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[Editor’s note: This article is adapted from the book, CHARISMATIC CAPTIVATION, by Steven Lambert. The book exposes the widespread problem of authoritarian abuse in Neo-Pentecostal church-groups, and explains how it became infused into the very fabric, foundation, and functions of the Neo-Pentecostal church arising out of a false movement known as the Discipleship/Shepherding Movement (1970-77). References to “Discipleship” or “Shepherding” (and variables) doctrines, teachings, proponents and participants, and so forth, allude to those pertinences that arose out of that movement.]
The second primary conceptual error on which the heretical Discipleship/Shepherdship doctrines are established, is the matter of “spiritual covering.” Indeed, so-called “spiritual covering” is the very centerpiece of these wholly unBiblical teachings and the hyper-authoritarianism they engender.
Let me begin by speaking plainly and directly: “spiritual covering” as theorized by the Discipleship theosophy is an absolute myth. No semblance of the Discipleship teaching version of “spiritual covering” exists anywhere within the pages of Scripture. “Spiritual covering,” in the vein it is presented by proponents of these hyper-authoritarian teachings, is an outright deception! It is a complete fabrication concocted by the originators of these fallacious doctrines as a supposed pretext for facilitation of purely self-aggrandizing objectives of subjugation, domination, and control.
Indeed, what the Discipleship proponents refer to as “spiritual covering” is really “spiritual control.” However, even the use of the word “spiritual” in this connection requires some qualification, because the only thing “spiritual” about this unauthorized control is that it is inspired by demon-spirits of deception and error. As we shall discuss later in Chapter Nine, what the Discipleship version of “spiritual covering” really is, is nothing less than witchcraft and sorcery. When the myth has been thoroughly debunked, as it will be within these pages, it will be clear that this doctrine of “spiritual covering,” like all the other aspects of the Shepherdship heresy, is a patently false “doctrine of demons” being manifested in these last days precisely in accordance with Holy Prophecy of Scripture which foretells of deception such as this being promulgated by demons in the last days, leading to many falling away from the Lord into apostasy:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of LIARS seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.(1 Tim. 4:1,2)
Proofing the Proof-text
Discipleship proponents point to a particular Pauline dissertation found in the Eleventh Chapter of First Corinthians as the primary purported proof-text for their concept of “spiritual covering.” It will soon be evident, however, that, as is typical of the other aspects of Discipleship errors, the assertions made on the basis of these verses are the product of blatant and overt perversion, distortion, misrepresentation, and misapplication of the true import and intent of the passage. The unfortunate effect of this corruption of Canon is essentially the same as that which inured unto the Galatians, which was that they became guilty of “deserting” Christ for a different “christ” and a different gospel:
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ; for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and who want to DISTORT the gospel of Christ.
- (Gal. 1:6)
The following is the passage from which the concept of “spiritual covering,” as well as several other assertions made by Discipleship proponents, is extrapolated. Since it will be a basis for much of this discussion, it has been set in verse format for easier reference. Also, I have added some explanations which appear in italics and parentheses, to assist in understanding the true import of these verses.
First Corinthians 11:2-16:
2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything, and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.
3 But I want you to understand that Christ is the Head of every man, and the man
is the head of a
and God is the Head of Christ.
4 Every MAN who has something on his Head
while praying or prophesying, disgraces his Head
5 But every woman who has her head uncovered
- (not under the authority of her husband)
while praying or prophesying, disgraces her head (her husband); for she is one and the same with her whose head is shaved
- (woman taken captive from vanquished enemies and forced against her will to become an Israelite’s wife)
6 For if a woman does not cover her head
- (allow the authority of her husband to cover and protect her from the spiritual deception of the fallen angels)
, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.
7 For a man ought NOT to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman
is the glory of man
8 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;
9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.
10 Therefore the woman ought to have authority on her head, because of the
11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.
13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with head uncovered?
14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair
- (type for “covering”)
, it is a dishonor to him,
15 but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for A COVERING (a
16 But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.
Now I don’t want to be unkind, but in my opinion a person must be totally brainwashed to read this text and in all sincerity and earnestness conclude it says what Shepherdship proponents and adherents assert that it says. Indeed, this text has been used as a premise for a number of pretty silly and bizarre notions, ranging from the role of women in the church all the way to the assertion that God is saying here that women are supposed to wear little doilies on their heads when they attend church. So let’s examine this passage, and see what it really says and what it does not say.
