Child Sacrifice Then and Now

In the Old Testament, Israel was warned about participating in a peculiar practice of god worship. This act of worship was one that aroused the true God, YHWH, most vehemently to such a degree as to cast judgment upon the individual and the people who participate OR ignored the practice within the fold of Israel. The passage is Leviticus 20:1-5. It reads:

1  Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2  “You shall also say to the sons of Israel: ‘Any man from the sons of Israel or from the aliens sojourning in Israel who gives any of his offspring to Molech, shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3  ‘I will also set My face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given some of his offspring to Molech, so as to defile My sanctuary and to profane My holy name. 4  ‘If the people of the land, however, should ever disregard that man when he gives any of his offspring to Molech, so as not to put him to death, 5  then I Myself will set My face against that man and against his family, and I will cut off from among their people both him and all those who play the harlot after him, by playing the harlot after Molech.

Notice a few things. First of all, notice that the act of worship itself is the act of “[giving his] offspring to Molech.” The god of Molech is the deity imagined by the “sons of Ammon” (1 Kings 11:7). He is also the god that Solomon, in his later days, also permitted sacrifices to and built altars for worship as well (1 Kings 11:5-8; King Josiah destroyed these places of “worship” in his reforms many decades later-2 Kings 23:13-14). Molech is the name of that god for whom children were put into a fire….alive. The children were put there because of the delusion that the god, Molech, would see their “sacrifice” and be appeased. As the emotional fervor was raised, the child was picked up in ritual fashion and thrown into the pit that was called “high [place] of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Himmon.” (Jeremiah 7:31). It was in this valley that the shrine for burning children was built. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament states: “The place itself was probably a deep, wide pit containing a bonfire of blazing wood (Isa 30:33) into which the hapless children were thrown.“ (p.979). These children became “offered” to the god because of a desire to see the god appeased and to avoid particular calamities if they did not offer to this god. YHWH says that this action of killing the children on behalf of the people was an action that “I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.” (Jeremiah 7:31). 

Now, think about this. Israel would be led to this behavior because of the influence of nations around, and within, the land of Palestine. The entire construct of putting young children into a raging fire to be consumed by the fire was the result of a perverted and disgusting perspective on the true God. Because, since the true God said that this kind of treatment of children and this act of worship never entered His mind, then this behavior certainly did not come from Him. That darkened understanding of God lead to the creation of a new god, one called Molech, himself a result of a group of people born out of an incestious relationship from some people who were escaping the destruction of a group of cities being destroyed for Sodomy (Genesis 19:30-32; . 

Do you see any, any, similarities here? Could it be that the god of this world has been appeased by the slaughter of children? It is not the fire this time, but forceps. It is not a ritual, but a regulation. It is not to appease the god Molech, but the god/goddess “self.” To make this kind of behavior legal (even celebrated) is atrocious beyond description. 

The Christian, however, must not get distracted. Murder is what comes out of the heart (Mark 7:21). Do you expect the corrupt heart to produce a righteousness that is not there? We do expect common sense, residual image of God, what is good for humanity, but the reality is, when darkness pervades, why are we shocked? The god Molech is wearing a suit or dress and is being worshiped nonetheless. He is the god “self.” (See https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/catholics-choice-ireland-abortion-law-repeal-the-eighth-a8366831.html

This kind of atrocity is exactly why Paul exhorted Timothy to brace himself so that he does not waver from fulfilling his duties within the church. He wrote:

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2  For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3  unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4  treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5  holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

2 Timothy 3:1-5

This is a description of what will happen in the church. But, since, inevitably, the church follows the world, and this love of self is in the world, it will be in the church. Don’t be surprised. Know that the Canaanites have been ruling the land all along and we, the redeemed people of Jesus Christ, must not give up our position because of part of the war against God is going on that God Himself, alone, will rectify (1 Corinthians 5:12). Keep your minds, and emotions, reserved for Jesus Christ alone (Matthew 22:37). Don’t give Satan room to distract you from unwavering devotion to Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3) and tempt you with anger against what is absolutely and completely demonic:

18  Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar? 19  What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20  No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. 21  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22  Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?

