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NTS The faithful and wise servant

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posted on Jan, 25 2019 @ 05:02 PM
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“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?” (Matthew ch24 v45)

The teaching of the New Testament centres upon what Jesus achieved when he died on the Cross, was raised from the dead, and was established as Lord and future judge.
We are included in what Christ has done, because we belong to him; we have been called to become part of his “body”, the church.

Christ is the “head” of that body, but we are also expected to get help from the other members.
In particular, we need to receive the “food” of clear teaching.
The first converts in Jerusalem “devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching” (Acts ch2 v42).
And the original deacons were chosen so that the Apostles could “devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (ch6 v4).

It is God’s will, in the interests of the church, that this teaching service should be continued.
He appointed such people as apostles, prophets, and teachers, to perform different functions for the benefit of the body (1 Corinthians ch12 v28).
Their purpose is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians ch4 v12).
So the man who oversees the local church needs to be “an apt teacher”, and his work is “a noble task” (1 Timothy ch4 vv1-2).

Paul’s advice to the elders in Ephesus was “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God” (Acts ch20 v28).
He urges his people “to respect those who labour among you… and esteem them very highly in love” (1 Thessalonians ch5 vv12-13).
Similarly in Hebrews; “They are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account.
Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews ch13 v17).

Paul expects to be able to feel a degree of pride when the time comes to give his own account of the churches he has nurtured;
“… you can be as proud of us as we can be of you, on the Day of the Lord Jesus” (2 Corinthians ch1 v14).
“For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?” (1 Thessalonians ch2 v19).
Of course it is reasonable that the community he serves should help to maintain him (“The labourer is worthy of his hire”), but the knowledge of having brought so many disciples to Jesus would be the real reward.
Perhaps that is the main point of the “blessing” which Jesus has promised to the faithful and wise servant.

But Jesus also describes a different kind of servant.
There is the “wicked” servant who “begins to beat his fellow-servants, and eats and drinks with the drunken” (Matthew ch24 vv48-49).
This picture has been fulfilled, in a literal way, many times in the history of the church.
Hence the need of Peter’s advice to the elders; “Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter ch5 vv2-3).

Apart from that, there has been the recurring problem of churches troubled by misleading teachers.
So James urges “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren” (ch3 v1), because not everybody is really suited for the work.
Reading between the lines, I suspect that his rebukes about misuse of the tongue, even to the point of cursing one’s opponents, were being addressed to teachers within the church.
Paul thought that his opponents in the Galatian matter were activated by the wrong motives;
“They make much of you, but for no good purpose; they want to shut you out, that you may make much of them” (Galatians ch4 v17”.
And also elsewhere, “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry…” (Philippians ch1 v15).

The most serious problem comes when the church is plagued by more deliberately wrong teaching, by “the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared” (! Timothy ch4 v2).
“From among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts ch20 v29).
John warns that “false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John ch4 v1). These are people who “went out from us, but they were not of us” (ch2 v19).
“There will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who brought them… And in their greed they will exploit you with false words” (2 Peter ch2 vv1-3).
In Revelation, we see the charge that the churches of Asia are being troubled by what the figure of Christ calls “the teachings of Balaam” and “the work of the Nicolaitans”, and in one case the prophetess whom he nicknames “Jezebel”.

Part of the problem is that there is a ”market” for ideas which are more interesting than the plain truth of the gospel.
“People will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to their own likings” (2 Timothy ch4 v3).
So these people “make their way into households and capture weak women… who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy ch3 vv6-7).

Thus the church is faced with the usual dilemma, the choice between two extreme dangers.
On the one hand, the domineering “wicked servant”, who beats his fellow-servants.
On the other hand, those who ignore the consensus of church teaching, and lead their followers off into byways invented by themselves.
The church, indeed, has frequently experienced the worst of both worlds, in the form of the domineering false teacher, who claims an illegitimate authority and then uses it to enforce acceptance of departures from the gospel.
There is no infallible solution to this problem, because our efforts to avoid the ditch on one side of the road may be sending us to the ditch on the other side of the road.
It is not easy to resist anarchy without falling under the spell of tyranny, and vice-versa.
The price of liberty, and the price of true teaching, is eternal vigilance.

