Christian Traditions, Pt. 2

Scripture: Romans 3:23, Acts 17:10-11, Acts 20:30
This is the second in a series on traditions in the Christian church. Like the game "Follow the Leader", who are we to follow in the church? All people are fallible and all should be submissive to the word of God.
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Announcer: It's time now for Bible Talk. Join Gary Gibbs and John Bradshaw as they open the Bible to deepen our understanding of God's word.

John Bradshaw: Hi, and welcome to the Bible Talk, where we talk about the Bible and how the Bible affects you today. I'm John Bradshaw.

Gary Gibbs: And I'm Gary Gibbs. John, when I was a little boy we used to play a game that I'm sure that you played and our listeners played when they were children. It's called "Follow the Leader."

John: Sure.

Gary: The kids will all line up behind one person and that person, everything they did we had to do as well. This is an issue that even the church has to deal with, because our churches are hierarchical institutions, where we have our leaders, we have our priests, we have our pastors, we have our popes, We have our bishops and prelates, and these are our spiritual leaders that we look up to, and they are to lead and guide us in our Christian walk and how we worship God, and different. What's interesting is that different churches look at this leadership issue differently. It's a big issue, I think, that stands in the way of churches and how we're going to get along.

In fact, it's an issue that in our last program I raised, that Pope John Paul identified years before he died, where he said that if we're going to reach full communion as a Christian church, if all the different churches are going to come back together again, one of the things they have to look at is this issue of church authority.

Which leader do you follow?

John: It's important I think that we recognize due and appropriate church authority. You look at the church that Jesus established and that was established with leaders. And they were people who were given a leadership role, and leaders ought to be given the respect and the deference that they deserve. Nevertheless, leadership itself must be subject to the final authority of the word of God. Without that, man, without that, tragedy takes place.

Gary: It really does.

John: Just look at what happened with Jim Jones and the thing in Guyana. Hundreds of people died on the seesaw of the church leader. Same with David Koresh in Waco. People died because they listened to and implicitly followed the words of their leader. Now, if your leader is teaching and speaking in harmony with the Bible, then it's OK to do that. But if they get outside of the Bible, and Jones and Koresh were certainly well outside of the Bible, then you're going to end up in big trouble.

Leadership and authority is very important, but the believer must take into account that even leadership and authority has got to be subjected to the word of God.

Gary: Bible says that we're all sinners, we've all fallen short of the glory of God Romans 3:23. So human beings we're fallible and history is an eloquent witness to the foibles and the fallacies of mankind.

John: Now, that varies slightly from what I was told when I was a child. As a child I was raised in a very large church and you'll figure out what it is in just a moment. But I was told that the leader of that church possessed something called infallibility.

Now, not absolute infallibility, but he was infallible ex cathedra, when he spoke on matters of faith and morals, he spoke infallibly. Now, with the greatest respect that I can muster at this time, I would want to say I find it hard to accept in any arena that any person is infallible, in any area whatsoever.

I don't want to be at all disrespectful, but here's somebody that I was told was infallible. How do we approach that respectfully but biblically?

Gary: And the teaching of infallibility is that these issue of faith and morals that they speak on, it now becomes a binding decision upon all of the church. And so this issue of church authority now revolves around.

Here's a person who speaks ex cathedra, that is, from the chair of Peter in his official capacity and his decision now is binding on all the church and every Christian has to follow.

Now, here's the issue: No one is infallible. And we go back to Peter through whom the succession of church leaders supposedly comes. We go back to Peter himself. He fell into sin numerous times, didn't he?

John: Oh, he sure did. Now there's no question but that he had a conversion experience, but even after that, even after he was converted after the death and the resurrection of Jesus, even then he wasn't outside the possibility of making some errors of judgment. You remember in the book of Galatians, Paul said he went down there and he withstood Peter to the face because Peter was wrong on something.

Gary: Galatians 2. He was holding the Gentiles at arms' length. He wasn't fellow-shipping with them openly.

John: Now, what's wrong though with somebody coming out as a church leader and saying, "Abortion is wrong, Pornography is wrong, Drunkenness is wrong, Rampant materialism is wrong."

Now, that's four from four, that's pretty good as far as infallibility goes. And the church ought to listen to that kind of leadership, and it is consistent with what the Bible says. So, what's wrong with that?

Gary: There's nothing wrong with that because what they're saying is something that is consistent with the Bible. Everything has to be checked against the Bible. This is what people did in biblical times with none other than the apostle Paul himself.

When Paul was preaching, he found some believers in Berea in Northern Greece. And it said that these people actually searched the scriptures daily to see if what Paul was teaching was true in Acts 17:10-11.

Which reminds me John, we need to encourage our listeners to also do the same thing with us, don't we?, They need to research what we're saying to see if it's true. And we want to give them something for free today to enable them to do that.

John: Sure, no question about it. We would not want you to listen to us or anybody and say "Well just because they said it, then I'll believe it." You know, there is couple of different types of people that concern me.

There are those who say, "I'm not going to believe anything that person says", It's hard to get through to that person. But then there's somebody else who says, "I'm going to believe everything that person says" and that's probably just as bad a position as the former.

Now, be sure that you get the email address or the snail mail address or the telephone number, contact us after the program and be sure you get your copy of "Coming One World Church", written by Gary Gibbs. It deals with this issue, other issues besides. You'll really be blessed. And we want to offer that to you free today on Bible Talk.

