Tag Archives: pastor

The Wartburg Watch & The Great Shepherd

In recent weeks, Calvary Temple’s abuse has been spotlighted on a notable Christian blog called, The Wartburg Watch. Brandon wrote a few introductory posts. If you are looking for a history of Calvary Temple and the allegations of spiritual, mental, physical and sexual abuse, you can read his essay, “Calvary Temple: In a Nutshell.” Though it is long, the content makes it well worth the effort of reading. Woven throughout Calvary Temple’s history is the thread of Brandon’s personal story.

 

“I’m sorry, Joe. Dad sent me out here. You have to get out of my car.” My younger brother peered at me through tired eyes from the back seat of my 1998 Toyota Corolla where he had been sleeping. He nodded in resignation like a man who had just heard that he was going to have to sleep under a bridge that night and there was nothing he could do about it. He closed the car door behind him, walked down my parent’s gravel driveway, and disappeared into the lonely darkness. It was almost Christmas and it was snowing gently. He was fourteen. … Read more here.


The Wartburg Watch has also published a few stories of ex-CT members, like Michelle, Patty and Molly. Theirs are the stories of brave souls with lives torn apart by shepherds who devour sheep. Even I, who knew parts of these stories already, find it heartbreaking to read them. And for each of these stories, there are many more just like them. For being just one (or two) church(es), Calvary Temple is prolific in its destruction of families, marriages and lives. Note: To other Calvary Temple survivors, The Wartburg Watch is willing to publish more stories if you are willing to share.

Reading these stories is strong motivation in the fight to expose Calvary Temple, when one realizes that real shepherds don’t act like this. 

In choosing the axe instead of the shepherd’s staff, CT pastors have chosen to become devouring wolves. Instead of caring for their sheep, they beat, manipulate, abuse and destroy. They are shepherds in name only, displaying characteristics of satan and certainly NOT the Great Shepherd who loves His sheep with a great love.

I am meditating often on the pastoral words of Psalm 23, as I rest in the love and care of The Great Shepherd. It is God’s character that is the greatest indictment against Calvary Temple’s actions.

 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the L ord forever.

Psalm 23

 

 

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Panel Discussions: Clarity or Control?

by Naomi

After any cataclysmic event, Calvary Temple has something they refer to as “panel discussions.” It’s the cult version of a Q&A session. Congregants/church members submit questions, either written down if the topic is particularly sensitive or verbally if they’re feeling courageous. The panel of pastoral staff answer the questions. These panel discussions often follow the exodus of a prominent church member or a particularly inflammatory teaching series (usually regarding how you should never leave Calvary Temple. Listen to the sermons yourself. Every sermon circles back to the same thing).

One of the specific marks of a cultic environment is that they control information. The members of a cult believe only what their leaders tell them and are immediately suspicious of outsiders/outsider’s information.

Panel discussions are Calvary Temple’s chosen method of controlling information believed by their members. The leaderships (I do so dislike calling CT pastors & deacons “leadership” since they are such a bad example of what God has called leaders to be) has this down to a science. They have weekly pastors’ and deacons’ meetings to discuss ‘issues’ and ‘situations’ that arise. The pastors tell the deacons what to think and then the deacons tell the people what to think. If their initial form of information-twisting doesn’t work or the situation is serious enough to warrant whole-congregation information feeding, they must resort to a panel discussion. Or several.

Characteristics of Panel Discussions:

Mud-Slinging, or more Biblical term: Slander

Defined as: Defamation or Evil-Speaking. 1 Peter 2:1-3

Pastors say, “if you only knew what we knew” about the departing member. They cast as much doubt as humanly possible onto the character, integrity and motives of the departing member. They bring up past sins and disciplinary issues. They may even tell stories, most often exaggerated and even some outright lies to bolster their message that there is absolutely no way on earth this person was right in leaving! They’re rebellious! They’re proud! They hate authority! Their ‘much learning hath made them mad!’ You know it’s getting serious when they bring out the King James English. And again, I feel like I’m repeating myself, that’s not what that verse means!

