Friday, November 4, 2011

Are You Stealing from Peter to Feed Paul?

My wife and I were talking today about some (most) of the churches we've attended, where there exists the idea of the senior pastor versus the associate pastors. In other words, there is this concept that there is a main pastor and then one or more subordinate pastors to him. Hence, he receives a better pay, a more honored and respected role, and reserves a greater authority for himself. I've argued many times before, however, that pastor is a gift, not an office (the prebyter "elder"/episcopate "overseer" is the actual office), and there certainly is no such thing as a senior versus associate pastor/elder/overseer in the Bible. So where does this idea come from?

It actually comes from Roman Catholicism, which itself gained its hierarchical concept of the ministry from the political structure of the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was divided up into provinces ruled by its major city states, such as Alexandria, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Rome. It had all sorts of other divisions as well, and the city of Rome itself was divided into fourteen distinct regions. Each of these places needed an official to oversee the provinces/regions.

As the church grew, so did the need for overseers. Elders were set over a local church, but who would be set over all of the churches in that area? This is where patriarchs come in. They function as elders of elders, and they are placed in importance according to the importance of the city. Hence, the Roman bishop received more honor than the rest because of the city over which he resided. This later turned into the idea that he ruled the entirety of the church as the Roman Emperor ruled the entire secular realm.

Today, this model has persisted as the dominate one in most of our churches. We don't usually have an elder who oversees multiple churches (although the new trend to set up satellite churches may be a way of resurrecting this idea), but we do have this structure within the church itself.

The pastor functions as the head bishop or pope over the entire realm. Those pastors in inferior rank (associate pastors, youth pastors, family pastors, education pastors, evangelism pastors, etc. are all rulers of their own realms who are overseen by the highest ruler, i.e., the pastor-pope.

Now, this model does try to get some biblical support by a single verse in the Bible that has been misunderstood for quite awhile, and that is First Timothy 5:17. The NASB translates it as follows:

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.

From this verse, it is surmised that there really are two kinds of elders: those who do the main preaching and teaching and those who just help out with ruling (and perhaps some teaching too). Hence, the idea of the senior pastor is vindicated by this verse, or is it? Let's take a look at the important word here that the NASB and many other translations translate as "especially." The English word "especially" usually means that what has come before is a larger group and what comes after the "especially" is a more specific group, or subgroup, of the whole. Hence, we get the idea from this translation that there is the larger group of elders who seek to help each other manage the church, but that there are elders of elders who work hard at preaching and teaching as well.

Now, first off, notice that those who work hard at preaching and teaching is plural, not singular. Paul is writing to Timothy in Ephesus and could be referring to a single church with multiple elders, but I will grant the point that it is more likely that the plural simply refers to the many elders from multiple churches in the city of Ephesus.

However, the word malista, translated here as "especially," does not take upon the connotation of specifying a group within a group, but rather specifies the reference for purposes of clarification. In other words, the NASB, following the traditional understanding of the word, views the word as follows:

Elders Elders

 But the word actually conveys the following: 

Elders = Elders
In other words, the word malista specifies the preceding with a clarification of the following. In this case, the elders who rule well are the elders who work hard at preaching and teaching, i.e., that is how they rule well. There aren't two different groups here, one speaking of elders who rule and the other speaking of elders who work hard at teaching and preaching. That is an erroneous understanding of the way the New Testament uses malista, which is simply an adverb expressing specification of some sort, but in this case it is specification in terms of clarification of the preceding, not in terms of specifying a group within a group.

The word appears 12 times in the New Testament. Let's look at them below:

Acts 20:38 "grieving malista over the word which he had spoken, that they should see his face no more. And they were accompanying him to the ship."

This use is ambiguous, but we can see how the translation of "specifically," rather than "especially" would work better here.

Acts 25:26 "Yet I have nothing definite about him to write to my lord. Therefore I have brought him before you [all] and malista before you, King Agrippa, so that after the investigation has taken place, I may have something to write. 

Although this one may seem to indicate specification that distinguishes Agrippa from the larger group, I would say that it doesn't. The "you" here seems to indicate the royal court, but Paul is not being brought to the royal court for the royal court to judge him. He is being brought to Agrippa specifically. Hence, this is like saying, "the government, that is, the IRS,  taxes me too much." The government here is a larger group, but by "government" I really mean the IRS specifically. Hence, I am not saying that both the government and the IRS tax me too much, but that the IRS does. In a similar manner, the "you" that refers to the members of the royal court, really is meant only for Agrippa who is a part of that court. Hence, the translation "specifically speaking," or "that is" might be more appropriate, as this is likely a case where the speaker references something too broadly, and then clarifies what he is referencing with malista.

Acts 26:3  I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today; malista because you are an expert in all customs and questions among [the] Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently. 

"Specifically" seems more appropriate here, as Paul clarifies what precedes in his saying that he considers himself fortunate to make his defense before Agrippa. There is no larger group, or here, larger set of reasons why Paul feels fortunate. This is the only reason given. Hence, it is specification of why he feels fortunate to make his defense before Agrippa, specifically speaking because Agrippa is an expert in the customs and questions of the Jews.

