Jesus is the only true head of the Christian Church, the only true Shepherd. He is the only one who is preeminent over the Church; both the worldwide universal Church and the local individual groups that gather together. Jesus, in full command, was how the Church functioned for the first 300 years since its inception at Pentecost. Christians did not have a complete and widely available Bible for most of those 300 years; there were no seminaries, Bible colleges, or processes for certification; it was a time of varied persecution, often extremely brutal. Yet, that is the church that drastically changed the culture of the Roman Empire and which rapidly spread the gospel throughout the far reaches of the Western world and beyond.
Then, extreme Biblical warnings went unheeded, crippling the church for the past 1,600 years. Thieves and robbers did not enter the sheepfold by the door, which was Jesus, but found ways to climb into the sheepfold in order to usurp the preeminence of Christ. The result was catastrophic. Many tried to hold back the damage, and many were martyred. Martin Luther, in 1517 helped hold back some of the deterioration, but the thieves and robbers were too entrenched. The various attempts at reformation merely put out brush fires here and there, but the root of the conflagrations blazed onward.
Prior to the birth of the church, Peter gave us a glimpse into what Jesus thinks of those who attempt to usurp his preeminence. Jesus had just praised Peter for his declaration “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Shortly thereafter, Peter was rebuking Jesus for telling them he would soon be killed. Peter brazenly told Jesus: “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” Immediately Jesus lashed out telling Peter to “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”
Through the ages, so many millions of professed believers, for what they believe are for all the right reasons, have ended up being thieves and robbers, usurping the preeminence of Jesus by leading his sheep to what they believe is a better way. To them, Jesus has been saying for the past 1,600 years: “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”
The Apostle John clearly identified this infectious problem when he wrote about dealing with Diotrephes who was usurping Christ’s preeminence in one of the local churches. At this time, the early church was well on its way, the churches were growing in number, and the temptation to steal Christ’s sheep was extremely alluring. John said he would personally deal with this issue of preeminence and the historical evidence indicates John was not only successful with Diotrephes but his actions most likely rippled throughout the churches in that early church period.
This early church demonstrated the proper format. A format where everyone is equal, and everyone has a platform. Jesus lovingly molded his church into a culture that nurtured one another into a close and loving family beyond one’s own kin. Today, you can sit in a church with over a thousand people and know hardly anyone. It ends up being a cold sterile environment devoid of any true fellowship. This blog will look at the psychological and sociological framework for understanding the damage incurred by ecclesiastical suppression. Then, it will provide guidance from God’s word, as the foundation for a reformation call that can transform the church into the original powerful force God designed. For all who are challenged to help fix this brokenness, this blog will help provide a pathway for a 21st century church reformation.