Pertinent Peculiarities of the Language
First of all, an extremely vital fact to keep in mind in all Bible study and interpretation, and one which I must take a moment to point out here at the very outset of our scrutiny of this text, is that the Greek language, in which most of the New Testament was written originally, did not have a specific word for “husband” and “wife” as in the English language. Instead, the word for husband is the word for “man,” and the word for “wife” is the word for “woman.” The only way to determine whether the reference is to the male gender class or to the office of husband, or likewise to the female gender class or the office of wife, is by deciphering the intent of the context. This fact is absolutely critical to the particular passage we are examining here and to properly evaluating and understanding its import.
So, with this in mind, careful scrutiny of the context of these verses on the backdrop of the whole of Scripture, leads to the unequivocal and incontrovertible conclusion that the words used here which are translated in many English versions as “man” and “woman” really should be “husband” and “wife.” Validation of that is inherent in the fact that the principles evoked in this passage are limited in application to the husband and wife relationship. They are NOT applicable in the context of general interrelations between men and women, but rather only apply in the sphere of the husband and wife relationship.
Identifying the Subject and Scope
Once these peculiarities of the language are understood, the next matter of utmost importance is identifying the subject and scope of the passage we are examining. For reasons that shall become evident, it is vital to understand that the clear and unmistakable subject of this passage is the matter of Domestic Divine Order, that is to say, the order of authority existing among husbands and wives and their children, or to say it yet another way, the government operable within the structure of the FAMILY unit. “Domestic Authority” is the exclusive focus as well as the limits of the scope of this passage. The aspects and applications of the authority addressed in these verses are limited to the purview of that particular ilk of authority, and cannot be universally applied to other types of authority.
Recognizing the true focus and scope of this text is crucial to comprehending its import. Not recognizing these parameters, or blatant disregard of them, whichever may be the case, has been a primary factor resulting in the formulation of the fallacious assertions adamantly proclaimed and staunchly defended by Discipleship proponents supposedly based on this passage. To be specific, the matter of “spiritual covering” is the heart of the issue. And indeed, there is a type of spiritual covering that is addressed in these verses. However, what is critical is that, as stated already, the spiritual covering that is discussed in this context is NOT Ecclesiastical Authority, that is to say, Governmental Authority within the Church. Rather, Domestic Authority is the clear and unequivocal focus of Paul’s dissertation here, which the Apostle makes evident in verse three by specifically identifying the topic of this portion of his letter and by expressing explicitly what it is he wants the readers to understand: “But I want you to understand that CHRIST is the Head of every man, and the MAN (HUSBAND) is the headof a WOMAN (his WIFE), and GOD is the Head of Christ.”
Another way to characterize the focus of this passage, which the enbolded portions of this verse bring out, is: “spiritual headship.” However, the propensity of some to “exceed that which is written” has resulted in the misconstruction and misapplication of this perfectly valid truth, and the manufacturing of a kind of so-called “headship” based purely in human imagination without any Scriptural foundation whatsoever. In point of fact, the only valid ilk of “spiritual headship” or “spiritual covering” there is, and the only one which is supported by the Word of God, is that which is being addressed here, which is the “spiritual headship” and “spiritual covering” the husband provides for his own wife as the God-appointed representative of Christ within the family unit. In no way, however, does this passage contain any evidence or corroboration of the sort of “spiritual covering” Discipleship proponents allege is provided by a shepherd to his followers. To extrapolate from this passage a pretext for some sort of “headship” interposable by “spiritual leaders” over subordinate believers is an act of gross distortion, convolution, and misrepresentation of the Word of God, as well as an act of blatant and extreme irresponsibility.
