist because he would note that steps (1) and (2) do not preclude him from earthly consequences.

 

Let us return to our thought experiment, only let us replace Jerry Sandusky with someone else.  If we were to look at a young man who claimed to become a Christian in 1969 and chose to attend Bible school and spent the entirety of the years that he was at that school repeatedly and relentlessly abusing young girls, we would have to come to the conclusion that such a young man was never truly a Christian: much less called to ministry.  I know people get catty about how only God knows if someone is truly a Christian, but if they fail the tests from 2 Corinthians 5 and 1 John, I think we have a responsibility to question their salvation.  That’s before you get into the lists of what an elder should be.  Certainly, any person would have the right to say “you know, I don’t feel comfortable with this man being my pastor because I don’t think he qualifies for eldership and I’m not sure he qualifies to be a pastor.  I need to go to church somewhere else.”

 

If we are all supposed to forget the sins of every person who claimed to be a Christian, then there is no such thing as being beyond reproach.  1 Timothy 3 indicates that being “beyond reproach” is different than being “under the blood.”  It further indicates that there are situations in which we are not expected to treat sin as though it never happened, or else the notion of being beyond reproach would be a nonsensical qualification.  I maintain that Star Scott was not and is not beyond reproach.  His reputation among the world is nauseating, and the behavior for which he alone is responsible makes a mockery of the holiness that we as Christians ought to walk in.  If you are a current CT member and you are still reading, please pause and consider this: if his victims were ever able to draw up the courage to testify in court, there are police standing by that would arrest your pastor today and put him in jail for the rest of his life.  I mean, if we decided that the most basic litmus test for being beyond reproach was that you shouldn’t be able to be arrested for child molestation and thrown in prison for the rest of your life, would that be taking too much upon ourselves?  No, rather the man who begun in such hideous sin and continued in such grave error fits every characterization of a wolf that the Bible gives us.  This isn’t about being empathetic.  It’s about being wise, and applying the tests that the Bible and our God-given common sense compel us to apply.

 

A CT congregant might point out that the Apostle Paul had a dark past, and apparently he was beyond reproach.  There are several issues that must be addressed with the Star Scott/Apostle Paul analogy.  First off, Saul was not saved when he was doing these things, whereas Star Scott insists that he was. It is important to really understand how this affects his candidacy to be a pastor, which I will outline below:

 

  1. If someone says that they have become a Christian, and they spend the next three years repeatedly and relentless molesting children, their conversion was not genuine.

 

It’s time that as Christians we stopped beating around the bush when it comes to basic Bible tests.  If Scott spent the first few years after he supposedly became a Christian continuing to live a habitual life of sin, he was not born of God.  If he had truly been born of God, he could not go on sinning.  This is the plain as day meaning of 1 John 3:9, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin…they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.”  There simply is no way around it.  Furthermore, as we have already established, not all sin is equal.  Certainly there exist cases where new Christians have to learn to walk in sanctification.  But in extreme cases like serial murder, lifestyles of rape, and continual child molestation, we cannot broaden God’s path to include these categories when 1 John 3:9 makes it clear that they do not qualify.  That being said, there is an out for Star Scott.  He could claim that his original conversion was not genuine but he eventually repented and truly became a Christian some time after this was all sorted out.  As we continue on, we will see the difficulty of such a stance.

 

  1. If someone is not a Christian, they cannot hear from God.

 

This is one that has flown under the radar for too long.  Too many TV preachers claim that God endorsed their ministry before they ever came to Christ, as though that somehow adds validity to what otherwise appears to be a failed ministry.  In our hyper-Charismatic culture, we’re almost terrified to point out that someone might not have heard from God, lest we risk “speaking against the Spirit.”  The problem is that we fall into that very error by attributing to the Spirit things He did not say.  I don’t care which flaky televangelist says otherwise, non-Christians can hear nothing from God except His call to repentance.  To believe otherwise flies directly in the face of 1 Corinthians 2:14, which says “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”  This further applies to the knowledge gained while at Bible College.  Without the Spirit’s nurturing, any heathen in Bible College would be unable to grasp the actual meaning of the Word and would be practically destined to become a slipshod, uninformed, biased, and deceitful preacher.

 

  1. Just because you pay tuition at a Bible College does not mean you meet the basic qualifications for ministry.

 

In this case, you have a man who dare I say was not a Christian, could not have heard any call from God  besides the call to repentance, and failed almost every prerequisite laid out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.  He was not (1) blameless, (2) of good behavior, (3) able to teach, (4) not violent, (5) not a novice, or (6) of good testimony among those who are outside (beyond reproach).    Star Scott was the polar opposite of every one of these qualities.  As we have already stated, being “under the blood” does not mean that you are de facto “beyond reproach,” which indicates that God expects more of church leaders than even the basic qualifications for being a Christian, which Scott also miserably failed to meet.

 

With all these things in mind, it is interesting to note that Scott maintains that he was saved before attending Bible College.  He has to insist that he was saved, or else he has to explain how he was qualified for ministry before being a Christian, which is a hard argument even for him to attempt. If he tries to use the Apostle Paul analogy, there are two other reasons it doesn’t fit.  Secondly, Saul wasn’t actually breaking any governmental laws, whereas Star Scott would be charged with dozens if not hundreds of felonies.  As mentioned previously, being “under the blood” does not mean being “beyond reproach.”  In the case of Paul, there was no legitimate reproach such as those mentioned in 1 Peter 4:15-16 that the world could accuse him of.  Thirdly, Paul actually reminded his audience in several of his epistles of exactly what his sin was, whereas Star Scott has actually lied to his congregation with his smoke and mirror statements designed for the congregants to infer that it was some kind of a one night stand with a grown woman.

 

Often ex-CT members try to talk to their friends and families that are still in CT and bring these alarming facts to their attention.  Congregants respond to our heartfelt efforts with “he’s been forgiven” as though that somehow means the same thing as “he’s qualified to be a pastor.”  A second response is “it was dealt with in California,” to which I respond “No it absolutely wasn’t.”  I don’t know what happened in Scott’s old church with his old pastor, but it was not “dealt with.”  The only way to deal with it would be to send the man to jail.  A third response from CT members is “but it was a long time ago” to which I respond “that does not preclude him from the earthly consequences of his sin.”

 

Furthermore, any notion that perhaps he “started out bad” but God “turned it for good” is simply inconsistent with his track record.  He makes up miracles that he supposedly performed and acts as though Jesus Himself endorsed his ministry, and has spent his time destroying families in the name of Matthew 10:34 as though the “sword” that Jesus was speaking of is indicative that the “man’s enemies will be those of his own household” is referring to the people who leave his church!  Ironically, what he seems to be completely oblivious to is the fact that Jesus was quoting Micah 7 which in exegetical context is speaking of a time when heathens will remove the righteous from the land, indicating that Scott has put himself and his church in the place of heathens who are removing the righteous!  And it ought to terrify them that, if my exegesis of Micah 7:6 and resulting interpretation of Matthew 10:34 is correct—and I will mention that it has been the accepted interpretation of Micah 7:6 and Matthew 10:34 from virtually every major Christian writer in Church history—then that places Calvary Temple directly in line with John 16:2 “They shall put you out of the synagogues (churches): yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.”  And when people approach him to inform him that his church looks nothing like the body of Christ, he deceives his people to the point that they would find themselves on the wrong side of the Bible by shunning believers, yet think that they are doing God’s work by doing so.

 

Another objection that Scott’s supporters will mention is that Ron Walrobe “saw a vision of Jesus” and was told that Scott was to be the pastor at Calvary Temple.  Aside from the fact that this story has grown from the 1980’s version where Ron Walrobe “heard a voice” to the 2000’s version with Ron Walrobe “seeing Jesus,” which seems to break a few Scriptural principles, I will address this issue.  I did not know Mr. Walrobe, so I am speaking solely with the privilege of retrospection that frankly, the 70’s was a time in Charismatic circles where pretty much “anything flew” as far as hearing from God.  I have a strong feeling that, had Mr. Walrobe seen a vision of Star Scott molesting young girls for the three years immediately before coming to Virginia, he probably wouldn’t have heard any voices telling him that Star Scott was supposed to be the pastor of Herndon Assemblies of God, later to become Calvary Temple.  I doubt that, had he known of this scandal, he would have encouraged Scott to remain in ministry.

 

Lastly, I want to briefly address the notion that Scott purports concerning the “gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”  There are several things to mention about this, but let’s look at the passage in Romans first to determine if it was meant to apply to pastors:

 

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:

 

“The deliverer will come from Zion;

he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

And this is my covenant with them

when I take away their sins.”

 

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. “

                                                                                                                                Romans 11:25-29

 

The first question we have to ask is “who was Paul talking about?”  What he talking about pastors?  Is this a passage about being in the ministry?  No.  This is a passage about Israel.  Paul specifically mentions who he is talking about, and clarifies for us that the gifts and callings are because of Israel’s patriarchs.  Really what Paul is talking about is the promise that God made to Abraham and how He will always honor His covenant: when God made His covenant with Abraham, it was irrevocableThis has nothing to do with pastors.  The original audience would not have thought of it applying to pastors, so we cannot either.  There is zero evidence in Scripture or Church history that pastors were “called” for life.  Certainly, we understand that if Paul could have been disqualified from the race he speaks of in 1 Corinthians 9:27, that must include being disqualified from ministry as well.  Even the Calvinists believe a pastor can be disqualified!  If there are qualifications to get into the ministry (1 Timothy 3:1-7), and there are qualifications for staying in the ministry (by logical deduction from 1 Corinthians 9:27), then the possibility must exist that you can lose your ministry.

 

The Bible does not directly say “pastors can lose their pastorate” just as it does not say “pastors cannot lose their pastorate.”  That doesn’t mean that we can’t derive the proper meaning from Biblical examples and principles.  As stated above, 1 Timothy 3 and 1 Corinthians 9 provide excellent support to the stance that a pastor’s call is not irrevocable.  Concerning examples of similar situations in the Bible, there are many stories of men losing their positions or God stripping them of their roles, including

 

  1. Saul being stripped on his kingship in 1 Samuel 15:23 “Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”
  2. Eli’s house being removed from the priesthood in 1 Samuel 2:30 “Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.”
  3. Demas losing his place on Paul’s ministry team in 2 Timothy 4:10 “for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me”
  4. The churches in Revelation 2 and 3 having their lampstands (candlesticks) removed. Revelation 2:5 “…if you do not repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place.”

 

This notion of an “irrevocable call” being applied to pastors is nonsense and purely heterodox, being found nowhere in Church history until the 1970’s Charismatic renewal.

 

Ultimately, this really all seems to circle back to Scott’s desire to be let off the hook for his sins and crimes, while at the same time keeping a black book of all of your sins in case you choose to leave.  On the one hand he desperately wants his crimes to be forgotten and for him to be viewed as something other than a child molester.  On the other hand, he can only do that by creating an ultra perfectionist environment in which he is somehow this gifted zealot who deserves to be taken seriously.  If anyone wants to take their family and leave Calvary Temple, he will keep them there through intimidation and by dredging up their sins to remind them of how much they need him, because ultimately his greatest fear is to find himself preaching to empty pews.  The key indicator that his doctrine is false should be his inconsistency in applying it.  What he really wants is the Bible to say that once he was forgiven, it really never happened.  Jerry Sandusky also wishes God’s forgiveness meant it never really happened.  But it did.  And just like Jerry Sandusky, Star Scott needs to be behind bars.  And certainly not behind a pulpit.

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Part 4 OF 5: CONSEQUENCES

This is a five part series, authored by Brandon. Please read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

 

Having examined the question “Is there a difference between God’s forgiveness making it as though we never sinned and God’s forgiveness making it that we never sinned,” let us move on to the differentiating between forgiveness and consequences.  We can rely on previous work for a foundation: certainly David’s consequences did not dissolve.  Was he forgiven? Yes.  Were there still consequences?  Of course.  Could God bring consequences to David’s life for something both God and David were supposed to forget had occurred?  That’s absurd.  Does God’s forgiveness cause the sin to have never originally occurred?  Also absurd.  Otherwise, God truly could not have caused Absalom to sleep with David’s wives (consequence) as He prophesied He would do.

 

There are ultimately three types of sins.

  1. Sins against God
  2. Sins against man
  3. Sins (or crimes) against government

 

Some sins are mixtures of all of the three.  For example, you can lie to your brother and be guilty of the first two categories, but lying is not a crime.  That being said, there have been times in history and even today in other countries where it is illegal to read a Bible, which would be a crime against a government but not a crime against God.  Of course, if you murder someone, you just sinned against all three.  For your restitution to be satisfied before God, you need to repent and ask for forgiveness.  In the case of murder, you also need to go to jail because your forgiveness from God does not take away your guilt as a criminal.  While James makes it clear that all sin separates from God in a “guilty of one, guilty of all” way, you cannot argue that absolution in God’s eyes precludes our responsibility to pay restitution, either to man or the government.

 

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”                         Romans 13:1-4

 

Peter reinforces this concept in 1 Peter 4:15-16:

 

“If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”

 

Even in the Old Testament Law, restitution had to be made, and there were various levels of restitution based on the severity of the sin, forgiveness aside.  For example, Exodus 22 talks about various levels of restitution for stealing.  If a man stole an ox, he had to pay back five oxen.  If a man could not afford the restitution, he sold himself as a slave.  However, according to Leviticus 20, the penalty for adultery was execution: asking for “forgiveness” did not preclude the natural consequences.  This also shows that while all sin separates, not all sin is equalAnd certainly the consequences of all sin are not equal.  Moreover, God makes it clear through His Word that lawbreakers are to be punished by the authority that He established through government leaders.  Returning again to previous work, casting sin as far as the east is from the west does not mean it never happened.  It means that it did happen, and God separated the divine penalty of our sins from us in a manner that is absolute and final through the cross.  In no way should it be construed that it separates us from earthly penalties.

 

Sin has been loosely defined as “missing the mark.”  I suppose that definition works, except that the English connotation is that it doesn’t matter what the action is: if it misses the mark, it’s all the same. After all, James 2 tells us that if we are guilty of one sin, we are guilty of all.  This passage is severely misunderstood, just like Matthew 4:21 was not intended to communicate that lust in the mind is as bad as acting on adultery.  All sin separates us from God.  Certainly.  But not all sin is created equal.  It takes a little more time in the gutter before someone is willing to move from hating their boss to actually getting up and murdering them.  Or the man who entertains a prohibited fantasy about a coworker: that man needs God’s forgiveness just as much as the adulterer, but the time it takes to get from one to the other is the difference between learning to control your thoughts and losing your pastorate.  The difference between hating someone and murdering them is you go to jail if you murder someone.

 

The next issue that must be dissected is whether being forgiven of the divine penalty of sin precludes us from consequences in ministry.  Our text will be the 1 Timothy 3 qualifications for eldership.

 

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 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?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.                                                                                                                1 Timothy 3:1-7

 

If God’s forgiveness meant the sin never originally occurred, then this list of qualifications is essentially nullified, especially the notion of being beyond reproach.  Throughout our history, the pulpit has been understood to be a place that is to be revered.  There has always been an understanding that the sanctity of preaching needed to be preserved, and Paul’s qualification that a man be “beyond reproach” was indicative of that need.  To be beyond reproach means that the world cannot look in and tear apart the credibility of the man behind the pulpit because of his past life.  If the world could look in and say “that man has always been a thief among us: how foolish that he is now behind a pulpit” is to fall into reproach by not having a good report of them which are without.  Certainly, Paul’s stipulation that such a man be above this sort of reputation is proof that our sin being “under the blood” is not the same thing as being “beyond reproach.” 

