Leadership

“One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren.” Matt. 23:8.

Jesus addressed these words to the twelve, in the hearing of the multitude. And while they were a rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees, they were also designed to impress the disciples with the great truth, that should be felt in all coming time, that Christ is the only head of the church.

The prophetic eye of the Son of God could look forward to the close of the Christian age, and take in at a glance the errors and dangers of the church. And we may look back over her sad history and see that strict adherence to the principle set forth in the text has been important to the purity of the church, while departure from it has marked the progress of different forms of corrupted Christianity. The most prominent among these is the Roman church, which has set one man over the church whose claims to infallibility are sustained by that corrupt body.

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In the discussion of the subject of leadership, we propose to bring out evidence from the words of Christ, and from the teaching and practices of the early Apostles, that Christ is the only authorized leader of his people. At the very commencement, in laying the foundation of the Christian church, as Jesus was walking by the sea of Galilee he saw “two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishers. And he said unto them. Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matt. 4:18, 19. And as Jesus passed forth from thence, be saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom; and he saith unto him, Follow me.” Chap. 9:9. “And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom; and he said unto him, Follow me.” Luke 5:27. “Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Matt. 19:27, 28.

Was Moses the visible leader of the Jewish church? Christ is the leader of the Christian church. Moses speaks of Christ in these words, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.'” Deut. 18:15. And Peter in preaching Christ to the people on the occasion of healing the lame man at the gate of the temple, endorses the words of Moses thus: “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, a prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.” Acts. 3:22.

The transfiguration was designed, not only to illustrate the future kingdom of glory after the resurrection and change to immortality, but to impress the church with the glory of Christ as her head and leader. No part of that grand scene could be more impressive than the bright cloud that overshadowed them, and the “voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear ye him.” Matt. 17:5.

And at no time during his public ministry does Christ intimate that any one of his disciples should be designated as their leader. He does say, however, that “he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Matt. 23:11. And on the occasion of submitting the great commission to his first ministers, to be perpetuated in the Christian ministry to the close of the age, Christ gives the pledge that ever has been and ever will be the supporting staff of every true minister, “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.” Matt. 28: 20.

Christ’s ministers have ever had a world-wide message. “Go ye therefore and teach all nations.” And wherever their foot prints may be seen upon the mountains, or in the valleys, there Christ has been by the ministrations of the holy angels, and the teachings of the Holy Ghost. “I am with you” is the soul-inspiring promise to every true minister. Christ proposes to lead his servants, and is their privilege to approach the throne of grace, and receive from their sovereign Leader fresh rations, and orders direct from headquarters.

And there is no intimation that the Apostles of Christ designated one of their number above another as their leader. Paul would have the Corinthians follow him only as be followed Christ. He says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you.” 1 Cor. 11 :12. Paul, so far from claiming to be the head of the church at Corinth, and securing their obedience, sympathy, and benevolence on this ground, would shake them off from seeking to be directed by him. He exalts Christ as their leader in the first sentence of the very next verse. “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ.” Thank Heaven, the Christian church has no use for the pope.

The Apostle compares two faithful leaders in his epistle to the Hebrews. One was a servant in the Jewish church; the other is a Son over the Christian church. Who are these two leaders? Are they Moses and Peter? or Moses and Paul? or Moses and Luther? or Moses and Wesley? or Moses and Miller? We need not say that they are Moses and Christ. As a servant in the Jewish church, Moses was their visible leader. As a Son over his own church, Christ is an invisible leader. Moses lead the Hebrews in the wilderness, not by his own wisdom, however superior, but by direct communications from Christ, who was the angel that was with Moses in the church in the wilderness. Acts. 7:37, 38. And Christ leads the Christian church through the ministration of angels, attended by the Holy Spirit, in harmony with the written word.

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Christ’s ministers are shepherds of the flock, and leaders of the people in a subordinate sense. Peter exhorts the under shepherds in these words, “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; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

The Apostle not only shows the relation which ministers sustain to the flock in the foregoing, but he also plainly states in the following, the relation which they sustain to one another. Mutual submission is demanded of all in the spirit of humility, in all their labors and councils, while age and experience are regarded as worthy of especial respect by the younger. Peter continues: “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God reaisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” Paul enjoins obedience and submission in his epistle to the Hebrews. But he does not require this in particular for himself, or for any other one who may be regarded as the chosen leader of the church. He pleads in behalf of all faithful ministers in these words: “Remember them which have the rule over you; who have spoken unto you the word of God, whose faith follow, considering the end [object or subject] of their conversation, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever.” Chap. 13:7. Again he says in verse 17 of the same chapter. “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 apostle exalts Christ as the great head of the church, and the only one to whom she should look for leadership, in Hebrews, 12:1, 2. He would have the church benefitted by the experiences of the heroes of faith, mentioned in the eleventh chapter, called in the first verse of the twelfth a cloud of witnesses. But he faithfully guards the church against looking back to them with a spirit of idolatry, or accepting any man as their leader, or pattern of the Christian life, in these three words: “Look unto Jesus.” Paul says: “Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

All true ministers are Christ’s ambassadors [1]. “Now then we are ambassadors [embassadors] for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” 2 Cor. 5:20. In their ministry they are to represent the doctrine of Christ, and the interests of his cause in this world. They surrender their own judgment and will to Him who has sent them. No man can be Christ’s ambassador until he has made a complete surrender of his right to private judgment to Christ. Neither can any man properly represent Christ who surrenders his judgment to his fellow man.

The foregoing expresses our solemn convictions relative to the leadership of Christ, and the relation which his ministers sustain to their great Leader, to one another, and to the church. But too many have left the great question of leadership here, with the truth expressed only in part. They have passed over the teachings of Christ and his apostles, relative to discipline, and the proper means of securing unity in the ministry and in the church, and do not let them have their proper qualifying bearing upon the subject. This has opened a wide door for men to enter the ministry who had not submitted their judgment and will to Christ as their leader, while at the same time they take the broadest ground, and exercise the greatest freedom relative to the right of private judgment. Creed power has been called to the rescue in vain.

And there are not a few professing Christians, some of them very good persons, who reject church organization on account of the use that has been made of creed and church power. Some of these, however, in their mistaken zeal, in the advocacy of religious freedom, are disposed to trample on the rights of others, and use their boasted “liberty for a cloak of maliciousness.”

(To Be Continued.)

Notes:

[1] An embassador is a minister of the highest rank, employed by one prince or State at the Court of another, to manage the public concerns of his own prince or State, and representing the power and dignity of his sovereign.—Webster.

(Signs of the Times, June 4, 1874.)