CHRIST — the Only Spiritual Covering for Every Man
Now as I stated initially, ecclesiastical authority is decidedly not the focus of this passage. Indeed, the only mention of the matter of ecclesiastical authority occurs in oblique references in verses four and seven, which actually state the very opposite of what the Discipleship/Shepherdship proponents purport the verses say and the very opposite of the assertions they cite the verses as a proof-text for:
4 Every MAN who has something on his Head
- (i.e., Christ)
while praying or prophesying, disgraces his Head
7 For a MAN ought NOT to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman
is the glory of man
In verse four, Paul specifically states that, juxtaposed to the married woman, who must have a covering of spiritual authority, i.e., a spiritual “head,” which role is fulfilled by her husband, any man who covers his Head with a “spiritual covering” — a human, surrogate, intermediary “head” — is bringing reproach, dishonor, and disgrace to his Head, because, as Paul indicates repeatedly in this text, the man’s Head is Christ Himself. Thus, to characterize the import of the text in another, forthright fashion: in this passage, the Spirit is expressly prohibiting human, surrogate, intermediary spiritual “headship” in the case of MEN, in that Christ Himself is the Head, or “spiritual covering” “of every man” who is truly Born Again and has truly submitted to the Lordship of Christ over his life.
Notice also the phrase “while praying or prophesying.” Praying and prophesying are the spiritual activities and functions in which believers are to engage. This phrase gives qualification to this statement, making its import to be that it is in the realm of spiritual activities and endeavors in particular that a man is NOTto have another human being as his “head,” or as a “covering,” for that role and function is to be fulfilled by the Lord Jesus alone. Christ alone is qualified and capable of fulfilling that crucial role and function.
This is vital to the matter of the Discipleship error, because this has been one of the areas of greatest excess and abuse, in that many so-called “spiritual leaders” (especially laymen) in these in-house “chains of command” became extremely caught up in their newly acquired (albeit, illegitimate) authority, for which they were not properly grounded or adequately developed or sufficiently mature spiritually to properly handle, but which they nonetheless began to wield and intrusively interpose into the lives of their “subordinates,” including their most private, personal, and even intimate choices and decisions. The outlandish and totally false hypothesis was that each of the multi-levels of “spiritual leaders” over the peonic, subjugated, and supposedly inferior believer were his “spiritual heads” and “spiritual coverings,” and whatever communication or correction God desired to relate to the believer, He would relay through one of these surrogate “heads,” and so-called “confirmation” of the validity and veracity of the communication would manifest in the form of unanimous “agreement” among all these “heads.” Theoretically, if just one of the “heads” in the chain of “heads” did not have “a witness” for the matter, that meant the communication was not from or of God.
This “no witness” nonsense became a primary mechanism of control, manipulation, domination, and other more nefarious activities, in an array of circumstances ranging from preventing members from leaving the church or group, to sexually-oriented abuse under the color of spiritual authority. The gravely damaging effect of this absurd and wholly false theosophy and system of religious enslavement is well captured in the quoted impassioned complaint of a former member of the Discipleship Movement responding to Bob Mumford’s attempted conciliation with disjoined former followers:
“Saying I’m sorry wasn’t enough….We had been taught that the men who led us somehow heard from God better than we did. Even after we left the movement there was that hidden fear that they might be right and we were somehow less of a Christian and had failed God by not beingtotally obedient to them.” (Mumford Repents of Discipleship Errors, Charisma & Life, February 1990, pp. 15,16)
Though we are certainly to avail ourselves of the ministry God disseminates through Fivefold ministers, and though we are to maintain a compliant and cooperative attitude toward them, and treat them with due honor and respect, no mere human is ever the “head” or “spiritual covering” of any other man, especially; or woman, for that matter, because “spiritual covering” exists and is effectual only in the relationship of the husband to his own WIFE — no other woman. In other words, even a Fivefold minister — apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher — is the spiritual “head” of only ONE woman on this planet — his own WIFE (if he is married)! That, my friend, is it! FURTHERMORE, a Fivefold minister is the spiritual “head” of absolutely NO MAN! I cannot state it any more succinctly or directly than that.
The premise of absolute submission is predicated on the hypothesis that the spiritual leaders are in effect (though most Discipleship teaching adherents would emphatically deny the attribution) “spiritual mediators” between God and their followers, who assume the role of hearing from God on the behalf of their followers. According to the premise, the followers are spiritually deficient and inferior to the leaders, and thus basically incapable of seeking and hearing from God for themselves and cultivating on-going communion and fellowship with God, so they need a “mediator,” someone who supposedly has a more elite status with God, to be a priestly “go-between” between them and God. The hypothesis is that the leaders are much more spiritual than the people, and therefore more capable of receiving from God what is best for their followers. By the way, if that premise sounds familiar to you, you are right, because in essence it is virtually identical to the theories upon which the surrogate priesthood and papal system of Catholicism were based, which, totally supplanted and negated the personal priesthood of believers in the Medieval Church.