Every single Calvary Temple member is conditioned to accept this information as truth. These members can hardly imagine the possibility that their leaders are often lying. Yes, lying. Speaking falsehood, deception and untruths. The members think, surely not! I trust them! Run away, these leaders are not worthy of your trust. If/when you leave the church, they will slaughter your reputation from the pulpit, too. Once lauded and applauded, you will be maligned and maliciously destroyed. They will try to eat you for lunch (a word to those who left/leaving, just walk away. Don’t live in bondage to the opinions of Calvary Temple members & leadership. You only need the good opinion of God. He is the One who judges you and that is enough.).

When people leave normal churches, normal Christians don’t usually treat them like lepers. They shake hands, have them over for dinner one last time and wish them well on their journey. If they moved on to a different church in the same area, they’ll see them around town and greet each other with genuine warmth and care. Normal Christians don’t burn bridges and sling mud at other believers.

 

Placing Blame 

Blame is placed on members that are doubting, by inferring that to doubt, question or search the Scriptures themselves is sin. This particular aspect screams of spiritual abuse. It also reminds me of the corruption in the early Catholic church. The Bible was in Latin and the common man was forbidden to read it, because supposedly, he couldn’t interpret it right. Panel discussions often include encouraging members to listen to more teachings and discover the hidden sin within themselves that would cause them to doubt the validity of CT teaching. Because obviously, you *must* be in sin if you’re questioning (sarcasm).

You know who questioned the apostles’ doctrine?? The Bereans. You know who applauded them for doing so? The Apostle Paul. And yet the self-professed Pastor-Teacher-Apostle-Prophet Star Scott thinks that you should read the Bible less, because  you can’t interpret the inspired Word of God responsibly for yourself and you need him to do it for you. (definitely sarcasm).

Re-Establishing Authority

Star Scott loves to bring out obscure Old Testament passages to liken himself to Moses. That’s unBiblical: see Pastoral Authority is Not Mosaic. He also likes to ridicule the scholarship of anyone who would interpret Scripture differently than him, which is hilarious, considering he has very little training in how to interpret Scripture. Bible training also doesn’t validate interpretation. If we’re comparing dollars-to-donuts here, I probably have more Bible training than Star Scott. That alone doesn’t make me right. It is honesty and integrity with the Word that makes me right. I welcome any discussion, questions, criticism and comments about how I interpret the Word of God. I welcome polite, respectful, cordial discussion about the points that I bring up. I absolutely welcome face-to-face conversation about Calvary Temple’s doctrine — but so far, none of the CT members I know have cared enough to do that. They’d rather believe the gossip that comes from the deacon’s meeting than ask me themselves.

Star Scott also enlists others to re-establish pastoral (and mostly HIS) authority. He has surrounded himself with “yes men” and puppets-on-a-string that more than willingly flatter him before the congregation. They say, “We are so blessed to have a man of God like this, who preaches sound doctrine even when it’s unpopular. It is such a privilege to sit under this man who has laid down everything for us.” Syrupy-sweet flattery that sounds spiritual and is used to further convince members of their ultimate fear — that to leave CT is the equivalent of leaving God.  Oh, and consider this: he says that his accountability is in the “plurality of elders,” but in just the past 5 years both of his chief pastors (who were designated by him to take over the ministry in his place should the need arise), 4 or 5 deacons, and 3 or 4 young adult captains have left the church over Scott’s anti-Biblical doctrines.  Does he change?  No, he just replaces them with lesser men and preaches on Korah and Dathan and Aaron and Miriam one more time.  So when we call his pastoral staff a rubber stamp club of yes men, that’s what we are referring to.

 

Reminding Members of Their Absolute Dependence on the Community

“If you leave, you are serving your flesh.”
“If you leave, you are going to be spiritually shipwrecked.”
“If you leave, you will fall into sin.”
“There’s nothing wrong with leaving… but if you want to leave, there’s something wrong with you.”

 This characteristic of Calvary Temple particularly infuriates me (don’t go crazy and call me bitter and angry, because (a) I’m not bitter and (b) there is a holy anger). I am angry by the arrogance that Calvary Temple leadership and members constantly show in assuming not only that they are the best church, but that they are the only church that is really teaching truth. Is God so limited that He can only speak through one church in the entire world? Is the power of God so weak that He cannot empower a believer to live holy without the support of the almighty Calvary Temple?

