From the book: "The Great Apostasy"
By: Timothy M. Youngblood
Copyright © The Master's Table
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Question: Do you believe Jesus wants His church to be a system of government by priests or ministers and Elders claiming a divine commission and ruling from the top down?
The Church of Rome is hierarchical and is the very description of what Jesus stated His assembly should never do so how did Jesus describe His system?
Most religions and Christian Churches use what is called a hierarchical government structure and this type of government structure is rule from the top down. They appoint men as Deacons, Elders, Preaching elders, Ministers, Evangelist, and the one at the top usually refers to himself as the "Apostle" or the Leading Evangelist. In the Catholic Church we find them as Priests, Cardinals, Bishops, and of course the man at the top is the Pope. Although the names are different it is exactly the same thing, a hierarchical type government! The system in some cases is controlled by the Minister and in some Churches by a council called the "Council of Elders" or the "Council of the twelve" which they get from the twelve apostles. Churches also set up what can be termed as the "Churches Theology" which is in reality what that particular Church believes as is stated in their statement of beliefs which is either written by the Minister in charge or the Council. Most Churches set out guide lines that must be followed such as what is most important to teach and how to teach it. Also they have to address the subject of preaching to those outside of the Church in order to bring in more members. Without this basic function the Church would not grow in the way they would like so one can understand its importance. Is it wrong to have ministers, elders and deacons in the Church? Well scripture is very clear on the fact that ministers, elders and deacons were appointed for different service, but the question is what guidelines should the Church use as their "Theology" and their statement of beliefs? How should the Church choose their teachers, elders, and those that have gifts from God to edify and help the Church grow? Jesus and the apostles left good examples and we will learn a great deal about this today.
Many preachers have assumed that the government of God today should be hierarchical
and ran like the Old Testament priesthood because of the structure of the priesthood.
This system that was known as the priesthood set up by Moses as instructed by
God was a good system at the time for the needs of the people and what God intended
to teach them and do with them. What is not understood in most Churches that
set up this type of system is that Jesus eliminated the priesthood when He brought
in the New Covenant so we should look for the type of system Jesus Himself would
set up. You will notice they pick and choose from the old covenant as it fits
the needs of their church, and looking at the past priesthood structure we can
see the many Church organization of this world.
(1) There was only one living high priest at a time.
(2) God worked through the high priest only.
(3) If tithes were paid to anyone other than the high priest the sinner was robbing God.
(4) The high priest interpreted the law as a judge.
(5) The high priest had the authority to appoint or disfellowship as he deemed necessary.
(6) If you separated from the priesthood you lost contact with God.
(7) The Priest was the only ones to serve God in the temple.
In that old system the people needed the priest to not only make atonement for their sins, but no one could contact God except through this system as God had set it up. Many could not even understand the oracles of God at that time except they hear it from the priest. Many would not know when or how to keep the holy days except the priest count the time from the waning moon to find the time of the Molad so the people would know when to begin and where to go. When we study the book of Hebrews we find that today under the New Covenant we have access to God the Holy Father through Jesus the Messiah. We find that Jesus made void the Old Covenant and that Jesus alone is the head. (Our study on The Covenants goes into the book of Hebrews in detail)
When many ministers are asked to prove from the bible if God wants the hierarchical
type government set up in His Church today, in most cases they don't bring
up the scriptures they should but refer you to Exod 18:23. "If you do this
thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this
people will also go to their place in peace." Notice the words "God
so commands you" This is what the minister will focus you on because of
the word "COMMANDS". But beware my friend because either they are
deceiving you, or they don't know the scriptures, because if they are going
to use this to point people to God, then they should be sure of the meaning
and intent of the author. The word Command here in Exod. 18:23 is Tsavah
in Hebrew and means to enjoin or better put (if God so wills) we will do this
The word in Hebrew for Command as, God giving a command is mitsvah; and this word denotes a command, law, ordinance, or a precept from God. There's a world of difference in the meanings here, because the word "Tsavah" is used, the true meaning is getting God's blessings on something we do as men, and that is all this was. Moses' Father-in-law saw that Moses was being overwhelmed by answering the people's questions and solving problems. The solution was to appoint able men that feared God, men of truth to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, like a pyramid structure. Again I say this was not a bad suggestion nor was it evil, but it was nothing more than a solution to the problem at hand, not a command from God! The statement "If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure." was in fact, "If you do this thing and God wills, (or God agrees) then you will be able to endure or this will help with the problem.