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Part 3 OF 5: NEW Testament

This is a five part series, authored by Brandon. Please read Part 1 and Part 2.

  

Let us move on to the New Testament to determine if God’s forgiveness changed in any way to mean “it never happened” after the cross.  As an example to stimulate our brains, how could God have inspired the recording of Peter’s denial of Christ in the Gospels thirty years after the fact if He had forgotten that it happened?  Food for thought.  The Old Testament and the New Testament act in harmony, and New Testament writers frequently quote from the Old Testament.  For example, Paul quotes David when he writes “Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin” (Romans 4:8, Psalm 32:2).  In such a case, the same exegetical principle applies: unless specifically stated by the New Testament author, the meaning of Romans 4:8 must mean what it meant in Psalm 32:2.  Paul understood David’s context, and quoted it within that context.  As a point of clarification, I understand that God wrote Romans 4 and Psalm 32 through Paul and David: the hermeneutical principle is that the Word is divinely inspired, but the authors could not lay aside their faculties while writing.  God did not set aside Paul’s deliberate thoughts when he penned Romans 4 just as He did not overtake David’s hand when he penned Psalm 32.  This means that David had a specific meaning in mind and Paul wanted to convey that meaning to his audience.  I don’t want to belabor the point, but what I am trying to say is that the doctrine of justification via imputation must be informed by understanding what David meant when he wrote “impute.”

 

To impute is to attribute something to a person vicariously, meaning that your standing before God is derived from a source other than yourself.  This is very different from “to impart” which is not a vicarious action, but rather a direct action that gives something to you that you can then call your own.  Imputation in Scripture has often been described as an accounting ledger, such that each line item (sin) has to be put somewhere because all sin demands a penalty. In fact, several translations interpret Romans 4:8 and Psalm 32:2 as “Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”  In David’s time under the Law, a type existed such that if any person sinned, a specific sin offering had to be made (Leviticus 4).  That animal was exchanged for that person’s sin, and the penalty of that sin (death) was laid on the animal instead of the person.  In this way, the guilt of the person was placed vicariously on the animal, and the animal vicariously paid the penalty for that person’s sin in place of the person.  This is the world in which David understood imputation, and he knew from the Law that each sin must be accounted for.  As it stands, a non-believer’s sin is on his own account. However, according to 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  What this means is that our sin was imputed to Christ on the cross, and Christ’s righteousness was imputed to us when we became new creatures.  When David wrote “Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin,” he meant “Blessed is the man who has no sin on God’s ledger account of his life.”

 

This is a critical concept, because as Protestants we believe that we are justified through imputation, whereas Catholics believe that we are justified through impartation, or the notion that the righteousness of Christ was imparted directly to us such that we literally are righteous as Christ is righteous.  The obvious problem with impartation is that Christians still sin, whereas the righteousness of Christ was sinless.  Protestants interpret justification as being through imputation: our sins were put on Christ’s account.  He paid the penalty for our sins.  In like fashion, His righteousness was vicariously placed on our account, in such a manner that we can approach God with Christ’s righteousness.  This provides an interesting distinction between “as though I never sinned” and “I really never sinned.”  By definition, “as though” refers to a vicarious position, which is consistent with imputation; whereas “I really never sinned” is a direct position that is consistent with impartation.  We will have to keep that distinction in mind as we press on.

 

Having developed the concept of imputation, the question must be asked, “When God forgave me, where did my sin go?”  It went to the cross of Christ.  While it might seem like a semantics game, the key point is that your sin did not vanish.  God knows exactly where it is.  It was placed on Christ’s account.  If you were to reject God and backslide, your sin would be back on your account and Christ’s righteousness would be taken off of your account.  This is the difference between God accepting us as though we never sinned and God accepting us because we never sinned.  You did sin.  That’s the point.  God certainly hasn’t forgotten your sin, rather He has removed it from you and sent it to a place where it will not be held against you; and He will not remember your sin during the Judgment, so long as you continue to rely on the finished work of Christ which bought your justification in God’s sight by the imputing of your sins on Christ’s account and Christ’s righteousness to your account.

 

This development of justification through imputation preserves the harmony of other Scriptures because it addresses the backsliding problem, whereas the notion that God can truly forget our sins in such a manner that in His sight our sin never originally occurred does not.  God tells us of the final judgment throughout Scriptures such as Ecclesiastes 12:14, Matthew 12:35, Romans 14, and 2 Corinthians 5:10.  All men must give an account for their deeds.  The notion that forgiveness indicates that the sin never originally occurred, such that it dissolved in Christmas past, would allow no venue for backsliders to give an account of the evil deeds that they committed before their salvation.  Certainly we understand that those deeds must be accounted for as well, which indicates that it is not possible for our sins to “have never originally occurred” in such a manner as to absolve us of them entirely.  That can’t truly happen until we are no longer capable of backsliding.

 

The backsliding problem faces no difficulty when considering that God’s forgiveness is demonstrated in justification through imputation. Our sins are currently on Christ’s account and not our own account.  As such, God does not hold them against us.  As long as we remain in faith, God chooses to not remember our sins in the sense that He can look at His ledger for your life and the column recording heavenly debts is empty, whereas the column recording heavenly credits has one entry: the righteousness of Christ.  But where did our sin go?  God can’t forget, and God must punish sin.  Because we did in fact sin, and that sin demands a penalty, God has imputed—attributed—our sins to Christ’s account.  But if we backslide, God reverses the exchange such that we lose the righteousness of Christ and our sins are re-added to our account.  Through this line of reasoning, we must affirm that God’s forgiveness makes it as though we did not sin, and we must deny that God’s forgiveness means the sin never happened.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Part 2 OF 5: OLD Testament

This is a five part series, authored by Brandon. Please read Part 1.

 

We are interested in what the Bible says to us today. Our theology is informed by our hermeneutics, and our hermeneutics must be informed by our exegesis. To state it another way, “the Bible cannot mean to us what it did not mean to the original audience.” As a foundational principle, each passage of Scripture can only have one meaning. The intended message to the original audience must be that one meaning. If we take a passage to mean something different to us than what it meant to the original audience, then we have created a second meaning for that passage, which is a violation of the hermeneutic principle. With that in mind, we need to determine what “separating sin as far as the east is from the west” meant to the author (David) and his audience (Israel), and what it therefore should mean to us (extrapolation). We ought to consider what Israel thought of the Sea of Forgetfulness, or if that term has any place in church history. For now let us return to Psalm 103.

 

It is generally accepted that David wrote Psalm 103 sometime after his sin with Bathsheba and Nathan’s resulting confrontation.  Keep in mind that the phrase used in verse 12 “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” is often used in conjunction with Micah 7:19.  It seems to be used today with the connotation that it has to do with God forgetting our sins as far as the east is from the west, as opposed to Him removing them as far as the east is from the west.  There is a real problem with the logical leap that “forgiven = forgotten.”  Perhaps we should consider Nathan’s confronting of David in 2 Samuel 12:11-14:

 

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” 13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”                              2 Samuel 12:11-14

 

There is really no theological debate among Christians on the following point: God’s forgiveness occurs the moment we sincerely ask him.  So the previous passage begs the question: if “forgiven = forgotten,” how can God punish David in verse 14 for what He just forgave him of in verse 13?  Yet David wrote later in Psalm 103:12 that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”  The same man who wrote that seemed to understand that sin being removed from our account is not the same thing as sin having never happened.  A noteworthy connection might be made between the 2 Samuel 12 passage and Psalm 103:10, in that David was aware that the penalty for adultery under the law was death, yet God “does not treat us as our sins deserve, or repay us according to our iniquities.”  Certainly David recognized that God was merciful to him by not extending the full penalty of his sin to him.  However, we must recognize that David could not have meant “God lets us off scot free when He forgives us” because he spent the rest of his life going through God’s judgment for that sin.  Furthermore, Scott’s comment “How many sins are you holding on to, that you say happened, that God said never happened because it’s forgotten?” contradicts the glaring point that God vividly reminded David of his sin when Absalom fulfilled verses 11 and 12 and slept with David’s wives in public.

 

Based on the very words of God in 2 Samuel 12:11 (I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you), He is the one who caused Absalom to sleep with David’s wives.  How could He have done that if He had forgotten?  Lastly, we may conjecture: did God intend to bring this consequence about in such a manner that David did not know why he was being punished?  Or does it make more sense that David knew exactly what was going on, and this fulfillment of God’s prophecy poignantly reminded him of his sin because it was supposed toThis is critical information to keep in mind when we consider what Psalm 103 meant to David when he wrote it.

 

To cast as far as the east is from the west does not mean it never happened.  It means that it did happen, and God separated us from the divine penalty of our sins through the cross.  In no way should it be construed that forgiveness separates us from earthly penalties.  Through our exegesis, there is no indication that David thought that God forgot about his sin in the sense that we think of someone completely forgetting something.  David was aware that God was bringing consequences on him throughout his life, which serves as an indication that David did not think that God completely forgot his sin. David could never claim that in God’s eyes his sin never happened.  That would simply be taking God’s forgiveness too far.  Rather, the divine, ultimate penalty of David’s sin would never be laid to his account.  That David praises God for not laying his sin to his account in Psalm 32:2 (Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity), demonstrates that he recognized that “imputation” vis a vis “justification” is more related to canceling David’s heavenly debt than that “God has completely forgotten that such sin ever occurred.”  In a manner of speaking, David’s debt in heaven was satisfied by God’s forgiveness but his debt on earth (consequences) was not.

 

Therefore, the Old Testament concept of God removing our sins and remembering them no more seems to be from a position of finality, such that God will not remember them at the final judgment.  Also, while it might be “as though it never happened” in relation to our position before God, that does not negate our position before men or government.  That God condones earthly consequences precludes the possibility that He “forgets” our sins.  If He truly forgot, He couldn’t possibly send consequences or chastisement, which would violate Galatians 5:7-8 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

 

Now would be a good time to mention that the term “sea of forgetfulness” is not mentioned in the Bible.  Perhaps even more shocking, it doesn’t even occur in Christian history: you cannot find any early Jewish scholar, middle-ages writer, or post-reformation leader ever using the term, from the earliest church father clear through John Wesley.  It seems to be entirely a phrase coined during the Charismatic renewal of the 60’s and 70’s.  As such, it is imperative to recognize that we have turned this “sea” into something that didn’t occur to the first 2,000 years of Christian writers.  There is no physical or spiritual “sea” that has the qualities of being able to cause God to completely forget that the sin ever occurred in the first place, or that His omniscience is incapable of piercing through to cause Him to remember.  The passage of Scripture that we seem to have taken this notion from is Micah 7:18-19:

 

“Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
 You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

 

As fundamentalist Christians we strive to take the Bible literally wherever we can; however, in our attempts to do so we are susceptible to missing the figurative language God chooses to employ through His authors.  An example would be Jesus telling His disciples to forgive seventy times seven times.  We understand He was not being literal: His point is that we ought to forgive as often as we are sinned against.  Since there is no indication of an actual sea—physical or spiritual—existing where God casts sin into, it makes a lot more sense to look for the ultimate point of the figurative language.  As such, we interpret Micah 7:19 as God separating the divine penalty of sin from our account while maintaining His omniscience.  As a group who believes that salvation can be lost, this resolves the difficulty that the sea-of-forgetfulness argument faces when one considers the case of a man who lost his salvation and at the judgment must give an account for all his sins—even the ones that God purportedly forgot.  The only alternative is to create this never-spoken-of-trait of God that He has a fishing pole for backsliders that allows Him to double back on His promises and reel into memory something that was supposedly blotted out, cast into oblivion, and forgotten forever.  Furthermore, it must be noted that the logic that assumes that God truly forgets our sin when He forgives us, yet He is capable of “re-remembering” if we backslide, reduces to the ad absurdum conclusion that God could remember something He has truly, completely forgotten.  Such a position creates a circus out of God’s omnipotence and omniscience, as though they are somehow trumping each other instead of operating in harmony.  If God could forget, it would be for good.  If He could remember something that He forgot, then by definition He didn’t really forget it.  This demonstrates the subtle but important difference between God forgiving us as though we had never sinned, which requires imputation, as opposed to the notion that God’s forgiveness causes the sin to have never occurred in the first place.

 

For the sake of completeness, the only alternative explanation that could be offered would be that God knows who will be saved and who will backslide, and He doesn’t throw the eventual backsliders’ sins into the supposed sea of forgetfulness.  This ultimately reduces to Calvinism, and creates a partial-forgiving God that will hold out on you today if He knows you will reject Him tomorrow.  Such is not the God we serve: His promises are to all who believe and are in full effect for as long as we believe.  If one is a child of God, they are a child of God.  As such, they enjoy full rank and privilege as all other children of God.  This is what makes backsliding so severe, such that one would “having tasted the heavenly gift, and become the partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come…” (Heb.6:4-5a) then choose to reject God’s full forgiveness.  Based on the passage just mentioned, such a partial-forgiving, halfway-house God does not exist.

 

Notice that God’s casting our sins into the depths of the sea would correlate very strongly to removing our sin as far as the east is from the west.  However, removing our guilt is not the same thing as removing our consequences.  The very fact that God does not forget our sins is what makes His forgiveness that much more powerful.  Our sins haven’t slipped God’s mind: He knows where they are.  He chooses to relate to us not as though they didn’t originally occur, but as though they did occur and have been placed on another’s account. As such, He promises that He will not recount (remember) our sins as relates to our eternal standing.  God’s mercy is not His ability to forget that which He has forgiven but rather His ability to forgive that which He cannot forget.

 

As we are about to see, the nature of God to not forget drives the salvation story forward.  Since He cannot truly forget our sins, His just nature demands that a penalty must be paid.  Salvation is the exchange of Christ’s righteousness being added to our account and our sins being added to Christ’s account, satisfying God’s omniscience, justice, and mercy.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Part 1 OF 5: INTRODUCTION

It seems that the more a Christian learns about the mercy of God, the more poignant their own sin is to them.  The more we understand the evil of sin, the more we must pause in awe of the forgiveness that God has extended to us. However, it is important that we do not overextend the use of God’s forgiveness: it is not a “get out of jail free” card.  We do not see that record in Scripture, and we truthfully do not expect it in real life.  Recent statements by Star Scott—in particular equating being forgiven by God to your sin having never originally occurred—are far from orthodox and do more to undermine justification by imputation than to add any value to our understanding of God’s forgiveness.

 

“I was talking to somebody just the other day. I don’t remember all of the details. But the person came to me and said there was some confusion based upon a sin. “Some people just found out about this sin, and they were really shaken by it and couldn’t believe that something like that could happen in the life of a Christian.” They had come to this person in our fellowship here and was really distraught. The person came to me and said, “This is a big thing to them. What should I tell them?” This person knew what they were talking about. He was getting ready to go, now, meet this person. He said, “What should I do?” I said, “I would do something like this. I would go up and as they begin to speak toward this situation, I would just look them right straight in the eye and say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.'” “Well this and that, this was done, and that was done!” “I don’t remember any of that.” “What do you mean you don’t remember it?” “No, in fact I’m positive that never happened.” “What do you mean it never happened?” “It was cast into the sea of God’s forgetfulness,” amen? There’s nothing to talk about. It never happened. It never happened! How many of us keep letting it happen? How many sins are you holding on to, that you say happened, that God said never happened because it’s forgotten? Amen? Wouldn’t it be great to really believe the Bible? Wouldn’t it be great to really forgive and be able to receive forgiveness; amen? “Is it that absolute?” Absolutely! ”

Star Scott, Power in Humility, July 31, 2013

 

“So we realize, then that, as we’re walking in this spirit, it never-love never remains suspicious. Have any of you ever been sinned against? Are you at a place right now where those that have hurt you approach you and there’s no suspicion? Are you at that place (you need to get there) that you are so vulnerable, that you’re able to lay your life before them again? Just like it never happened. You have to, because here’s the reality: It never happened. Amen? If you forgive them, it never happened. If they confess that sin, it never happened. So why, then, are you suspicious? Why, then, are you continuing to think evil of this person that God has cleansed by His blood?