1 Corinthians 10:17-22

The god of this world rules the whole world (1 John 5:19). It has been handed to him, for a time (Luke 4:5-7). 

God’s Eternal Plan in Real Time

I have written about this many times before. However, getting an eternal view is always helpful and necessary so that we do not lose heart and think that God is simply passive in life and earthly events. Knowing that God, the God of the Bible, is in control, sovereign, and almighty, makes the very difficult realities of life not only bearable but very interesting when viewed from His eternal plan.

 

To say that life is self-sustaining, like a top that has been spun and let go in order to spin on its own, is to reveal an unbelieving heart. This is not active faith but passive acquiescence. I mean, even the world believes that in one form or another and the world does not believe in God, does it? Why, then, do we believe that this perspective is any more acceptable in the church?

 

Rather, God actively “holds all things together.” Paul wrote:

 

Colossians 1:15–17

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

 

Does this sound passive to you? Absolutely not! By Jesus Christ, Paul wrote, “all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible…” And, by Jesus Christ, all things “hold together.” That word is used in 2 Peter 3:5 in reference to creation. It means all things “stand together,” or are “held together.” The indication is that of a bond and order and sustenance that is only dissoluble when God, more specifically, Jesus Christ, releases it. By His sustaining power, which is constant and infinite, Jesus Christ is able to make the universe predictable. Even the so-called “natural laws” of the universe are only constant because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Therefore, He maintains every molecular bond, and every stellar relationship in the cosmos, in constancy and predictability.

 

But, why is this the case? I mean, why does Jesus Christ hold all things together? Was there a reason for creation? Does the Bible tell us why life even exists and where it is going? Of course it does! In fact, it gives explicit teaching so that we might have hope and encouragement in the Scriptures, and thus in God, and not hope in our circumstances:

 

Romans 15:4–6

4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus,

6 so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

The reason goes all the way back before creation. The Bible teaches that the world was created in six days of active creation and a seventh day in which God stopped creating and enjoyed what He made. This was a week, the first week of creation. At the beginning of the week, we are told, the angels “sang together” at the laying of the foundations of the earth:

 

Job 38:5–7

5 Who set its measurements? Since you know.

Or who stretched the line on it?

6 “On what were its bases sunk?

Or who laid its cornerstone,

7 When the morning stars sang together

And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

 

We know that this was day one since the earth was summarily created, but not populated, at the beginning of day one:

 

Genesis 1:1–2

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

 

It was at this moment that the angels of God sang together at the display of God’s great power in His design and implementation of the foundational elements of creation. From here, Jesus would go on to create light, darkness, vegetation, animals, man and finally woman. And, since the angels sang together at the creation of these things, that would mean that the angels were created before Genesis 1:1. Therefore, all the angelic realm, with all of its incredible structure, hierarchy, and brilliance, was designed by Jesus Christ and created, with the aide of the Holy Spirit. All of this was from the decree of God to His Son for a specific reason.

 

What was that reason? Why would the Father give the decree to the Son to create the cosmos and populate it with so much variety and beauty? There are scores of passages that either hint at the reason or outright tell us. However, like creation, I am interested in the foundational elements at this point. From here we can build the building and see the glory of the house.

 

The best place to start as to motive and reason for this creation is found in the Apostle Paul’s writing to the Romans. He wrote:

 

Romans 8:28–30

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

 

Just like the sustaining work and power of Jesus Christ to order and preserve the predictable universe, God also sustains the lives of those who love Him, and (don’t miss this!) are called “according to His purpose.” What is the purpose? His purpose goes all the way back to the heart of God wherein He “predestined” something. What did He predestine? He predestined that created people would become an “icon” of His Son. The Greek word, “icon,” means a living picture or visible resemblance to something. In this case, God predestined that He would make men and women resemble His beloved Son, Jesus Christ! Incredible! This is it! The mystery is solved. The motive for all of creation is that God had a plan that was “hidden in God” and “carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:9-11). When you read the gospels, you are reading the active eternal plan of God being carried out, or accomplished, by God in impervious fashion. That is, nothing could, or can, withstand God’s purpose. Satan cannot outsmart Him. Men cannot but do His will. The whole created order is subject to this eternal plan without fail.

