Then He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out and it was restored, as sound as the other.
Satan hates the Church. The gates of Hades always seek to prevail against the Church, for it lies deep in the heart of God as His primary vessel to glorify Himself (Math. 16:18-19; Eph. 3:21). In order to attack the Church, Satan brings in persecution, degradation, and idolatry.
Satan persecutes the Church by harming the many members or frustrating the whole Body via the governing authorities of the world. Satan degrades the Church by adding leaven (worldliness), heresies, division, and religion from within the Body. Satan makes the Church idolatrous by adding things that function to replace Christ as the unique head of the Body and replaces the Spirit as the unique One through whom we may know and experience God.
Many things have occurred over the past two millennia, instigated by Satan, for the degradation and destruction of the Church. However, praise the Lord, God is in the process of bringing the enemy to shame, exposing and destroying all of his works (1 Jn. 3:8).
I would like to discuss one of these works of the devil: the clergy-laity system.
God’s Original Intention
And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel.
God desires a kingdom of priests. He desires a group of people who are under His heavenly ruling, functioning as those who would offer up sacrifices to please Himself. Unfortunately, Israel failed at mount Sinai, worshiping the golden calf and forsaking the intention of God. Only the tribe of Levi remained faithful and true:
‘Whoever is for Jehovah, come to me.’ And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves to him.
Due to their faithfulness to God and His calling, the Levites became the sole priests of God (Deut. 33:8-11). This was a deviation from God’s original intent.
Recovered with the Church
You yourselves also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house into a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
And made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be the glory and the might forever and ever. Amen.
-1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 1:6
Through the Church, God was able to fulfill His desire to have a kingdom of priests as revealed in Exodus 19. All New Testament believers are priests to God, accessing Him through the sole mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5).
God, in the Church, has an entity in which all members have a certain measure and function (Eph. 4:7). Through the Church, His heart’s desire can be fulfilled and the many members can glorify Him through their offering of the Christ that has been allotted to them.
The Works of the Nicolaitans
But this you have, that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
“Nicolaitan” is made up of two Greek words: nikos and laos. Nikos means victory, as the result of a conquest. Laos means a people or crowd. The Nicolaitans were those who sought after a victory or conquest of the peoples, crowd, or laity. They taught and lorded over the rest of the believers, eventually resulting in the clergy-laity system of Roman Catholicism.
The Catholics took the Jewish system of priestly hierarchy as their own, forsaking God’s desire, Christ’s headship, and the Spirit’s fellowship with each individual member. Man, supposedly, must come to a priest or one of the dead saints in order to come in contact with Christ and eventually God. The evil works of the Nicolaitans must be rejected and hated by us.
The Protestants saw the heresy of the papal system, however, the reaction didn’t go far enough. The priestly system simply became the clerical system of the state churches. The independent groups saw the error in this, yet they only transitioned to the pastoral system most evangelicals are familiar with today.
Though the mediatory function of the Catholic system was abolished, there lacked a recovery of the functioning of each one part that God originally desired. The Lord desires to restore every part, typified by the man’s hand in Matthew 12, to a full function.
The Recovery of the Functioning of Each One Part
Out from whom all the Body, being joined together and being knit together through every joint of the rich supply and through the operation in the measure of each one part, causes the growth of the Body unto the building up of itself in love.
The Body is built through the operation of the measure of each one part. While I don’t criticize the intention or the functioning of the many supposed pastors in Christianity today, I do strongly oppose the pastoral system. In effect, it annuls the functioning of the many members, glorifying one man who is functioning far outside of his measure.
The early church had no pastors doing all the speaking in their meetings:
What then, brothers? Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for the building up.
-1 Corinthians 14:26
When the early church met, each one had something to contribute or bring to the meeting. It was just like the Old Testament feast where each Israelite brought a portion of food (Deut. 16:1-17).
The Gifted Members
And He Himself gave some as apostles and some as prophets and some as evangelists and some as shepherds and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints unto the work of the ministry, unto the building up of the Body of Christ
This verse is the only verse in the entire New Testament where a word appears that has the potential to be translated “pastor.” The best translation is “shepherd.” There certainly is a function of pastoring among the churches, yet that function primarily included caring for the saints souls and teaching them.
All of the gifts given to the body here, the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, are for the perfecting of the saints. This means that their job is to perfect the other, less gifted members, into their function. By this perfecting work, the saints (not the gifted members) do the work of the ministry and build up the Body of Christ.
May the Lord have such a group of people on the earth today who would be for the functioning of each one part unto the work of the ministry, unto the building up of the Body of Christ!