Gary: We have to recognize this. We said before not only are human beings sinful and we make mistakes. But the devil actually uses humans to lead the church astray. We've seen this happen in many times and recently in the last 10, 20 years we've had scandals in various churches with leaders.

And just recently with a sexual abuse scandals in our churches. We can't be too careful today. The apostle Paul warned the believers in Acts 20:30, he said: Of your own selves will men arise who speak perverse things to draw away disciples after them.

We're told first John 4:1. Don't believe every spirit, but try the spirits to see whether they are of God or not because, many false prophets are going out into the world.

John: And when Paul wrote the church at Thessalonica, he told them that there would come a time when there'd be a great falling away. A great falling away. It bothered him, it concerned him so much.

He saw how vitally important this was to the Christian church that he said there was going to come an apostasy. And churches don't fall into apostasy without the leaders leading them in the wrong direction.

Gary: And this is so clearly predicted in scripture, that you can actually go back now in history when Paul gave that insight and actually Daniel and Revelation covered as well. You go back 2,000 years and you trace the history of the Christian church and you can see where the Christian church fell away from scripture.

And they began adopting all sorts of pagan practices and bringing them into the church and freely admitting. In fact, that many of the practices of the church today are from paganism and not from scripture.

John: Well then, if you got to be that careful about the leaders, and we can't sanction someone, who is apparently infallible, what's an appropriate way to lead then?, What's an appropriate form of church governance and government?, How much authority should the leaders have, do you think?

Listen, Gary, you and I both know that all across the Fruited Plain, there are lots of churches. And we're not just talking about churches where there's a pope, because the Protestant churches are as guilty. There's popes in many Protestant churches if you know what I mean.

Where there are churches where the word of the pastor is absolute, he or she will tell people what they can do, what they cannot do. What they can wear, what they cannot wear. Where they can go, how they conduct themselves.

Sometimes it even goes further and much more personally than that. There is abuses in leadership all across Christianity, because I think church members don't understand what appropriate leadership would be.

See, the church leader who tries that, but his church members understand proper leadership, he quickly loses church. They go some other place. How can we help people to understand what appropriate church leadership is and how to relate to it?

Gary: There's no doubt that there should be appropriate leadership. The apostle Paul and others, they set up church leadership. They talked about ordaining bishops and elders in the church.

And so, we need to choose people that are godly people as it says in the scriptures. People who live high lives, lives of high integrity who follow the scripture. Godly people. But, never should we ascribe to them infallibility that whatever they say we blindly follow.

A good leader is going to say, "Here's what I believe we should do as a church. And here's why. Here are the reasons." And then those reasons need to be discussed and examined in light of scripture and how things are going.

I'll give you an example of this in Acts Chapter 15. you know the church initially was largely Jewish. It was mostly Jewish. It was Jewish converts to Christianity. And along comes Paul. And Paul is converted. He becomes a Christian. And God ends up using him to reach out to the Gentiles.

And so Paul and Silas and Barnabas and Ezer are going around and they're converting Gentiles. Well that caused some problems because they didn't teach these Gentiles to be circumcised and to follow the laws of Moses.

And so, here they are coming into the church, and some people started accosting Paul and saying, "Well you're not getting them to be baptized or getting them to be circumcised, I should say, to follow the traditions of the Jewish church and the teachings of Moses. And so, what happened was the church came together in the big Jerusalem council in Acts 15. By the way, interesting, Peter is not the leader of this first Jerusalem council.

John: That's right. The leader was James, quite clearly, and not Peter. Isn't that fascinating?

Gary: It is. And I think that's insightful to show that the church wasn't recognizing him as the pope and the leader. And so they come together and they listen to the discussion between the different sides here and there is an appeal to scripture and there is an appeal to the testimony of the Holy Spirit.

And in the end, they come up with a decision that is in harmony with the scripture. They go to scripture and they say, "Wait, God predicted the Gentiles would come in. And the Gentiles are coming in, we should not forbid them."

And then they recognized that the sacrificial system, the ceremonial system of which circumcision was part of the ceremonial laws, they shouldn't force that on the Gentiles. But there were some common sense things that they did require to be appropriated to the Gentiles.

And so they sent this out to all the churches and said, "Let's do these things. This will maintain unity." But the appeal was always back to the scripture. It wasn't "James has said this is the way it's going to be, everybody follow James." No, the appeal is always back to scripture.

John: Something that I think is very important is how to recognize healthy leadership. The Lord Jesus Christ came himself as a servant. And the leader in the church is going to assume the role of the servant and Peter wrote about this.

He wrote the elders, "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking them over side not by constraint but willingly." He says, "Not for filthy lucre." So when the leader is clearly in there for the money, it's a real danger sign. He says neither is being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flocks so, when a chief shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of glory that fades not away. A true leader is a true servant.

Gary: There's no doubt about it. Following Jesus Christ's examples, serving his people, pointing them back to the authority of scripture.

John: There's a challenge for church leaders today and a challenge for church members too to recognize and follow and encourage good godly church leadership. We encourage you to get our free offer, you'll hear about it in a moment. And we encourage you to join us for more next time here on Bible Talk.

Announcer 2: If you'd like more information on what we've been studying today, we have a comprehensive Bible study guide we'd love to share with you that's absolutely free. This study includes many of the texts we just discussed and expands on the subject, including information you want to know.

To receive this free informative bible study guide, simply call, write, or email and ask for "Coming One World Church." The toll-free number is 866-2425372. You can write to us at Bible Talk: PO Box 1058 Roseville, California 95678.

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