The hierarchical government:
The hierarchical type government is not of God and is in fact the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which we even find in scripture that God hates, so let's look at the term Nicolaitan and learn why God hates it. First let's check the Encyclopedia records that record that Nicolaism is a Christian heresy whose adherents are called nicolaitans. "Nico" means "conquer" in Greek, and "Laitan" refers to lay people, or the laity; hence, the word may be taken to mean "Lay conquerors" or Conquerors of the Lay People, or the name itself meaning 'victorious over people', or the same thing as the hierarchical type church government which is men RULING from the top down as if they have the authority of Jesus Himself. They are mentioned twice in the Book of Revelation and according to Revelation 2, vv. 6 and 15, they were known in the cities of Ephesus and Pergamos (around AD 99). In this chapter, the church at Ephesus is praised for "hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which God stated He also hates and the church in Pergamos is blamed for having them who hold their doctrines. Now I must say here that there's no other first-hand evidence to give us certainty about the nature of this sect and no evidence supporting the claim that Nicholas was in fact a Heretic just to be fair to the question.
I did find some information in our research from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia and will state it here. It stated..."The Nicolaitans disobeyed the command issued to the gentile churches, by the apostolic council held at Jerusalem in 49-50 AD, that they should refrain from the eating of "things sacrificed to idols". This restriction prevented the Christian communities from joining the public festivals, and so brought upon them suspicion and dislike, but it was necessary to prevent a return to pagan morals. In writing to the Corinthians, Paul gives warning against the same evil practices, basing his arguments on consideration for the weaker brethren as recorded in 1 Cor. chapter 8).
But can we find biblical teachings that teach against the type of church government structure which the Nicolaitan definition refers? The answer is yes and we find them taught by Jesus Himself. It doesn't say Nicolaitans as we see in the book of Revelation as it is a system not a title.
What did Jesus and apostles teach concerning the structure of the New covenant
church, and who will always have authority over this church?
As I stated Jesus gave us the example of the true structure He wanted in His Church, so let's read what is recorded in John 15:5. "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." The truth from God is that a vine is the best way to depict God's type of government because this type of government puts Christ as the Lord and gives everyone who truly follows Him the opportunity to serve and lay up treasures in heaven without contriving and backbiting. There's no reason to politic when the Messiah has already qualified to rule and never forget that it was Satan from the very beginning that wanted to ascend to take the position of God, and anytime a man places himself between Christ and the brethren or seeks the position of Christ's authority in anyway whatsoever, he is not doing God's will.
Notice that Jesus states in the above scripture concerning the structure like
a vine that He wants us ALL to bear much fruit, so we ALL can grow, not just
the minister or the deacons or elders. We also find in Matt 20:25-28 that Jesus
instructed His disciples not to lord over their brethren. Let's read it
Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the
Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over
them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great
among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you,
let him be your slave--just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but
to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
How should servants be appointed to serve in the Church?
Whether the needs are ministers, elder, deacons, those that keep the funds, or someone heading up a church group to help the homeless in your community, the appointment should be done the way that was set up in the first church. The fact is that the people in each local congregation knows who have born the fruits needed for the service that they are going to be placed in to serve. We find in scripture the example of choosing by the local congregation in Acts 14:23 23. "So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed." The word "Appointed" in the Greek here means to be a voter (by raising the hand), i.e. to select, appoint or ordain. So the one chosen was ordained by those in the congregation raising their hands in agreement as to the appointment. There is much more logic doing it this way than some man at what has recently become know in our time today as headquarters choosing when he has not been very aquatinted with neither the congregation or the person in question. Another point is that in most cases the person being considered has already been serving and God has truly chosen them long beforehand. Even so we find that after the appointment the congregation then commended them to the Lord as we read in the above scripture. It is very important to commend them to the Lord as Jesus is the one in charge,
Many Christians have come to understand that the hierarchical government set
up in the Churches are not Biblical nor is the will of God, and even some ministers
are admitting that God does not want the hierarchical system used in His Church
and has began to preach against it. It is good that some are preaching the truth
on this subject, but we should not let our guard down brethren, because
although some ministers are preaching that the hierarchical type Church government
is not what Jesus or the apostles taught, some are at the same time setting
it up under new names and ideas. A good salesman can sell you the same product
you rejected last week under a new package, so we need to educate ourselves
on the ways we can detect what is truth, not by what is preached against, but
by what is being done by the minister. Here again brethren we must check out the
fruit of the tree. I'm going to list some points below that I will call "Hierarchical
Symptoms" so we can take a look at what is being done so we can understand
the techniques that are used to deceive. There are definite techniques being
used to control of the congregation.