 

Fearmongering

This is the use of fear to influence the opinions and actions of others towards some specific end. Panel discussions are the perfect venue for inspiring fear in Calvary Temple members because they are particularly vulnerable to drastic decisions (like leaving the church) after a trusted member has left. The pastors know this so they use every opportunity to say their favorite line: “if so-and-so left (because they were considered spiritual), then you could be next.” They imply that because so-and-so left, and obviously they had to be deceived to leave the only church in the world that preaches truth (extreme sarcasm), then you could be deceived, too!… and leave… and go to hell!

Outsiders are reading this and thinking, “this is insane! Pastors actually do this?!” Oh yes. You have no idea.

 

Re-Directing 

“Don’t spend a lot of time studying the Bible on authority.  You should spend more time studying what the Bible says about self, then you’ll realize who you are, and all of these other things will be easier to accept.” Star Scott, January 13th, 2013 Panel Discussion

When honest questions are asked at Calvary Temple, often they are not answered — they are redirected. When inconsistencies are noted by the members, pastors turn attention to the person asking the question. That their motives must be wrong, their heart must be impure, they must be somehow in sin.  I don’t know about you, but when I ask an honest question, I expect an honest answer. Honesty, integrity, truth. Not deception by avoiding the question.  In a healthy church, there is a way to ask tough questions without fear of retaliation through labeling and discipline for “deception.”

 

Manipulation

Panel discussions are framed for the purpose of producing a specific action. The leadership would say that they just want their people to obey the Word, but really, they want the people to take very specific actions… to obey leadership. We are not talking about specific commands of Scripture. We are talking about ideas that they have, non-Scriptural commands that they give and expect unquestioning obedience, weddings that they want to take place, more money to be given to the church, correct information to be spread across a three hundred member congregation so they can all lie and sound like they’re telling the truth (i.e. “it’s not a school!” even though everybody calls it a school, it’s not a school).

CT leadership manipulates people into doing what they want. If you’re a member there, I pity you. I am sorry that you cannot make your own decisions (except for stupid things like what you are eating that day), but that they are made for you. I am sorry that you are held to the standards of others, instead of walking with Christ and finding the standards that the Holy Spirit presses on your heart. I’m sorry that you will probably stay because you are afraid of losing your family/marriage/friends/etc. I’m sorry that your spiritual life will be dictated to you and that you will lose the joy of being led by the Spirit, because you are only being led by a man. I’m sorry that you now believe this manipulation is actually spiritual leadership.

 

Conclusion 

To sum up, panel discussions are not preaching. Not teaching. Not edifying. Not enriching. Not enlightening the believer. Not giving aid. They do not expound on Scripture, except to use it in error. They do not point CT members to Christ, but to a man and a religious system.

Panel discussion are slander-centric. They are comprised of pastors oiling the hinges of their controlling machine with spiritual sounding words that go against the very essence of Scripture. Panel discussions aid in destroying relationships and reputations. Panel discussions are venues for publicizing bad reports, guiding willfully ignorant souls into more ignorance and engaging much spiritual dialogue with nothing but a sprinkle of real sound doctrine. Like honey added to poison, members swallow these lies because they “taste” good. Lies always go down easily. Then you are murdered while you remain unaware.

One last reminder: Panel discussions are often edited before being posted Calvary Temple’s website to remove information that pastors say “confuse people.” In rare circumstances, panel discussions will never be available to the public. When churches hide information that is spoken from the pulpit, it is yet another sign of a cultic and controlling environment. For a place that lauds personal transparency (Calvary Temple-ism alert: “walking in the light”), there is much darkness and cover-ups happening in the backrooms and offices of Calvary Temple in Sterling, VA.

Panel discussions are another way for the pastors to use the Bible as a battering ram on the hearts of CT’s members. It forces loyalty to Star Scott, rather than loyalty to Christ. I pray that one day, those panel discussions will not be enough to stop the exodus.

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The Why & How of Personal Bible Study | Part 4

by Naomi

This is a four part series. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

We have talked about the attitude of Calvary Temple leadership on personal Bible study. We understand our personal and spiritual deficiencies when we exist without personal Bible study. The question remains; what shall we do now? Study the Bible! How do we study the Bible? Keep reading for a few recommendations on this vast subject.