 

As Peter wrote, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…” (1 Peter 2:21).

Exposing the Hypocrite: The Necessary Ministry

In Luke 11, Jesus Christ is invited to a lunch. The host: a Pharisee. This man had just witnessed Jesus casting out a demon (11:14). And the Pharisees in general had summized that Jesus had done that work by the devil himself. How ludicrous! Why would Satan send his own messengers to the Abyss? No matter. These men were not interested in rationale. They made this accusation because, as it says in v.29 and v. 12:1, “The crowds were increasing…(by) so many thousands…” They needed to silence Jesus and the way to do that, they thought, was to make senseless accusations in the public arena to turn people away from Him and keep them in their control. They further wanted/demanded a sign from Him thinking that this would “test” Him. These men needed to discredit Jesus. Why? Why would they want to discredit a Man who is casting out demons, healing the sick, raising the dead, etc…? Let’s find out.

 

This Pharisee invites Jesus to lunch. No doubt, this was a set-up. However, Jesus was well aware of it and did not act any differently than He would have otherwise. In other words, He was no hypocrite. When Jesus sat down to the table, He initiates the fight by not observing the ceremonial washing of the hands before a meal (See Mark 7:3-4). Jesus knew that His freedom to sit down and eat without washing His hands in ritualistic fashion would upset the Pharisees. That is why He did it! He needed to upset their self-righteous rituals.

 

The Lord, then, makes the first statements. In essence, Jesus tells the Pharisee, the host, that he is clean outside but filthy inside (v. 39). He tells him that he is legalistic, self-righteous, and void of the love of God (v.42). He tells him that he is full of sinful self-importance and lusts after respectful greetings in public (v.43). He tells him that he is like a concealed tomb-people walk over it but don’t realize what is actually inside of it (v.44).

 

At this point, a lawyer answers back to Christ and says, “Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too” (v.45). Jesus has some words for them as well. They too are self-indulgent while demanding insane rigidity from the people they are leading (v.46). They were like their prophet-murdering fathers (v. 48). They are those who will kill the messengers of Jesus Christ (v.50) and yet will be held liable for their bloodthirsty behavior (v.51). They keep the truth from people, never entering into truth themselves (v. 52).

 

Now, at this point, Jesus has hit about every button He can in one sitting. After Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees, Luke tells us, “…began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say” (vv.53-54). It is at this point that Luke wants us to understand that Jesus purposely said what He said about their sins. Their wicked hearts could not respond in any other manner. They wanted to entrap Him and then, if they could do it publicly, use their diabolical accusations against Him and discredit Him before the people.

 

The problem is, however, there were so many people attracted to Him that they were stepping all over each other to hear Him (v.12:1). It was “under these circumstances” that Jesus turns to His twelve disciples and says a most crucial lesson to these men that they could ever hear. Jesus said,

 

Luke 12:1b

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

 

Jesus had just outlined actual cases of hypocrisy in the lives of the Pharisee and the lawyers. He had identified them as outwardly appearing acceptable before men while pretending to represent God to them, but all the while be deeply dark and corrupt in their hearts.

 

Therefore, these men needed to always, always, be aware of the effect of hypocrisy. It is a leaven. It spreads. It permeates. It affects deeply in the heart of men and women who are already prone to pretending to be something they are not. In this case, the disciples must guard against not only the Pharisees themselves since a hypocrite cannot be believed or trusted-ever. But they must also resist any form of hypocrisy by simply revealing it, just like Jesus Himself had just exampled to them. They must expose hypocrisy, not simply coexist and hope that they don’t cross paths.

