Monday, June 22, 2015

Bishops: Diotrophes in the Church

Before I start, I want to mention what a landmark this post is: Post number 300! When I first started this blog, I would never have imagined reaching 300 posts.

And now, to proceed: How many sermons have you ever heard from the Third Epistle of John? If your experience is like mine, not many, if any. In fact, out of my thirty-some years of listening to sermons, I can't recall even one. That's sad, because I think this epistle does have significance for the church today, even as small as it is.

I won't go into the question of authorship here; it isn't within the purview of this post. However, I take it as having been written by the Apostle John, as has been held throughout the history of the church.

In III John 1:9-11, the Apostle tells us, "I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to [welcome them] and puts them out of the church.
Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God."

It is from this passage that the Covenanters got their nickname for the bishops of Charles I, "Diotrophes in the church." They, like John's nemesis here, sought to be first in the church, as do their kin in today's Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican churches.

Jesus also addressed the issue of the lordship of men in the Church of which He alone is Head (Mark 10:42-45): "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."

That is why a Presbyterian church cannot exist without at least two elders. This is what is practiced by Paul in Acts 14:23, and enjoined by him in Titus 1:5 (on which I have commented here). Notice that it says "elders in  every church," plural, not "an elder in every church," or even "in every town," contrary to the diocesan system of the prelatic churches. Notice also the reference to "overseers" in Philippians 1:1. That word translates the Greek work "episkopos," the very word which has come into English as "bishop." The Church at Philippi had a multiplicity of bishops!

And here, I describe the words of the Apostle Peter, the supposed first pope, which forbid the very monarchical bishops which have claimed his name and title. And someone should inform the Vatican that the Apostle Peter that they claim as their source was the married Apostle Peter (Luke 4:38 and I Corinthians 9:5)!

The original Diotrophes thrust himself into a one-man rule over the congregation in III John (we don't know where this congregation was located). In the same way, the Pope and his bishops, along with the others in Eastern Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, have set themselves up as heads over the church, contrary to too many places in Scripture to be an accident. In his first epistle (I Peter 5:1-2), Peter commands the elders to "bishopize" (my own word, to translate "episkopountas") in the church. Thus, not only is it disingenuous for the Church of Rome to claim him as the origin of their church
government, but it is contrary to his very words! It is a self-justification for the papal tyranny over a billion souls, contrary to that attitude of service enjoined by Christ in the passage in Mark cited above.

Is a man saved by presbyterian church government? Of course not. Is he blocked from eternal life by the presence of bishops? Again, no man could say so. But, if Jesus has established a government in His Church, as I think I have proven, then it can only be rank rebellion to persist in ruling, or accepting rule, in that church, contrary to the express will of her Head. That is a serious sin, and cannot be anything but an obstacle to fellowship with that Head, who gave Himself to ransom her (Ephesians 5:25). 

I am concurring here with the Westminster Confession of Faith XXV:6, "There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God..."

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