Star Scott,  The Greatest Witness, September 1, 2013

 

Forgiveness means it never happened–and if it never happened, then there can be no requisite that has to be met as to why we can now relate to one another. It never happened! It never happened. It never happened. “I want to believe that, but inside of me my emotions, the pain!” “…even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” So are you going to believe your emotions, or are you going to believe what God has told you to do?”                                                     Star Scott, No Greater Love pt. 5, August 15, 2012

 

Interestingly enough, Calvary Temple surely doesn’t treat your sins as forgotten when you’re ready to leave.  Exit interviews are spent recounting your sins to you, and if you leave then your sins are slyly recounted before the congregation under the guise of “minimizing confusion.”  For example, just recently there was a church-wide prayer meeting in which congregants would “nominate” someone who had left and Star Scott would let everyone know what sin they were supposedly involved in so that everyone could pray for it.  This continual rehashing is often of things that were disclosed in confidence years beforehand by somebody who genuinely wanted to get help—certainly they didn’t expect their trust to be used against them to undermine their credibility with their friends and family.

 

Incidentally, both extremes are wrong.  The idea that God can truly forget anything, in the sense that we as humans can forget anything, is patently false.  While their treatment of those who leave is certainly inconsistent with their previous stance, it is moreover inconsistent with true Biblical forgiveness.  While our sins are not absolved to the point as to have never originally occurred, they have been imputed to Christ’s account.  Therefore, the only way for them to be back on our own account is to reject Christ altogether.  Therefore, while CT members insist that they don’t believe that leaving their church is tantamount to leaving Christ, their actions indicate otherwise.

 

Thought Experiment

 

Perhaps our study would be aided by a quick thought experiment.  I will say that I suspect Star Scott’s doctrine is heavily influenced by trying to rationalize his past sins, and this thought experiment is designed to poke at his claims in an uncomfortable way.  So here it goes.  We all know about the Jerry Sandusky scandal: in 2012, former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse of young boys, most of which occurred over a decade beforehand.  Suppose that at his sentencing, he stood up and told the judge, “Your Honor, I understand that I was found guilty of 45 counts of child molestation, but yesterday I became a Christian.  I asked God to forgive me of those sins and He has.  God’s forgiveness means that He forgets that it ever happened: in fact, it is as though none of those sins ever did happen.  In fact Your Honor, it ought to be considered that these crimes happened decades ago and I have not done such things in a very long time.  Regardless, Your Honor, because God forgave me, it never happened.  Since it never happened, I should not have any punishment or consequence to bear.”  Now, in our thought experiment, if Jerry Sandusky truly did repent of his sins and God forgave him, then before the throne of heaven he would have his sins removed as far as the east is from the west, like Psalm 103 says.  God would truly relate to Jerry as though his sins never happened as in regards to his divine position in relation to his soul’s final destination.  However, is that the same thing as those sins truly having never originally occurred?  Ought our judge to release Jerry Sandusky from the earthly penalties due him?  Furthermore, imagine that every one of his victims stood before the judge and said “I have done a lot of thinking, and I just want Jerry to know that I have forgiven him for his sins against me.  I do not hold those sins to his account in any regard.”  At that point, ought the judge to let Jerry off the hook?  Suppose further that the judge were a devout Christian, and that he recognized that Jerry had been forgiven by God and man: does that absolve Jerry of his responsibility to be punished for his numerous, insidious crimes?  Does the forgiveness of God and man absolve our consequences before government leaders?

 

Suppose just a little further that instead of Jerry being caught and standing before a judge, that you became aware of this entire back story at the same moment that Jerry Sandusky was your pastor.  Suppose that he had hidden this terrible back story from the authorities and had managed to keep all of his victims quiet for 40 years, but perhaps through Providence you have been made aware that this grievous claim is true in every respect.  Furthermore, suppose that these criminal acts were occurring immediately after Jerry Sandusky supposedly became a Christian and was happening during the entire time that Jerry Sandusky was attending Bible College.  Do you think that in light of the tests provided in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (all things have passed away such that all things become new) and 1 John 3:9 (“No one who is born of God will continue to sin…they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God), you could possibly conclude that such a conversion was genuine?

 

Could someone who fails the tests in 2 Corinthians 5:17 and 1 John 3:9 possibly claim that they are called to ministry? Can a non-Christian hear a call to ministry? In light of Jerry’s gross sins that are not even mentionable among the Gentiles (to borrow from Paul), could he pass the qualifications for eldership?  Could he somehow argue that even though he is by no means (1) blameless, (2) of good behavior, (3) able to teach, (4) not violent, (5) not a novice, or (6) of good testimony among those who are outside (beyond reproach) according to 1 Timothy 3:1-7, that his self proclaimed “calling to ministry” precludes him from needing to meet the base qualifications?  I mentioned “able to teach.”  I mean, if he spent the entirety of his time in Bible college molesting minors, what Bible knowledge could he possibly have retained, especially in light of 1 Corinthians 2:14 (The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit)?  Could he claim to have the Spirit while at the same time failing the most basic tests of Christianity i.e. by repeatedly and relentless molesting minors in such a way as to demonstrate that there could be no genuine repentance during those years?  Can this man (Jerry Sandusky…not Star Scott) claim that you have no Biblical support in seeking someone else to be your pastor, because by his own proclamation, God called him to be your pastor?

 

Ok, that was a very involved thought experiment.  Rarely is the purpose of a thought experiment to address the obvious answers.  It is meant to provide means to explore the various nuances and predicaments that arise from the description.  Since it was long and full of rhetorical questions, I will summarize below:

 

  1. If Jerry Sandusky (or anyone) was forgiven by God and man for his sins, does that preclude him from having to pay the consequences of his crimes?
    1. Is there a difference between God’s forgiveness making it as though we never sinned and God’s forgiveness making it that we never sinned in the first place?
    2. Does God truly forget our sins such that His consequences for us are nullified by His forgiveness?
  2. Could Jerry Sandusky be a Christian during the same 15 year time period that he was molesting minors?
    1. Could Jerry Sandusky hear from God, be called and qualified for ministry during the same 15 year time period that he was molesting minors?
    2. If Jerry Sandusky told you that God wanted him to be your pastor, do you have the God-given responsibility to vet him to ensure that this really is God’s desire for your life and you family’s life, and that this man isn’t really a wolf?

 

As we explore these issues through the Word and our God-given common sense, we should begin to see a Biblical pattern emerge that addresses the underlying theme of how sin continues to affect our civil and sacred lives after we’ve been forgiven.  I guess now would be a good time to mention what might be obvious to some and less obvious to others: there truly is no difference between Jerry Sandusky and Star Scott as far as crimes are concerned.  From a criminal justice perspective, they would both be found guilty of breaking the same sections in the law code and be sentenced in similar fashion for crimes that they committed decades before.  The difference is that current CT congregants are able to despise a Jerry Sandusky and revere a Star Scott because of decades spent presenting steadily deteriorating doctrine that is self-serving to Scott’s goals, which ultimately come down to pretending that he is somehow different from Jerry Sandusky.  If you are a current CT member and you are reading this, pause and consider if the early church would have ever allowed Jerry Sandusky to be a pastor over a local flock.  That stated, let’s begin.

 

This is a five part series, authored by Brandon. Please check back tomorrow for Part 2!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Biblical Authority: Pastoral Authority is not Mosaic and it is not Priestly | Part 3 of 3

This is Part 3 in a 3-part series. We recommend reading Part 1 and Part 2 before proceeding.

Part 3 of 3: Conclusion

In Part 1 of this three-part article we introduced the thesis, which is that pastoral authority is not Mosaic and it is not priestly.  This claim goes directly against Star Scott’s teachings that pastoral authority is Mosaic and it is priestly.  The implications of such teachings are far reaching.  As such, we have set out to study Scripture to see which claims are true and which are not.  Our studying led us to the book of Hebrews, the context of which will address our dilemma.

We then went through the first 10 chapters of the book of Hebrews in an effort to better understand the context of that book.  We will not restate all that was said, and if you are reading this Part 3 right now, do understand that we intended for you to read parts 1 and 2 beforehand in order to fully understand our position during this conclusion.  While we cannot restate the entirety of our arguments from the first two parts, we will resubmit our outline of Hebrews 1-10:18 for reference:

  • Section 1: Christ is superior to angels (1:1-14)
    • An admonition concerning salvation (2:1-4)
  • Section 2: Christ’s complete humanity qualifies Him to be our High Priest (2:5-18)
  • Section 3: Christ is superior to Moses (3:1-19)
  • Section 4: Christ is superior to Joshua in that He is able to bring us to rest (4:1-13).
  • Section 5a: Christ’s High Priesthood compared to the Aaronic Priesthood (4:14-5:10)
    • Another admonition concerning maturity, falling away, and faith (5:11-6:20)
  • Section 5b: Christ’s High Priesthood is superior to Aaron’s high priesthood (7:1-28)
  • Section 6: Christ is our High Priest. God’s new covenant supersedes the old. (8:1-13)
  • Section 7: Christ is the testator and mediator of the new covenant (9:1-28)
  • Section 8: Christ is the final sacrifice; summary thoughts (10:1-18)

Now that we have covered the doctrinal element of Hebrews, we can return to the statement that pastoral authority is not Mosaic and it is not priestly.  This assertion is made as a counter-claim to the two claims that Star Scott makes in his sermons from the introduction: they are restated below in their entirety.  He also makes these claims outside of those two sermons, but we want to explore the claims using the sermon excerpts as evidence of his claims:

Star Scott Claim #1: God used the example of Moses leading the children of Israel to establish pastoral authority in our lives. This example perfectly correlates to the New Testament five fold ministry gifts. 

Proposed Supporting Scripture: Ps. 77:20

Star Scott, Steps of the Good Man Pt. 3, April 25, 2010:

“There is a very interesting example in the Scripture that shows how God led the flock of God, or the people of God, and Moses as the shepherd of that covenant people, “Thou leddest Thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Psalm 77:20). So, as He is leading them like a flock by the hand of Moses, we begin to see the method that God used was to put people in authority in our lives. He establishes divine order as a primary method of leading us as a flock…Most of us, though, are not concerned with how He leads the church; we’re concerned with how He’s leading me. And the minute we begin to think about me, and not how we fit into the community, we have already perverted the reason for wanting to know the will of God. Because our desire for knowing the will of God should be, “How can I better edify the body of Christ? How can I be used more for the glory of God?” When we have that kind of heart attitude, we are in a place where we can hear what the Holy Spirit wants to say to us. But, if we are not careful that competitive spirit which is in every one of us, our desire to compete for to advance in temporal areas, which are secular, instead of eternal and spiritual, will arise because that’s what is in us without the dominance of the Holy Spirit. Then, especially in Christians, our rebellion is often wrapped in “Christianese” — using Christian language, spiritual words, and Bible references–to somehow camouflage our self will and how we see ourselves.  “God led them by the hand of Moses;” what a beautiful passage.  Look at Psalm 77; it is so good that you need to look at it. The Lord is being exalted throughout this whole Psalm: “I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings;” (verse 12), “Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.” (verse 14) Speaking of the greatness of God–the bigness of God: “The voice of Thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.” (Verse 18) Just the majesty of God! Then it says, “Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” (Verse 20) Now, in the midst of all of that there is a powerful statement made there. We see all of the majestic aspects of the holy God we serve–His omnipotence and His immensity–we stand in awe, then it says exactly what we have been studying in Ephesians, that God chose an order and established it in their midst: there is an order in the kingdom of God; there is an order in the church; there is an order in the home. Yet, everything in man says, “No, I have a responsibility to myself.” That’s what Eve said when Satan offered her the opportunity to have her eyes opened so she no longer had to depend upon God or upon Adam as a covering. “I can now hear directly from God.” If you don’t recognize that spirit, you will be very susceptible to deception–especially in these hours that are coming upon us.”

Star Scott Claim #2: The New Testament’s five-fold ministry gifts hear the voice of God and the will of God for an individual believer on a higher level than that individual believer.  They hear the Word of God from a different perspective that gives them a greater ability to interpret its meaning.

Proposed Supporting Scripture: no verses directly cited

Star Scott, Knowing God’s Voice, Hearing God’s Will Pt. 2, January 20, 2008:

“As we study the Word of God, I think there’s a great error in the church as it pertains to revelation of God’s will and order for His church. We live in a day when everyone seems to believe that we can hear equally. I want to share with you that that’s not a biblical principle. Aren’t you thankful that the Spirit of God lives in every one of us, and that the Spirit within you leads you into all truth? Can you say, “Praise God!” for that? Yet, the methods that He uses many times are misunderstood. We live in a day when we’ve lost sight of the fact that God predominantly speaks to men that are placed by Him in roles of leadership. We’re talking about the biblical representation of the lordship of Jesus, as He has set in the church (as it pleases Him) apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers, to teach and govern the body of Christ. You see, we live in a day when we still believe that each one of us has insight and input that is equal, but I want to share with you one thing. You’re going to be deceived and you’re going to become shipwrecked if you refuse to understand that God has put counselors, overseers, and spiritual authority into your life who will speak to you the Word of God. They hear the Word of God from a different perspective and on a different level than you hear it. We don’t like to hear that. We think we’re all equal, but I’m here to tell you that we are not.”

Star Scott Claim #1.

 Taking on Star Scott Claim #1, let us return to Hebrews:

  1. We see in 3:1-6 that Christ is better than Moses.
  2. We see in 7:4-10 that Christ is better than Aaron.
  3. We see again in 8:5-6 that the old covenant that Moses was a part of is just a shadow of the new covenant, and that the ministry of Jesus is superior to the priests in the same way that the new covenant is better than the old covenant.  Verse 6 explicitly says that the new covenant is established on better promises.
  4. We see that 8:7 states that if the old covenant had nothing wrong with it there would have been no reason for God to promise another.
  5. We see that 7:12 states that a change in the priesthood would necessitate a change of the law.
  6. As a consequence, 10:9 says that He took away the first that He may establish the second.  The covenant we are living under today is separate and distinct from the covenant of Moses’ day.  The priesthood has changed from the old priesthood to Christ’s priesthood.
  7. Furthermore, 8:8-12, which is a quote of Jer. 31:31-34 shows clearly that the new covenant will not be like the old covenant God made “when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt.”
  8. Also, 8:11 shows that our access to God and our knowing God is now based on the equality of each believer before God.
  9. Consequently, 8:13 says as clearly as could be said that the old law is now obsolete and has no further use.
  10. As a result, 9:13-14 demonstrates that Christ’s sacrifice is infinitely more powerful than the sacrifices in bulls and goats, in that Christ’s sacrifice cleanses our consciences in order that we may serve the living God.  This is further testified in 10:22 as the first direct result of the doctrine established in ch. 1-10:18.