Recommendations for Personal Bible Study:

* Get a new version of the Bible. At Calvary Temple, the King James Version is the preferred translation. Unfortunately, this version only serves to confuse most modern readers. There are a few peculiarities to the KJV that make it even more difficult for CT members to understand the meaning.

a) The King James Version is printed in verse form, with each verse being its own paragraph. This format causes readers to mistakenly believe that each verse is separate from the others, and instead of reading the author’s whole train of thought–they get “revelation” from one single verse and often, their application is skewed violently from the author’s original intent. This is in violation of basic laws of Bible interpretation. This concept is useful to Star Scott because he often quotes only one verse or one phrase from a verse and then indicates that the hearer should fill in the blanks. Because the hearers are conditioned by Star Scott’s ignorant Bible interpretation, they assume that the volume of Bible verses he quotes means he is teaching solid Bible truth.

b) The KJV’s antiquated language is a great barrier in understanding (and therefore, properly applying) Scripture. English words are used much differently now than they were in the 1600s or even the 1800s. It’s easy to assume you know the meaning of the text, and you might be entirely wrong. It is also easy for a not-very-educated pastor like Star Scott to proclaim the KJV says one thing (because of a particular word or turn of phrase) and for every Calvary Temple member to accept it as truth. Star Scott has very little knowledge in the original languages. By “very little,” I mean even less than I do. Add his propensity for dishonest Bible interpretation to his ignorance and you have a recipe for disaster.

c) The King James Version is translated word for word. The literal accuracy is great; but any language translator knows that there will be discrepancies because of differing syntax and idioms.

I’m not saying that the King James Version is bad. I keep several KJV Bibles for my own personal study. I am simply stating that you should be aware of the KJV’s weaknesses, complexities and variances. Then, you can more easily understand how Calvary Temple and Star Scott can use the Bible for their own gain.

There are many great translations that may be more helpful to you in your personal study of the Bible. I prefer the New American Standard. My husband reads the New International Version. We often borrow each other’s Bibles for cross-references and use additional versions of the Bible for clarity (a great way to avoid taking things out of context). Be informed.

Find a Bible that you can understand. It makes reading and applying God’s Word so much easier.

* Get understanding in basic Bible interpretation.

I highly, highly recommend “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth” by Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart. It’s a short, relatively easy read. This book is incredibly helpful on learning how to interpret the Bible yourself. When you have spent most of your life listening to a pastor make the Bible say whatever he thinks it should, you need a complete brain overhaul on how to interpret the Bible. You need a good dose of real common sense and real hermeneutics. Star Scott uses the word “hermeneutics” and then completely does the opposite of proper hermeneutics. This would be funny, if it wasn’t so alarming.

Here’s a few simple rules for understanding the Bible:

1. Context is key. Don’t just read one verse and then, build a doctrine out of it. Read a few verses before and after, read the whole chapter, read the whole book. For real understanding and a good overview, read the whole Bible. You will have a much better understanding of what God is saying through His Word when you have seen what He says in the whole thing. As a vociferous reader of many kinds of literature, I rarely read a book that I don’t finish. It amazes me that so many people (who claim Christianity as their reason for existence) have not read the entire Bible cover to cover. To truly understand the meaning of Scripture, you must read ALL of the Bible for yourself.

2. It cannot mean to you what it did not mean to them (the original audience). You need to understand the author’s original intent to be able to understand its meaning. A text cannot mean what it never meant. You will never be able to have a proper application of a verse if you do not comprehend its original meaning.

* Get honest.

Many people get uncomfortable when they come across a Scripture verse that contradicts or challenges their previously-held beliefs. It is dishonest to twist God’s Word to fit your own ideas. We must be able to submit our preferences to what God is or is not saying in Scripture. Commit yourself to personal honesty, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Be diligent-absolutely bulldog stubborn–in your pursuit of truth.

*Get serious about personal Bible study.

Many people have a mental block about reading the Bible in its entirety. Book, chapter and verse dividers have made it easy for us to pick up a few verses here and there and consider ourselves great scholars of the Word, or at least good Christians. If you have not read the Bible completely, cover-to-cover, beginning to end, that you should make it a top priority to do that. Right now.