What is most necessary is that teachers should understand where their appointment comes from.
Paul complains at the beginning of 1 Corinthians about the appearance of slogans like “I belong to Apollos” and “I belong to Cephas”.
The Corinthians are beginning to treat their teachers as their masters.
But he asks (in ch3); Who is Apollos, anyway? And who, for that matter, is Paul himself?
They are not masters, but servants, acting as God’s agents.
People are called to the faith by means of one teacher or another, as God assigns in each case, but the calling does not come from the teachers themselves. It comes from God.
So these “fellow-labourers” in the task are nothing in themselves, and God is everything.

In the end, the work of all these teachers is going to come under scrutiny. It will be “tested with fire” ( v13).
Those whose work in building the Christian community is found faulty will “suffer loss”.
Paul does not specify how, but at the very least they will presumably fail to secure the sense of pride which Paul is expecting to gain from his own communities.

The Corinthians had been claiming to “belong to” various leaders.
The truth is exactly the other way round.
It is Paul and Apollos and Cephas who “belong” to them (vv21-23).
The true “servant” of the church is the one who does not try to turn himself into a master.




posted on Jan, 25 2019 @ 05:06 PM
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Pride of authority is endemic among leaders of Christian communities.
In some parts of the church, the danger is increased by the sense of “caste” encouraged by the ambiguity of the word “priest”, which has the effect of setting the leader apart as a special individual.
The ambiguity comes from the overtones of two different words, PRESBYTEROS and KOHEN.
In brief, the KOHEN is a sacrificing officer, and the PRESBYTEROS is a pastoral officer.

KOHEN is a Hebrew word found in the Old Testament, describing the man who makes offerings at the altar, including the animal sacrifices. The same officer in the Greek and Roman worlds was called HIEREUS and SACERDOS.
The KOHEN is a very sacred person, set aside for a special work of God, and subject to a number of ritual restrictions, intended to keep him holy.
But the equivalent word HIEREUS is nearly absent from the New Testament. It is used in the gospels for members of the priestly caste in the Jewish community.
Also, in Hebrews, the word is applied to Jesus, on the grounds that he makes a self-offering.
Otherwise, there is no sacrificing officer in the New Testament Christian community.

The Greek word PRESBYTEROS is rightly translated as “elder”.
As we see from the laws of the Pentateuch, the townships of ancient Israel were largely governed by the elders of the community. In fact that’s a pattern which can be found in cultures across the world- while the young men go out and fight, the older men come together to make decisions.
The apostles followed this natural pattern when they were establishing the first Christian communities;
Barnabas and Saul “appointed elders in every church” (Acts ch14 v23).
They were welcomed into Jerusalem “by the church, the apostles, and the elders” (ch15 v4).
When Paul made his farewell to Ephesus, “he called to him the elders of the church” (ch20 v17).
And when a sick man needs prayer, the advice of James is “Let him call for the elders of the church” (James ch5 v14).
So that is how PRESBYTEROS became the name for the pastoral officer in the church, acting under the bishop or “overseer” [EPISKOPOS].

These two functions have become confused in the word “priest” by a combination of two factors.
On the one hand, the word “priest” itself is simply a shortened version of “PRESBYTER”, so there’s a continuous history in the use of this word for the pastoral officer.
On the other hand, the same word has become the standard translation of KOHEN and HIEREUS and SACERDOS, so that it carries the overtones of “sacrificing officer” in general speech, and can’t be detached from them.
So this word “priest” now embodies and enforces the confusion of the two functions.

As far as I can tell, this language confusion is English-based.
The Latin text of the Bible seems to keep the distinction between the Old Testament SACERDOS and the New Testament PRESBYTER. Just as the Spanish Bible on my bookshelves (now consulted for the very first time) distinguishes between SACERDOTE and ANCIANO.
So the double meaning of the word “priest” is the result, not the cause, of a much older habit of thinking which identified the two functions.