This whole matter of “spiritual mediators” is so totally ludicrous and such a complete affront to the truth of the personal priesthood of believers that every knowledgeable believer should be thoroughly disgusted and totally outraged at such an idiotic, outlandish, and even blasphemous notion. The Bible explicitly says: “There is one God, and ONE mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all….” (1 Tim. 2:5). There is never, ever to be any “spiritual mediators” between God and men, except the Christ — Jesus Himself. The Man with the nail-prints in His hands is the only true spiritual mediator between God and Man. All the rest are pretentious impostors! Jesus is the only Man who ever lived a perfectly sinless life, which was the requisite enabling Him to become the Spotless Lamb of God, the propitiatory sacrifice, typified by the oblational sacrificial lambs, which the Jewish high priests offered up for the sins of the people century after century.
So also was Jesus the true Spiritual High Priest, who those centuries of natural high priests who offered up the sacrificial lambs year after year represented. Those which came before Him were the types and the shadows, the mere “eikons” (reflections) of the real. Jesus was the real, the source of the reflection. He was the Image that the types and shadows reflected. He was the true Sacrificial Lamb who took away the sins of the world. And, He was the true Spiritual High Priest (Heb. 3:1), who offered up the true Sacrificial Lamb—His own sinless life—as a ransom for all, once and for all.
And the former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers, because they were prevented by death from continuing, but He
- (Christ Jesus)
, on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save completely those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting that we should have such a High Priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those
- (O.T. Jewish)
high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did ONCE FOR ALL when He offered HIMSELF.
- (Heb. 7:23-28)
…we have such a High Priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. (Heb. 8:1,2)
But when CHRIST appeared as a High Priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Heb. 9:11,12)
The point is that the true High Priest (i.e., Christ) has now entered into the true Holy of Holies into the actual presence of God as the ultimate and only effectual Mediator on our behalf (Heb. 9:23,24). He lives evermore in the presence of God as our Intercessor (Heb. 7:25), having appeased His righteous wrath, having taken upon Himself the punishment due us, and having canceled out our debt of transgressions which separated and disfellowshipped us from God. Hence, since Christ Jesus has accomplished the ultimate on our behalf before God, and perpetually lives in the presence of God as our spiritual High Priest and Intercessor, and since He has made peace for us between ourselves and God forevermore (Rom. 5:1), we hardly need human mediators between us and God.
His once-and-for-all sacrifice and entrance into the true Holy of Holies has granted us all equal access, free access, bold and confident access (Eph. 3:12), not only into the Holy Place, but also even behind the veil into the Holy of Holies, for each of us, even unto the very Throne of Grace itself, that is to say, the very Throne of “the God of all Grace” (1 Pet. 5:10). Of this access we are invited to avail ourselves freely, not coweringly but boldly, “Let us therefore come boldlyunto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16, KJV).
To suggest that any human could do this for us as a mediator between us and God is not only preposterous and absurd, but also an affront to Jesus Himself. It is blasphemy! Those who pose and interpose themselves as mediators between believers and God are fortunate that God has not struck them down dead! Indeed, I believe this very thing will happen in the days ahead. God is now issuing fair warning! If Uzza, the loyal friend and servant of David was struck dead by God for merely touching the religious icon of God’s presence, and if Ananias and Sapphira were struck down dead by God for having lied to the Holy Spirit, how much severer punishment would one deserve who is so blatantly blasphemous as to purport to be the spiritual mediator between God and men?
Basis for Authoritarian Abuse and Licentiousness
Again, I must emphasize that the subject of this passage clearly is NOT Governmental Authority in the Church. Rather, the Divine dissertation is directed specifically to the matter of Domestic authority; that is, authority in the family unit. That is made evident in verse three, where the Apostle says: “But I want you to understand that Christ is the Head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the Head of Christ.” As I have already pointed out, another way to characterize the subject of this passage, which the highlighted portions bring out, is: spiritual “headship.” However, the spiritual headship that is being discussed here, contrary to the assertions made by many, is not some sort of “universal” ascendancy, in practice and attitude, of men over women; nor does it speak to any ilk of governmental Authority within the “ranks” of the Church. Rather, the exclusive focus of this passage is “Domestic Authority,” which is the order of authority within the FAMILY structure, in human households. And in the household, within the structure of the family unit, there is only one head — the husband; not some “spiritual” leader; not any other person. The husband is the unequivocal head in his OWN house, and not in any other.