Let’s look again at the sermon:

Star Scott, Steps of the Good Man Pt. 3, April 25, 2010:

“There is a very interesting example in the Scripture that shows how God led the flock of God, or the people of God, and Moses as the shepherd of that covenant people, “Thou leddest Thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Psalm 77:20). So, as He is leading them like a flock by the hand of Moses, we begin to see the method that God used was to put people in authority in our lives. He establishes divine order as a primary method of leading us as a flock…”

Looking at points (1) and (2) made in Hebrews, Christ supersedes Moses and Aaron.  Furthermore, He now serves in the roles that Moses and Aaron served in, only according to point (3) it is in an infinitely superior way.  So if God promised a better way, why would Star Scott insist on the old way?  Furthermore, point (4) states that there was something wrong with the old covenant, in that it was not complete: for Star Scott to insist on its use is to accept a system that God Himself declared to be faulty and incomplete.  Point (5) shows that as a result of the old priesthood changing, the law had to change as well: clearly by (6) the purpose of Christ’s coming was to take away that old law and old priesthood in order to establish a new covenant with a new priesthood—His priesthood.  Look again at the passage that is summarized in point (5): the priesthood had to change from man to Christ.  Therefore, no man can claim the functions of that role any more, as point (9) shows that the old law has been made obsolete.

If points 1-6 were not compelling enough, let us compare point (7) with Star Scott’s words.  Point (7) is in reference to the words of the Bible found in Hebrews and Jeremiah (by the mouth of two or three witnesses let every word be established):

Star Scott:

“Thou leddest Thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Psalm 77:20). So, as He is leading them like a flock by the hand of Moses, we begin to see the method that God used was to put people in authority in our lives. He establishes divine order as a primary method of leading us as a flock…”

 

OT Messianic Prophecy:

The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,” (Jer. 31:31-32)

 

NT fulfillment confirmed:

The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,”(Heb. 8:8-9)

What is most amazing about trying to use Ps. 77:20 to establish future doctrine is that this goes directly against point (7), where God says in Jer. 31:32 and again in Heb. 8:8-9 that the covenant that God will establish through the death of Christ “will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt.”  This is a breaking of one of the most basic rules of hermenutics, that “Scripture reveals Scripture.”  What that means is that we use the obvious, large passages of the Bible that are understood by all to comprehend the small, obsure parts of the Bible that might be used by some to bring confusion.

Looking as Ps. 77:20, there are several concerns I have with him using this verse as evidence of his claim.  One of the first things a Bible student would learn is that we cannot read the Psalms as having the same purpose as the Epistles.  In the specific case of Ps. 77:20, it is not Messianic or prophetic, and it does not point to the future.  It is a psalm of worship and a psalm of history, meaning that the section in 77:10-20 was written for the purpose of evoking worship to the Lord through a historical account of God’s goodness.  It reflects on the past, not the future.  This is very, very different from a verse that would be used to establish New Testament doctrine.  We see plenty of psalms and other prophetic passages that were Messianic being used as supporting evidence by the author of Hebrews and other New Testament writers.  For example, Jeremiah 31:31-34 was obviously written

  1. of a future time when God would change His covenant,
  2. it was considered Messianic by the Jews,
  3. and it was confirmed as Messianic by its reiteration in Hebrews.

None of those things are true of Ps. 77:20.  It was speaking of

  1. a past reflectoin of God’s goodness in His old covenant,
  2. it was not considered Messianic by the Jews,
  3. and it was never reitereated in the New Testament

As it is not intended to speak towards the future, and as Star Scott’s interpretation of it goes directly against the entire book of Hebrews and ch. 8:8-9 in particular (Scripture reveals Scripture), we must assume that its intention was other than what Star Scott has used it for.  Therefore, Ps. 77:20 cannot be used to establish authority under the New Covenant, because it was never intended to establish authority under the New Covenant.

The implications of this comparison are alarming, and it raises a variety of important questions such as

  • How is it that Star Scott has come to a place of teaching as doctrine something that goes directly against Scripture?
  • What does it say about his ability to discern good and evil if he teaches the opposite of what the Bible teaches?
  • If he is such a good exegete as he claims to be, how is it that he got this one so blatantly wrong?
  • As one teaching the Word and requiring it of others, does he use basic hermenutic principles to aid in his interpretation of the Bible?
  • Why didn’t the congregants of Calvary Temple see this problem as soon as the words escaped Star Scott’s mouth?
  • What predisposition leads a man to misinterpret the Bible in this way?
  • What predisposition leads the other men to accept the Bible in this way?

Let’s move on to the rest of the sermon:

Star Scott, Steps of the Good Man Pt. 3, April 25, 2010:

“then it says exactly what we have been studying in Ephesians, that God chose an order and established it in their midst: there is an order in the kingdom of God; there is an order in the church; there is an order in the home. Yet, everything in man says, “No, I have a responsibility to myself.” That’s what Eve said when Satan offered her the opportunity to have her eyes opened so she no longer had to depend upon God or upon Adam as a covering. “I can now hear directly from God.” If you don’t recognize that spirit, you will be very susceptible to deception–especially in these hours that are coming upon us.”

This is a faulty correlation to Ephesians.  As we’ve already established, Ps. 77 is a historical psalm and cannot be used to establish a New Testament doctrine concerning pastoral authority.  That he had to grasp at the last verse of an obscure psalm is telling in and of itself.  Furthermore, taking points (4) and (6) together, Star Scott’s desire to use Old Testament examples to establish New Testament principles ignores points (3) and (9) that the new covenant is better and the old covenant has no further use—it has been replaced by Christ Himself.  Remember, Heb. 8:13 cannot contradict Matt. 5:17.  Star Scott likes Matt 5:17 and quotes it a lot to bring back the Old Testament authority structures.  The law being obsolete obviously does not mean there is no further use for the Old Testament: there are still prophecies that need to be fulfilled out of the Old Testament so it clearly cannot be entirely useless.  However, it is also clear from Hebrews that the aspects of the old law that had to do with how God led His people under the old covenant were made obsolete when Christ died.  The Mosaic aspects, the priestly aspects, and the ceremonial aspects of the law were made obsolete because they were fulfilled in Christ.  Star Scott’s reason for gravitating to these Old Testament authority structures is the same reason all cults gravitate towards them:  it gives him more power and control.  The danger he faces, however, is that the power and authority he is taking has been given to Christ.

Star Scott: “Yet, everything in man says, ‘No, I have a responsibility to myself.’”

Yeah, every man does have a responsibility to himself according to Phil.2:12 which commands us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”  Furthermore, every man must give account before God for themselves, so yeah, we should take that responsibility very seriously.  That means if Star Scott says something against the Bible, I must go against Star Scott because I will be held accountable to God for what I choose to do.  We stopped at Heb. 10:18, but let us move on to what directly followed: v. 19 starts with a “therefore.”  That means what the author is about to say is a direct result of what he just said:

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having a high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with water.”   Heb. 10:19-22

What this means is that it is of great importance that you as an individual understand your Christ-given responsibility to approach God for yourself.  It is absolutely not the responsibility of your pastor or any other man to draw near to God for you.  Each man must draw near for himself in full assurance that Christ has made the way for us to approach our God.  You do have a responsibility to yourself.

Star Scott: “That’s what Eve said when Satan offered her the opportunity to have her eyes opened so she no longer had to depend upon God or upon Adam as a covering. ‘I can now hear directly from God.’ If you don’t recognize that spirit, you will be very susceptible to deception–especially in these hours that are coming upon us.”

 

No, that’s not what Eve said.  Eve’s reasoning was that she would be made like God.  Scripture records nothing of her saying “I have a responsibility to myself.”  She also didn’t sin so she could ‘now hear directly from God.’  She already heard directly from God, every evening in the garden.  To use the example of Eve looking to be free from God as a correlation to a congregant wanting to be free from abusive church leadership looks a lot like “‘Christianese’ — using Christian language, spiritual words, and Bible references–to somehow camouflage our self will and how we see ourselves” to quote Star Scott.  Moreover, Scott’s own correlation puts him in the part of the analogy that God is in.  Further evidence of a faulty correlation.

 

Point (8) shows that according to Heb. 8:11, we now do hear directly from God.  Adam and Eve heard directly from God in the garden, and that direct link to God was broken when Adam sinned.  Part of God’s promise in His new covenant is that He would restore that relationship to man with the death of His Son.  So “hearing directly from God” is not a rebellious spirit that would make us susceptible to deception, it’s the promise God made in the new covenant.  It’s part of what makes the new covenant established on better promises.  The new covenant is salvation.  “They all will know me, from the least to the greatest.”  Again, Star Scott is found in a place of saying the exact opposite of what Scripture says.

Star Scott Claim #2.

The thought that a pastor could hear from God “on a higher level” than an individual believer makes no sense when viewed in the context of Hebrews.  Let’s pretend for a second that we found a verse like that in the middle of Hebrews.  So we have “There remains a rest for the people of God (Heb. 4:9),” “Seeing we have a high priest who is ascended into heaven…let us boldly approach God’s throne of grace (Heb. 4:14-16),” “No longer will they teach their neighbor or say to one another ‘Know the Lord’ because they will all know me from the least to the greatest (Heb. 8:11),” and “God gave Pastor Scott authority to hear from Him on a higher level than you do (Book of Bob 1:1).”  That last one doesn’t make sense in light of the Word of God…who wrote that last one?

Star Scott, Knowing God’s Voice, Hearing God’s Will Pt. 2, January 20, 2008:

“As we study the Word of God, I think there’s a great error in the church as it pertains to revelation of God’s will and order for His church. We live in a day when everyone seems to believe that we can hear equally. I want to share with you that that’s not a biblical principle.”

Star Scott needs to read Hebrews 8.  According to point (9) taken from Hebrews 8:11, it is a Biblical principle.  It actually serves as one of the pivotal points in God’s promises under the new covenant, that we would no longer need each one his neighbor to tell him “know the Lord,” because we would each know God for ourselves (Heb. 8:11).  Star Scott speaks of an inequality as being God’s desire for His people.  This flies in the face of the remainder of that prophecy:  “For they all shall know me, from the least to the greatest of them.”  This is not speaking of some hierarchy that God is trying to establish in the church.  Taking point (9) and Heb. 10:19-22 together, we see that the purpose of what Jeremiah was saying is that our knowledge of God would now be equal, and we can as individuals have unbridled access into the holy of holies.

Star Scott, Knowing God’s Voice, Hearing God’s Will Pt. 2, January 20, 2008:

“Aren’t you thankful that the Spirit of God lives in every one of us, and that the Spirit within you leads you into all truth? Can you say, “Praise God!” for that?  Yet, the methods that He uses many times are misunderstood. We live in a day when we’ve lost sight of the fact that God predominantly speaks to men that are placed by Him in roles of leadership…You’re going to be deceived and you’re going to become shipwrecked if you refuse to understand that God has put counselors, overseers, and spiritual authority into your life who will speak to you the Word of God. They hear the Word of God from a different perspective and on a different level than you hear it. We don’t like to hear that. We think we’re all equal, but I’m here to tell you that we are not.”

This quote is innately flawed, because he says just before it “Aren’t you thankful that the Spirit of God lives in every one of us, and that the Spirit within you leads you into all truth? Can you say, “Praise God!” for that?”  Whether he realizes it or not, he is quoting John 16:13, which is referring to the Holy Spirit.  Concerning the context we will now show it below:

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.  He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you.  All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine, and will disclose it to you.”                  John 16:13-15

Honestly, if Scott had just said the first part of the quote and not gone on to pervert its meaning, he would have probably been able to truly encourage someone.  It’s so true, that Christ promised the Holy Spirit who is equally God, would come down and reside within us as Christians, and would lead us into all truth.  The power of that statement is found in that the Spirit will disclose what He hears from the Father. But by adding his own twist by saying next that “We live in a day when we’ve lost sight of the fact that God predominantly speaks to men that are placed by Him in roles of leadership,” he has created a flawed logic that looks like this:

  • TRUTH: God the Son promised He would send the Holy Spirit to reside within you.
  • TRUTH: God in the form of the Holy Spirit resides within you.
  • TRUTH:  His job is to guide you into all truth—He does this from within you.
  • WHAT?  But God predominantly speaks through men from outside of you.
  • FALSE:  Therefore, the men that are outside of you are more capable that the Holy Spirit within you.
  • FALSE:  God has chosen to speak predominantly through another man and not through Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit that is within you.
  • FALSE:  You will become “spiritually shipwrecked” if you listen to the Holy Spirit within you over the men outside of you.

The problem with this flawed logic, besides being illogical, is that it goes against Scripture—in particularly it makes no sense within the context of Hebrews or John 16.  This also brings up another problem: if God went through all the trouble to remove the need for a human priest which was imperfect, and to replace that old covenant with the perfect work of Christ who is able to bring us into the very throne room of God, why would He then replace that imperfect priest with an imperfect pastor and not with Christ?  Why would He then insert another man in between Himself and His people?

The reason Scott can get away with the above logical fallacy is his teaching on conscience.  Conscience is a four-letter word at Calvary Temple.  Even as recently as April 2012, I heard him teaching on conscience during his sermons on doctrines of devils and seducing spirits (aka people who tell you that you should leave Calvary Temple…probably not the original Greek but close enough for Scott).  He said that our consciences were pure before the fall, but they became neutral after the fall.  The thrust of his argument is that, as the Bible says our hearts are desperately wicked, our consciences can lead us wrong.  We need the Word of God to be over our consciences, and we need the men of God as He set His order in the church to help us properly interpret the Bible, Scott says.  Again, this is nothing short of placing a man between a believer and his God.

This is the main reason I included point (9): because Star Scott terrifies his congregation into believing that their consciences are bent towards evil and therefore they need him to help them see truth.  This is not sound doctrine, as Hebrews 9 and 10 show clearly that the sacrifice of Christ has cleansed us from an evil conscience, not Star Scott.  Therefore, Scott finds himself once again in a position of taking upon himself the authority and power given solely to Christ, as well as preaching something in direct opposition to Scripture.

Conclusion

Looking at all of these things, I must say that pastoral authority is not priestly.  What Hebrews makes abundantly clear is that the role of high-priest has been reserved for Christ, and all priestly functions belong to him.  He never describes a New Testament pastor in any priestly terms or with any priestly functions.  This is because priestly authority has been reserved for Christ.  Therefore, it cannot be reserved for a pastor, and if a pastor wants to claim that authority, he has to take it from Christ.

Furthermore, pastoral authority cannot be Mosaic.  Hebrews 3 makes it sufficiently clear that Jesus superseded Moses in every way, and His work superseded Moses’ work in every way.  The only way then to claim Mosaic authority is to supersede Christ.  As all authority belongs to Him, I imagine you would have a difficult time taking it from Him.  Also, I don’t think you would want to be in the position of claiming that the authority that was expressly given solely to Christ actually belongs to you.

One more thing.  Part of good exegesis is to understand the occasion that called for the authorship of the Epistle.  In the case of Hebrews, his audience had lost sight of the goodness of Christ, the superiority of His finished work, and His continual working in heaven that effectively made the law obsolete.  They wanted to look to men for what could only be given to them by Christ.  I posit that the audience of Calvary Temple finds themselves in a similar condition.  This makes the book of Hebrews profoundly applicable to their case.

If you are a current member of Calvary Temple, I urge you to challenge your current beliefs concerning ‘the role of a pastor’ with the Book of Hebrews. I do not want to be guilty of the same thing I accuse Star Scott of.  I implore you to read the Bible and allow God to reveal its meaning to you: go your way and study Hebrews for yourself.  See for yourself what God intended to communicate in this letter.  And if you think Brandon = hogwash, skip over my notes and just read the sections that are directly out of an NIV Bible.  You certainly don’t need my comments to understand what is so clearly put before us in those 10 chapters.  And then compare for yourself: see if Scripture matches with the claims Star Scott makes.