 

However, hypocrisy won’t win. Hypocrites will be found out (v.2). What they are hiding will be revealed at some point. Therefore, the apostles must not speak privately what they can’t say publicly and thus play the hypocrite themselves. What will be the result? Rage. Rage by the hypocrite towards the apostles. They will impose fear on these men (v.4). Nevertheless, God should be feared more (v.5). They can only kill the body. God can throw a soul into hell! But, in their impotent threats, God will protect and care for these men (vv. 6-7).

 

What are they to do? What is their proper response? I will tell you the proper response-preach. That is the proper response. Jesus said,

 

Luke 12:8–9

8 “And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God;

9 but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.

 

They will be threatened to stop preaching the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:17-20). They will be warned and they will be opposed. However, they are under orders by the One who can cast the souls of the cowardly apostles into hell if they will no longer confess Christ before men. And, in fact, when they would bring these men before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, there should not even be a thought or worry about what will be said in their own defense. These men, like us, must rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit to bring to mind what to say.

 

Beloved, the church is full of hypocrites. These are men and women who hate the truth, hate the Father, hate the Christ, hate the Spirit, and despise the light. They are those who, if they could, they would create a thousand more hypocrites like themselves out of God’s people. They are, as Jude wrote,

 

Jude 16

16 These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.

 

And they are:

 

Jude 19

19 These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

 

The Pharisees, in prototypical fashion, exhibit for us whom to beware of. And, Jesus, in prototypical fashion, exhibits for us how to expose their hypocrisy and remain faithful to the truth in light of the threats of the hypocrite. After all, obedience to God will cause antagonism from the hypocrite. But, obedience to the hypocrite will cause antagonism from God. Which will you choose?

Love Your Enemies

David was a good king…

He was a real man with real weaknesses and real sinful tendencies. But, what makes a king a good king is fairness, justice, and, in this case, allegiance to YHWH. The man to rule over Israel would have to be a man whose heart is seeking for YHWH and whose life is exhibiting that pursuit. Since David was a good king, and since Israel had been ruled by Saul for so many years, there were people in the nation who did not follow him nor did they hide their animosity toward David. In his dire moments, David could be found in prayer. A series of prayers for David is contained in what are called “Imprecatory Psalms” as found in Psalms 7, 35, 58, 59, 69, 83, 109, 137 & 139 respectively. These Psalms were composed by David as a result of the effect of the enemies of David pursuing him in order to destroy him personally and as king of Israel. They are very informative to read and demand careful study.

 

However, contrary to popular opinion, the heart of David in these Psalms is not brash anger and a wish for personal vengeance. The heart of David is illustrated in Psalm 35:11-16:

 

11 Malicious witnesses rise up;

They ask me of things that I do not know.

12 They repay me evil for good,

To the bereavement of my soul.

13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth;

I humbled my soul with fasting,

And my prayer kept returning to my bosom.

14 I went about as though it were my friend or brother;

I bowed down mourning, as one who sorrows for a mother.

15 But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered themselves together;

The smiters whom I did not know gathered together against me,

They slandered me without ceasing.

16 Like godless jesters at a feast,

They gnashed at me with their teeth.

 

Do you see his motives and heart here? They wished for David’s destruction and rejoiced at his stumbling as if David were some stage-play actor. But this was no play. While David’s heart was filled with pain, sorrow, and extreme prayer, their hearts were filled with sneering, slander, and malice. Wbut notice David’s attitude in vv. 13-14:

 

“When they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting, and my prayer kept returning to my bosom. I went about as though it were my friend or brother; I bowed down mourning, as one who sorrows for a mother.”