Gala 6:10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, malista de to those who are of the household of the faith. 

malista de here likely clarifies the referent "all men." Paul is not saying that we are to do good to everyone without exception. It's not that we shouldn't do good to everyone without exception, but I'm simply saying that this is not Paul's point here. The context indicates that Paul is referring to sharing either physical goods or spiritual goods with one another within the community. In other words, we are reaping and sowing good or evil with one another in the religious community. Hence, the statement begins with ara oun which is a double inferential that means "therefore accordingly" or just exists as an emphatic "THEREFORE" that concludes what Paul has just said about doing good to one another within the religious community. Hence, the better translation of malista de here would be "THEREFORE, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, specifically speaking, to those who belong to the household of faith." This may sound odd to some, as though Paul would exclude any of humanity from our doing good, but we must remember the context and that doing good here has to do with sharing physical goods and spiritual goods (through discipleship) that are reserved for the church alone.

Phil 4:22 All the saints greet you, malista those of Caesar's household. 

It is clear that Paul is not saying that all the saints in the world greet the Philippians, but rather all the saints who belong to Caesar's household, i.e., Rome. In fact, if Paul meant all saints, then this would include the Philippians who are being greeted. This makes no sense either way. Paul is saying that the saints who are greeting them are those of Caesar's household. Hence, malista clarifies an overly broad designation and corrects it by saying, "What I mean to say by that is . . ."

1Tim 4:10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, malista of believers. 

This verse is an interesting one, as it basically says that God is the Savior of all men. Of course, this is placing a common phrase given to Caesar with God, so it is a bit polemic; but the point is that it would in fact still say that God is the one who saves all men, not just believers. But that is not what this says. The adverb malista is simply specifying what was too broadly spoken. It really should be translated, "God, who is the Savior of all men, that is, of believers. 

1Tim 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own kai malista  for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever. 

Here we have another instance of a conjunction appearing with the adverb that may function with it. I actually think that kai may go to the preceding clause and should be translated as "even," but nonetheless, it's irrelevant how we take it here. It is clear that "his own" refers to "those who belong to his household." There is simply no way to say that "his own," i.e., that which he possesses or belongs to him in terms of family could possibly refer to some larger group of people who belong to him and then "his household" refers to a smaller group of people, as that would basically be saying that he is responsible for his extended family, and if he doesn't provide for all of them, he has denied the faith. This would be an impossibility for most people and completely absurd. But, again, this is not what Paul is saying. The broad and ambiguous phrase is clarified by the specification of malista.

1Tim 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, malista those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 

We'll leave this one, since it's the one we're discussing.

2Tim 4:13 When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, malista the parchments. 

How exactly is Timothy "especially" bringing back anything? How does one "especially" bring something of a group that he's already bringing. Please note, he did not say, "Especially remember to bring . . .", but "especially bring." This is just nonsense. Obviously, the parchments are the books to which the apostle is referring, and malista clarifies that for Timothy.

Titu 1:10 For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 

Again, is Paul referring to all sorts of rebellious men and empty talkers everywhere, or is he just referencing the Judaizers here. It's likely the latter.

Phle 1:16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, malista to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
Again, Philemon is a beloved brother specifically in reference to how Paul thinks of him.

2Pet 2:9-10  [then] the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, malista those who indulge the flesh in [its] corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties,

Peter is talking about the same false teachers here who engage in heresy and sexual immorality. It has been the theme in Chapter 2 the entire time (v. 2). There isn't another group of people to which he is making an analogy with the fallen angels. This is it. Hence, malista specifies the "unrighteous" that precede it as those who indulge in the flesh and its corrupt desires and despise authority.

What this means is that malista in First Timothy 5:17 does not mean "especially" in the sense that the preceding group of elders describes one group and the following elders describe another group within that group. In other words, they are not two different groups, but that too broadly made reference to "elders' that might have been misconstrued as older men or men respected within the community needed to be clarified by specifying what the apostle meant by saying "elders who rule," and he does so by employing the word malista and saying that these elders rule well by their working hard at preaching and teaching. Thus, there is no Scriptural support for a hierarchy within the eldership, and there is no Scriptural support, therefore, for the idea of a senior pastor as opposed to associate pastor. 

Any attempt to hold onto this model must be established through extrabiblical means, and as I have said before, I think it is a destructive model of ministry, both to the minister and to those to whom he ministers. Elders ought to be seen as equals amongst each other, and according to this passage, ought to receive the same pay (i.e., double honor, which clearly refers to a double salary in the context). This keeps us from having to deal with congregational popes, unsupported ministers, and lopsided ministries that are destructive to everyone involved. 

Hence, all elders, those who work hard at preaching and teaching, ought to be viewed as equals and given the same pay. What is sad is that they are devalued, given less pay (and sometimes no pay at all), and are robbed of their potency toward the ministry. Let us now come to the right of it, and recover what has been willfully and conveniently lost in translation by feeding both Peter and Paul equally.

Even now, some will say, "Well, yeah, that is the ideal, but . . ." I am so sick and tired of hearing that the Word of God is giving us ideals here that may not be practical. No, it isn't. The Word of God is giving you a command, not an ideal (it's an Imperatival command here). Drop your humanly conceived pragmatics and obey it. Let there be no "buts" in your obedience. I promise you that if you continue to mess with the ministry God has ordered in the way and for the purpose He ordered it, you will continue to see a decline in the ministry's effectiveness for all involved. Only when both Peter and Paul are allowed to pursue ministry with the full authority and support God gave their offices can they accomplish what they were purposed to do.

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