Search This Blog

Monday, July 16, 2007

Ordination & Submission

Did you ever read something that you'd read before --- but see something different in it? It's often like that for me in reading the Bible. I will read scripture passages that I've seen before (I can tell because my notes are there). But it will say something to me that it's never said before. The Bible tells us that this is the Holy Spirit, revealing biblical truths to us. Nevertheless, I am amazed by this phenomenon. It occurred again today, when I was reading in Galatians 2.

I last talked about the Apostle Paul and his so-called calling from God. Today, Galatians 2:1-10 shows more about how that was confirmed. (You can read it with me at

Apparently Paul has his Damascus road experience and begins his ministry. Fourteen (14) years later he goes to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus ... because God told him to. When he gets there, he meets privately with "those who seemed to be the leaders." In that meeting, Paul reviews his ministry with them and seeks their affirmation "for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain."

What just happened here? Paul, you've been in ministry now for 14 years. You've planted churches and preached all over the place. It now occurs to you to seek the affirmation of the church leaders to validate your calling and your ministry "for fear that it may have been in vain." What is that? Moreover, you began by telling us God told you to do this. Why would God do that? What do you think God had in mind here? Was your confidence being eroded by
Satan's attacks? Did God want to set you up to minister to the church leaders?

Notice what Paul does next. In Galatians 2:4, Paul accuses some who had "infiltrated our ranks" of being false Christians. Isn't that judging? Aren't "good Christians" supposed to refrain from judging others? Paul doesn't hesitate for a minute to do so. What would happen in today's churches if a preacher who was called by God, but never educated in seminary or otherwise affirmed, went into churches and identified some as false Christians? We can just imagine the sparks that would fly!

Then in Galatians 6, Paul takes a back-handed swipe at the church leaders. He calls them "those who seemed to be important" and says "whatever they were makes no difference to me." He explains that "God doesn't judge by external appearance," and adds that "those men added nothing to my message."

Does Paul sound grateful for their confirmation? Paul continues by comparing himself to the church leaders and pretty much sees himself on a level plain --- as their equals. He simply sees their calling as being to different people than his (Jews versus Gentiles). I wonder how Peter, James and John felt when, after affirming Paul's calling, they read his views on their own role.

If you're reading Galatians 2 with me, look what happens next. Paul sees Peter treating some believers differently than he treats others. Apparently he believes Peter was trying to avoid offending some believers who didn't see themselves as equal with all believers. Nonetheless, Paul confronts Peter publicly and tells him his behavior is wrong. Can you just imagine? Try doing something like that in church today and see what happens.

When a pedigreed church leader affirms your calling and your ministry, then go confront him publicly about his own failures in ministry. "Excuse me, preacher. I can't help but notice that you seem to be preaching what people want to hear. You can't be doing that and call yourself a Christ-follower, you know." Do you think today's churches would allow this? How do you think people would react?

Paul didn't consult with anyone else. He didn't ask other church leaders? Wasn't Paul supposed to be submitting to the church leaders? Aren't we all always supposed to submit to our church leaders? How can Paul get away with this outrageous behavior?

Okay, so here's the revelation I see in this passage of scripture. It is true that we are supposed to submit to and follow our appointed church leaders. However, if we see them doing something that is clearly wrong, we are called to hold them accountable for that. We are all called to lovingly do that for each other. Are you willing? Can you be a Paul in today's church culture? Or will you allow your codependent tendencies to block you from standing up for truth?

Clearly the Apostle Paul was a revolutionary and a rebel. Clearly God used him for an incredibly impactful ministry. Let's not miss the relationship of those two things. A good Christian leader, pedigreed or not, is not comprised of someone who blindly submits even to something they know is wrong. Rather a good Christian leader stands up for what's right, even amongst his own people whom he loves very much.

Tomorrow I think I'll blog about Christian leadership some more. Stay tuned.

No comments:

Post a Comment