Yes, what you read above are the words of Lord Jesus. He was instructing the disciples to put these heavenly rules into practice as they manifested a transformed heart that is filled with humility and humbleness.
In fact, the above rules reflected the way things worked in the Kingdom of God and Lord Jesus was leading His disciples to live by those heavenly rules. In heaven, no one is a boss, everyone has the attitude and the mindset of a servant; everyone served others with a heart of humility.
Even, Lord Jesus came into this world with this same attitude and lived by those heavenly rules. Later, His disciples including the first century believers also practised them diligently.
As you know, Lord Jesus, who despite being God in flesh, The Immanuel, walked upon the face of this planet earth in complete obedience and humility.
Though He appeared as a human being, He still lived by the rules and regulations of His Heavenly Kingdom. Though everything seen and unseen had been created by Him, through Him and for Him; though every power and authority in heaven and on earth belonged to Him, he still walked up on the face of the earth as a simple human being without claiming any power or authority.
15The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, (Colossians 1, 15-19)
On the contrary, the pharisees of those days were the embodiment of arrogance and pride. They were sitting on the seats of Moses and dictating people to follow what they taught. While claiming to be the humble servants of God; they elevated themselves to a higher position of Power and authority.
They performed their religious duties and acts of kindness with the aim of receiving praise from men. They moved around in flowing robes and loved the most prominent places at public events. In short, everything they did in public was to get praise and recognition from the society.
5But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.(Matthew 23, 5-7)
This hypocritical lifestyle of the pharisees were completely opposite to what God had commanded them through the Prophets and Lord Jesus often confronted them with their mistakes; also, at times; He even used very strong language to expose their hypocrisy; what we see in Matthew 23 is one of such occasions.
Again, while criticising the pharisees, He also strictly instructed His disciples not to follow the lifestyle of those pharisees. Instead, he taught them to live by the rules of His Heavenly Kingdom. Let us examine a few of them that are given in Matthew 23.
8“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. ( Matthew 23, 8- 12)
- Do not take for yourselves the title “Rabbi” or Teacher/ Pastor – For you have only one teacher and all of you are brothers.
- Do not call anyone on earth “Father” – For you have only one father and He is in Heaven.
- Do not take for yourselves the title “Instructor” – for you have only one instructor and that is Christ.
- The greatest among you will be your servant.
- Do not exalt yourselves over others. Instead, be humble.
Yes, the instructions are very clear. Even a child could understand and follow them easily. As you know, while Lord Jesus walked upon the face of this earth, He literally practised what He taught. Though His words and actions reflected authority, He did not exert that authority over anyone.
He started His ministry with 12 disciples who were basically from the lower layers of the society. He did not designate them with any positions; they were commonly called the “Apostles” and had equal status in the ministry except Judas Iscariot who had the responsibility of keeping the money.
Also, Lord Jesus did not collect any money from anyone nor did he keep any money with Him. He was the greatest in the ministry but He worked as a servant of everyone else. He literally practised what He preached.
Just imagine, Lord Jesus was entrusted with infinite power and authority from heaven. But never exercised any of that power and authority for His personal benefit. Instead, He lived as a humble, obedient servant. He lived by the rules of heaven instead of following the examples of the heathen.
25Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20, 25 – 28)
Yes, for the gentiles, for the heathen – the rules of authority are just opposite to what is practised in the Kingdom of God. In the above verses Jesus tells the disciples that:
The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their high officials exercise authority over them.
But among you it should not be like that. Whoever wants to become great among you should be your servant and whoever wants be the first should be your slave.
Again, in Luke 9, we could see Lord Jesus giving similar instructions to the disciples regarding power and authority; it is found in the following verses.
46An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”(Luke 9, 46-48)
Yes, though by now the disciples have been walking with Lord Jesus for a couple of years, nothing much had changed in their hearts; they still talked like the world and walked like the world. They still had the same dreams, desires and aspirations like the worldly people.
While following Jesus, they, like the contemporary Christian Leaders, still expected to enjoy some kind of power and authority. Each one of them thought that – he is the most important person in the ministry of Jesus.
Finally, one day they started arguing about this and Jesus intervenes to teach them a heavenly truth. He takes hold of child and put him in the midst and reminds the disciples that they need to be as pure and innocent as a child and should not think about becoming great in this world.
Furthermore, He also teaches the ultimate truth about the path to become great; that is; by being least among all, by being a slave of all and by being the servant of all.