As for me, I believe I have seen very clearly.  It’s no wonder that in my 20 years at Calvary Temple, I was never taught out of those 10 chapters of Hebrews, except for maybe a verse here or there as it fit a sermon topic.  I did not even know these things were in the Bible.  Whenever I heard about the equal access of all believers, it was in a derogatory way as something rebels hold to in an effort to avoid “God’s established order in the church.”  And I never understood the high-priestly role of Christ.  Now that I understand that principle, I have such a deeper appreciation for the work of the cross and the power that has been afforded to me by Christ.

My prayer is that you would come to the same understanding.

~Brandon

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Biblical Authority: Pastoral Authority is not Mosaic and it is not Priestly | Part 2 of 3

This is Part 2 in a 3-part series. We recommend reading Part 1 before proceeding.

Part 2 of 3: Hebrews 7-10:18

In Part 1 of this three-part article we introduced the thesis, which is that pastoral authority is not Mosaic and it is not priestly.  This is a claim that is directly contrary to Star Scott’s teachings that pastoral authority is Mosaic and it is priestly.  The implications of such a claim are far reaching.  As such, we have set out to study Scripture to see which set of claims are true and which are not.  Our studying has led us to the book of Hebrews, the context of which clearly addresses our dilemma.

In Part 1, we reviewed Hebrews 1-6.  It was in no way meant to be exhaustive.  There are plenty of good commentaries on Hebrews that can exhaust you if you are interested.  One recommendation for a shorter work would be The Epistle to the Hebrews by F.F. Bruce.  It is used to teach Hebrews in many Bible colleges and was even used in Star Scott’s short-lived School of the Prophets adult education ministry.  As such, many Calvary Temple members should have this book and can certainly consult it to verify our claims concerning the context of Hebrews.  And it should be the same thing you are taught today (sarcasm), since the doctrines of Star Scott haven’t changed in 40 years (except the ones that have).

I am not quoting out of any commentaries or other works on Hebrews for two reasons.  First, I don’t want anyone to attempt to discredit our work by discrediting our sources.  Our source is the Bible, and while there is certainly a place for commentaries our first method of study should be the Bible itself.  Second, there is no need for any outside influence on this article, as our intention is to display the meaning of Hebrews within the context of Hebrews, and we are contented to simply summarize the passages in an effort to show that context clearly.

The first six chapters of Hebrews showed us the superiority of Christ in relation to angels, Moses, and Joshua.  The author was developing his argument in chapter 5 that Christ’s High-Priesthood is better than Aaron’s.  So why all this talk of being better?  The author is systematically going through all of the high points of Judaism and showing his audience that Christ and the new covenant is far better than the old.  Christ supersedes Moses.  His salvation is permanent and complete in a way Joshua’s leading into the Promised Land was not.  The author chides his audience and their pending falling away from Christ, as they were falling back into Judaism.  After six chapters, we have developed the following outline:

  • Section 1: Christ is superior to angels (1:1-14)
    • An admonition concerning salvation (2:1-4)
  • Section 2: Christ’s humanity qualifies Him to be our High Priest (2:5-18)
  • Section 3: Christ is superior to Moses (3:1-19)
  • Section 4: Christ is superior to Joshua in that He is able to bring us to rest (4:1-13).
  • Section 5a: Christ’s High Priesthood compared to the Aaronic Priesthood (4:14-5:10)
    • Another admonition concerning maturity, falling away, and faith (5:11-6:20)

Let us now continue on to chapter 7, where the author returns to his train of thought concerning Melchizedek.

Section 5b: Christ’s High Priesthood is superior to Aaron’s high priesthood (7:1-28)

This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.

Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people —that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.

If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared:

“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”(Ps. 110:4)

 

The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:

“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
‘You are a priest forever.’”(Ps. 110:4)

Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.

Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

The author used the transition in 6:20 to return to his main point, that Christ is our high priest after the order of Melchizedek.  He then gives a historical description of Melchizedek (7:1-3), taken out of Gen. 14:17-20.  In his description of Melchizedek, he mentions that he had no genealogy (7:3).  This is of utmost importance to his Jewish audience, as a priest would go through painstaking lengths to trace his genealogy back to Aaron for the purpose of establishing his qualification for his ministry. However in this way, the author establishes the timeless aspect of the order of Melchizedek.  He also is able to correlate his perpetual priesthood to that of Christ’s (7:3).

The next argument is framed to show that the order of Melchizedek is better than the order of Aaron.  The author’s support of this claim is shown in that Abraham tithed to him (7:2,4) before the law.  For Abraham to give a tithe to Melchizedek and to receive a blessing from him is to recognize Melchizedek’s superiority to Abraham, as the author notes that the lesser is always blessed of the greater (7:7).  Furthermore, he uses the argument that Levi was still in the loins of Abraham and therefore tithed to Melchizedek vicariously though Abraham (7:10): this completely establishes the order of Melchizedek as greater than the order of Aaron.  Therefore the collectors of tithes (7:5) are seen having their tithe collected by Melchizedek.  By establishing that the order of Melchizedek is greater than the of Aaron, the author demonstrates Christ’s High-Priesthood as superior the Aaron’s high-priesthood.

Not satisfied, the author moves on to begin building to his next point: that Christ is perfect is a way that the law could never be.  His reasoning is that if Aaron’s priesthood had been perfect, there would be no need for Ps. 110:4 to speak of another priesthood (7:11).  His next thought is paramount: if the priesthood changed, the law must change too (7:12)—a thought he will complete in ch. 8.  He overcomes any objection that Christ was from Judah (7:14) and establishes that this is because Christ’s priesthood is not dependant on his ancestry (7:16).  Christ’s priesthood is an eternal, timeless order that requires a permanence that no earthly priest possesses.  This is why he made the point to explain Melchizedek’s having no genealogy or descent—it becomes the perfect analogy of Christ and it causes Jesus to fulfill the prophecy in Ps. 110 in a way no one else could have done.

He again quotes Ps. 110:4 as his support, and emphasizes that God swore an oath concerning the eternal function of Christ’s priesthood (7:21).  This is obviously very important to the author, and his reason for this importance is seen in his purpose to explain to his audience that Christ’s work completely solves our need before God—there is no other priest that required an oath for his office.  Christ’s superiority is found in His appointment from God, His eternal life, His once and for all sacrifice of Himself, His ability to empathize with His people perfectly, and His eternal office as sworn in an oath by God (7:21-28).

The author then moves on to main consequence of his argument.

Section 6: Christ is our High Priest and God’s new covenant supersedes the old. (8:1-13)

Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.

Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”(Ex. 25:40)  But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said:

“The days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
and I turned away from them,
declares the Lord.
This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”(Jer. 31:31-34)

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

Section 6: After seven chapters of building upon prophecy and establishing his supporting points, the author is able to state as clearly as possible: “This is our main point, that Christ is our High Priest (8:1).”  He shows Christ simultaneously being sat at the right hand of God (past tense) and serving (present tense) in the heavenly sanctuary-that is, the very presence of God (8:1-2).  This is important because the past tense shows that it already happened—Jesus has sat down, which is a position of completion and is in reference to His finished work as our sacrifice.  Yet at the same time, Christ is working presently—even now—in His High-Priestly function as Mediator for His people.

The author goes on to show that the Old Covenant was a shadow, or a similitude of the New (8:5).  Just as a shadow cannot completely capture the detail of a person, so the Old was unable to capture the completeness of God’s desire for mankind.  The author stresses that it is because the old was not perfect that a new was necessary (8:7); moreover, that the new covenant is superior because it is established on better promises (8:6).

It immediately follows that if the old covenant had been perfect, God would have had no reason to speak of a better one (8:7), as He did in Jer. 31:31-34, which the author cites in its entirety (8:8-12).  What we learn about God’s promise in Jeremiah is the following:

  1. The new covenant is separate and distinct from the old, in that God spoke of it as a future event while He spoke of the old as a past event (8:8-9)
  2. All covenants stand as long as both parties honor the terms of the covenant.  As the people of Israel had broken their terms, God had turned away from them (8:9).
  3. God describes His new covenant as one of writing his laws in the minds and hearts of the people (8:10).
  4. He says that all his people will know Him equally.  There will be no need for one to show another who God is, as they will know Him personally (8:11)
  5. God’s promise that his people would know him is sure from the least to the greatest, the message being that the knowledge of God will be established on equality before God (8:11)
  6. He will forgive them, and remember their sins no more (8:12).

After establishing these things, the author goes on to make a very important claim.  This statement is of great importance to his audience, who is trying to determine how the law will fit into their newfound faith.  He says that the new law has made the old law obsolete (8:13).  This in no way contradicts the words of Jesus when he said “I did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill (Matt. 5:17).”Something that is obsolete has no further use—he is saying that there is no further use for the law, in particular the aspects of priesthood, human mediation on behalf of another, and the giving of sacrifice.  These things have been fulfilled in Christ, and He operates in those functions even now.

Section 7: Christ is the testator and mediator of the new covenant (9:1-28)

Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.

When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings —external regulations applying until the time of the new order.

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance —now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.”(Ex. 24:8) In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Section 7: The author ended ch. 8 with the statement “The old law is obsolete.” His meaning is that it was once useful, but it has no further use because there is a new covenant in place, and the old law is not useful in the new covenant.  The beginning of ch. 9 gives a brief historical description of the tabernacle under the old law for the purpose of explaining to his audience how Christ correlates to that old law (9:1-5).

He moves on in 9:6 to describe the work of the high priest under the old law, and says in v. 9 that this is an illustration—or other translations use similitude or shadow—of how the new covenant should operate.  No shadow perfectly describes the real thing; rather, it can only point to the nature of the real thing.  In that the old law was a matter of external regulations, those things only applied until the new will took affect.

How it took affect was through the death of Christ, who has taken the place of the blood offerings under the old law.  Verses 11 through 14 discuss how Christ’s sacrifice is better, in that it is able to cleanse the conscience from sin in a way that the blood of bulls and goats could not.  In that Christ’s death caused the new will to take affect makes Him the testator of that same will.  The author has changed terminology and is applying the example of an inheritance will and says that the new covenant is like a will.  New covenant, new inheritance, and new will essentially mean the same thing.

Verses 16 through 22 describe how the death of Christ caused the new will to take effect.  Every will requires the testator to die before the power of the will is to take effect.  The author points to the shedding of blood to enact the first covenant to give weight to his argument that Christ’s blood enacts the second covenant.  He ends his discussion in ch. 9 by clarifying that Christ’s sacrifice is different from the sacrifices the high priests offered yearly because His was once and for all (9:22-28).

Section 8: Christ is the final sacrifice; summary thoughts (10:1-18)

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll —
I have come to do your will, my God.’”(Ps. 40:6-8)

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” —though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”(Jer. 31:33)

Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”(Jer. 31:34)

And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

Section 8: The passage from 9:1 to 10:18 could really be viewed as one train of thought.  The only addition to ch. 10 is that the author effectively summarizes his argument one more time before completing the doctrinal section of the letter.

He repeats in 10:1 that the old was just a shadow of the new.  Because of that, the sacrifices of the old law could not make Israel perfect—that is why they had to be offered repeatedly and why Christ only had to be a sacrifice once (10:2-4).  Whereas the law could not take away the guilt of the sin, Christ’s sacrifice could.  He interprets the passage in Ps. 40:6-8 to be Christ stating “I have come to do your will” in such a way that He came to set aside the first covenant and establish the second through His death (10:9).  He repeats his theme in 10:12 that Christ completed His work once and for all and has sat down—a position of completion—at the right hand of God—a position of honor.  He repeats the prophecy from Jer. 31 to support this (10:16-17) as verse 34 of that passage reads “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more” settles that Christ’s sacrifice is final.  It is not as the sacrifices under the old law that served as a reminder of sin year after year (10:3), but rather a complete washing away of the sin such that continual sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary (10:18).

Summary of Part 2: Hebrews 7-10:18

Hebrews 10:19 until the end of the book records exhortations and specifics that are not a part of the main doctrinal theme of 1:1—10:18.  However, all of those exhortations need to be read in the context of the first 10 chapters, as their meanings are more clearly understood in light of the purpose of the letter.  What we see particularly in Heb. 7-10 is the culmination of the author’s various points to show that Christ is our High Priest and His High-Priesthood is better than Aaron’s (ch. 7).  Furthermore, Christ’s death inaugurated a new covenant in which the people of God would see a drastic change in how He related to them (ch. 8).  As a part of that new covenant, there was no more need for continual sacrifice, for Christ had become that sacrifice for us once and for all, and He has become our mediator under the new covenant (ch. 9).  Furthermore, Christ’s sacrifice is able to cleanse our consciences and bring us to God in a way that the old covenant was incapable of (ch. 10).

Having reached the conclusion of the main doctrinal thrust of Hebrews, we can complete our outline:

  • Section 1: Christ is superior to angels (1:1-14)
    • An admonition concerning salvation (2:1-4)
  • Section 2: Christ’s humanity qualifies Him to be our High Priest (2:5-18)
  • Section 3: Christ is superior to Moses (3:1-19)
  • Section 4: Christ is superior to Joshua in that He is able to bring us to rest (4:1-13).
  • Section 5a: Christ’s High Priesthood compared to the Aaronic Priesthood (4:14-5:10)
    • Another admonition concerning maturity, falling away, and faith (5:11-6:20)
  • Section 5b: Christ’s High Priesthood is superior to Aaron’s high priesthood (7:1-28)
  • Section 6: Christ is our High Priest and God’s new covenant supersedes the old. (8:1-13)
  • Section 7: Christ is the testator and mediator of the new covenant (9:1-28)
  • Section 8: Christ is the final sacrifice; summary thoughts (10:1-18)

What we see in this outline is the context of Hebrews, namely that Christ is better.  He is better than angels (ch. 1), He is better able to empathize with His people (ch. 2), He supersedes Moses (ch. 3) and Joshua (ch. 4).  His High-Priesthood supersedes Aaron’s in every way (ch. 5,7), and His death inaugurated a new covenant that was superior to the old in every way (ch. 8).  Unlike the old covenant sacrifices, His sacrifice was final, and it elevated Him to be our Mediator before God in the new covenant (ch. 9-10:18).

What this means for the individual believer is monumental.  We have access to the very throne of God (4:16) because of the work of Christ.  Although we as humans have a fallen nature, Christ understands our frailty and lives to bring us to glory (2:9-18).  Our relation to God is not like it was under the old covenant, but we as Christians all know God from the least to the greatest (8:11).  If that doesn’t stir your soul to praise God, then I don’t know what will!

Now that we are armed with the full meaning of Hebrews and its proper usage in establishing doctrine, let us return to our previous claims and see who is telling the truth.  Please read Part 3 for that discussion.

~Brandon

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Biblical Authority: Pastoral Authority is not Mosaic and it is not Priestly | Part 1 of 3

Part 1 of 3: Hebrews 1-6      

In our discussion of pastoral authority, we have established that a pastor’s authority originates in, is limited by, and therefore must be reflective of Scripture.  Using that as our foundation, we next want to look at some of the authority types that Scripture specifically designates to others.  These are areas in which Scripture has expressly placed functional authority on someone other than the pastor, and therefore that authority cannot possibly be reserved for the pastor.  The first area we are going to look at is this: a pastor’s authority is not Mosaic and it is not priestly.

What we mean by Mosaic are those functions that Moses performed in his leadership of the children of Israel.  Moses spoke to God for the people and to the people for God.  When God had a word for the congregation of Israel, He spoke it first to Moses who then spoke it to the people in such a way that the words of Moses were the words of God.  When someone stood against Moses, God struck him down.  Star Scott teaches that he enjoys the same authority and functionality of Moses as it relates to his congregation.