Of course the Roman Catholic explanation will be that Christian priests were identified as sacrificing officers as a result of their association with “the Sacrifice of the Mass”.
But I can’t help speculating about the true history of this connection.
Were the early presbyters quick to develop a sense of caste, and did they begin to envy the special status of the KOHEN caste of Israel?
Was it their increasing sense of identity with the KOHEN that prompted them to interpret the Mass as a sacrifice, rather than the other way round?
Certainly, by the end of the Middle Ages, the new priestly caste had created a substantial category of things that “only priests can do”, and their sense of detachment from the laity was highly developed.

The pride of caste also helps to encourage pride of authority.
Reading between the lines of the Old Testament (if we’re not treating it as a legal document), we may see how the KOHEN caste worked up their function into a monopoly with overall supremacy, and how history was re-written to show them occupying that place from the beginning.
Reading the history of the Middle Ages, we can see the same pattern in the development of the church’s priestly caste, building up the authority of Rome to the point of “infallibility”, and projecting this acquired authority back into the earliest periods of church history

This is what happens when the servants begin to think of themselves as masters.



posted on Jan, 25 2019 @ 05:08 PM
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The church, indeed, has frequently experienced the worst of both worlds, in the form of the domineering false teacher, who claims an illegitimate authority and then uses it to enforce acceptance of departures from the gospel.

We all know about the domineering centralised system.
The website of the organisation Cultwatch offers illustrations of domineering independent leadership.

Are you hearing phrases like “Obey, Apostolic Mandate, Five Fold Ministry, Tithing, Honor the Pastor, Set Man, Theocracy, Under Authority, Covering, Robbing God, or Submit” at your church?

www.cultwatch.com...
They draw attention to a phenomenon which they call the “Super-Apostle”.

False apostles are rising up in New Zealand, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and in other countries. They plan to subjugate (to bring under control and governance as a subject, to conquer) Churches and their leaders. From what we can tell these “Super Apostles” aim to build a fiefdom (a medieval feudal estate) of churches with themselves as the lords.

Their system involves methods which Paul would have deplored;

Authority is a key word for this clandestine movement. Everyone must be under authority. That is, under their authority. Now of course apostles did have authority in Scripture, but these new apostles claim that authority as their own, and a great deal more too. Under the catch cries of “Church Governance” and “The Church is a theocracy not a democracy” they employ standard cultic Mind Control methods. They practice “enforced giving”, where tithes and offerings of church members are recorded. Members who do not give the “correct” amount are disciplined and held back from leadership. People are banned from going to other churches and working for Para church organizations not under the apostle’s control. They control relationships, ordering people to stay away from friends and family outside the movement. Some even demand Christian members seek permission to marry each other. They run a reporting structure where members watch other members, and confidential information is passed up through the leadership pyramid. Some members have even had their rooms searched. People who wish to live in cities where there is no branch of the Super Apostle’s church are told not to go. Time control sees endless compulsory meetings. Failing to attend a meeting is noticed and the member is spoken to. Breaking sessions are employed where leaders “character assassinate” a member until they break down. Church members are given the impression that they can only be saved by being part of the Super Apostles church. Churches outside the “kingdom” are fallen and dead.

I don’t know enough about the world church to comment on the accuracy of these charges, but the information they provide is food for thought.

This is what happens when the servants begin to think of themselves as masters.



posted on Jan, 25 2019 @ 09:32 PM
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What is the "world church"? You seem to imply it is the Roman Catholic but you don't actually say that. It does reach around the world but so do many Protestant churches. It isn't the Christian church of Russia; that is Orthodox. There is no "world church" in Christianity.



As far as I can tell, this language confusion is English-based. The Latin text of the Bible seems to keep the distinction between the Old Testament SACERDOS and the New Testament PRESBYTER. Just as the Spanish Bible on my bookshelves (now consulted for the very first time) distinguishes between SACERDOTE and ANCIANO. So the double meaning of the word “priest” is the result, not the cause, of a much older habit of thinking which identified the two functions.