 

While they were sneering and hoping for David’s anxiety to mount, he was looking upon them as friend, mother, and brother.  Why? How could David be like this in the face of such lying, slander, and deception? I don’t know the history behind this Psalm. However, I don’t need to in order to catch the point that the Holy Spirit is making through the life of this normal man. Once again, David is still leading his rag-tag nobodies through the countryside in pursuit of the kingdom. In this case, it is people like me who hope for the same eternal kingdom promised to David and his Son, Jesus Christ, but know we don’t deserve to enter in.

 

The answer to the reason why David could look upon his adversaries with such affection and love, even while pronouncing just vengeance from God upon them, is because he knows that ultimately these men, and himself as well, will be presented before a holy God who sees the heart and will judge righteously. Here is what David said in Psalm 7:

 

Psalm 7:3–5

3 O Lord my God, if I have done this,

If there is injustice in my hands,

4 If I have rewarded evil to my friend,

Or have plundered him who without cause was my adversary,

5 Let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it;

And let him trample my life down to the ground

And lay my glory in the dust.

Selah.

 

In other words, David’s fear of God, who can cast both body and soul into hell (Matthew 10:28), was far greater than his fear of man. As such, then, if there is cause in His eyes for such actions against him, then God will be right in sending this group of adversaries against him and he will surrender. He deserves it. But if not, God will still judge righteously. Either way, the judgment is the Lord’s.

Listen to Luke’s record of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ:

Luke 23:33–37

33 When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.

34 But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.

35 And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”

36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine,

37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”

 

In this you can see the same spirit as His father David. “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” As the sneers and mockery mounts, Jesus prayed for their redemption. Why? Because, by their actions it is evident that they needed it. No one can treat God in this manner and still claim a right relationship with Him. Jesus’ example strikes me as the same as David’s. Jesus had taught months earlier:

 

Matthew 12:30–32

30 “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

31 “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.

32 “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

 

The people gathered around Jesus, primarily Roman soldiers and onlookers, were being prayed for even though they blasphemed Him. Much like David’s pain at the illness of his enemies, Jesus also looked upon these blind persecutors with pity and love. The compassion here is beyond human ability. Although there are similar circumstances, Jesus’ travail and pain were infinitely greater since the Father Himself even dismissed Himself from His Son for a time:

 

Matthew 27:45–46

45 Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.

46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

 

Jesus taught a righteousness that exceeded the external righteousness of the religious leaders of Judaism of the day. While they were busy arranging their appearance to keep in line with the hypocritical religion they had constructed before the masses, Jesus was walking in a true righteousness that comes only from God, the righteousness of God Himself. That righteousness includes how to treat those who mistreat you, even maliciously.

Jesus taught:

Matthew 5:43–48

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on theevil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 

To be perfect as God is to treat those who persecute you with love and prayer-nothing more. God did that. Jesus Christ loved His enemies and prayed for them, didn’t He? He held to His righteousness until the end. His perseverance and endurance with righteousness is most evident in the response of His lips and actions to those who crucified Him. Incredible.

As I close this little lesson, I want to say, I pray for those who have demonstrated a level of animosity towards my ministry. I love them and will continue to love them. I have prayed for them. I do not wish hardship on them, calamity, nor alienation from God. God is judge and He will judge righteously. May God be glorified.

The Pastor and His Accountability

  To whom is the pastor accountable?

This is a question that gets raised in a variety of ways. It has been raised in our church as well and my position, as pastor, is that my responsibilities as a pastor are solely answerable to the Lord Himself. The reason is that He is the One who can, and will, properly evaluate my work. As a Christian brother, I am mutually submissive to one another (Ephesians 5:20) and the joy of that is immense. Those men and women whom the Lord has redeemed and who come to me and exhort, and encourage, and befriend me are without equal. However, the direction of my work in the Lord and the evaluation of that work as to its quality (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) can only be rightly evaluated by the Lord Himself in that day of evaluation (2 Corinthians 5:10). This is a fearful thing (2 Corinthians 5:11) and does, at least in my case, remind me of such high accountability as to guard me from knowingly sinning against anyone or, especially, practicing private sin.