What we mean by priestly are those functions that the Bible describes as belonging to a priest, in particular the high-priestly function of mediation between God and the people.  Star Scott has even referred to his office within the church as the same as the high priestly office of the Old Testament.  This is slightly different from the function of Moses; and while there are similarities in his application of this combined role, we want to separate them in scope and deal with them individually.  Therefore, we want to include in our discussion that pastoral authority is #1 not Mosaic and #2 it is not priestly in nature.  Our two claims form the converse of the following:

Star Scott Claim #1: God used the example of Moses leading the children of Israel to establish pastoral authority in our lives. This example perfectly correlates to the New Testament five fold ministry gifts. 

Proposed Supporting Scripture: Ps. 77:20

Star Scott, Steps of the Good Man Pt. 3, April 25, 2010:

“There is a very interesting example in the Scripture that shows how God led the flock of God, or the people of God, and Moses as the shepherd of that covenant people, “Thou leddest Thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Psalm 77:20). So, as He is leading them like a flock by the hand of Moses, we begin to see the method that God used was to put people in authority in our lives. He establishes divine order as a primary method of leading us as a flock…Most of us, though, are not concerned with how He leads the church; we’re concerned with how He’s leading me. And the minute we begin to think about me, and not how we fit into the community, we have already perverted the reason for wanting to know the will of God. Because our desire for knowing the will of God should be, “How can I better edify the body of Christ? How can I be used more for the glory of God?” When we have that kind of heart attitude, we are in a place where we can hear what the Holy Spirit wants to say to us. But, if we are not careful that competitive spirit which is in every one of us, our desire to compete for to advance in temporal areas, which are secular, instead of eternal and spiritual, will arise because that’s what is in us without the dominance of the Holy Spirit. Then, especially in Christians, our rebellion is often wrapped in “Christianese” — using Christian language, spiritual words, and Bible references–to somehow camouflage our self will and how we see ourselves.  “God led them by the hand of Moses;” what a beautiful passage.  Look at Psalm 77; it is so good that you need to look at it. The Lord is being exalted throughout this whole Psalm: “I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings;” (verse 12), “Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.” (verse 14) Speaking of the greatness of God–the bigness of God: “The voice of Thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.” (Verse 18) Just the majesty of God! Then it says, “Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” (Verse 20) Now, in the midst of all of that there is a powerful statement made there. We see all of the majestic aspects of the holy God we serve–His omnipotence and His immensity–we stand in awe, then it says exactly what we have been studying in Ephesians, that God chose an order and established it in their midst: there is an order in the kingdom of God; there is an order in the church; there is an order in the home. Yet, everything in man says, “No, I have a responsibility to myself.” That’s what Eve said when Satan offered her the opportunity to have her eyes opened so she no longer had to depend upon God or upon Adam as a covering. “I can now hear directly from God.” If you don’t recognize that spirit, you will be very susceptible to deception–especially in these hours that are coming upon us.”

Star Scott Claim #2: The New Testament’s five-fold ministry gifts hear the voice of God and the will of God for an individual believer on a higher level than that individual believer.  God gifts them with a superior perspective on Scripture that makes then better able to interpret its meaning.

Proposed Supporting Scripture: no verses directly cited

Star Scott, Knowing God’s Voice, Hearing God’s Will Pt. 2, January 20, 2008:

“As we study the Word of God, I think there’s a great error in the church as it pertains to revelation of God’s will and order for His church. We live in a day when everyone seems to believe that we can hear equally. I want to share with you that that’s not a biblical principle. Aren’t you thankful that the Spirit of God lives in every one of us, and that the Spirit within you leads you into all truth? Can you say, “Praise God!” for that? Yet, the methods that He uses many times are misunderstood. We live in a day when we’ve lost sight of the fact that God predominantly speaks to men that are placed by Him in roles of leadership. We’re talking about the biblical representation of the lordship of Jesus, as He has set in the church (as it pleases Him) apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers, to teach and govern the body of Christ. You see, we live in a day when we still believe that each one of us has insight and input that is equal, but I want to share with you one thing. You’re going to be deceived and you’re going to become shipwrecked if you refuse to understand that God has put counselors, overseers, and spiritual authority into your life who will speak to you the Word of God. They hear the Word of God from a different perspective and on a different level than you hear it. We don’t like to hear that. We think we’re all equal, but I’m here to tell you that we are not.”

We could summarize Star Scott’s two claims to mean that pastoral authority is Mosaic and it is priestly.  Our counter-argument is that the method God used in Moses leading the children of Israel does not correlate to New Testament Christianity.  Furthermore, the idea that a pastor hears from God on a higher level than an individual believer—effectively placing that pastor in the role of an Aaronic high-priest—does not fit with the New Testament gospel message.  What each claim effectively does is places another human between man and God, such that a) Christian –> pastor –> (Son, Father, Holy Spirit) and/or b) (Son, Father, Holy Spirit) –> pastor –> Christian.  The leadership at Calvary Temple isn’t too concerned about (a): you can talk to God all you want.  Their concern is (b): they want to hear from God for you.

I do not intend to use a verse-here-and-a-verse-there to substantiate the counter-claim.  Rather I feel that as a whole, the book of Hebrews speaks very clearly on this subject, especially in Hebrews 1:1—10:18.  As the results of Scott’s claims are as significant as they are, I think it necessary to go through these 10 chapters in their entirety.  The purpose and context of Hebrews can speak for itself, and there is no need to pull out a few verses on their own—I would not want to be guilty of the same proof texting that brought him to his claims.  As such, let us suspend judgment for the time being and examine this passage of Scripture first.  This being our goal, we will be reading all 10 chapters.

As such, this will be a large article.  To keep it readable, I will split it into three parts.  I do not intend to write a commentary on Hebrews.  Our goal is to understand the author’s message, and we can save the nuances and intricacies of each section for another day.  That being said, I do not think that the nuances and intricacies would in any way contradict the very clear and straightforward theme of the book.  I will summarize where appropriate, when the writer has finished a thought and moved on to the next.

One final thing is that I personally prefer to read long passages without chapter and verse superscripts.  I don’t consider this a more spiritual exercise; I just think that the author wrote it as a letter.  We don’t receive a letter in the mail, read the middle three sentences, and walk away assuming we understand the entire letter.  Our standard chapter and verse format can create a start-here-stop-there tendency that causes the train of thought to be broken up and lost.  With that in mind, let’s move on to Hebrews and place the two claims and two counter-claims to the side to be revisited later.  We are reading out of the NIV translation.

Hebrews

Author: Uncertain

Audience: The letter is simply addressed “To the Hebrews.”  The context within the letter shows that the intended audience was most likely converted Jews who were trying to understand how the old covenant fit into their new faith in Christ, and who were in danger of slipping back into Judaism.

Theme: The completed work of Christ and the ongoing work of Christ is better than and supersedes the old covenant.

To the Hebrews

Section 1: Christ is better than angels (ch. 1:1-14)

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.  For to which of the angels did God ever say,

“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father”(
Psalm 2:7)?

Or again,

“I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son”(
2 Samuel 7:14)?

And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God’s angels worship him.”(Deut. 32:43)

In speaking of the angels he says,

“He makes his angels spirits,
and his servants flames of fire.”(
Psalm 104:4)

But about the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.”(
Psalm 45:6,7)

He also says,

“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will roll them up like a robe;
like a garment they will be changed.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.”(
Psalm 102:25-27)

To which of the angels did God ever say,

“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet”?(
Psalm 110:1)

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

In section 1, the author introduces the Son as heir of all things, the maker of the universe, the radiance of God’s glory, and the exact representation of His being (1:2-3).  This is a glorious introduction and while the author has not expressly named Jesus (as he will in 2:9), it is obvious whom he is talking about.  He goes on to say that the Son provided purification for sins and then sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven (1:3).  This is important because it was a priestly function to provide for the purification of sins and the audience would have known that.  Saying that the Son sat down at the right hand of God represents both the finality and completion of his task (of providing purification for sins), and a position of honor given to no other.  This leads directly into his first point of argument, which is that Christ is better than angels.  This is even more significant to his audience, as Jews in this time period had a very high regard for angels.

He does this by referring to Messianic prophecies and how they show the Messiah as higher than angels.  The selected verses accomplish this in the following way:

  1. Ps. 2:7 demonstrates the Father naming the Messiah the Son, a right given to no angel. (1:5)
  2. 2 Sam 7:14 was widely regarded by the Jews as being Messianic in nature, and acts as a second witness to Ps. 2:7 (1:5)
  3. Deut. 32:43 put the Son in a position of being worshipped by angels.  Worship is always from the lesser to the greater. (1:6)
  4. He next compares the role of angels in Ps. 104:4 to the role of the Son in Ps. 45:6-7.  The role of the angels is as created servants, while the Son is begotten and is given a position of dominion. (1:7-9)
  5. Ps. 102:25-27 shows God (and therefore the Son) as changeless in an eternal way that is significant in the author’s comparison of Christ to angels. (1:10-12)
  6. Ps. 110:1; the author introduces for the first time what is considered his primary supporting passage throughout the book.  In verse 1, he shows that God said not to the angels, but to the Son ‘sit at my right hand,’ which is a position of honor. (1:13)

The author then introduces salvation (1:14) as a means to diverge from his main theme momentarily to give a stern admonition, which is seen at the beginning of the next chapter.

Section 1b: An admonition concerning salvation.  (ch. 2:1-4)

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Section 1b gives us insight into the occasion for writing the letter.  The author breaks from his main thought for a moment to offer an admonition to his audience concerning slipping away from/neglecting their salvation (2:1-4).  The author seems to be writing partly out of concern that these converted Jews were in danger of neglecting the better work of Christ because of a preoccupation with the old covenant that was now obsolete (8:13).  He viewed this on the same level as apostatizing.   Their danger was slipping away from Christ’s better covenant and slipping back into Judaism.

The author then returns to his description of the Son, only now he wants to convince his audience of the Son’s complete humanity.  His trains of thought in sections 1 and 2 will support his developing thesis that Christ is our High Priest.  Sections 1 and 2 are used to develop Christ’s unique candidacy for the position.

Section 2: Christ’s complete humanity qualifies Him as our High Priest (ch. 2:5-18)

It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified:

“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
a son of man that you care for him?
You made them a little lower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honor
and put everything under their feet.”(Ps. 8:4-6)

In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.  But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.  Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.  He says,

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the assembly I will sing your praises.”(Ps. 22:22)

And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”(Is. 8:17)

And again he says,

“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”(Is. 8:18)

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil —  and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

As he just showed in section 1 that Christ is higher than angels, he now must also show in section 2 that Christ was completely human.  This is in response to the anticipated objection that if Christ were not human, how could He serve as a) the final, complete sacrifice and also b) a perfect representative to God for the people as their High Priest.

He does this by use of Ps. 8.  The language he cited in Ps. 8:4-6 is really speaking of Christ, and that for a time He (Christ) was made a little lower than the angels until God elevated him to the status described in Ps. 8:6.  The author then moves on and finally introduces Jesus as the Son of whom he writes, and correlates him to the passage in Ps. 8 that he just cited. (2:5-9)

The rest of the chapter is devoted to demonstrating the humanity and suffering of Jesus as a way to show his qualifications as our High Priest.  This is seen when he said “for this reason he had to be made like them (2:17)” and continues on to show Jesus’s ability to help those who are tempted because he himself suffered when he was tempted (2:12-18).  In this manner, the author has established in chapters 1 and 2 that Christ is both higher than the angels and was made lower than the angels—both complete deity and complete humanity—in such a way that he is uniquely qualified to be our eternal High Priest.

Having demonstrated Christ’s perfect deity and humanity, the author moves on to show that Christ is better than Moses.

Section 3: Christ is better than Moses (ch. 3:1-19)

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.  Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.“Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,”(Num. 12:7) bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future.  But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

So, as the Holy Spirit says:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested and tried me,
though for forty years they saw what I did.
That is why I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’ “(Ps. 95:7-11)

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.  As has just been said:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion.”(Ps. 95:7-8)

Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?  And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness?  And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?  So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

Section 3: Having developed in his readers’ minds that Jesus is qualified to be our high priest, he now is able to declare it as fact (3:1).  He then goes on to show that Jesus superseded Moses.  It is always important when reading an epistle to ask, “why did he say that? What is his motivation?” We can answer the “why” through an understanding of the epistle’s context.  Why Christ’s superiority to Moses is important after he just established that He was higher than angels is much more readily seen in Israel’s history than it is in our own.  Moses was held in almost deified status—even higher than angels.  So for Christ to be higher than angels does not necessarily establish in the audience’s mind that He is also higher than Moses.  This is a crucial piece of information because the author is trying to show that Christ supersedes every area of the old covenant.

The author says that Jesus is worthy of greater honor than Moses (3:3), just as the builder is greater than the house.  This creates a bridge for the author to show that Moses was faithful as a servant in God’s house, but Christ is faithful as a Son in God’s house (3:5-6).  In this way, a son is always greater than a servant in a house.  He then uses the bridge he just created to show that we are the house of Christ (i.e. Body of Christ) if we hold fast our confidence in salvation (3:6).

That the writer would then use the account of the Hebrew children rebelling in the wilderness (3:7-19) is natural, as the Old Testament theme seems to be on his mind throughout the book.  He also shows the failure of the people under the leading of Moses, further demonstrating the superiority of Christ who would not fail.  Moreover, he shows that their great sin was unbelief (3:12,19).  It was because of their unbelief that they were not allowed entrance to the Promised Land, typified in Ps. 95 as “the rest of God.”  He then restates what Ps. 95 demonstrated in order to reinforce and summarize “they could not enter because of their unbelief.”  This means that “the children of Israel’s inability to enter into the Promised Land because they did not believe in God’s promise to give them the land” correlated to “the Hebrew audience would be in danger of not entering the rest found in salvation because of an unbelief in Jesus’ finished work to provide it for them.”

Section 4: Christ is superior to Joshua in that He is able to bring us to rest (ch. 4:1-13)

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.  Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,

“So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”(Ps. 95:11)

And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world.  For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.”(Gen. 2:2)  And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”

 Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience,God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.:(Ps. 95:7-8)

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.  There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;  for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

If anyone is following along in their Bibles, you will see that I stopped at 4:13 and didn’t finish the chapter out.  That is because 4:14-16 more readily fits into the next theme the author intends to develop in 4:14-9:14, that is, Christ as a superior High Priest.

Section 4: Concerning the passage above, the intent is to show a) Christ is better than Joshua (4:8), and b) the rest that was promised to Israel remains and is attainable through Christ.  Starting with (b), the chapter starts with the author referring to Ps. 95 where God is commanding Israel that their hearts not be hardened, for that caused Him to swear that they would not enter His rest (4:1-3).  The author is looking chronologically and making the point that God would not say a long time later in Ps. 95 that the rest He promised still remained (4:7) if Israel had attained that rest upon entering the Promised Land.  In this way, the author introduces the idea of rest as a promise that remains to the people of God (4:9), and states that this new rest involves a putting down of the old works required in Judaism (4:10).  He then exhorts the audience to enter into that rest that God has provided them through faith in the finished work of Jesus (4:11).

The author’s description of the Word of God in 4:12-13 is in reference to God’s ability to discern between true faith and the disobedience of unbelief.  This is seen readily in the context of the author’s train of thought: namely that Christians need to be different from the disobedient, unbelieving Israelites that could not enter the rest of God.  His point: God knows your heart, so be diligent to enter into His rest through faith, lest He find you unbelieving.

After establishing that Christ is better than Joshua and that He has secured a rest that Joshua could not, the author resumes his discourse on Christ’s high-priestly role and His ability to bring us into the new covenant.

