Faithlife Sermons

Pastoral Authority

What is the church?  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 2 views

The biblical description of pastoral authroity in a NT church, and how that authority functions with congregational rule

Notes
Transcript
Sermon Tone Analysis
A
D
F
J
S
Emotion
A
C
T
Language
O
C
E
A
E
Social
View more →
If the biblical evidence argues for a congregational polity, that is- the evidence in the NT shows the church as a whole, or the congregation making all the decisions in the church, then were does that leave the authority of the pastor? How can a pastor lead or shepherd the flock, if the flock is the one making all the decisions?
And there is Scriptural evidence of pastors ruling or leading the church.
1 Timothy 5:17 KJV 1900
17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
1 Thessalonians 5:12 KJV 1900
12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
Hebrews 13:17 KJV 1900
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.
How does the idea of elder/pastor/bishop leading or ruling in the church, if it is the congregation that makes the decisions in the church?
To understand this dilemma, one must understand what pastoral authority looks like, and what it does not look like.
Does the pastor of a church have any kind of authority over the members of the church? If so, what authority does he have? What does that authority look like?

I. The pastor does not have the authority to force his decisions on others

1 Peter 5:1–4 KJV 1900
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. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
I Peter
Specifically in v. 3 Peter forbids the elders/pastors/bishops in terms of their authority, to lord it over God’s heritage. Or the idea is that Peter is forbidding pastors the kind of authority that forces their decisions on the rest of the members of the church.
The verb for “being lords over” means “to become master over” or “to gain dominion over” or “to subdue”
Acts 19:16 KJV 1900
16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Mark 10:42 KJV 1900
42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
For the pastor the sense is that they cannot rule over the congregation in making and enforcing decisions by force or decree.

II. The pastor’s authority is bound up in teaching and preaching the Word of God

1 Timothy 5:17 KJV 1900
17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
Debated verse- some find Scriptural support for elder rule from this verse. They would argue that this verse teaches two different kinds of elders- ruling elders and teaching elders. Thus, the church should be ruled by ruling elders not the congregation.
This interpretation creates four different groups of elders/pastors- Ruling elders, those who rule simply and those who rule well. And teaching elders, those who teach simply and those who teach well. The problem is this verse is ambiguous- it could mean one of two things. Do you remember our hermeneutical rules that we covered several weeks ago? How should we handle ambiguous passages? We let clear passages interpret ambiguous passages. And we especially do not base theology on ambiguous passages.
The other interpretation is to understand the word “especially”- be counted worthy of double honor, “especially” they who labour in word and doctrine. We understand this to mean “namely.”
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, namely they who labour in the word and doctrine.
So what we have here is not two different kinds of elders (not ruling elders and teaching elders). Instead you just have elders/pastors. And every elder or pastor has authority in the church, that is, every pastor has ruling authority in the church. The question what does that authority look like, or where does that authority come from? Namely, it comes from laboring in the word and in doctrine. So the rule of a pastor, the authority of a pastor is not by force, it is rather a moral authority that comes by means of labouring in the word and in doctrine.
This interpretation creates only two categories of elders as opposed to four.
You have elders who rule simply- they merely handle the word and doctrine, and you have elders who rule well- they labour in the word and in doctrine.
By the way, this is the biblical evidence given for the idea of rank amongst pastors. This is why we have the title “senior pastor.” All pastors are worthy of honor, but most often there is one pastor whose job is primarily to preach the word. And he spends most of his time reading and studying the word. And it becomes evident to the people that he labours in the Word and in doctrine (he doesn’t just teach the word and doctrine, he labors in it and teaches is it well). The one who does this, Paul says, is worthy of double honor.
Occam’s razor states that the simplest interpretation is to be preferred, or don’t multiply entities unnecessarily. So the probability that Paul is referring to only one kind of elder here is to be preferred. But again, this text is ambiguous and we should not base church government on an unclear text, especially when we have so many clear texts of congregational rule. Those text should inform our interpretation on unclear texts.
What you need to take away from this passage is that the rule of the pastor- the authority of the pastor is primarily moral and it is bound up in his ability to labor in the word and in doctrine.
Other passages that teach this:
1 Timothy 3:2 KJV 1900
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
Ephesians 4:11 KJV 1900
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
1 Thessalonians 5:12 KJV 1900
12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
The pastor is one who is to admonish believers and that is connected to what it means for pastors to be over you in the Lord. This means that the teaching in the pulpit is not to remain abstract or to remain in the pulpit. Instead the pastor’s teaching is to be applied to real life situations.
Hebrews 13:7 KJV 1900
7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

