Living Free in the Spirit of Christ

Free The Church

Who Is Your Pastor?

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, i.e, Pastor

The True Shepherd

The question is eternally significant. Who is your pastor? Your pastor is extremely important to your life. If you are not 100% convinced in the knowledge of who your pastor is, you are on the path of error and even perdition. So, who is your pastor? If you say so and so at this church, then you answered incorrectly.

What does the word, “pastor,” mean? Most readers will correctly say, “shepherd” for pastor is the Latin word for shepherd. In Bible School, a teacher in a class once said, “Many pastors seem to think that they are a different species than the flock. They are not. They are lead sheep in the flock.” His point is thought provoking. Shepherds are human beings, while sheep are animals. A shepherd has to be a different species than the flock, and yet, all pastors in local congregations are the same species as the congregation. The Bible is very clear as to who is our Pastor. It says:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Ps 23:1 KJV)

The Lord is our pastor, and no man. A shepherd has to be a different species from the flock, and only Jesus is a different species from us. He is God who became a man. The God-Man is the new species. Only Jesus was the God-Man, and in the resurrection is permanently sealed as the God-Man. The rest of us are still humans, even though Christ dwells in our hearts by faith. Only when Jesus returns will we be as He is in manifest reality. Jesus said,

But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. (Matt 23:8-10 KJV)

Why is it that we do not take the words of Jesus seriously? Some may say that Jesus never mentions the word, “pastor,” or “shepherd.” That is missing the spirit and point of what the Lord is saying. Only Jesus is our Shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd.

11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.(John 10:11-15 KJV)

No man has ever died on the cross for the congregation besides Jesus. All human men are our brothers and are hirelings. Pastors who understand this like to say that they are “Under-Shepherds,” which is a non-biblical, made up term. There is no such thing as an “Under-Shepherd.” All human pastors are hirelings. Does that mean they are wicked? Not at all. There are many, indeed the majority, of godly, wholesome men in the ministry who genuinely are trying to serve the Lord in caring for the people of God. But because they are men, which makes them hirelings, they are subject to error and self serving actions. There are wolves in sheep’s clothing who only want to fleece the flock, but they are the minority and are few. The godly men who are serving Christ, however, are still tempted by the necessities of life in caring for their own families and homes. Therefore, they may teach doctrines that serve their needs more than the truth. Tithing is just one example of a sacred cow doctrine that is taught by godly leaders as sacrosanct because it provides a manageable budget by which they may use to make plans.

The job of all the hirelings is to lead the congregation in the knowledge and ability of knowing Christ for themselves. The tendency to follow after men is a natural one that has to be guarded against, yet also, taught properly.

The division that occurred in the Corinthian Church was not just the tolerance of sexual immorality that made them carnal, but rather their natural thinking regarding teachers. A survey of the first few chapters demonstrates this. Paul declares in the first chapter:

11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor 1:11-13 KJV)

As these verses show, their division was over which man they were to follow: Paul, Apollos, or Christ? Paul states that only Christ was crucified for our sins, and we are baptized only into Christ. The rest of the chapter demonstrates the foolishness of natural thinking which does not comprehend the cross. This is the first indication of Paul that their problem is in natural thinking, which is the source of carnality.

Chapter 2 makes the plain declaration of his goal in sharing the gospel to the Corinthians.

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (1 Cor 2:1-2 KJV)

That goal is for them to know Jesus Christ and him crucified. How did Paul share Christ? Not by natural logic, which is the excellency of speech or wisdom, but by the testimony of God. And later Paul says,

4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (1 Cor 2:4-5 KJV)

Or, in other words, they experienced Christ first hand in both the regeneration and the miraculous power of God. Their faith was built by Paul upon their first hand experience of the person of Jesus Christ, and not just teachings about Christ. From the beginning he always brought Christ to them. He concludes chapter 2 by explaining why their division came from their natural thinking, which was their reason for following men’s teachings.

11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:11-16 KJV)

“We have the mind of Christ” means that we can know for ourselves God and His will for us. Therefore Christ is able to be our Pastor on a one on one basis, of which no man can be. Since Christ dwells in our hearts, He knows our thoughts and the truth of our lives better than any man can. He knows what we need for discipleship.

Paul comes back to the point, in chapter 3, of their division resulting to natural thinking which is carnality.

4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? 5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? (1 Cor 3:4-5 KJV)

All those men, Paul explains, were sent by the Lord to help the congregation as co-laborers with the Lord.

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. (1 Cor 3:9 KJV)

Which shows that men as teachers and pastors is the will of God, and is not to be disrespected. Notice what Paul says next.