Section 5a: Christ’s High Priesthood compared to the Aaronic Priesthood (ch. 4:14-5:10)

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. 

 I debated on whether to put 4:14-16 in section 4 or section 5.  Traditionally, it is viewed as belonging to the same train of thought as found in section 5.  However, the “therefore” at the beginning of 4:14 shows that its context is related to what directly preceded.  I think it best to view it as a transitioning thought.  It restates the reason  for Christ’s High-Priesthood as well as introducing the author’s next train of thought: comparing Christ’s High-Priesthood to Aaron’s.

Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.  And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.

In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,

“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.”(Ps. 2:7)

And he says in another place,

“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”(Ps. 110:4)

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him  and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Section 5 continues with a description of the qualities found in a priest.  The author is going to show that a priest has been appointed to represent the people before God (5:1), to offer sacrifice (5:3), and to deal gently with the weak (5:2).  A priest did not bestow the honor of priesthood upon himself, but must be called of God as Aaron was (5:4).  In this way, the author begins his comparison between Christ and Aaron.

Similarly, Christ did not call Himself to be a priest, but it was prophesied in Ps. 2:7 and Ps. 110:4 that God would appoint His Son a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek (5:5-6).  Sticking with his comparison between old covenant priests and Christ, the author describes in 5:7-8 Christ’s suffering and ability to empathize with His people (referring to the qualifications found in 5:2).  Remembering his thoughts in ch. 2, he reiterates that it was Christ’s suffering that allowed Him to be glorified as the source of our salvation and a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek (5:9-10).

Before the author continues his comparison of Christ’s high-priesthood to Aaron’s, he breaks from his train of thought to offer a stern admonition in 5:11-6:20.

Interlude: a Brief Interruption in Thought to Bring Admonition (ch. 5:11-6:20)

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,and of faith in God,  instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  And God permitting, we will do so.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age  and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation.  God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”(Gen.22:17)And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.

People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.  Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

Interlude:  After introducing Melchizedek in 5:10, the author finds the occasion to bring another admonition.  This one gives us even greater insight into the purpose of his letter and the state of his audience.  He calls them “dull of hearing (KJV)” and tells them that they should be teaching these principles by now (5:11-12).  This further indicates that his audience is converted Jews who had been raised studying scripture and Messianic prophecy, unlike the Gentile pagans who had heard nothing of a coming Christ.  For this reason, the author is concerned about their state as converts to Christianity who are in danger of slipping away from their newfound salvation.

The passage in 6:4 has become one of much debate as to what exactly the author meant, but it is sufficient to say that he saw the necessity to instruct his audience to not fall away into this type of apostasy that would crucify Christ afresh and lead to an unrepentant state.  His analogy in 6:7-8 is in reference to the audience having received the blessings of God but having not produced the appropriate fruit.  His tone changes in 6:9 when he says “Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case” and begins to encourage them with the example of Abraham having faith in the oath that God made to him (6:13-18).

The remainder of the section transitions back to the author’s thought he was going to develop in 5:10; that is, the priestly order of Melchizedek (6:19-20).

Summary of Part 1: Hebrews 1-6

In the first six chapters of Hebrews, we can construct the following outline:

  • Section 1: Christ is superior to angels (1:1-14)
    • An admonition concerning salvation (2:1-4)
  • Section 2: Christ’s complete humanity qualifies Him to be our High Priest (2:5-18)
  • Section 3: Christ is superior to Moses (3:1-19)
  • Section 4: Christ is superior to Joshua in that He is able to bring us to rest (4:1-13).
  • Section 5a: Christ’s High Priesthood compared to the Aaronic Priesthood (4:14-5:10)
    • Another admonition concerning maturity, falling away, and faith (5:11-6:20)

In Part 2 of 3, we are going to examine through Hebrews 10:18 and complete the outline with the below:

  • Section 5b: Christ’s High Priesthood is superior to Aaron’s high priesthood (7:1-28)
  • Section 6: Christ is our High Priest and God’s new covenant supersedes the old. (8:1-13)
  • Section 7: Christ is the testator and mediator of the new covenant (9:1-28)
  • Section 8: Christ is the final sacrifice; summary thoughts (10:1-18)

Concerning Heb. 1-6, the author has developed numerous points to support his chief claim that Christ is our High Priest.  Each of these serves to communicate the implications of that chief claim, and altogether the entirety of the argument succinctly shows that Christ is better than the old covenant.  This is a thought that is much less difficult for us to grasp, as most of us were not raised in Judaism.  But for his audience, the difficulty in understanding this point seems almost insurmountable.  Yet the author was convinced of better things for them.

We will not yet discuss the opening claims concerning pastoral authority, as we need to cover more of Hebrews first.  For now, understand that my objective is to have you understand the purpose of Hebrews.  By understanding the purpose, you can more easily grasp the theme.  Keeping the theme in mind, you will clearly see the context, which is our goal.  Context makes the Bible come alive, and acts as a steward over the individual verses.

What we have laid out as the context of Hebrews is not our unique interpretation.  It has been accepted by the overwhelming majority of Christians as the plain message of the book.  Always remember this: if you have found a unique interpretation of any passage of the Bible, it is probably wrong.  It is not our ambition to uncover truths that have never been uncovered before. If you are from Calvary Temple keep this in mind: something can be unique to you because you’ve never heard it before—that doesn’t make it unique to Christianity.  What I mean is this: don’t discount what I’ve said in this article because you’ve never heard it before.  Study it out for yourself.  Even if you think Brandon’s writing = hogwash, just read the parts of this article that are directly quoted from an NIV Bible.  Once we are all agreed on the context, we can move on to the specific arguments that were laid out at the beginning of this article.  That will be the purpose of Part 3.  But for now, please read on in Part 2 concerning Hebrews 7-10:18.

~Brandon

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Crux of the Matter

Some people will wonder how we can call such a “nice church” these awful things. And sometimes I wonder how a church with identical basic beliefs (doctrine) as myself and a whole host of other non-denominational/Pentecostal churches could be so off. So controlling and cultic.

There is one very real perversion of Scripture on which the whole of their faulty doctrine lies. Essentially, it is the doctrine of salvation. Calvary Temple has confused what salvation really means, who is involved in one’s salvation, and what a personal relationship with Christ looks like.

What Salvation Is

Man is sinful. He has chosen to go his own way, to do his own thing and to transgress the Law of God. Sin permanently created a chasm–a great divide–between God and man. There is no possible way that sinful man can approach a holy God. Then Christ came. A perfect, sinless sacrifice. A go-between. A mediator. The One who paid the unpayable debt, by dying on a cross. By being bruised, beaten, tortured and crucified. By being rejected by the Father for sins that He did not commit. Because of what Christ did, we are able to turn away from sin (repent) and turn towards God. We are born again, made into a new creation in Christ. We are not only welcomed into the presence of God but delighted in!

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified  by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” Romans 5:8-11

This is a short summary of the greatest privilege in all eternity, and my intention is not to trivialize it by speaking very concisely on the matter. However, I must go on to how salvation is misunderstood and practiced at Calvary Temple.

Evidences of Salvation

There are two evidences of salvation:  (FYI – these are derived from the study of Scripture and also the fundamental truths of the Assembly of God denomination. Calvary Temple was formerly associated with the Assembly of God until the 1980’s, and still holds to their sixteen fundamental truths. This can be viewed on the What We Believe tab from Calvary Temple’s website).

The inward evidence of salvation is the direct witness of the Spirit. People do not tell you that you are saved. God tells you.

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Romans 8:16

The outward evidence to all men is a life of righteousness and true holiness. Spiritual fruit is not based on how many ministries you serve, how many hours you spend “up at church,” how many chairs you set up or break down, how much you remember of the latest “teaching” and whether or not you lose your job because you wanted to go to Africa for two weeks. Spiritual fruit is the outward evidence of the Holy Spirit’s influence in your life, by spiritual characteristics like love, joy, peace, patience, etc. These things will be observed by other saints and sinners, too.

“And that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Eph. 4:24

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Gal. 5:22-23

Salvation is an event in a person’s life. Then there is also the day-by-day walking of a Christian. This relationship is between you and God is about fellowship and communion. Adam and Eve’s sweet fellowship with God was interrupted by their sin. Christ has restored us to relationship. To hear and know His voice.

You have been given two things to hear God’s voice to you: The Word and the Spirit. The Word is infallible; God-breathed and without error. The voice of the Spirit will always be confirmed by the Word and will always lead you right or impress you to not go/do something which also lines up with the Word.

Herein lies the primary error of Calvary Temple. Spiritual leadership is not meant to be God’s voice to you. That is out of Biblical order. Spiritual leadership in the New Covenant is that of gentle shepherding and oversight. Shepherds help sheep to find spiritual food for themselves, for example, “there’s the pasture of the Word of God; go feast in it!” A man of God, a pastor, a church leader has two things that they are to be devoted to: study of the Word and prayer. This is so they can teach the Word accurately, which is one of their God-given functions within the church. This is not so that they can tell you where to go to college (Virginia, or REALLY close in Maryland), what career to have (whatever doesn’t take you away from church), who to marry (whoever is currently seen as spiritual), and when you can leave the church (NEVER. There’s nothing wrong with leaving a church; but if you want to leave this church, there’s something wrong with you).

You are not being spiritually “led,” you are being spiritually taken advantage of.  Your pastors no longer exist for the purpose of feeding the sheep; but rather, the sheep now exist for the purpose of feeding the pastors.  This is the epitome of what the apostle Peter warns against in his epistle!

“Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” 2 Peter 5:1-3

And you know what? It’s not sin to walk away from that sorry excuse of spiritual leadership. If your pastor does not point you to the Bible and encourage you to search it out for the purpose of questioning something that does not line up, you should leave. If you are afraid to question, if you think you’ll lose your salvation and be “shipwrecked in the faith” if you leave the church, that’s when you know… you really should leave. God is bigger than your church. In fact, God doesn’t need your cultic, controlling church leadership to keep you in His salvation. It’s probably leading you further and further into spiritual destruction.

Answering the Question of “Why?”

This is such a great salvation that God has given us. As I consider the doctrine of salvation and how it applies to individual believers, it causes me to ponder this. Why do people put the responsibility of their relationship with God on other people? Why do they depend on pastors to tell them what God says?

Here are a few possibilities.

1. Laziness. It’s so much easier to listen to someone else’s version of God’s will for your life, than to put in the daily work of personal Bible study and prayer. The self-disciplines of walking with Christ daily are hard. Difficult. Any day you can choose to get some extra sleep or read another book or watch another TV show rather than seeking God in prayer, searching out His Word and laboring to learn more about Him.

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

You know what’s easy? Reading a teaching transcript and quoting a “one-liner” in a small-group discussion. Listening to a teaching online. Reading the same chapter a day as everyone else in your church. That’s easy Christianity. Oh yeah, you look really spiritual and you can spout off with the best of them about what God is speaking (coincidentally, it is exactly the same as what Star Scott is speaking). But is it personal? Is it real? Is it unshakeable faith?

Calvary Temple members, I dare you to study. I dare you to learn. I dare you to seek truth and look at the Bible itself in context and without the filter of what your deacon says.  He probably doesn’t know what he’s talking about anyway. He’ll go ask the pastors and they’ll say to obey “because we said so” (On this Rock, Pt. 3) or something equally unscriptural.  And I dare you to really know God and see what happens.

2. Safety. When faced with the large life decisions such as college, career and marriage, it is tempting to lean on the advice (read: orders) of others who are more mature that yourself. But I say that if you have grown into adulthood and not yet learned to be certain of the voice of the Holy Spirit in your life, you are more of a spiritual infant that you would like to believe.

The idea of leaning exclusively on spiritual leadership for “counsel” (i.e. doing what they say no matter what the decision is) is very safe. If you really believe in their spirituality and thus their direct access to God, you are compelled to believe that God would not let you down—i.e. your spiritual leadership cannot be wrong. You assume incorrectly that if your leadership is wrong, God will take care of it.  Or as you might say, “It is our responsibility to obey our leaders.  If our leaders are wrong, God will at least bless us for obeying them.”  This is making the glaring assumption that God is in the business of fixing all the wrongs in the world and correcting every false shepherd by somehow striking them down with lightning; in reality, His Word commands you to determine if what you are hearing is from a false shepherd  (1 John 4:1). Don’t put your responsibility off on God, and assume that He’ll come through and do your job for you.

Here’s the deal: If it is safety to never hear God for yourself, to never be certain of the specific will of God outside of what your pastors tell you, then it is a false safety. It is a house built on the foundation of men, rather than God. It is shaky and uncertain, and when the storms of life come, you will be clinging to an unsteady hope. Floundering in the turbulence with no other assurance than “my pastor told me to do this, and I obeyed and surely God will bless that.” No. God is not obligated to bless your blind obedience to men. Someday your safety will be shaken. And found wanting.

3. Lack of personal responsibility. The only person who is responsible for your spiritual walk is you.

“..building yourselves up in the most holy faith,” Jude 20

From the Garden of Eden until today, it remains the same. Your choices to obey or disobey God are your own. Guess who answers to God on Judgment Day? Each person. Individually. For their works.

“So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” Romans 12:14

If God tells you to do something and you refuse on the basis that your spiritual leadership says differently, it’s still disobedience to God. And you will be judged for it. You cannot abdicate your personal spiritual responsibility as a Christian and disciple of God, for any reason, and be innocent of judgment for disobeying God’s voice.  When God points His finger at you during the final judgment and asks why you disobeyed His commands, you will not be able to bring your pastor to the stand to plead guilty for you.

 “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even though we, or an angle from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” Galations 1:6-10

The fact is there is no trembling before the Lord at Calvary Temple.  O, you tremble at the thought of hearing your name from the pulpit.  You tremble at becoming a second rate citizen if your kid chooses to leave the church.  You tremble at the thought of being “deceived” enough to speak out against the leadership.  But there is no need to tremble before God, and to fearfully determine how you will honor Him.  That’s all determined for you.  Come to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday night, and 3 out of 4 Saturday nights. Don’t get caught hanging out with your family members that left the church and CERTAINLY don’t say anything stupid about leadership to the people who are still there. If you hear something stupid about leadership,  just “go up the chain” with it so that it gets dealt with.  In small groups just talk about one of Pastor’s clever one-liners and how it taught you something you didn’t know about yourself.  O, and every month at your home fellowship meeting talk about the sin you overcame last month (never the sin you are dealing with now and will share with them next month).  In this way, they have sterilized your need to walk fearfully before God for yourself.

“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Phil. 2:12

4. Ignorance. Calvary Temple has created the perfect environment of Biblical ignorance. After convincing people from babyhood to adulthood that they are “so much more well-taught on doctrine than most Christians,” they have created people who measure themselves by themselves and subsequently have an enormously overinflated view of their own spirituality. Guess what? Listening to Star Scott’s teachings doesn’t make you well-taught. Star Scott’s ideas of doctrine are misguided at best, and wrong at worst. Yet, because of the lack of real information, CT members are convinced that this is how real Christians live and this unhealthy dependence and control by spiritual leadership is somehow exactly like the early church lived. FYI – it’s not. At all.

Conclusion

You might be wondering how these things apply to salvation.  I find the doctrine of salvation to be the hinge on which the door of CT’s fallacies hang. God has sent His only Son to save you from your sins, to reconcile you to Himself and to give you the blessing of relationship with Him. To depend on fallible humans-even your spiritual leadership-to be God’s voice to you is irresponsible and not what God intended for you. What is the use of walking in the Spirit if you never actually do what He told you?

Or maybe the better question would be: if you have really become a Christian, why would you choose to obey man rather than God?

