Read carefully these words spoken by Jesus:
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matthew 23:8-12)
As I read these words I think back to the time of judges in Israel's history. God had grown his nation in Egypt and there they were treated as slaves. So he called out a unique leader who would be prophet/priest/general for the people. Under him the people would be turned into a nation, with a law and with purpose and eventually land. But they were a nation before they were a border-defined country. After Moses God called forward a great general, Joshua, who would bring God's punishment upon a people who had become so wicked that they did things that were an abomination to their Creator. In doing this God gave the land to his new nation with the intention that he would reveal his glory to the world through them. They would be like a nation of priests. However, he would not give them a king because he was their King.
When the nation walked in obedience there was peace and no enemy came against them. When they forgot him he would bring correction to them by means of an invading force. He would call forward a Judge who would lead the people to victory. Often these judges were very ordinary people so that everyone would understand they were not saved by their own efforts but by the grace and power of God. However, this was not good enough for this nation because they wanted to be like everyone else; they wanted a king. Samuel was the judge at this time and he complained to God about what the nation was demanding. I find God's response very sad:
“Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” (1 Samuel 8:7-9)
Now consider the words of Jesus above again and realize what we have done, as the Body of Christ. We find the purest form of the Church in Acts but it was not long before men of power started to change the Church. There were never suppose to be any priests because Jesus is the High Priest. There was never suppose to be anyone between us and God the Father because Jesus is the only mediator. We can look back in Church history and see all the terrible things that were done in the name of Jesus by men of power who knew nothing of Jesus. They wanted to be king and the simple people of the Church allowed them. This is why there seems to be a world of difference between what Jesus did and what we do; between what the Church of Acts looked like and what we have today.
People have twisted the Words of Ephesians and have created a priesthood, even in the evangelical churches. But this passage describes trainers, not priests. It describes humble men and women of service, who give their lives to be servants to the Body not to laud it over people's heads:
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)
We need spiritual trainers, are desperate for them, but we can't put them between us and God. They are neither priests nor kings because our allegiance, our love, our hearts, soul and minds belong to Jesus Christ. We must remember who the head of the Body is:
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:14-16)
This is the Church, the Body of Christ, the family of God, filled with big brothers and big sisters. There is only one head and it is from him that we are all joined together so that when one rejoices we all rejoice and when one mourns we all mourn. It is not some well oiled machine with all of its well organized programs and its large walls separating people from each other. It is not a bunch of people claiming allegiance to a certain servant-leader. There are some people who are more loyal to their pastor than they are to Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul had to correct the troubled Corinthian church over this same thing that had caused division in the church:
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:1-9)
We can't do much about the Church but we can do a lot about our own heart. We can examine our own attitude and see if we have put anyone between us and God. We can look at our attitude toward our pastor and other leaders in the church. Do we see them as our spiritual trainers, those servants responsible for preparing us in service to Jesus? The Word says that we are to give special honour to these servant's but we are not to allow them to become more than what Jesus intended them to be. Look to your attitude toward people outside of your church, your fellow sojourners, your brothers and sisters in Christ. Do you see them as such; can you love them as you love those in your church; do you see them as part of the family?
We have definitely made a mess of things and we have weakened the witness of the Church but even in this weakness God will glorify himself. The thing is not to keep the status quo. Do not be satisfied with where you are in your understanding. Submit to the trainers that are placed in your life but see them as trainers. Ask Jesus to reveal more of his plan to your understanding, look for his design as described in the Word of God. Examine these two verses in context and begin to see the Bride as she was intended to be, with only one King:
So that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.