Beware of the Hierarch:
Remember that the term Nicolaitan broken down is "Victory over the people" so by this term we can detect those that use the hierarchical government to RULE over the Church. The first thing a power hungry Hierarch will do is put forth his over stated credentials that entitles him to be your teacher. He may even go as far as presenting historical facts claiming his lineage ties him to the Apostles, priesthood, or even, as one man did, to the lineage of Jesus Himself. Once he has you believing he is qualified he then will place himself as the authority, and as some have done in the past, claim he is "divinely appointed by God" and is given "a special commission on this earth. You will know he has done this when he isolates himself from the common people by not allowing anyone to contact him directly and only those he determines worthy can have his personal phone number because only those that are "leaders" can know the inside scoop. (Ever notice how separate tables are set up for ministers and elders at church dinners?) Why? I thought they were to be the ones that serve the brethren?
He then sets himself up as the one to determine who can be an elder or teacher
and he will have to be the one that appoints others for baptizing, and anointing,
and never mind if people are being healed by God through people the Hierarch
has not approved. He will use terms like pillars in the church to separate those
he can use to uphold HIS teachings, and authority. He will say God does the
calling, but his actions will show he will not let God do the calling because
if the person does not agree with the Hierarch he will announce publicly that
this person must be an heretic who does not even have God's Holy Spirit. I have
heard them say this myself
I'm not making this up! A strong and
dangerous judgment I must say! The Hierarch will use shunning and isolation
techniques such as telling you not to read any material he has not approved
or written, and that you should not listen to others outside of the church and
to do so could lead you away from Christ. You will be taught that this church
is the one God is working with and the others are either not the lead church
or not true churches of God at all.
He will infer that you need him to interpret the Greek because you are not
as versed in it as he is, however what he should tell you is that the books
to obtain and read are the Strong's concordance, and Zodhiates complete word
study of the Old and New Testaments as well as George Ricker Berry's
Interlinear Greek New Testament, and the Tanakh for the Old Testament, but
they will not do this because then you will know as much as they do. Another
symptom will be that the hierarch will start settling issues and disputes, and
begin to teach dress codes, dating, and marriage but then he gets into if you
should marry this person at all, and also what he determines to be proper child
rearing techniques. He will not allow common people to ask questions and get
straight answers from the Bible but will only cover many topics in sermons and
then dance right over the points. The reason this is done in sermons is so no
one will question the subject in public, but I believe that the floor should
be opened to the congregation for discussion after the sermon. If he knows his
bible or his subject this should not be a problem for him.
The Hierarch will quote the scripture correctly and then misapply it for his own purpose or he will use a verse if it has just the word he wants in it, hoping you won't check up on him. Many will actually skip over scriptures because they shine a light on the truth thus not allowing them to spin the meaning. Some will quote the scripture and state "can it mean this or that?" Then on into their sermon make the "could it mean" statement as if it's indeed a fact. He will go all around it and then make statements as if what he is saying is fact without using scripture. He will also read a scripture and then state "this means" when in fact it does not mean that. He will claim his writings are "absolute truths" and that he is the one God reveals this truth to. He will say that he needs correcting also, but when someone proves him wrong from the Bible on a subject that he does not want to change, for what ever reason, he will not address the subject point by point with scripture. Brethren, if a man takes on the responsibility to become a steward of the scriptures then he must be very sure of what he will convey as the truth, or he runs the risk of becoming a false messenger.