 

The answer to this question really boils down to what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

1 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 

2 In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. 

3 But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. 

4 For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. 

5 Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. 

 

Herein lies the reality of accountability. In the minds of many, “accountability” would mean that a man or woman is liable to give an account to another for the sake of scrutiny. The examination can take on many forms. In the church, for the elders of a church, examination is ultimately left only to One-Jesus Christ.

 

Let me explain. There are human courts in the world. These courts serve a purpose and are helpful for a myriad of civil issues where a verdict is needed. Further, there are even courts in the church wherein a verdict is needed, as in the case of the “legal” issues between brethren (1 Corinthians 6:1-8). Paul’s bases in that chapter is that the quality of a human court and the quality of the church court are two different things. They are, because one is based upon the Law of the Kingdom of God and the other is not, mutually exclusive. Further, the quality of the court and the law(s) that determine that quality, lead to protocol, and protocol leads to precedence, and precedence determines verdicts. Paul writes to the Corinthians that the differences between both kinds of courts is all the way down to the law upon which each court is built. In other words, the human court is not concerned with breaking the law of love from Christ (John 13:34), but the church court has that as its only standard. And, a human court is required wherein serious civil crimes might be committed by a professing Christian.

 

However, when it comes to those who serve as elders, pastors, teachers, there is an even higher court than these, and this court makes rigorous demand upon the preacher which, then, requires of him the highest level of adherence to the standards of that court (James 3:1). That is to say, to survive my “day in court” with Jesus Christ as my Examiner, my life among the world and especially the brethren must be entirely above reproach. The church is not always in the best spiritual condition to evaluate a preacher and his life. Although, when a man transgresses the Law of Christ, the church will see it. There are repercussions, like church discipline (1 Timothy 5:19-20). However, ultimately, the church is not the court. The future presence of God is (2 Timothy 4:1).

 

Although an elder may not know anything against himself, that does not mean that he will survive in that court. It means that, like Paul, whenever there is an accusation against a pastor’s reputation, we try to “conciliate” (1 Corinthians 4:13). And as often as failures arise, and they do, so also does the work of conciliation arise. When peace is restored between relationships, as much as possible (Romans 12:18), then that case is closed and unity is maintained. When peace is not restored, even after being sought after, it makes for a difficult hardship on the parties involved and there is no peace.

 

To address what so many Christians are concerned with, however, this does not mean that a pastor or elder is above the scrutiny of the people to whom he is ministering. It does not mean that a pastor can sin and be untouchable. It is sad that people are led to that conclusion. But, based upon the history of church leaders who have hidden behind such thinking, I can very much understand why. These hypocrites are very detrimental to the efforts of godly men who are working hard to be above reproach. A pastor who sins and transgresses against God is accountable to God. That accountability is felt and implemented, as determined by Scripture, usually by other godly men. They would have the spiritual maturity to interpret the facts properly so as to render a mature verdict and help the man to reconcile/repent. To minister to that pastor for his building up requires tremendous maturity and wisdom. That is why going to a man caught in a trespass, especially a pastor, is the duty of mature believers (Galatians 6:1). Ideally other godly, qualified, leaders. This behavior fulfills the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

 

It is true, and unfortunate, that men do disqualify themselves. Scandal of hidden lives of church leaders constantly emerge, it seems, and is wearisome to hear about. But, what is even more unfortunate, is the spiritual condition of many more churches who, themselves, are guilty of disobeying the Law of Christ in their daily behavior. It is true that an elder is under even more scrutiny for his work in the church. But it is just as true that the congregation has an obligation to obedience to Jesus Christ to the degree that pastors do. Once under the leadership of such a godly man/men, the church is obligated, for her benefit in time and eternity, to follow his example and faith and serve the Lord alongside him/them (Romans 16:1-24, for example). For many “Christians,” their rebellious self-styled behavior, which if publicly exposed shames the name of Christ, would disqualify them from Christianity.

 

Hebrews 13:17 

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

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