Here’s some food for thought:

The Bible contains about 789,000 words, give or take depending on your translation. The Harry Potter series contains approx. 1,084,000 words. The Twilight Series contains approx. 520,000 words. In the time it takes to read these two series of garbage, someone could read the Bible through cover to cover twice. If the overwhelming majority of pre-teen girls can devour those series over and over again, why do we shudder at the thought of devouring the Word of God once? Much less three to four times a year? If you truly believe that the Bible is inspired by God and is beneficial to your spiritual life, then treat it as such. READ. Jump over that mental block. Read so that you become spiritually mature, strengthened and able to handle anything that comes your way.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Conclusion

My intent is not to condemn or guilt you into reading the Bible more. My desire is to challenge you to be studious in your personal pursuit of Christ, to plow into the depths of Him, to find truth for yourself instead of being that little helpless child that believes everyone and everything. I want you to know the tremendous value of Scripture. We have been given the most precious gift in having the ability to study God’s words for ourselves. Don’t surrender that gift to anybody else.

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The Why & How of Personal Bible Study | Part 3

by Naomi

This is four part series. Read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

My challenge to you: Study the Bible for yourself.

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

Turn off Star Scott’s teachings and find out what God really says in His Word. Once you dig in, you will be surprised by the ignorance that is propagated under the guise of “being so well-taught.” For people who claim to be uncompromising in the Word, they have very little respect for it and very little knowledge of it, besides Star Scott’s multiple Bible phrases thrown into his sermon-type rambling. The sad truth is that for a great apostle who “sets doctrine,” he handles the Scriptures like a first-grader. Topical studies pulled straight from the concordance (the concordance is a tool, not a crutch), spiritual jargon, rambling, contextual messes, convenient theology that changes based on who left the church at that particular time, nonsensical strings of phrases that sound like Scripture, but do not originate from Scripture.

It will take work to study the Bible and not be influenced by the things you have been taught since your youth. The continual stream of ‘teaching’ should be called, “brainwashing.” To brainwash is to make (someone) adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure. Calvary Temple utilizes this method by mocking anyone who disagrees, reinforcing Star Scott’s teaching by having other pastors teach and quote him more than they quote the Bible as if he were the final authority, by threatening dissenters with painful penalties and employing manipulation and church discipline as weapons under the guise of being “for your own good.” Calvary Temple breeds Scriptural ignorance under the guise of “being so well-taught.” This is heart-breaking and maddening and disgusting all at the same time. Ignorance is not bliss. Whether you are a current member or a former member or simple someone who has had contact with Calvary Temple, I urge you to study the Word of God for yourself.

As believers in Christ, it is our sober responsibility and our greatest privilege to be able to study the Word of God personally. Christians throughout the ages have laid down their lives, often burned at the stake, to give us the Bible in our language. Christ Himself laid down His life, suffered the most awful agony on the cross–for the purpose of ripping the veil in the temple–a symbol of His making a way for personal access with God. To willingly give up that access to God and His Word is to denigrate His sacrifice and devalue one of the basic tenets of the faith–the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture.

Calvary Temple thinks you don’t need the Bible… personally. Or they think you don’t need “too much of it.” They like to twist Scriptures like “much learning hath made you mad!” (Acts 26:24) and “knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1) to discourage personal Bible study. Those two verses have nothing to do with personally studying the Word of God to know and understand Him better. Calvary Temple implies that you need to be spoon-fed Bible teaching from Star Scott. They’re dead wrong.

You need God. You need His Word. You don’t need Star Scott.

Stay tuned for Part 4!

 

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The Why & How of Personal Bible Study | Part 2

by Naomi

This is a four part series. Read Part 1 here.

Without personal study of the Word, we are unable to discern between good and evil.

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14

Over and over again, our ignorance mocks us. We hear the words of so-called church leadership who tell us to do things absolutely contrary to the Word of God. We believe them. We submit to them. Lives are destroyed because we could not/would not/did not assimilate the Bible into ourselves. You might be wondering what this lack of discernment looks like. Let me elaborate.