The Hierarch will also present an idea that sounds very urgent and convince people that this is what we all should strive for in these last days. Just as an example he could say that in the last days just before Jesus returns many people that have never been called will wake up to the truth and come out of this worlds system. At that time they will need someone to teach them the truth, and help them come to Jesus in true repentance. The Hierarch will tell you that he is getting ready for this special time with books and sermons to help these people, and he needs your tithes to help him publish more. Brethren don't be deceived by these many cunning, and deceiving, statements designed to take your money by making you feel if you don't give to them you are going against God or your going against the work of God in the end time. It will not take your money for God to send His two witnesses, nor will it take your money for them to have the power God gives them to do such a mighty work of preaching repentance and the gospel message. Their authority comes from God. When someone claims that God has sent them to warn (witness) to this poor dying world, BUT they need YOUR support; They need your money these men are false preachers, and have not been sent by God!! Please don't take this to mean that we should not support the publishing of the gospel message now. We should give as God instructs us, but we don't have to fear for our salvation as if we are going against God if we don't give it as a command to some man. The truth is that NO MAN has the right to DEMAND a tithe from you as if it's a command from God! (See Tithe link below)
There is a reason we find so many different church denominations with so many different teachings contrary to one another although they ALL claim the same book as their guide, and I believe the main reason is the hierarchical government structure. Men come to think they are in charge and forget the teachings of Jesus Himself as we covered above. It is as a vine as Jesus Himself taught. Many start out wanting to just serve and do God's will, however this type of system breeds the desire to politic and the system itself can not exist unless a man places himself as the head of the church which is placing himself between Christ and the brethren. This type of system also locks the brethren into a "framed way" of bible study to the point that many scriptures are overlooked in order to continue the "Church's Doctrines" It's the Church's Doctrines that become more important as understood and taught by headquarters, and even the minister has to work within the framework of headquarters or run the risk of being removed.
Biblical scriptures tells us to prove all things so let's look into this subject of Church Government with the humble and willing mind to understand from the written word of God without spinning scripture. The Christian must be willing at all times to be corrected and must continually seek to grow in the knowledge of the truth if we are to reach our reward in the Kingdom of God. Yes salvation is through the Messiah alone, but he who does not run or does not run well can find themselves in the ditch with the blind. The fact is that the hierarchical church government that originated from the Catholic Church has failed in every way possible and has lead many into the Apostasy which teaches brethren to worship all manner of false gods, and if only truth was important to them we all would know and understand the same things but the truth is not what is important but power, and a high position is what they seek and many of these churches have become nothing more than a money making business.
All one needs to do is talk to hundreds of brethren that have been greatly abused and suppressed by this type of system. History shows how these men have abused the money that was in-trusted to them, and how they, even today, live far richer then those that send in their tithes. If a minister is receiving his living and driving a car, wearing clothes, or living in a home that far exceeds the life style of the brethren, he my friend is a hireling! How can he in good conscience live better than the poor of the congregation? The problem is when some that have been appointed as ministers or elders begin to "Exercise authority" over the Church and think that the "Buck" stops with them. The truth is that Jesus is governing His Church from His headquarters in heaven through every truly begotten child of God. Jesus is the one that appoints and gives gifts in whatever He has determined them to do. It's Jesus that rules, and has the authority to say if someone has His Holy Spirit. It's Jesus that can read the hearts of us all not some man that does not know what you truly feel and desire. Jesus knows what He has put each and every one through in life to bring us to the place we are so we can be used where He determines, not some man that went to some "Collage" or that was ordained by some high ranking minister.
Jesus, nor the apostles, were ordained by anyone except God the Holy Father or even
went to the learning institutions of their day! Brethren under the new covenant
we can individually go directly to God the Holy Father and be taught by the
Holy Spirit. Jesus the Messiah governs in love by the power of God and it is
by this Spirit of God that we can receive the love of God and it is by this
Spirit of God we can know and do His will. We can go to Jesus for all our needs
and even receive wisdom, instruction, faith, mercy, strength, hope, and yes,
we can even ask if there is something we can do to help in the preaching the
gospel to others. The scriptures always interprets the true meaning, and if
we will just accept what is recorded and prove all things from the written word,
the text and the scriptures we can come to a great understanding of God's plan
and will in our lives. If a person has the Spirit of God working with them they
will love the Holy Father and the truth He sent by His Son Jesus. It should be the
Spirit of God that teaches and motivates us all to do His will.