As you know, from the worldly perspective, money, power and authority are the paths to greatness. Those who have these things are considered to be great in the world and the Christian world too exactly follows this worldly path while claiming to be part of the Kingdom of God.
However, the heavenly perspective is just the opposite; Heaven treats those who are the least, those who have the heart and attitude of a servant or the people with the lowest position and authority as the greatest.
Unfortunately, many of the contemporary Christian leaders are not listening to Jesus, because, Jesus alone is not their Master. Like the ancient Israelites, they too have their sacred idols of the heathen dwelling in their hearts and they try to serve two masters at the same time.
I am sure the above explanations and verses will give you a clear picture about how Lord Jesus viewed authority in the kingdom of God. He strictly forbade His disciples from following the pattern of this world. Well, the next question is:
Did His disciples stick to the path that was set out by Lord Jesus?
Yes, the first century believers in Christ did follow this path. They did not have any worldly organizational structures or mode of authority within their congregations. They shared everything they had with others and did not hoard anything for their personal use. Their focus was the collective well-being of everyone in their congregations. They were really serving rather than being served.
Those congregations did not have global Presidents and Directors. They did not have a corporate organizational structure. They had only elders and deacons who took care of the sheep under them. Instead of wielding authority and power over their congregations, these elders strictly followed the instructions of Christ and His Apostles.
However, with the conversion of Emperor Constantine the structure of the church started to change and corruption crept into it and this corruption and decay still continues.
Though the conversion of Martin Luther brought a temporary reprieve from this corruption, it did not last long. Though the protestants had a good start, later, they too started adopting the paths of those they protested and introduced similar organizational structures and mode of operations within their congregations.
Later, with the advent of Liberal American Evangelical Christianity; the church started adopting even more worldly systems to manage the church. They introduced organizational structures and mode of operations that were similar to big American Corporations.
They structured Mission organisations and Ministries in way that allows power and authority to be in the hands of a few; and like the gentiles, they too began to lord it over their sheep.
Under the present organizational structure; even a Pastor’s status and position is not that simple as it appears in the holy Bible. A teacher’s role transformed into a master’s role and now, it has become the symbol of power and authority within the church. Nowadays, a Pastor basically holds all the powers in a congregation and he makes A-Z decisions. in fact, he acts as the final authority regarding all matters related to that congregation.
Also, same is the case with big Mission Organizations; actually, their leaders enjoy a lot more power and authority than the leaders of big Multinational Corporations.
However, in Businesses, at least there is accountability to the shareholders, whereas in many of the Mission organizations leaders are not accountable to anyone and no one from their congregations have the right to question or correct them; they are not submissive to anyone.
Instead of being the servant of everyone, they are being the masters of everyone which is just opposite to what Lord Jesus had taught them.
Lord Jesus said:
However, what we see today in the church is just the opposite, the servants of Jesus Christ are just doing exactly the opposite of what Christ had taught them. The so-called great leaders in the church, like the gentiles, lord it over their sheep.
They rule their sheep with power and authority instead of gentleness and humility, they think they are appointed to rule and not to serve. They are proud of their positions and resort to worldly methods to retain those positions; instead of serving with a servant’s heart, they rule with a master’s authority. This is not what Christ taught them in His Word.
The church is confronted with strife, in-fighting and division more than ever before and the main reason for this is: the greed for power and position on the part of these so-called servants.
Sometimes, I wonder, why the protestants have so many denominations? The main reason is: these servants want power and authority; so, they fight, split and start a new one and the story continues.
Jesus said – No Servant is Greater than his Master – But, in the present-day church we find the servants of Christ holding more power and authority than Jesus himself held during His ministry on Earth.
They call Jesus – “Lord, Lord” but they don’t do what He says.” What a hypocrisy! There is no difference between the Pharisees of Jesus’ time and many of the contemporary Church Leaders.
Both want to exalt themselves over others; they, like the heathen; love to lord it over their sheep. But the Word of God says:
Yes, the day will come for them to be humbled; because, instead of God exalting them, they have exalted themselves.
Saints, I am not against anyone holding power and authority in the church; but I am against God’s servants using power and authority to exalt themselves over others. I am against shepherds wielding power and authority with the attitude of a corporate boss.
Servants of Christ should follow the footsteps of Christ; not the footsteps of the heathen.
Do not change the Word of God to Fit Your Lifestyle; But Change Your Lifestyle to Fit the Word of God.