~Naomi

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Biblical Authority: The Supremacy of Scripture | Introduction

Using Scripture to Define the Other Authorities

There are several authorities that Scripture speaks of, which each must be examined to grasp their individual necessities, their various limits, and their combined purpose in a believer’s life.  The first Authority is Christ—He is all Authority, and all power comes only from God.  The second is the Authority of Scripture, which is used to define all other authorities.  In Scripture, we see domestic authority established—both the authority of a husband to a wife and of a parent to a child.  The Bible shows us the existence of natural authority, and that the powers that be are ordained of God.  We are to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.  We also see the various authorities of the five fold ministry gifts in relation to the Church—I mention this lastly not due to a respective position, but because we need to address this one first, as it suffers a most needed correction at Calvary Temple.

Many a pastor has told his flock “do not touch God’s anointed,” and “the Bible says you are to submit to your leaders, so you need to submit to me,” and other authoritative phrases that are found in Scripture.  This is usually done out of fear—it has been said well that those who speak the most about authority have the least of it.  At Calvary Temple, the current line of thinking and preaching is this: “if Scripture does not forbid something, then we are allowed to require it of you.  Therefore, if we tell you to do something that is not against Scripture, you have to obey.”  For most of us, our cult sensors go crazy.  But for the congregants at Calvary Temple, this reasoning is considered sound doctrine.

Let’s see if we can correlate this to natural law.  A policeman sees you at the gas station.  Before you leave, he tells you “Hey, you can’t chew gum.”  You drive down the road, and he follows you and turns his lights on.  You pull over, and he gives you a ticket for chewing gum.  You say, “But officer, the law doesn’t say that I can’t chew gum.”  He responds, “If something isn’t against the law, I am allowed to require it of you.”  Now, that sounds pretty ludicrous when you look at it in that context.  But let’s take it a step further.  Let’s say you take your gum citation to court.  The judge would reprimand that officer and tell him that his authority is not self-originating, but is to be representative of the law.  His authority extends only as far as the law does; or to say it a different way, his scope of authority only exists within the context of a properly defined and interpreted law.  For him to issue you a gum citation is nothing more than a goofy example of vigilante justice, which holds no authority on its own.

There are some very important lessons which must be drawn from the above example as it relates to church authority.  The first is this: just as there are police officers who enforce natural law within a jurisdiction, there are pastors and elders who enforce God’s law within a church.  Second, a minister’s authority only extends to his flock, and within the scope of the proper interpretation of the Word of God.  There are many areas where a pastor has no jurisdiction.  For example, a police officer can’t come to your house and demand that you paint your walls yellow.  What you do in your home is your business, as long as it doesn’t break the law.  Similarly, a pastor cannot enter your home and begin making demands of how you raise your children—his authority has nothing to do with your home, as long as your rule of your home does not break the law of Scripture.

However, this does not mean that pastors are pointless.  One of the most common errors I see when people leave Calvary Temple is a tendency to disdain God-appointed authority.  The fact is that church authority is real, and we are to honor our church leaders.  We are even to obey them.  However, we obey them within the scope of Scripture.  Therefore, we must first understand the authority of Scripture if we want to find the limits and boundaries of pastoral authority.

The Authority of Scripture in the Life of Every Believer

Sola Scriptura

Perhaps the most important doctrine to consider in establishing healthy boundaries for pastors and laity alike is the Authority of Scriptures.  This doctrine acts as the single most important refutation of the majority of Calvary Temple’s errant doctrines.  The Bible says of itself

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  II Tim. 3:16-17 NIV

“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” I Thess. 2:13 NIV

“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of Go[spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”   II Pet. 1:20-21 NKJV

What we can gather from these passages is that Scripture is inspired.  It thoroughly equips the believer for every good work. It is not merely the words of a preacher, but rather the words of God.  The Bible actively works in the hearts of those who believe on it. The same Holy Spirit that leads the children of God (Rom. 8:14) has inspired men to write the Word of God—surely He has the power to lead us to understand the will of God from the Word of God.  What man was incapable of doing on their own—namely, recording the thoughts of God—the Spirit inspired them to do, and now He leads all believers in the truth of Scripture.  This leads us to a doctrine known as the Sufficiency of Scripture.  Let us examine another important passage used to establish this Protestant belief:

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the Lord are sure
and altogether righteous.

 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.
By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

  Ps. 19:7-11 NIV

Let us examine this passage in greater detail.  In these five verses, David pens by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that Scripture 1) revives the soul, 2) makes wise the simple, 3) gives joy to the heart, 4) gives light to the eyes, 5) endures forever, and 6) is altogether righteous because Scripture is 1) perfect, 2) trustworthy, 3) right, 4) radiant, 5) pure, and 6) sure.  It warns us, and is to be desired above all else.  Furthermore, the psalms go on to say “I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation” and “I have more understanding than the ancients, because I keep Thy precepts.” (Ps. 119:99 and 119:100)  So we see that Scripture gives us an understanding of God that can be found nowhere else.  This introduces the idea of Sola Scriptura.

Sola Scriptura—A Brief History

Martin Luther re-established sola scriptura along with four other “solas” during the Protestant Reformation.  As Protestants, we have been in a 500 year war with the Catholic and Orthodox Churches over our doctrine of Scriptural sufficiency.  Part of their issue is that scripture never says the phrase “all Scripture is sufficient,” and therefore we cannot ignore Sacred Tradition and the episcopacy.  In the briefest nutshells ever, Catholics teach that:

  • Sacred Tradition is in reference to those practices that have been birthed by the Church over the centuries.  These traditions hold equal weight as Scripture.  This is why they baptize babies, pray for the dead, and do other things not found in the Bible.
  • Episcopacy is in reference to episcopal polity, or the hierarchical structure of government found in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.  For example, the Pope is at the top of the Roman Catholic Church and is over the bishops who are over the people.  When the Pope speaks, it is considered infallible (a Catholic dogma known as ex cathedra).

What is important about these two dogmas is that they are considered equal to Scripture.  The Catholic Church describes it as a three-legged stool—a stool cannot stand on one leg alone.  So Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Episcopacy make up three equal authorities.  This belief is most commonly known as Prima Scriptura, or that Scripture is good, but a believer needs other methods to determine proper living and to lead a Christian life.  To contrast sola scriptura and prima scriptura, the former teaches that Scripture is the only authority a believer needs to determine the will of God, while the latter teaches that Scripture is one of many authorities a believer needs to determine the will of God.  The former is held by all Protestants, most notably Evangelicals.  The latter is held by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, and Calvary Temple.

Let’s look at the Protestant understanding of sola scriptura.  Martin Luther gave five “solas” as he began the Protestant Reformation.  Sola Scriptura was re-established in response to the Catholic Church’s use of Sacred Tradition and episcopacy to create dogmas outside the scope of scripture.  Also, it was re-established to combat the notion that the Bible was somehow too complicated for the laity to understand, and therefore laymen should seek out the priests in order to understand what the Bible means.  The meaning of Sola Scriptura was encapsulated in the Westminster Confession, a very important milestone in Protestant history dating 1646:

VII. “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”

With this working definition in mind, let us examine what the Catholics teach about the authority of their pope in defining doctrine for the people:

“We teach and define that it is a dogma Divinely revealed that the Roman pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable.

So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema. (see Denziger §1839).”

         — Vatican Council, Sess. IV , Const. de Ecclesiâ Christi, Chapter iv

And finally, let’s see what Calvary Temple teaches about the authority of their pastor:

As we study the Word of God, I think there’s a great error in the church as it pertains to revelation of God’s will and order for His church. We live in a day when everyone seems to believe that we can hear equally. I want to share with you that that’s not a biblical principle. Aren’t you thankful that the Spirit of God lives in every one of us, and that the Spirit within you leads you into all truth? Can you say, “Praise God!” for that? Yet, the methods that He uses many times are misunderstood. We live in a day when we’ve lost sight of the fact that God predominantly speaks to men that are placed by Him in roles of leadership. We’re talking about the biblical representation of the lordship of Jesus, as He has set in the church (as it pleases Him) apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers, to teach and govern the body of Christ. You see, we live in a day when we still believe that each one of us has insight and input that is equal, but I want to share with you one thing. You’re going to be deceived and you’re going to become shipwrecked if you refuse to understand that God has put counselors, overseers, and spiritual authority into your life who will speak to you the Word of God. They hear the Word of God from a different perspective and on a different level than you hear it. We don’t like to hear that. We think we’re all equal, but I’m here to tell you that we are not.                                                                Star Scott, Knowing God’s Voice, Hearing God’s Will Pt. 2, January 20, 2008  (emphasis added)

As this essay develops, my hope is that you start to see the differences between established Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Assemblies of God doctrines and those of Calvary Temple.  At best, Calvary Temple’s doctrine is Catholic, to which I would offer this challenge: “Who else waves the flag you’re waving?”  Also, another point I am making is that this idea of “absolute pastoral authority” was not learned at Bethany Bible College and not taught by the Assemblies of God.  So when Star Scott says that his doctrine hasn’t changed in 40 years, please point this fact out to him and ask him where he learned these doctrines, which fly in the face of everything he actually was taught.

The Authority of Scripture is Greater than Pastoral Authority

In the above sermon excerpt from Star Scott, please note that not a single verse was used to substantiate his claim, outside of a phrase from Ephesians.  I’ve read through (and sat under, live) the entire Knowing God’s Voice, Hearing God’s Will series and his main example was God speaking to Moses for the children of Israel.  Probably not the best correlation, but a lot of people bought it.  We’ll examine this further in a moment, but first let’s deal with the crux of what he is trying to communicate: “I hear from God for you, so if you hear something else or ‘see’ something else in the Bible, you’ve heard from your idols and aren’t as well versed in Scripture as I am.”  What has happened, as a result, is Star Scott has given himself free reign to twist Scripture to his own benefit and has taken away all possible chance of resistance because “God spoke to Moses for the children of Israel, and He speaks to me for you.”  Let’s see what Paul might say about that:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!                         Gal. 1:6-9 NIV

Let us examine the emphasis in Paul’s mind.  Was it his teaching?  No, he even said, “If we teach something else, let us be cursed.”  The priority was on the Gospel.  In Paul’s mind, it was the unwavering anchor by which everything else must revolve—even the revelation of Paul.  Paul saw his teaching as subordinate to Scripture.  What is the natural conclusion to this?  Let me ask it a different way—based on what Paul said, whose responsibility was it to determine if the preaching they were hearing was worthy of blessing or cursing?  Whomever the letter was addressed to (hermeneutics: audience).  He addressed it to the churches in Galatia.  It was the responsibility of the people to determine the veracity of the preaching.  Based on what?  Based on the truth of Scripture.  What were they deserting as a result of different preaching?  Living in the grace of Christ.  What this means is even if God spoke to Star Scott for you (which, according to the entire book of Hebrews, He doesn’t), it is your responsibility to compare “the word of Star” with the Word of God; and if it is different (which it often is), it is then your responsibility to obey the Word of God—to obey God rather than men.

The Authority of Scripture Limits Pastoral Authority

If not from hearing the voice of God for you, where then does a pastor get his authority? Authority-happy pastors tend to say it is from Christ. I propose that it comes from Scripture. This is almost entirely a moot point, because God and His Word are one—refer to John 1. But it is an important distinction to be made. If someone tells you that his pastoral authority comes from God, he leaves open the possibility of requiring extra biblical commands of you (if the Bible doesn’t forbid something, than we can require it of you). A pastor must recognize that his authority comes from the Bible. Remember the example of the police officer and the gum citation? A pastor’s authority is given to him by the Word of God, just like a police officer’s authority is given to him by the law. Which authority then is greater—the pastor or the Bible? Obviously, the Bible is a greater authority: therefore, a pastor’s authority is restricted by the Bible, and the restrictions placed on pastors from within the Bible act as boundaries to a pastor’s authority.

A pastor’s authority is restricted by Scripture. God and His Word are one. Consequently, for a pastor to claim authority outside of Scripture is to claim authority outside of Christ. To require something outside of Scripture is to require something outside of God. This oversteps anyone’s authority in relation to another believer. What follows from this is that every believer should study the Scriptures exhaustively to know a) if they are being taught truth and b) if they are being required to keep the Bible or “no gospel at all” as Paul said.

To assume that a pastor’s authority is not restricted by the Bible, viz. that he can require of you things that are not found explicitly in Scripture, would be to grant a pastor access into your life that belongs to the Holy Spirit. To condone this type of behavior is to passively allow someone to take a place in your life that belongs to Christ and the Holy Spirit. At its heart, it is to replace the Lord of your life with a man. Furthermore, it would grant access into your life that tends towards abuse and plays into the vices pastors are warned of. Why else would Peter warn the elders

“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”  1 Pet. 5:2-4 NKJV

Examples of what? Examples of the Chief Shepherd.  Not with an equal authority of the Chief Shepherd, but as examples of His life.  What did Christ do?  He laid his life down.  He became the Word of God—God incarnate to mankind.  To say “a pastor’s authority is bound by the Bible” is to say “a pastor’s authority is bound by Christ.”  What does that mean?  They aren’t his sheep.  They’re His sheep.  Pastors don’t hear from God at a higher level than sheep do—He speaks to each of His sheep personally.

For example, Star Scott claims the role of Moses.  That’s quite a claim.  This Old Testament correlation is severely lacking, and to claim that you are like Moses and your church members are like the children of Israel ‘because that’s how God does things’ requires you to completely remove the book of Hebrews from the Bible.  At the very least, you could never preach an expository message on Hebrews, which, I can attest, I have never heard at Calvary Temple.  I’ve only ever hearding fleeting references to phrases inside of verses, here and there, as it suited the topic.  This, of course, is destined to lead to proof-texting, as a casual reading of Hebrews would contradict the notion that a pastor could serve in the functions of Aaron or Moses—Christ has superseded Moses and has become our great High Priest.  To claim the role of ‘hearing from God on a higher level’ or equivalently ‘being in between God and a man’ is therefore to claim to supersede Christ, as that is His role.  A pastor does not hear from God on a higher level than any congregant, as this would negate the role Christ plays as Mediator for every believer.  More on this later.

Conclusion

This section serves as an introduction to our series on defining pastoral authority.  We have to establish the absolute authority of the Bible in a believer’s life before we can broach the subject of pastoral authority, because the Bible sets pastoral authority.  Scripture is greater than pastoral authority and it restricts pastoral authority.  Now, the obvious move for a power-hungry pastor would be to create an interpretation of the Bible that has some clause that grants unlimited power to the pastor—in that manner, he pretends that his power originates in Scripture.  This notion, however, is illogical.  If the Bible restricts a pastor’s authority to serve inside of the scope of Scripture, the same Bible would not create a loophole that grants that pastor an authority outside of the scope of Scripture.

Concerning the various verses and phrases that Calvary Temple uses to attempt to disprove that very assertion, we will deal with each of them in their proper time and show how each of them have been taken out of the context of Scripture to grant power outside of the context of Scripture.  Perhaps the most grievous result of this proof-texting is that, by taking extrabiblical (and contrabiblical) authority unto himself, Star Scott has taken it away from Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God.  The functions that these three powerful forces are to serve in a Christian’s life, he tries to fill with himself.  What is so dastardly about this power trip is that it sterilizes a believer’s ability to draw near to God, to be led of the Spirit, and to grow from the richness of Scripture for yourself.  You can spend a lifetime studying the pages of the Bible and communing with God, and it would be the greatest privilege you ever experienced.  To have that taken away by replacing Scripture with a pastor is the greatest fallacy I can imagine.

~Brandon

Tagged , , , , , , ,