John T. Willis

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Status [Position] or Function?

Throughout human history, Individuals, Groups of People [secular and religious], States, and Nations have often decided to select certain people to be MORE IMPORTANT and MORE ELEVATED than other people. Repeatedly, the Bible consistently resists this idea, and EMPHASIZES the noble idea that GOD ALONE [through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit] is creator and sustainer and LEADER of all people. Human hierarchies [lower and higher ranks of people of all kinds] ALWAYS cause deep trouble among human beings and OPPOSE the truth and message of God proclaimed throughout scripture.

God USES human beings and communities and nations to carry out his purposes. It is very tempting and realistic that human beings TWIST the biblical idea to give human beings and institutions and secular and religious groups and nations STATUS when God intended that they have a FUNCTION for his service. Three examples [out of many] in the Bible illustrate this truth.

1. Jewish Scribes and Pharisees in the days of Jesus. Matthew 23:1-12. Jesus warned "the crowds" and "his disciples" not to think or act like the Jewish scribes and Pharisees. The scribes and Pharisees "do all their deeds to be seen by others," "love to have the PLACE OF HONOR at banquets and the BEST SEATS in the synagogues," "be greeted WITH RESPECT in the market places and have people call them RABBI." Jesus specifically taught his follows to avoid these ideas and practices. Jesus' followers are ALL STUDENTS. They are to be SERVANTS. They are to BE HUMBLE.

2. The Kings and Military and Political Leaders of Israel and Judah. The ancient Near Eastern nations had kings and commanders and military leaders. Biblical composers and writers emphasize that this is NOT to take place among God's chosen people Israel. A few texts emphasize this point.
a. Deuteronomy 17:14-20. Read this passage carefully. To emphasize just one point, Verse 20 says specifically that a king of Israel "must NOT exalt himself above other members of the community."
b. When God chooses a king of Israel, he calls that person NAGID. This Hebrew term means "prince," not MELEK, "king." The reason for this is that Yahweh ALONE is actually KING over Israel. The earthly king [Saul, David, Solomon, Rehobom, or whoever else] is always subject to Yahweh, the real king. See 1 Samuel 9:15-16; 10:1; 13:14; 25:30; and often throughout the Old Testament.
c. Psalms 2; 89; 132 and many other psalms in the Old Testament portray Yahweh as the real king of Israel, while the earthly king is subservient of Yahweh to FUNCTION in the service of Yahweh.

3. Elders. Ezekiel 34; Acts 20:17-38; 1 Peter 5:1-5. Throughout Christian history, many religious groups and churches have EXALTED "elders" ABOVE others in the church. They have set up "hierarchies." The "pecking order" is Jesus Christ--THEN elders--THEN deacons--THEN teachers and selected ministers--THEN "regular members" of the church. One cannot find this idea ANYWHERE in the Bible. People have CREATED this idea in their minds. According to the Bible:
a. God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is the ONLY HEAD of the church. See Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18-20.
b. God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is the "chief shepherd" of the people of God (Ezekiel 34:11-16; 1 Peter 5:4; Hebrews 13:20). According to the Bible, God has never INTENDED that human "elders" have a STATUS or POSITION as "lords over" the flock of God, but RATHER "loving shepherds" who have a FUNCTION--to care for, support, lift up, encourage, help fellow-Christians to serve God. Peter spells this out clearly in 1 Peter 5:1-4.

Over time, NO nation, institution, community, or church can survive IF or WHEN human beings exalt themselves over others. Movements that exalt kings, presidents, leaders, elders and the like to make human beings to have a STATUS or POSITION are misguided from a godly and Christian perspective. Jesus Christ himself emphasized this in dealing with his own apostles, as stressed in passages like Mark 10:35-45; Matthew 20:20-28.

I hope YOU are a HUMBLE SERVANT of God, exalting God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in thought, word, and activity. Share YOUR thoughts and ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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