Article # five: Evangelicalism Examined
A quote from the previous article (Truth): “The simple truth is, evangelicalism is not true. It just isn’t.” This article will hopefully verify that statement.
Logic tells us the question of leaving or not leaving the evangelical system cannot be intelligently considered without evaluating the evangelical system. Is it really true that it isn’t true? Only Scripture has the answer.
It is the duty of evangelicals to place the complexities of evangelicalism under the light of the Word. Unfortunately, average evangelical is so converted to evangelicalism he or she may feel pangs of disloyalty to question a system considered sacred.
L a r r y J o n e s : We assume the way something is done, is done because it is the right thing to do. Were it not right we wouldn’t be doing it that way. We do not question, we do not check it out with (Scripture). We sin the sin of presumption. (The Way It Is)
There are books and websites dealing adequately with this issue. Yet only a true student of the Word will be impacted by truths presented.
L a r r y J o n e s : Not every Christian is a student of the Word, though each should be. I define a student of the Word as: a serious inquisitor into the ways of God by the study of the Bible for the purpose of embracing those ways into his or her life in a determined effort to obey the Lord Jesus Christ. The student of the Word does not study that he might know, but that he might do. He not only says, “Your word have I hid in my heart,” but he says, “Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” He is not on a head trip. He is not a hearer only. (Financing the Great Commission)
Now let’s get into it. Where do we begin? Let’s start at the top of the system, denominational headquarters. This might consist of a superintendent, an assistant super, and a board of elders selected from several cities in the area they govern. (Not all evangelical churches are affiliated with a denomination, but most are attached to some type of governing system.)
It should be most significant (to the student of the Word) that the super cannot be found in the Bible. He simply isn’t there. Paul was not a super, nor John or Peter or James or Timothy; their role in their christianity is far from the superintendent’s function in our christianity.
Where did our superintendent come from? When we look into the world system we find superintendents of schools, clubs, charitable organizations, etc. The office of superintendent comes from the world system.
Also, it is most significant the district board of elders is not to be found in New Testament pages. Elders, yes. Board of elders, no. The word board is not a Bible word except in reference to lumber. A long time ago someone decided since elders are in the Bible it would be okay to create a board of elders. The fact there is no biblical precedent whereby an elder exercised authority over believers must have been an insignificant detail.
Also, the word denomination is absent from God’s words to us. Way back, a group assumed they had authority to create something non-biblical. They were wrong. And a lengthy history does not make wrong less wrong. History’s church mistakenly created denominations, and today’s church mistakenly sustains them.
Now let’s focus on the local church – the pastor, the board of elders (or board of whatever), and the congregation.
First, the pastor. Three dissimilarities place the pastor far above the rest: He is licensed, he is titled, and he is salaried. Since none of the three have biblical precedent they should impress no one. A license, a title and a salary add nothing to a man’s spirituality – they often have a negative effect, puffing up and making it difficult to consider himself the least of the brethren.
Evangelicals might dare to ask: “How significant is the actuality Jesus was not licensed or salaried?” Or, “How relevant is the fact the twelve were not licensed, titled or salaried?” Perhaps it’s fair to say the degree of relevance to these questions equals the degree of respect for the Word.
L a r r y J o n e s : If “The Lord is my shepherd” (my pastor) how can I call a man my shepherd? How could the church have degenerated to the place where one brother calls another his pastor? Where a wife calls another man her pastor? (The Way It Is)
It is a huge mistake to consider the pastor the man most loyal to God. It was his proven faithfulness to the men he illicitly bows to that procured him his position. Actually, the congregation is a fair assessment of his spirituality; they are shaped by him more than any other. “Like priest, like people.”
F r a n k A. V i o l a : The commonly accepted notion of “sola pastora” (single pastor) is at odds with the NT notion of plural, functional elders. The NT knows nothing of a person who stands at the helm of a local assembly, directs its affairs, preaches to it every Sunday, conducts its baptisms, and officiates its Eucharistic services. (Who Is Your Covering?)
Second, the elders. In the New Testament elders gave spiritual oversight to those wanting it. They did not exert authority because they didn’t possess authority. (Officialdom came years later, and that led to the miserable complexities governing Mr. and Mrs. Evangelical.)
Elders are to be more than yes men, supporting the pastor as he governs the church. They are to teach, admonish, encourage, always pointing to the one shepherd, Jesus Christ, not in an official capacity, but simply doing what mature and selfless christians are inclined to do, and what the apostle Peter encouraged them to do in his letters. An elder under a pastor is not under Christ. It is an issue of lordship.
If evangelicals were to remove “official” from their mindset, they would have the mind of the earliest church. The notion of “official” interferes with the (quite official) lordship of Christ as High Priest and “head of the church.”
And now the congregation. Congregations under Paul’s influence would be amazed at our evangelical system, especially after learning evangelicals somehow assume there is similarity. Many think it sinful to not “go to church,” yet no early church person attended church as we know it.
F r a n k A. V i o l a : Throughout the entire Corinthian correspondence, Paul never chastises the elders, nor commends obedience to them. In fact, he doesn’t even mention them! Instead, Paul appeals solely to the saints and reminds them of their responsibility to deal with the church’s own self-inflicted wounds. Paul charges and implored “the brethren” over thirty times in his first epistle to Corinth, and he writes as if no officers exist. (Who Is Your Covering?)