One disturbing example is the tendency of Calvary Temple leadership to insert their unBiblical “counsel” into the marriages of their members. They suggest (in reality, demand) that members separate from their dissenting spouse, which is opposite what Scripture teaches. They declare that “spiritual adultery” is grounds for divorce, when in fact, that phrase is never, ever, EVER used in the Bible to talk about the literal marriage covenant between a man and wife. They counsel separation if a spouse is ‘speaking against leadership’ or ‘questioning’ or any attitude that is rebellious towards church leadership. They usurp the authority of the husband by suggesting that the wife confide in some other man about spiritual matters (hello! inappropriate!), especially to tattle on their husband for real or imagined sin. Calvary Temple leadership violates the sanctity of the marriage covenant, by making it about the Husband, the Wife and the Church, rather than a precious covenant between Husband & Wife, at the exclusion of all others. If a spouse expresses the desire to leave Calvary Temple (I will not elaborate on this concept in this article, but let me state: yes, you can leave a church. No, you don’t need the leadership’s permission), the leadership suggests manipulative tactics, running back to one’s parents (completely contrary to Scripture’s teachings on this subject), ignoring one’s spouse while they’re on church discipline, breaking them down and using children as pawns in a life-altering game. Their strategies are absolutely despicable and only more so because they are done under the guise of obeying the Bible.

The Bible is clear on the subjects of marriage and divorce. When a man and wife are married, no one gets in between. They leave their parents (Genesis 2:24) and cling to each other. If a believer and unbeliever are married, they are to stay married unless the unbeliever decides to leave (1 Corinthians 7:12-13). Just because someone leaves the church doesn’t give their spouse any room to divorce them. Even if they leave Calvary Temple and leave the faith completely, there is still no room for a professing believer to divorce them. God hates divorce. He hates it! He detests it! God created marriage as a covenant not to be broken, and most definitely NOT for the stupidest reason ever of leaving Calvary Temple.

In this example, Calvary Temple has taken something that God despises — divorce — and actually called it necessary and held it up as some badge of honor. They have encouraged what God strongly discourages. This flip-flopping of truth is not limited to the idea of marriage and divorce, but rather is a prevalent practice throughout Calvary Temple. Star Scott calls something good evil, and something evil good, and nobody reads the Bible enough to recognize it.

Without personal study of the Word, we are perpetual babies.

Just like our bodies are designed to grow and mature from babyhood to adulthood, God intends for us to grow up spiritually (Ephesians 4:15). No growth = abnormal. Calvary Temple likes to keep people in perpetual babyhood, because babies don’t question. Babies don’t talk. Babies don’t leave. Babies just eat what’s shoved in their mouths and smile.

“like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” 1 Peter 2:2

It is a mark of a true believer that they are hungry for the Word of God. I seriously wonder how any pastor could discourage a new believer from studying the Word for themselves. The Word of God is the catalyst for our spiritual growth. Without the Word, we will starve. Without the Word, we will degrade and waste away. The Word is what leads us to victory.

“I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” 1 John 2:14

It is an interesting process. Because you are a newborn baby in Christ, you are hungry. You desire spiritual food. You want the milk of the Word. You eat that Word. It is life and spiritual strength and victory to you. Subsequently, you grow up in God. You are no longer a baby. You are a man or woman of God. You are mature. That is exactly what God designed you to be.

Read Part 3 now!

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Resource: Self-Elevated Little Popes

by Naomi

We have not given up on writing for this blog. While Brandon is wading through his various responsibilities of work and engineering studies, I will be taking on the majority of writing responsibilities of this blog. My personal notes have become more abundant than ever before. They are nearly book-length. I am attempting to bring them into more palatable length for future articles.

In the meantime, I wanted to pass along an article that a friend passed along to me. It is strikingly, impressively, dangerously applicable to Star Scott and his following at Calvary Temple. Keep in mind, this article was written more than 60 years ago. We are not fighting a new battle against “little popes.” These power-hungry souls have been in operation throughout the years of Christian history. Just as this danger is not new, our response is not new. We are compelled to dig deeper into the Word, to cling closer to Christ and be more desperate for the Spirit as our Teacher and Guide. 


(Arthur Pink, “Private Judgment” 1950)

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.” Matthew 23:8

In every generation, there are those of an officious spirit who aspire to leadership, demanding deference from their fellows. Such men insist upon unqualified subjection from their followers. Their interpretation of the Scriptures must not be challenged, their dictates are final. Everyone must believe precisely what they teach, and order all the details of his life by the rules of conduct which they prescribe–or else be branded as a heretic.