10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. (1 Cor 3:10-13 KJV)

The foundation that Paul laid for the Corinthian church was the first experience and knowledge of Christ that gave them their regeneration. If we remember the context of why Paul is writing, it is regarding the different teachings that the co-laborers of Christ had brought to the church. The gold, silver, precious stones or the wood, hay or stubble being laid upon the foundation of Christ are doctrines that these co-laborers are bringing to the church. If the teachers continue in aiding the congregation in their ability to know Christ for themselves, then those doctrines are gold, silver and precious stones that will not burn up in the day of trial. But the doctrines that are wood, hay and stubble are natural reasonings of man, and will fall apart in trials. If you are taught erroneous doctrine and you try to hold fast to that doctrine, it will fail you in the day of trials. If this has happened, then one should question the teaching and discard it for the truth. It is the job of pastors and teachers to lead others to know Christ for themselves.

In chapter 4, Paul makes a plain statement of who he and the other ministers (Apollos & Cephas) are: they are stewards of the mysteries of God.

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Cor 4:1 KJV)

In other words, they are hirelings for the gospel. But Paul does make a personal distinction about himself at the end of chapter 4 that should be examined before moving on.

15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. (1 Cor 4:15-16 KJV)

It would seem that Paul is now contradicting himself by telling them to follow him. But that is not the spirit of his point. Compare what he says to them much later in the same epistle.

Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. (1 Cor 11:1 KJV)

Paul is telling the Corinthians to follow his example of following Christ for himself. He said to the Galatians:

… I conferred not with flesh and blood: (Gal 1:16 KJV)

In other words, he got to know Jesus for himself. And so should we. We should understand that only the Lord is our Pastor, and that the men who are co-laborers with the Lord, are given to us by the Lord to impart teachings of gold, silver and precious stones that enable us to follow Christ for ourselves.

The Co-laborer

So the next question that arises, is, “How do you find those men that help you to know Christ?” Paul has already shown us through the Corinthian epistle, but for further instruction consider what the writer of Hebrews has to say.

7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. 8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. 9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. (Heb 13:7-9 KJV)

Verse 7 tells us to consider the end of their, that is the ministers, conversation, which means lifestyle. The fruit of their lives are the evidence of their understanding of the Lord. It seems strange to throw in verse 8 which states that Jesus Christ does not change. But it is relevant. If the ministers are like Jesus in their lives, their faith is worth following, because that shows that they are following Christ. In Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians he is still dealing with this problem in the Corinthian church. Chapter 10 warns us not to compare ourselves to men, but, rather that we should compare ourselves to Christ. Likewise, in Hebrews we are here admonished to compare the ministers to Christ to see how much they are like Him. If they are not like Christ, then we are in danger of what verse 9 says about being carried about by “diverse and strange doctrines”. Ministers who do not know the voice of Christ will ultimately rely on their own natural reasonings, and in this verse would be rules about avoiding meats offered to idols. However, those ministers who know the voice of the Lord and are obeying Him will establish your heart with grace.

If you have found a servant of Christ who will establish your heart with grace, because they are following Christ in truth, then the instruction in verse 17 will not be an issue.

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. (Heb 13:17 KJV)

However, that does not mean blind obedience. For they are our brothers who are serving our Pastor, Jesus Christ. We are told to “submit to one another” (Eph. 5:21), which means that the co-laborers are accountable to both Christ and the church. The Catch-22 in this, though, is that you need to know the voice of the Lord and the character of Christ to be able to determine what man you should work with. The good news for the pastors of the congregation is that if they teach the body to be followers of Christ instead of them, then the burden upon them is relieved, because Jesus will give the pastoral care that they cannot do. Also, the expectation from the congregation on the pastors will be relieved, for they will not expect the men to do that which only Jesus can do. That is good news indeed!

If these laborers are teaching the congregation to know the Lord for themselves, then the maturity of the church will be self-perpetuating. Consider what Paul says to the Ephesians.

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Eph 4:11-16 KJV)

Verse 11 & 12 is straightforward; ministers are here to edify the body of Christ and bring them into maturity. When the body is mature according to verse 13, then the proof of that in verse 14 & 15 is that the church will not be deceived by erroneous doctrine and that we will be able to speak the truth in love. A mature body of believers then becomes in verse 16 self-perpetuating in growth since the congregation will be edifying and aiding one another in maturity.

Hebrews tells us how we obtain maturity.

13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb 5:13-14 KJV)

Maturity comes to those who act upon the Word and develop their senses to know both good and evil. The co-laborers with Christ should act upon the Word themselves and encourage the congregation to do the same.

A Different Species to the World

Jesus died for the whole world. All mankind can experience salvation. At this time, only Jesus is a new species. He is the God-Man. When He returns, we, too shall be the God-Men in complete reality. However, we have His life within us by faith. Because Christ dwells in us by faith, that does make us a different species to the world. Unregenerate people are lost in their blindness and need shepherds of a different species to care for them.

To the lost, we are a different species and have been given the responsibility of bringing them to the True Shepherd. If your pastor is following Christ, then the burden for the lost will be upon the heart of all the congregation. For this is the heart of Christ, and the church will grow.

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