Moreover, the misinterpretation and misapplication of the import of this passage to the specter of general interrelations between men and women itself is the basis for one aspect of error inherent in the Discipleship doctrines that is of no small consequence. Specifically, the more radical Discipleship proponents have interpolated these verses to mean that all women, married or unmarried, are supposed to be “submitted” and subservient to all men, and especially to the “spiritual leaders” of their church or group. Furthermore, they contend Scripture prescribes that the purview of authority of the spiritual leaders of a church extends also into the home, and takes precedence over the authority of the husband in the family unit. It is this totally false assertion that is a common basis for much authoritarian abuse that is taking place in many more church-groups than what any of us would care to imagine.
For many years, I have known by the revelation of the Spirit that there are at least scores of cases in which these doctrines of demons are being used as a pretext and license for authoritarian abuse involving just about every kind of illicit and immoral sexual involvement by compulsion and seduction under the color of clerical authority possible. I predict that very soon God is going to see to it that the unwitting and confused victims of these heinous atrocities are liberated from their captivity, and that the perverted perpetrators of these despicable crimes and irresponsible violations of trust are publicly exposed, expelled from the ministry, prosecuted, and duly punished for their deliberate debauchery and violation against the lives and consciences of their exploited victims. Jesus said that it would be better for such perverted heretics who misuse the trust of their clerical office for such immoral exploitation that a millstone be tied around their neck and they be cast into the sea to drown, than undergo the Divine punishment that awaits them for having caused one of His little ones who had believed in Him to be so violated by such authoritarian abuse.
Moreover, in the process of time, it is going to become very apparent that the specter of authoritarian abuse and licentiousness perpetrated by wayward spiritual leaders is far more prevalent than what has ever been recognized before. Likewise, it will become just as manifest that the subject matter of this book — the heretical Discipleship doctrines, which are concerned primarily with false and fallacious concepts of spiritual authority — has been a primary underlying premise for much of the authoritarian abuse that has taken place among Charismatic/Discipleship churches and groups especially.
The root-cause of the Discipleship heresy is the “spirit of error” (1 Jn. 4:6), which is a spirit of perversion, and the “spirit of error,” unchecked, will eventually lead to a multiplicity of perversions in virtually every facet of the person’s life in which this demon and its cohorts are manifest. In the process of time this spirit will manifest perversion, corruption, and convolution in the inhabitee’s spirituality and every aspect and attitude indigenous to their natural life: their morality, marriage, ministry, message, methods, motives, and monetary matters.
In respect to this type of authoritarian abuse, one thing that needs to be pointed out, however, is that it is not just individuals who have been victimized by this spiritually lethal perverse spirit, but so also has the collective Body of Christ, in that Satan has been sowing these weeds of heresy and tares of heretics in God’s Field, thereby polluting and severely denigrating its produce, which was precisely his objective.
You see, when taken to their fullest extent, what these false teachings culminate in, is an infringement upon the Biblical fact of ultimate accountability to God, which is to say that in the end everyone is accountable to God, and to God alone, for his conduct and for the substance of the life he or she lived. Ultimately, it is to an Almighty and All-Knowing God that we must give account for the totality of our lives. Ultimately, each believer is accountable only to the authority of God, and not to any supposed “spiritual authority” of men.
This Truth and its veracity is unequivocally and wholly supported by the preponderance of Scripture, and proof-texts corroborating this absolute fact are so numerous that to quote them all would require a separate volume of its own. But, there is one passage that states it about as directly and succinctly as it can be stated, which is, Romans 14:12: “So then EACH OF US shall GIVE ACCOUNT of HIMSELF to GOD.”
Moreover, the verses that precede this particular passage are also extremely enlightening and germane to this point regarding ultimate accountability unto God. In verse four, Paul poses the consummate question to which every believer would be well-advised to give careful heed: “Who are you to judge the servant of another?”
