The Freedom Papers No. 3: The Apostle Paul – Language of a Godly Leader (part A)

ApostlePaul-FreedomPaper

In loving memory of Pamela Birks: her faithful, unflinching life-long service to the Lord as a faithful minister of the Gospel at home and abroad.

I intend to show here that the Apostle Paul, by his language, life and teachings was a godly leader. Paul imitated Jesus. Jesus displayed the same attitude of leadership and practised it. This was often in the face of abusive controlling dominant male leadership.

The attitude of Leadership taught by Jesus and Paul

Jesus was despised by the Jewish religious hierarchy because his teachings went against their doctrine of one-upmanship. This is the practice of gaining an advantage or feeling of superiority over others. In Paul’s day, it was the same. Then the Christian Jews refused to listen to his teachings.

These Jews are sometimes referred to as ‘Judaisers’. 1 Today, the same attitude still prevails in the church. Aside from attitude, the problem of today’s translation of Greek to English compounds this problem further. Many recognised commentators bolster this by continuing to mistranslate certain words in relation to leadership.

Biased Translation

These lead to the misuse of certain terms ascribed to Christian governance. The main goal of this paper then is to draw the reader’s attention to these mistranslations in relation to leadership. It is imperative we give the correct meaning of Paul’s original language used. To do this I use Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. 2

An example of this work of dishonest commentating on Christian leadership is Matthew Henry. Henry is best known for his six-volume biblical commentary Exposition of the Old and New Testaments. He lived 18 October 1662 – 22 June 1714. Although written around 300 years ago, Henry’s work has never abated.

It is still used and identifiable in the biased thinking today of Christian men’s superiority in particular over their sisters in Christ. They believe men have been, from the beginning, ordained by God to be in a superior role over women. 3 This supports them in their misogynist stance.

Is it due to past limited understanding regards women and men’s roles?

It also contributes towards the prominent role men take in leadership in the church and home. The role of ‘submission’ (read ‘subjection’) is expected only of Christian women.

We may say, wanting to be fair, this bias then was due to the limited understanding they then had about men and women. Therefore it came about as a result of it being embedded in their culture. However, it does not explain why the same attitudes prevail today.

This being the case, it is time for a change.

As members of the same body, we have the right to call on church leaders and those who support them to change their high-mindedness and ways of leadership. In a way, it is moralising about woman.

This is not anything new. It is also said here in light of the abundance of resources available to church leaders and bible teachers. There is a growing body of Christians teaching the same thing I am saying here.

The fall-out

Today, despite this problem, ordinary women and men are generally educated enough to do their own research. We can make up our own minds. Many of course have and as a result, have left the church. I am one of them.

In light of this fallout, and the overwhelming Christian public response to this, it now appears that those who continue in it are not ignorant. Instead, they are doing so because it works to their advantage. To put it simply they are dishonest.

If not now, when? If not us, who?

I, therefore, believe it is time for all of us to take our responsibility and expose them. There is no reason as members of the body of Christ why we cannot confront them privately and publicly, in the church and on the web. Confront them in every way possible in their deception.

It is imperative that we work with revealed truth. For women especially, spiritual ‘life and death’ are in the power of the language. It is the language that is used to reinforce their position.

Jesus’ example

In the Gospel of Matthew, we hear Jesus’ revealed truth in this regard when teaching on leadership.

‘But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘you know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many’. (Mt 20: 25-28).

To recap,

The individual and co-operative dominant style of leadership in the church and the wider Christian community is toxic. This is especially so to the role of discipleship. Jesus’ teachings on humility and laying down one’s life, as did Paul’s turned the pagan gentile Greco Roman view of hierarchical subservience upside down.

Jesus and Paul following him in the same spirit as is taught in the Hebrew scriptures taught genuine kingdom greatness is not achieved through rank, position, leadership roles, titles, or family dynasties. Those who love the pre-eminence will have difficulty accepting such teaching.

Rather, they prefer to control and dominate others. They are in Paul’s words to Titus’ words, 4 fleshly, greedy and lustful. They are dishonest. In my experience, they are bullies and moralisers whose mouths must be stopped. We all have our part to play in this to see the church renewed.

Hope to meet up again with you next week: The way the Apostle Paul thought of himself.


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