The Pastoral Heresy
The Pastoral Heresy lurks today, just like the disciples battled that problem while walking with Jesus. Before we go too far, let me define the terms. The term “pastoral” means here that a particular person, labelled a pastor in most churches today, operates as the person in foremost charge of a particular church or group of churches. The term “heresy” means here that a particular doctrine, practice, or teaching has departed from the truths found in the Word of God, the Bible. So, just to be clear, I intend to illuminate the heresy within the church today of pastors acting like they are in foremost charge of the church, when in fact such action departs from the clear teaching of the Word of God and causes severe problems in the Body of Christ, the Church of Jesus Christ. Please do not misunderstand. The spiritual gift of “pastor” God bestowed upon individual believers to “equip saints for the work of ministry” and to perform wonderful spiritual service to God. 1Ephesians 4:12, page 1830, provides that pastors and teachers should use their gifts for the equipping of the saints for the work of service. The saints will do the work of service, that results in the building up of the body of Christ. The Pastoral Heresy undermines this process of equipping the saints for the work of service by focusing upon the pastor, and not the saints who will do the ministry. The special meaning I am giving the term “pastoral” here should never be interpreted to mean that all pastors fall into The Pastoral Heresy. In order to avoid personal opinions here, we will focus upon the truth of the Word of God. We will start with a look at a critical problem surfacing in lives of the twelve disciples of Jesus.
The Greatest Problem
In the Gospel of Luke, the twelve disciples more than once argued among themselves who was to be regarded as the greatest among them. We see in those passages how sinful human nature always produces a desire to be first, the head, the leader, the greatest. So, we will look at Luke 22, and observe the roots of the pastoral heresy. Please recall that human nature has not changed, and some disciples still want to be regarded as the greatest among all the disciples. The background to that discussion helps us understand the desire for greatness.
What prompted the disciples to argue about greatness?
The Argument. Their argument related directly to the revelation by Jesus that the “hand of the one betraying Me was on the table with Mine.” 2The Greek phrase here for “the one betraying Me” (“τοῦ παραδιδόντος με”) included the present active participle, indicating in this context that the betrayal was already underway. We know that Satan had already entered into Judas and he had already made a deal with the chief priests and officers to betray Jesus (Luke 22:3-4, page 1644). Following that revelation, a discussion immediately arose among the disciples regarding the identity of the one who was going to betray Him. Luke, writing a consecutive account of the life of Jesus, 3Luke 1:3, page 1593. did not elaborate upon that discussion. Instead, the Holy Spirit moved Luke to focus upon the next discussion among the disciples about personal greatness and reputation. So often in our Christian lives we take the revelation Jesus provided, and then immediately ignore that revelation and turn to thinking about our own personal interests and reputations. For many believers, they find it very difficult to stay focused upon the words of Jesus by giving Him their full attention. Today, that means that when you read the Word of God, listen to Jesus speaking through His word just as if He were standing there right before you. Furthermore, human nature will always be more concerned about you than about Jesus. Do not let your attention falter and fade away from Jesus. In this instance, the disciples quickly became more concerned about their personal reputations, perhaps because they had some idea that Jesus was predicting His own death, and they would be without Him. 4We know that at the arrest of Jesus, they were still prepared to fight for Him so that the authorities would not take Him. See Luke 22:47-53, pages 1646-1647.
The Greatest Among Them. Just after Jesus told His disciples that one of them would betray Him, they changed the subject from who was the worst among them to who would be regarded as the greatest among them. Please observe how sin works to produce discussions and claims of greatness among disciples. It is the greatest problem to seek or claim superiority over others based upon your own thinking, acts, or reputation. The disciples disputed greatness among themselves. Notice three points about the dispute. First, the dispute arose among disciples. They were not comparing themselves to people outside the circle of men Jesus hand-picked to be with him day in and day out. 5No doubt the disciples also wanted everyone everywhere to know who was the greatest among the disciples, but this discussion was among themselves, and filled with personal jealousy. No, this problem was among believers and about greatness as disciples of Jesus. They were all personally chosen to be with Jesus. Second, notice the argument centered upon one man and each man. The disciples were not acting or thinking about Jesus or the team of disciples. They were now focused upon individual glory. Third, notice the word “regarded.” 6The Greek term for the word regarded (“δοκεῖ”) means in this context what other people think about you, how other people perceive you in terms of rank. This basic term δοκεῖ occurs with the infinitive here (“εἶναι”) and other places. It has the force of a verb, and in Galatians 6:3, for example, the Holy Spirit told us that if anyone thinks (“δοκεῖ”) he is something (“τις εἶναί”), then he is nothing. The construction focused upon the mind and attitude of the disciples. From their early days as disciples, they were already consumed with discussions and arguments about personal rank and greatness among themselves. 7Compare Luke 9:46-56, pages 1617-1618. In this passage, Jesus taught His disciples about “greatness” by placing a child before them. The “greatest” person in the kingdom of heaven will be like a child, converted and humble. Two stories then follow this teaching. First, the disciples saw someone casting out demons in the name of Jesus, and the disciples tried to prevent them. Instead, Jesus declared that he who is not against you is for you. Notice that because they are not lords over other people, they should not oppose other people casting out demons in the name of Jesus. Second, Jesus sent His messengers before Him to prepare for His visits. When a Samaritan village refused to receive Jesus, the disciples wanted to call down fire from heaven upon that village. Because they should never lord their authority over anyone, Jesus rebuked His disciples for such attempts to exercise extreme authority and moved on to another village. These two stories provide nice illustrations of what it means to lord authority over other people.