III. The pastor’s authority is bound up in his example of living out the Word of God

1 Peter 5:2–4 KJV 1900
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. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
1 Peter 5:3 KJV 1900
3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
Hebrews 13:7 KJV 1900
7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
This is according to how the Apostle Paul ministered to the churches.
1 Corinthians 4:16 KJV 1900
16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.
I Cor
1 Corinthians 11:1 KJV 1900
1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
Philippians 3:17 KJV 1900
17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
Philippians 3:7 KJV 1900
7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
2 Thessalonians 3:9 KJV 1900
9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.
Phil 3.7
Paul also gave Timothy and Titus the same command.
1 Timothy 4:12 KJV 1900
12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
1 Tim 4.
Titus 2:7 KJV 1900
7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,
Clearly, the example of the pastor is of utmost importance. And any pastor who is not so effected by his own laboring in the word and doctrine that it doesn’t also change every part of his life, is severely lacking in his authority in the church.
Really, that is how the two elements of the pastor’s authority should come together. And we have a great example of this concept- the idea of teaching and example as being the pastor’s authority- in .
1 Timothy 3:4–5 KJV 1900
4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
One of the qualifications of a pastor is the ability to rule his own house well. The reason being that if he cannot rule well his own house, how can he rule well the church of God?
It is important to keep in mind what a household looked like in Paul’s day. Yes there was the typical family- husband, wife, small children. But there were also adult children, elderly parents, in-laws, servants, and sometimes guests.
When we think about having children in subjection with all gravity what do we typically think of? With small children it is possible to simply crack the whip, or to bark orders and to simply force obedience. Sometimes this is necessary, and sometimes it is simply easier to force compliance. But, the man who is head of the household cannot do this to adult children or in-laws, or guests. His leadership would have to involve instruction, persuasion, coordination, and illustration through example, all bathed in an attitude of sacrificial interest.
Paul’s implication is that leadership in the church would be even more difficult. Why? In the home, at least sometimes, the father can crack the whip, or make decisions unilaterally. But, in a church, the pastor does not have this kind of authority. The only authority a pastor has is morally- skilled preaching and teaching of the Word, and a passion to put into practice the Word of God in every area of his life.
So it seems clear, pastors do not make the decisions for the church- they cannot simply impose their will. Instead pastor’s teach and preach the Scriptures is such a way as to prepare the church to make wise decisions for itself. It’s like the Father bringing to bear the Word of God in their adolescents son’s life and being a consistent model for the truth- its a moral authority.
Pastor passionately preach the Scriptures and they live out their faith so transparently that their congregation can see by their example how Biblical principles come to bear upon life. They do this all in a spirit of gentleness, patience, and meekness that resists becoming tangled up in pride and quarrels
2 Timothy 2:23–24 KJV 1900
23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. 24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,

IV. A pastor has no authority of his own

When properly understood, this is a liberating principle for the pastor. I have no authority in and of my own self. My own opinion counts for nothing and should carry no weight in the church. Pastors and churches get into a lot of trouble when this principle is not understood and followed.
The pastor operates strictly with the authority of Jesus Christ- and authority mediated only through the Word of God!
Christ is the head of the church- his authority is the only authority that matters. My own personal opinion is no more authoritative that the opinions of anyone else in the church.
The authority of a pastor is in the proclamation of the Scriptures, and he labours in the word and in doctrine, and he rightly explains their meaning, and he brings the truth of Scripture to bear upon the personal lives of his people, and he illustrates the truth of the word through his own personal example.
BUT- when the pastor has done these things, the church, God’s people are morally obligated to submit to him and obey him. To be clear, you are NOT submitting to and obeying the MAN, you are not submitting and obeying because of the OFFICE, your submission and obedience is directed to the Word of God!
And I want you to understand this important Scriptural truth. If you fail to do this, if you fail to submit and obey the authority of Scripture, rightly brought to bear on your life by the teaching ministry of the Pastor and by his example, you will find yourself in a less that advantageous position one day when you stand before the Lord.
Hebrews 13:7 KJV 1900
7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
Hebrews 13:17 KJV 1900
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 idea of this verse is not that pastors will give an account for their themselves. They will have to do this, but that is not what this verse is teaching. Here the author of Hebrews is commanding the people of the church to submit and obey to proper pastor authority, why? So that one day when your pastor has to give an account of your souls to Christ, he has to give an account of whether or not you submitted to the authority of the Word of God- he can do it with joy (Yes Lord, the willingly obeyed the Word of God when I confronted them with it!), and not with grief (Lord, they would not obey). Scripture says if your pastor has to give an unfavorable account of your souls- it will be unprofitable for you.

V. A Biblical Example ()

Do we have a good biblical example of the interaction of the moral authority of the pastor combined with the decision making authority of the congregation? Yes- .
Acts 15:1 KJV 1900
1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
Problem with members of the Jerusalem church.
Acts 15:2–4 KJV 1900
2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. 3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.
Paul and Barnabas sent by the members of the Antioch church to the Jerusalem church to find out what was going on.
V. 4- Not a church council- a church business meeting.
Acts 15:5 KJV 1900
5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
And there was disagreement in the church! How is this solved?
Acts 16:6–7 KJV 1900
6 Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, 7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.
Acts 15:6–7 KJV 1900
6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
There was considerable debate that happen within the church, and even with the leadership of the church.
So Peter gets up and give his testimony
Acts 15:8–12 KJV 1900
8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. 12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.
Finally, James gets up and he speaks. What roles does James play in the Jerusalem church? He is the pastor- the senior pastor. Notice how James brings to bear his authority in the church.
Acts 15:13–21 KJV 1900
13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: 17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. 18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. 19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
Acts 15.
James does not say, “listen up this is what we are going to do.” Instead he brings to bear the authority of the OT Scriptures. He leads by means of teaching and preaching the Word of God. And based on the Word he offers a solution to the problem. And his teaching is so compelling that notice how the church responds.
Acts 15:22–29 KJV 1900
22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: 23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: 24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: 25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
Acts 15.
Here is a clear example of James bringing to bear the word of God with moral authority, the church responding to the moral authority, and yet the church making the final decision in the matter.
Two pillars of authority in the church
Decision Making Authority (Policies/programs/personnel/people/parking)
Christ
Church
Pastor
Moral Authority
Christ
Pastor
Church
There is a real sense in which the pastor must submit to the church, and there is a real sense in which the church must submit to the pastor.
A note about decision making in the church- it is not a simply majority vote.
If the church makes a decision and it was by 51%, the church has failed in its job of ruling. (example: 100% of the vote for the new building)
Also, the congregation must do more that just count votes. It must weigh counsel. There are certain members of the congregation whose vote should be given heavy consideration. Those members who are skilled in the Word- certainly the pastor.
In summary- Baptist churches are congregationally goverened. Baptist churches are also pastorally led. Congregational rule and pastoral leadership are not contradictory, but complementary. A church requires both if it is going to function well.
Related Media
Related Sermons