A True Minister:
A true teacher who is a servant and that is truly submitting to Jesus will be showing by his fruits that he truly is sent by God, because he will never try taking over by placing himself between Jesus and the brethren saying we must be part of his Church supporting him or we will be lost, or claim to be sent by God to be the only one to do the work. Yes a true teacher who is a servant submitting to God will always point you to Jesus, and he will realize that Jesus does the calling not only for salvation, but for preaching the gospel. God the Holy Father draws the person to Jesus. The true man of God will seek to help the poor, the widow and fatherless. He will give hope to the down trodden, and visit the sick and comfort the dying. He will not be a respecter of persons eating with the rich and politicians. You will not see him setting up there at a special table.
He will keep the line of communication open to all that wants to ask a question and a true minister of God will do everything for the good of the people. He will love the truth and defend it from those who would pervert it, and teach against all pagan teachings like the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, as he knows it leads God's people away from God and towards the world so he will tell you the truth about it. He will teach the truth even if it means losing his position as a minister or even if he knows it will cost him his life. He will preach the truth even if he receives no salary for his labor, as the apostle Paul stated "Woe to me if I don't preach the gospel". He would rather teach the truth to seven faithful Christians for free, rather then teach lies and half truths to thousands of people who have itching ears wanting to hear only smooth teachings. Did you know that some ministers make more money a year than the President of the United States?
He will never say follow ME as I follow Christ, because to do that is to get the minds of the people off Christ and on the man. Did Paul say follow ME as I follow Christ as is taught today? Many misguided ministers quote 1Cor. 11:1 and then state "Follow me, just as I also follow Christ." but the truth is that the King James version incorrectly uses the word follow. The Greek word used here is "mimetes" and it means imitator. Webster's New World College Dictionary renders imitate as to seek the example of, take as one's model or pattern, to mimic, or resemble. This rendering denotes becoming like Jesus, and could be used by Paul in that as long as he conducted himself in a Christ-like manner, then those who saw his actions could learn by example. Ever see a small child imitate someone? What a big difference that is from follow. Webster's New World College Dictionary renders "follow" as to go along, to accept the authority of, to obey, yield to, or to advocate the ideas, or opinions of those followed.
Now this rendering has a completely different meaning than to imitate Paul
as he imitates Christ. Paul was in essences being the example for others to
see. Where following him would get our eyes off Christ and on Paul (or any man)
thereby the possibility of being deceived if the man would cunningly change
the doctrine as many has in the past and will in the future. The one thing God
wants mankind to always remember and it's the very thing we always seem to forget,
and that is, GOD IS SUPREME! God has never and will never give up or trust His
authority or His people to any angel or man. The hierarchy that is placed between
the believer and God is just to keep the people under control, looking to the
Hierarch and sending their money in. If you want to do a test to see where the
Hierarch's heart truly is, (or your ministers heart truly is) tell him you still
want to be a part of his group, but you will be sending all your tithes to the
poor from now on. I suspect you might get the sermon that you will be
You might want to hear the eye opening sermon on tithing so you can refute those that try to take your money and state it is a command from God. The great point here is if that if they state it is a command from God If you don't give your money you are not sinning.
There are definite techniques that are being used either by design or from a minister being educated in a hierarchical system. God is the judge as to what each man is doing, but as stated above, we need to understand these techniques that are used to deceive so we can continue in the true relationship with Jesus the Messiah. It is a relationship between you and Jesus. It is my sincerest hope and prayer that this information informs many to beware of wolves in Shepherds clothing and help us to look to Jesus as our only Savior, and Master.
You also might want to read.
Spotting Cult Practices
Truth about tithing
Apostolic Succession and Temporal Power.
Women and Leadership
The Lord's Table
Just what is Doctrine?
The Great Ecclesiastical Conspiracy.