Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Gospel According to John 1:8 comments; bearing witness of the Light

8  He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

John the Baptist, in type like any Pastor today, was not to be the object of veneration and adoration but to point toward the Lord Jesus Christ, to bear witness of Him. The Holy Ghost, the third part of God, does similar work.

John 14:16  And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever…26  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

John 15:26  But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

There was a heresy that the Bible calls Nicolaitan, composed of two Greek words that mean, ‘victory over the laity’. On a basic level when you elevate the pastor’s office to an almost God-like status and make a pastor someone who cannot be questioned or is not subject to the same commandments and moral principles as God applies to everyone else in the congregation you fall into this heresy. A pastor who allows himself to be venerated and set apart from the congregation in that God’s standards don’t apply to him is guilty of supporting this heresy, which Jesus hates. In certain cultural contexts in American history pastors’ marital infidelities were ignored and moral sins against God committed by pastors were overlooked as if it was the pastors’ privilege to thumb their noses at God’s moral commands for Christians. Recently, it was said by members of a pastor’s congregation, after he had confessed to a crime of abuse, that they were still following him because he was the, “man of God.” Nicolaitanism is one of the primary weaknesses of Christian fundamentalism.

1Peter 5:1 ¶  The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2  Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3  Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

The legend that Nicolaitans were followers of Nicolas of Antioch in Acts 6:5 is unsupported by the Biblical text. When a word is not defined in the Bible it would be best practice to determine of what the word is composed and apply that. The words in the following verse 15 of the second chapter of Revelation confirm that these heretics existed in the same church alongside those who committed idolatry and fornication, but it does not say, by the construction of the sentence, that they were one and the same.

Revelation 2:6  But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate…15  So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

The preacher points to Christ. He is not Christ’s substitute, the vicarious Son of God on earth, with the congregation being mere props in the pastor’s own “Passion Play”. Like all Christians, he is to follow Christ and display Christ to the world. But, as this is something all Christians are called to do this does not elevate the person of the pastor to a point where, as a child was reported to say in wonder and awe when Jack Hyles stopped to tie his shoe, “God just tied my shoe.”

I have read but have not confirmed that Cyprian, a church father, in the third century, first said that to obey the pastor is to obey God. This is perhaps because he took the following verse to an extreme, removing it from the spiritual world and into the physical world where some church-goers among fundamentalists will even ask their pastor if they can take a vacation.

Hebrews 13:17  Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

The verse, written to the Jewish Christians in the early church and most applicable doctrinally to the  believing Jews in the Tribulation after the Gentile and Jewish church is removed, is a reference to spiritual matters not what color car you can buy or what color you should paint your kitchen.

But, we must remember that in times of political chaos in Europe at the end of the Ancient world and in the beginning of the so-called Medieval period a priest or a pastor was the only consistent human authority in spiritual or physical affairs. So it is today in places like Liberia, which has suffered from two devastating civil wars. The pastor guides and exhorts the congregation to follow Christ in all behavior but the importance of pastoral guidance in the recent Ebola outbreak cannot be overstated. In certain cases, it was pastors whose congregations followed their instructions who kept them from the practices which spread the disease.

Still, every pastor must remember that he, like John the Baptist, is not the congregation’s Messiah, but bears witness of their Messiah, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. If a pastor says something that cannot be supported by scripture then he is under the same restrictions and condemnation, if he persists, as any other heretic.

Acts 17:10 ¶  And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11  These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

John the Baptist paved the way for the appearance of God in human flesh.

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