THE CLERICAL ERROR
There are many things that we do in the Church of Jesus Christ today which are very seldom questioned. Somehow we think that how we practice "church" doesn't really matter to God. Or perhaps we believe that it does matter to God, but that we are practicing our faith fairly closely to the way it was meant to be. How could we ever believe that after reading the New Testament? It would take a blind man not to see the tremendous difference between the first century church and the church of today! I think that most of us can see it, so I don't think that denial is the problem.
After talking to many believers about this in many different churches, I am convinced that we have actually talked ourselves into believing that the modern condition of the church is the way it's supposed to be. The reasoning goes something like this; times have changed, people have changed, and cultures are different. In order for the church to be relevant to society, it must change along with it. We must fit into our culture. We can't use the New Testament church as our model because that was two thousand years ago and we are in a different time and place.
The whole problem behind this reasoning, however, is that it is based upon man's philosophy and not on the Word of God. The Bible tells us not to lean upon our own understanding but to trust God (Proverbs 3:5, 6). You see, God is not only concerned about what we believe, but also what we do! Jesus said that the man who hears His word and does not do it is like a man who builds his house upon the sand (Matthew 7:26). What we do is very important to God! This includes how we practice "church."
We were never supposed to allow the world (culture or society) to call the shots for the church! In fact, the two should be in direct conflict with each other! Take a look at what the Word of God says and then decide for yourself.
"I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." John 17:14
"Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." John 18:36
"You are the salt of the earth . . ." Matthew 5:13
"It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!" Matthew 10:25
"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword." Matthew 10:34
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he woo does the will of God abides forever." I John 2:15-17
"And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one." I John 5:19
It should be painfully clear by now that we are not to bring anything from the world system into the church! The church is the temple of the Holy Ghost. It is to be a holy and pure vessel for God's use without any contamination from the world whatsoever. Unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened since around the third century. Many of the concepts, structures and systems of the world were brought into the church. The point of this paper is to discuss one of those; the clergy/laity system.
The clergy/laity concept and practice is one of those things that we never really stop to question. Is the concept of a professional clergy founded upon the scriptures? Where did this come from? Is there a 'caste' system within Christianity? Is it God's plan to send a man away to a seminary for four years, license and ordain him, and then pay him a salary to be the "pastor" of a church? If there are professional Christians then doesn't it stand to reason that there would be amateur ones as well? Are there some people who are called to be professional ministers and the rest of us are 'laymen' (der. = people who just 'lay' around)? Are not these questions crying out to you to be answered? They certainly were to me. I felt compelled to study these things in the scriptures as well as in church history. I needed some answers, and only the truth would satisfy me!
This is a subject which is far too vast for us to cover completely in this small paper. Therefore, I will cover some of the main points as best as I can. I propose to show you from the word of God that this clergy/laity system is not only absent from the New Testament, but also that it is in direct conflict with the principles taught thereof. Please open your spiritual eyes and ears to receive the truth!
ORIGIN OF THE CLERGY
First we need to ask ourselves: where did the professional clergy system come from? Did it originate with God in the bible or with man in the world system? Therefore, the most obvious question to ask first is: does the New Testament teach and establish a professional order of ministers who are set aside to do the work of the ministry such as preaching and teaching, baptisms, ordination of other ministers, the Lord's Supper, weddings, funerals, counseling, and such? Does it begin a professional class of pastors who are university or seminary trained and licensed? Did a New Testament church ever hire on any of these men and pay them a salary to be the 'Minister' for their congregation? The answer to all of these questions is without a doubt a big "N O ! ! !" You will not find any of these things in the New Testament scriptures. In fact, the early church would never even have entertained the thought of such a thing as the clergy/laity set up. Their concept of 'church' was totally to be a ministering body where all the members functioned (see I Corinthians 12). The idea of just one group of people doing all the ministry would have been preposterous! Even one of the greatest apostles of all time made tents for a living when necessary! Not only that, but most of the apostles were untrained and uneducated men as far as this would is concerned (see Acts 4:13). But they had spent time with Jesus!
So if the clerical, religious system did not originate from the New Testament, where did it come from? Some say that it actually came from the Old Testament. They say that the Levitical priesthood of Aaron and his sons was a prophetic forerunner of the modern day professional clergy. There are two major problems with this theory. First of all, any Old Testament shadows or types will always have a counterpart of fulfillment in the New Testament. This is not the case with the priesthood; at least not the way that we commonly think of when we refer to the ministerial profession. Remember, you must always interpret the Old Testament with the New, not the other way around. To understand the fulfillment of the Levitical priesthood, one must see it in the light of what the New Testament has to say about the priesthood. Actually the New Testament has a lot to say about the priesthood, but it is not to establish an elite separatist class of Christians who are called Pastor, Minister, Parson, Chaplain, Father, Bishop, Reverend, or doctor. Let's take a look at some of these scriptures.
"Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law." Hebrews 7:11, 12
"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second." Hebrews 8:6, 7
part of the covenant . . .
"None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord', for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them." Hebrews 8:11
". . . you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." I Peter 2:5
"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." I Peter 2:9