Matthew 23:10 (NASB): Do not be called leaders; for One is your leader, that is, Christ.
Matthew 23:10 (TAB): You must not be called masters (leaders), for you have one Master (Leader), the Christ.
If we are not to call a man leader we, obviously, should not consider a man leader – not our leader nor the leader of the church.
If we are not to consider a man leader, we should not consider men leaders. This would include pastoral executives, board of elders, denominational bosses, all ‘reverends’, all salaried, everyone. Because….
Matthew 23:8 (NLT): All of you are equal as brothers and sisters.
In Christ’s church there are only brothers and sisters in Christ. No fathers, no sons, no mothers, no daughters. All are of the same rank. Equal.
An elder is not a brother of higher rank, but either an older brother or one more knowledgeable and faithful than most.
Our pastor is Jesus, our teacher is Jesus, our leader is Jesus, our elder brother is Jesus.
The New Testament uses the words leader and leaders several times in the New Testament, but seldom in reference to the church. At the least, that is interesting, but more, it is corrective for those using those words loosely, in a manner that refers to man or men as church leadership.
There is, however, a problem for some….
Hebrews 13:7 (NIV): Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.
Though the KJV and the NKJV never use the word leader (in reference to the church), other translations do. The NIV’s Hebrews 13:7 cites an occasion when the Bible seems to conflict with itself: “One is your leader” verses “your leaders”. Or: one Leader (Christ) verses several leaders (christians). You should give this matter serious consideration, for many use what seems to be a discrepancy to draw others away from the lordship of Jesus unto the lordship of themselves.
A christian is both spiritual and carnal. The spiritual is supposed to gain continual ascendency over the carnal but, sadly, that is often not so. In the Bible the Holy Spirit speaks to both the spiritual christian (those more spiritual than carnal) and the carnal christian (those more carnal than spiritual).
As a pastor is, in reality, an under-pastor (a pastor under Christ, someone who Christ pastors through), and as an evangelist is one used by The Great Evangelist (you and I were evangelized by none other than the Holy Spirit who evangelizes through whoever), so a leader (“remember your leaders”) is a leader only in a very limited sense. His/her main function is to point you to the one, true Leader.
What does “Lord” mean, if not Leader? And what does “head of the church” mean if not Leader? Do we have several lords? Several “heads”? Several leaders?
That there are two truths, one spiritual and one natural, shouldn’t confuse.
John 16:32: You will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
Truth: Jesus was left alone. Truth: Jesus was never alone.
Truth: When you are alone you are alone. Truth: When you are alone you are not alone. (“I will never leave you.”)
Truth: There are several leaders in the church. Truth: There is one Leader in the church.
One truth is topped by a higher truth. One truth applies to the carnal christian, the other applies to the spiritual. The reason most evangelicals reference a man or men when speaking of church leadership is simply because most evangelicals are carnal (more carnal than spiritual). Blame that on the way it is.
As it is wrong to call a man leader (“Do not be called leaders”), it is likewise wrong to call a man father (“Do not call anyone on earth your father”). It used to be catholics and some mainline protestants were the only ones guilty of disobeying Christ’s mandate, but lately it has been trendy in some evangelical corners to call others father. It seems like permission to call another father (or refer to a brother in Christ as his/her spiritual father) is found in Paul’s letter to Timothy….
1 Timothy 1:2: To timothy, my true son in the faith.
And to Titus….
Titus 1:4: To Titus, a true son in our common faith.
And to the Corinthians….
1 Corinthians 4:15: Though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Now let’s compare these verses to….
Ephesians 1:5: having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.
Luke 11:2: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.
Romans 1:7: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
There are two truths, equally true but not equally relevant and not equally valuable and not equally emphasized. One truth applies to the carnal believer, the other to the spiritual. The one living in carnal reality can be compared to the christian who lives in a dingy basement suite, and the one living in spiritual reality is the one living upstairs on the main floor.
Timothy’s true Father is Paul’s true Father. Paul’s true Father is our true Father. Our true Father is Christ’s true Father. That is the reality we should abide in. We all were led to Christ by someone, and yet we should not consider that someone to be our spiritual father (or mother). Our hearts and minds should be trained to see beyond flesh and blood, to see The Great Evangelist who brought us to our spiritual Father by bringing us to Jesus.
Nothing in the Bible nullifies Christ’s command: “Do not call anyone on earth your father.”