The word “priest” is not an English only concept. England had very little influence in the early Catholic church. They were kind of remote and had their own traditions. You cite the Spanish Bible but the Spanish speaking churches worldwide have a strong tradition of priesthood as do the Orthodox churches in the east.



posted on Jan, 25 2019 @ 10:07 PM
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a reply to: DISRAELI

The concept of authority is not some middle ages development. The Council of Nicaea was attended by people who were already authorities in the church. In Paul there is a section where he goes to a council in Jerusalem to determine if converts need to be circumcised. Apostolic authority comes from there and Catholics believe their priests form an unbroken chain of succession from the first apostles. I'm pretty sure we could go to the Vatican website and find the official explanation of all these things if we are willing to spend the time to read it.

The Catholic priests do not form a caste as in the Jewish tradition. There is no priestly caste. It is not an inherited office. Candidates apply and train for it the same as any Christian office anywhere in any denomination.

Cults do exist but to present this section after the others is an underhanded way to imply the Roman Catholic church is a cult. If that is what you believe, why don't you say it?

I'm not saying the Catholic church doesn't have flaws. I don't defend them. Some have been corrected over the centuries and been replaced by new flaws. The church as it exists now is totally screwed up.

So was the Israelite religion. The prophets detailed all kinds of flaws and hypocrisies. But they did preserve the scriptures. So did the Catholics. Even with all the flaws, there would never have been a Martin Luther without the Catholic church. There might never have been a Christian Europe. Perhaps the Gnostics would have taken over.
edit on 25-1-2019 by toms54 because: spelling



posted on Jan, 26 2019 @ 01:24 AM
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originally posted by: toms54
What is the "world church"? You seem to imply it is the Roman Catholic but you don't actually say that.

Heaven forbid, I do nothing of the kind. You ought to read the "definition of the church" post from the previous thread, which I will copy below to the extent that it will fit. Briefly, my view is that the world church is the "blessed company" of ALL faithful Christian people, whatever denomination they belong to- and that the word "church" is used confusingly when applied to individual denominations.

[The problem of definition- The church

The question of what we mean by “church unity” is complicated by the question of what we mean by “church”.
I have seen at least six different ways of using the word. In roughly chronological order of appearance;

[1] The overall body of Christians in general- “the blessed company of all faithful people”, in the words of Cranmer’s prayer.
[2] A local body of Christians meeting together.
[3] A building in which Christians worship.
[4] The corporate body of those professionally engaged in the service of God.
[5] The Christian aspect of a local or regional society.
[6] A society of Christians under a distinct organised structure, sometimes called a ”denomination”.

The first two meanings are the only ones found in the New Testament. “The church”, in the Acts and the Epistles, means Definition[1] except when Paul is using expressions like “the church in Corinth”.

Definition [4] is familiar to anyone who reads the history of the Middle Ages. The jealously guarded privileges of “the church” were the privileges of the hierarchy, the priesthood in general, and the communities of monks and friars. The laity might be Christians, but they were not “the church”.
This understanding of the church survives to the present day, as when “going into the church” means training for the ministry.

Definition [5] is Hooker’s definition.
“We say that the care of religion being common to all societies politic [i.e. independent states], such societies as do embrace the true religion have the name Church given unto every one of them for distinction from the rest…”
In other words, the national church is simply the religious aspect of the national society;
“We hold that there is not any man of the Church of England, but the same is also a member of the commonwealth; nor any man a member of the commonwealth, which is not also of the Church of England…” Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity Book VIII ch1 section 2
That is why the monarch, as head of the nation, is also the ”Supreme Governor” of the church.
This definition worked for the first century of the Reformation, when the Protestant communities were organised geographically. It became more problematic as time passed and independent groups multiplied.
The nineteenth-century “Oxford Movement”, at a time when this definition was coming under threat, was a deliberate attempt to supplement it or replace it with a revived Definition [4]
Yet it survived in the modified form that the Church of England was the “default” church for anyone who was otherwise unattached and in this form lasted deep into the twentieth century..
This “default” status gave rise to a joke at the church’s expense, which is at least as old as the First World War;
Recruiting sergeant; “What’s your religion, lad?”
Recruit; “Sorry, Sarge, I haven’t got any religion.”
Sergeant; “No religion? Then I’ll put you down as C. of E.”

