The Door-Step Evangel

Pastoral Authority
Dr. Ronald L. Tottingham

Over the years have had occasion to read and hear several that they just do not believe the pastor, any pastor, has the Biblical authority to tell them God's will for their life. I have disagreed and felt the Lord lay it on my heart to write this "position article" on that matter. What I believe to be true is that there is a "Doctrine of god's Man" woven throughout the Bible. And it is to clarify this "Doctrine" that this is written.

I personally believe that the functions of elder, bishop and pastor are all pastoral related, certainly church oversight related. I do not personally believe that deacons are also bishops and elders, therefore those functions, would seem to belong to the pastor. Unless, of course, they belong to the apostle, prophet or evangelist that no book I have holds to, which is no substantiation, but interesting in that if none has found this yet it must not be that way.

If then, the function of elder is pastoral, they hold the Old Testament similitude of the elders of the tribes. They are the wise ones in ruling position, those who took full official responsibility for the people. Notice Exodus 12:21, Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover; 17:5-6, And the LORD said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel; Leviticus 4:15, And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the LORD: and the bullock shall be killed before the LORD> Numbers 11:16, And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. (The elders seem to be associates in some way in the Old Testament to govern the people). Numbers 16:25, And Moses rose up and went unto Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israel followed him. Psalms 107:32, Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders. Proverbs 31:23, Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. Ezekiel 8:1, And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I sat in mine house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord GOD fell there upon me. Matthew 15:2, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread, etc. Unless someone can give me verses, which show that the New Testament elder does not follow in this similitude, I will continue to hold to it.

Then there is the bishop of I Timothy 3:1, This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. Titus 1:7, For a bishop must be... and I Peter 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof... The word comes from a "spy," and carries the thought of hiding in concealment to spy, and to "see over" or spy. That's why we get the word meaning "overseer" as used in I Peter 5:2. This being the meaning, the bishop/pastor of I Timothy 3:1-6 is the one who spies over the church and all its affairs. He certainly must be a tremendous example and role model as we are told in the requirements given in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. In I Peter 5:2 we see this word function directly related to the church in a pastoral role (in my opinion). And we are told that the elder (v.1) is to feed the flock (v.2). We see that feeding of the flock as a shepherd's role in Psalms 23:1-2, The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. Isaiah 40:11, He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. and Ezekiel 34:23 And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. Therefore, I conclude that in I Peter 5:2 we are being told the shepherd/elder is to take the oversight (spying) of the flock (church). We are told in Acts 20:28 the church is the flock. When the Holy Spirit named church officials in Philippians 1:1 he calls them bishops and deacons. Either He left the pastor out or they are the same - bishop and pastor. And we know He was church oriented due to Philippians 4:15, Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no CHURCH communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.

My conclusion is that the pastor doctrinally is the overseer of the flock by responsibility and concern and must answer to the great shepherd for the sheep's behavior, which would harm the production of thick, white, wool for the owner (Christ). Proverbs 27:23 tells the shepherd to diligently know his flock and look well to them. Is this irrelevant for today's shepherd? If so, why I Peter 5:2? Also, in Hebrews 13:7,17are those that "rule over" who must give account. Who are these New Testament persons? Who holds this New Testament function if not the pastor/shepherd of the flock? I Timothy 6:17 tells us the elders are to be those who "rule well." I hold that the elders are pastoral in nature in the New Testament, certainly in the plural as assistant pastors, church staff preachers, or staff emeritus pastors, missionaries, etc., and that there is but one pastor/bishop over the assistants (elders) and the whole local flock. If I am right, the pastor/bishop is to have charge of and spy over the flock. He also, as an elder, is to rule well and answer for each sheep. Therefore I personally hold that the pastor is charged of God over all who "God set the members every one of them in the body, (of Christ, or local church Colossians 1:18, 24), as hath pleased him," I Corinthians 12:18. I also believe it is his duty, yea charge, to watch over the flock, or as Acts 20:28 says, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers..."

Nowhere in my Bible are church members a law unto themselves. Whether they be called pastor, elder, bishop, evangelist, or just member. Neither does my Bible teach that by being New Testament priests (in that we can approach directly to God alone) we void out them that have the rule over you...(Hebrews 13:7, 17) any more for church members than we do for wives (Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord), or for children (Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right). I Corinthians 12:19-21 And if they were all one member, where were the body? but now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you." That there should be no schism clearly shows us we must "need" each other within the church body or we are a disease for foreign element there. And none can say they have no need of the shepherd if God made them (the shepherds) to be over the church/flock, Acts 20:28. That would border on blasphemy and mockery in my opinion. Nor can one say it is wrong for an elder to take the oversight if God commands them to do so - without defying God, I Peter 5:2. further, no Biblical "office" is to be above a shepherd of the flock he's a member of. And I do not find unflocked New Testament believers if God's saints are in God's will for their lives today.

As to the responsibility of the shepherd (pastor) he is to be the church's primary feeder. Church members or sheep of the flocks are taught to come to be fed, I Peter 5:2, "Feed the flock of God which is among you." Acts 20:28, Take heed therefore unto yourselves...to all the flock, and John 21:15-17, ...Jesus saith to Simon Peter...Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon...Feed my sheep. he saith unto him the third time, Simon...feed my sheep. Furthermore, I Corinthians 2:14 tells us that the natural man receives not the things of God. How then can they eat the feed of the sheep? Why can some feed without fear (Jude 12, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear...), what is it the pastor is feeding? Wolves and goats feed surely, but not on sheep feed. Maybe that is part of the problem we are seeing in even the more "fundamental" of churches today. Many of God's Saints seem to be starving because they are in fact being fed wolf/goat feed instead of sheep feed - doctrinal preaching out of god's pure Word.

Yes Virginia, there is a Doctrine of Pastoral Authority taught in the Bible!

The Door-Step Evangel is published in the interests of Evangelism and information as a Church paper, sincerely devoted to the cause of Jesus Christ. We are in favor of everything that is right and opposed to everything that is wrong.

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