To judge someone else, it is imperative to understand, by its very nature, means that the person who is sitting in the seat of the judge is of a greater status, standing, authority, and behavioral stature, than the one who is being judged. Yet, clearly an overwhelming preponderance of Scripture teaches that as Jesus stated, “You (all believers) are all on the same level as brothers” (Mat. 23:8; L.B.; parenthesis added by author). As established repeatedly throughout this book, in the Kingdom of God there is absolute parity among believers. There is no such a thing as “big me, little you” in the Kingdom of God. Oh, to be sure, in real life, demonstration of carnal attitudes of ascendency and arrogance over fellows is just as common among purporting believers as it is in the world. But, that is not the way it really is in the Kingdom of God and from God’s perspective. Such fleshly attitudes are of the category of the “evil passions and desires”which every believer must crucify if he is going to show forth evidence or fruit that he has been genuinely Born Again and been made a bona fide partaker of the attributes of the Divine Nature (Gal. 5:24; 2 Pet. 2:4).
Notice also in the verse cited (Rom. 14:4) the phrase “servant of another.” This makes it abundantly clear that every believer is a bond-servant of God, not of any man. Even when of our own volition we lay down our lives to serve others, we do so because in so doing the Person we are ultimately serving is God, not even the people we are serving, though they are the ostensible recipients of our service. The verse continues by saying: “To HIS OWN MASTER he stands or falls; and stand he will, for THE LORD is able to make him stand.” In saying, “ THE LORD is able to make him stand,” the passage identifies the “master” of the believer as being the Lord Jesus Himself, and not any human.
Verses seven through nine of the same chapter in Romans go on to clearly indicate that every believer “belongs” ultimately to the Lord, and thus is not the subject of any human being in terms of ultimate accountability for his or her life:
For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live FOR THE LORD, or if we die, we die FOR THE LORD; therefore whether we live or die, WE ARE THE LORD’S. For to this end Christ died and lived, that HE might be LORD both of the dead and of the living.
But, the next verse, verse ten, really puts it all into proper perspective by reminding us that none of us have the right to take unto ourselves the status of judge over our fellows with regard to the final analysis, assessment, and adjudication of their lives, as well as the fact that none of us have attained unto the transcendent or elite status required to grant us the right to regard a fellow believer with contempt or condescension, or regard any fellow believer, who is also a joint-heir, that is, equal-heir, with Christ, as in any way inferior or “subjectable” to us so as to be their judges, because we are not the judges; rather, we all are the “judgees,” being judged ourselves by “the righteous Judge” (2 Tim. 4:8):
But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? FOR WE SHALL ALL STAND BEFORE THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF GOD. (Rom. 14:10)
Hebrews 12:23 refers to “THE Judge of ALL,” which is none other than God Himself. Hebrews 10:30 plainly tells us: “THE LORD will judge His people,” which means that ultimate accounting and the final adjudication of our lives is relegated to the Lord alone. The reason for this is simple: perfect and perfectly righteous and just judgment requires omniscience and infinite knowledge and wisdom, which we, in our human estate of extremely finite knowledge, do not possess. Only God is capable of judging “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” with perfect knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, for it is to His eyes, the manifold eyes of the Spirit, alone that all that we are is “open and laid bare” (Heb. 4:12,13). He who knows us most is the one can judge us best. No one knows us, who we really are, the totality of our constitution and the reasons behind it, like God knows us.
Thus, we see the incontrovertible and unequivocal truth that ultimately every believer is accountable to God and not to any mere mortal. As I have said elsewhere in this volume, only the one with the nail prints in His hands is the one who has been found worthy to be our Lord, Master, and Savior. This is precisely the import of James’ statement wherein speaking of Jesus He says: “There is ONLY ONE Lawgiver and Judge, THE ONE WHO IS ABLE TO SAVE and to destroy, but who are you to judge your neighbor?” (Jas. 4:12).
So, dear saint of God, the next time someone tries to “pull rank” on you, intimidate, or subjugate you with some humanly contrived, unsanctioned, ineffectual, and non-existent, brand of pseudo-authority, ask that person to stretch forth his or her hands, and look to see if there are nail-holes in those hands. If not, just have a little chuckle within yourself, turn, and walk away, and forget it! Because that person is not YOUR Lord or YOUR Master! He’s just another pretender and imposter motivated by an antichrist spirit! PRAISE JESUS — the One who is able to save and destroy to the uttermost — FOREVER! HE ALONE is Lord!