Definition [6] evolved from previous definitions when the organisation of church life was getting detached from the political units of society.
Every “church” under this definition, including the Roman Catholic church, is one of the fragments of the Definition [1] church founded by Christ.
This is the most pernicious of the non-Biblical definitions, because it gives rise to confusion of terms and false arguments. In fact I came to the conclusion that it’s better to drop the word altogether, when it has this meaning, and substitute the word “community”.

A good example of confusion of terms is the argument sometimes presented by Catholics who have appeared on my threads.
1) The church was founded by Christ [Definition 1]
2) But [our community] is the church [Definition 6, probably combined with Definition 4]
3) Therefore our community, and only our community, was founded by Christ.
This is a false argument, because the definition of “church” changes, without acknowledgement, halfway through. I believe this is what logicians call the fallacy of Equivocation.
Only by confusing the terms in this way is it possible to gloss over the fact that ALL the “churches” have the same claim to have descended from the original church in its fragmentation.
That is why it is important to have a clear understanding of our definitions.





posted on Jan, 26 2019 @ 01:30 AM
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originally posted by: toms54
The word “priest” is not an English only concept. England had very little influence in the early Catholic church. They were kind of remote and had their own traditions. You cite the Spanish Bible but the Spanish speaking churches worldwide have a strong tradition of priesthood as do the Orthodox churches in the east.

Indeed, and that is what i am saying in the passage you quoted, if you read it again. My argument was that the confusion of sacrificial and pastoral functions in the one man is OLDER than the English usage of the word "priest", which merely echoes a way of thinking which already existed.



posted on Jan, 26 2019 @ 02:01 AM
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originally posted by: toms54
The concept of authority is not some middle ages development.

I am a lfe-long student of history, and my reading of history shows the assertion of authority, especially papal authority, growing and accumulating during the Middle Ages.

The Catholic priests do not form a caste as in the Jewish tradition. There is no priestly caste. It is not an inherited office. Candidates apply and train for it the same as any Christian office anywhere in any denomination.

OK, the word "caste" is being used metaphorically when applied to a group which is not hereditary, but it may still be so used about groups with a sense of distinctiveness and superiority.

Cults do exist but to present this section after the others is an underhanded way to imply the Roman Catholic church is a cult. If that is what you believe, why don't you say it?

In fact having the two supplementary posts was intended as a way to provide balance- one criticising RCC leadership, one to criticise Protestant leadership.

I will let you into some secrets behind the way this thread has been shaped.
Originally the Cultwatch post was the ONLY supplementary post in my draft. Two or three months back, after this series had been launched, I decided that the "PRESBYTER is not a KOHEN" thread (which was at the time only the title of an empty document) really belonged here and should be written up for the purpose.
Originally the "priest" post was the last of the three, reflecting the order in which they were written. Then over the last week, as I did my usual last-minute tinkering, I decided that the "priest" post followed on more directly and naturally from the opening post, and they should be copied and pasted in that order. This was when the last sentence of one post was added to the other post, promoting the sense of balance. Both halves of the church were being criticised.

Incidentally, your suggestion here conflicts with your earlier suggestion that I think the RCC are the world church. If you had placed those two thoughts side by side, you would have realised that at least one of them must be wrong.
edit on 26-1-2019 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 26 2019 @ 04:25 AM
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I do remember your earlier post, now that you remind me of it. All I can really say about your reply is that, once again, I have learned something. I suppose that's why I read your posts.

Thank you for taking the time to reply. I'll try to be more careful in the future when I try to understand something.



posted on Jan, 26 2019 @ 04:37 AM
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a reply to: toms54
Part of the problem, I'm aware, is that i've taken up a very complex theme, so it's easy enough for people to pick up the wrong end of the stick at first reading. Sometimes that may be my own fault, so I ought to make time to get things cleared up.




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