F r a n k A. V i o l a : Ministerial responsibility is never to be closeted among a few. That is why the word adelphoi, translated “brethren”, appears 346 times in the NT and 134 times in Paul’s epistles alone. In most places, this word is Paul’s shorthand way of referring to all the believers in the church, both men and women…. by contrast, “elders”, “overseers”, and “pastors” only appear in Paul’s’ letters five times, four times, and once respectively! (Who Is Your Covering?)
F r a n k A. V i o l a : The stress of the NT, then, is upon corporate responsibility. It is the believing community that is called to organize itself (1Cor. 11:33-34; 14:39-40; 16:2-3); discipline fallen members (1Cor. 5:3-5; 6:1-6); warn the unruly (1Thess. 5:14); comfort the feeble (1Thess. 5:14); support the weak (1Thess. 5:21); abound in the work of the Lord (1Cor. 15:58); admonish one another (Gal. 5:13); bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2); care for one another (1Cor. 12:25); wash one another’s feet (John 13:14); love one another (John 13:34-35; 15:12,17, Rom. 13:8; 1Thess. 4:9); be devoted to one another (Rom. 12:10); show kindness and compassion to one another (Eph. 4:32); edify one another (Rom. 12:19, 1Thess. 5:11b); bear with one another (Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:13); exhort one another (Heb. 3:13; 10:25); incite one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:24); encourage one another (1Thess. 5:11a); pray for one another (Jas. 5:16); offer hospitality to one another (1Pet. 4:9); fellowship with one another (1John 1:7); and confess sins to one another (Jas. 5:16)(Who Is Your Covering?)
The congregation is taught to finance evangelicalism by means of the tithe. The tithe was God’s way of supporting the old covenant system, and many years ago someone decided it should be used to finance the evangelical way, this in spite of the fact there is is no New Testament reinforcement for such a practice. Its pages do not report a single precedent of a new covenant person tithing or prodded to tithe.
This article is supposed to verify the statement, “The truth is, evangelicalism is not true. It just isn’t,” and it seems this has been done adequately. For the reader requiring added convincing, let’s look at one more foundational feature of evangelicalism.
Evangelicalism has been divided into two groups, the ministerial (or clergy) and the laity (laymen). The ministerial of the local church might consist of the senior pastor, associate or assistant pastors, and a youth pastor. (Not even elders are included.) This small group assumes spiritual responsibility over the large group of laymen.
Where are the Scriptural references justifying the very existence of the clergy? There is none. And the laity? Ditto. The words clergy, ministerial and laymen are not in the Bible. The New Testament does not infer a dividing of the local assembly or the universal church into two groups. Such must be a revulsion to the “head of the church,” the Lord Jesus. Ephesians 4:11 seems to be the only premise used to validate the two-tier system. So let’s look at it:
P a u l : And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. (Eph. 4:11)
The logic seems to be since only some are given these administrative gifts, they must have a distinctive status in the body of Christ. This special and salaried group is ordained to do the work of ministry by implementing their administrative gifts, and this faction assumes the role of leadership of the masses.
There is another perspective on Ephesians 4:11 that suggests every believer has been given one of the five administrative gifts. (Read The Way It Is, chapter 3). But how can everyone have a gift when the verse uses the word some four times? Easy.
Vegetarians are having a party. You are told some brought lettuce, some brought carrots, some radishes, and some peppers and celery. Having been thus informed, can you conclude only a few brought one of the five vegetables? You can see that you cannot. It is possible that not all in the group brought a vegetable, and it is equally possible everyone brought something. You can see the use of the word some four times does not verify one way or the other. To know, you need more information.
A study of verses preceding and following verse eleven of Ephesians gives us the required added information, implying all in the body of Christ, and not a few, are included in verse eleven. Such language as “each one” and “the saints” and “we all” and “the whole body” and “every joint supplies” and “every part does its share” strongly suggests everyone has been given one of the five administrative gifts.
J E S U S : He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also. (John 14:12)
Jesus not only did the miraculous, He preached, taught, and discipled. The criterion for all these good works was simply to believe in Him. You can see this is whosoever. Whosoever believes are to preach, teach, disciple.
So that is evangelicalism (briefly) examined. Hopefully it will lead to a deeper study.
Truth may be painful to most, yet it must always be honored, never concealed, freely declared. Evangelicalism is simply not true, it is not Bible, it is a false authority, and its fruit is not plentiful.
A congregation obeying man’s traditions is bowing to man, most certainly not bowing to the Holy Spirit. Unfaithfulness to the Holy Spirit is unfaithfulness to Jesus Christ. And that means Christ is much less than lord. Yes, the real issue is lordship.
C h a l l e n g e : If the group is not going the right way you cannot go with them, no matter how strong the social bonds. Others are influenced by you. As you are an epistle to the unbeliever, so are you to the church. You are a sign.
P r a y e r : Father, sometimes truth hurts. Grace, my Lord, in Jesus’ name. And anoint these words to the degree You want them to impact. May Your hand be upon each and every reader. (And hopefully the reader says, “Amen!”)