Completeness In Christ
As I bring to a close this writing in which we have focused on the folly of the thesis of “spiritual covering” provided by mere human shepherds, please allow me to make one final, but no less important, point related to this matter that further establishes the complete absurdity of this notion. It has to do with the individual believer’s completeness in Christ.
In his letter to the believers at Colossae, the Apostle Paul capsulized his ministry and calling in this statement:
And we proclaim Him (Christ), admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man COMPLETE IN CHRIST. (Col. 1:28)
Though his intent was to summarize his own ministry and calling, his statement has afforded us a succinct synopsis of what the ministry per se is about. All of the elements of valid ministry are represented in the verbiage of this verse. The primary function of all ministry is to: proclaim (preach) Christ as Lord, Master, and Savior of all, juxtaposed to human lords, masters, and saviors; admonish (warn) every human being of the perils and consequences of disregard and disobedience of God and His Master Plan; teaching every human being of the principles of the Kingdom of God (i.e., the authority of Christ [Rev. 12:10]); and, to present every human being (who will give heed to what we minister to them) back to God COMPLETE IN CHRIST.
The ultimate goal of all ministry is to make every person who has submitted themselves to the gospel of the authority of Christ over their lives totally COMPLETE IN CHRIST; which is to say, spiritually WHOLE; which is to say, HOLY. This is the ultimate mission of all true ministry and every true minister — to make everyone to whom they minister spiritually complete in CHRIST.
Conversely, whether those who subscribe to and engage in them realize it or not, and I am sure there are some who genuinely do not realize it, Discipleship/Shepherdship doctrines and practices by their very nature do not promote the complete dependence on Christ that produces spiritual completion in Christ. Rather, as already discussed, the disposition of these doctrines are decidedly antiChrist in that they teach adherents to place their faith, hope, trust, confidence, and essentially their destiny in the spiritual efficacy of their human leaders, who, the heresy purports, are their effectual mediators unto God. Simply put, Shepherdship followers are taught to place all of their faith in their leaders, rather than looking through them to see Christ Himself as Lord and Savior.
As we shall discuss in the next chapter, those who have been genuinely anointed and appointed by Jesus to Fivefold Ministry offices certainly have a very valid and important role with regard to the spiritual edification of individual believers as well as the collective Church. However, Fivefold Ministers are like the moon to the sun, they have no glory or light of their own, but merely reflect “the True Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man” who believes in the Light (Jn. 1:9). As John the Baptist, Fivefold Ministers are not themselves the light, but rather merely “bear witness of the Light, that all might believe [in the True Light] through (them)” (v. 7). Ministers are not the source of the Light, they merely reflect and impart unto others the Light and Life of Christ through the proclaiming aspect of their ministry, that is, the revelation of Christ via preaching and teaching, coupled with the portraying aspect of their ministry, which is the revelation of Christ via their own exemplary living modeled after the pattern of Christ.
It is by the True Light, Christ Himself, shining on us and in us that the darkness of sin is dispelled and vanquished by the Light of God’s Nature. Only Christ, the True Light Itself, the source of the Light, can do that. And it is this, and this alone, that makes us “complete.” Thus, our spiritual completeness can only be “in Christ.” But, in Christ, we are indeed complete. And so absolute and perfect is this condition of “complete” that intrinsically it is impossible to improve upon it. Complete is complete. You cannot be more complete than complete.
Hence, when it is all said and done, the only role that any human being has played in that completion that is attained “in Christ” is that of merely being a reflector of the glory of the Light, and even that is at best sporadic and imperfect, hindered as it is by the voids of darkness yet remaining within us all.
No, make no mistake about it: all the glory belongs exclusively to the Light, and not the imperfect reflectors!
Let us all therefore resolve to ascribe all glory to the One to whom it belongs, claiming none for ourselves, thereby sparing ourselves the eternal embarrassment and shame that will otherwise be ours when finally we stand before the Throne of the Light and witness firsthand the blinding brilliance of His Glory, which shall reveal our utter inanity, insanity, and hubris of having supposed that we ourselves were anything other than a mere reflector of the Light.