There have been, and still are, many such self-elevated little popes in Christendom, who deem themselves to be entitled to implicit credence and obedience, whose decisions must be accepted without question. They are nothing but arrogant usurpers, for Christ alone is the Master of Christians; and since all of His disciples are “brethren,” they possess equal rights and privileges.

“Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father–He who is in Heaven.” Matthew 23:9. This dehortation has ever been needed by God’s people, for they are the most part simple and unsophisticatedtrustful and easily imposed upon. In those verses, the Lord Jesus was enforcing the duty of private judgment, bidding believers to allow none to be the dictators of their faith, or lords of their lives.

No man is to be heeded in spiritual matters, any further than he can produce a plain and decisive, “Thus says the LORD” as the foundation of his appeal. To be in subjection to any ecclesiastical authority which is not warranted by Holy Writ, or to comply with thewhims of men–is to renounce your Christian freedom. Allow none to have dominion over your mind and conscience. Be regulated only by the teaching of God’s Word, and firmly refuse to be brought into bondage to “the commandments and doctrines of men.” Instead, “Stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made us free,” yielding unreservedly to His authority alone.

God does not require the minds and consciences of His children to be enslaved by any ecclesiastical dominion. Each one has the right to exercise his own judgment.

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care . . . not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:2-3. Instead of lording it over God’s heritage, preachers are to be “examples to the flock”–personal patterns of good works, holiness, and self-sacrifice;models of piety, humility, and charity.

Love of power has been as common a sin in the pulpit, as love of money, and many of the worst evils which have befallen Christendom, have issued from a lusting after dominion and ecclesiastical honors. Such is poor human nature, that good men find it hard to keep from being puffed up and misusing any measure of authority when it is committed unto them, and from not doing more harm than good with the same. Pastors are to make self-abnegation, and not self-exaltation, their constant aim.

The right of private judgment does not mean that each Christian may be a law unto himself, and still less lord over himself. We must beware of allowing liberty to degenerate into license! No, it means the right to form our own views from Scriptures, to be in bondage to no ecclesiastical authority, and to be subject unto God alone. Two extremes are to be guarded against:
1. slavery to human authority and tradition, and
2. the spirit of self-will and pride.

Private judgment does not mean private imagination, but a deliberate conviction based on Holy Writ! Though I must not resign my mind and conscience to others, or deliver my reason and faith over blindfold to any church–yet I ought to be very slow in rejecting the approved judgment of God’s true servants. Self-conceit is to be rigidly restrained. Private judgment is to be exercised humbly, soberly, and impartially, with a willingness to receive light from any quarter.

Ponder the Word for yourself; but mortify the spirit of haughty self-sufficiency, and be ready to avail yourself of anything likely to afford you a better understanding of God’s truth. Above all, daily beg the Holy Spirit to be your teacher! And always accord your brethren the same right and privilege, which you claim for yourself.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~
This article is re-posted from Grace Gems.

You might want to read the whole of Pink’s very helpful 5 page article, “Private Judgment“.

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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

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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

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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

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Why We Use the Word “Cult”

The word “cult” is a stumbling block to many, and we recognize that it is most definitely a stumbling block to some of our readers; the friends and family that are still involved with Calvary Temple. Current members are aghast that you would believe that they are a cult. They don’t understand how you can assume that if Pastor Scott told them to drink poison that they would do that?! While some cults drink poison (ex. Jim Jones), it’s not a requirement of cult-definition.

The World English Dictionary defines “cult” as a quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents.

It is with great soberness that we wield this word. We believe that some members of Calvary Temple are genuine believers in Christ. Some are very sincere… yet sincerely wrong. We choose to use the word “cult” in spite of its inflammatory nature, because we believe it most accurately portrays the characteristics of Calvary Temple in Sterling, VA. Because of the intense devotion of the church’s members to their pastor, which goes beyond what much of the Christian world would consider normal or healthy. And because of the twisted perversion of Scriptural authority structures in the attempt to control the lives of Calvary Temple’s members.

Yes, Calvary Temple is a cult. And you should leave.

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