By Robert Lewis
So much emphasis has been given to the Sovereignty of God and the issue of local church that some folks have gotten the wrong ideas about sovereignty and the local body. Actually the word sovereign is not in the Bible neither is the word “local.” The Bible certainly does teach about a sovereign God and a local church. Using non biblical terms in these matters has led many people to accept a conclusion that is not really harmonious with what the Bible does teach concerning these two monumental truths. There could never be enough preaching and teaching on these two great doctrines. However, there is a subtle aberration that often accompanies these doctrines in churches that are unbalanced in their application. We believe in the sovereignty of God and the infallibility of the preserved Word of God. We applaud all the work that has been done to corroborate these eternal truths. We admire all who spend time, energy, and resources in behalf of holding them high and preaching them straight. When there is so much talk of infallibility and sovereignty, many fall into a pit which allows men to claim for themselves what is rightfully God’s alone. Let me explain. When we say, “The Bible is “infallible and preserved” and “The Lord is Sovereign” and “The church is local,” we rightfully hear boisterous “Amens!” My observation is that there are occasions in which this enthusiasm is carried too far. It is not too far with regards to what is stated, but to what is inferred. Let me explain. Since the Bible is the preserved Word of God, and since the Lord is sovereign, and since the church is local and autonomous, it is but a slippery step to a false conclusion. That false conclusion is that God’s MEN are sovereign, that they are infallible, and not to be questioned in any matter by anyone. Those who take this step usually adopt a policy that says that the local church is sovereign. It is not sovereign. God is sovereign. The church is autonomous (self-governing). Before you accuse me and black list me for these audacious statements please consider the number of corrupt preachers that YOU know who have not been held accountable by their churches nor by their brethren. They just move around and carry their perverted ideas from one church to another spreading spiritual disease and corruption. Sometimes they are also morally corrupt.
Where are the men of God who have the audacity to say, “Thou art the man!. . . “ like God’s prophet, Nathan who exposed KING DAVID to his own corruption?
2Sa 12:7 And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8 And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. 9 Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.
Where are the preachers who like Peter said in Acts 8:20-22, “ Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
Where are the men like Paul who said to a sorcerer who withstood them in their ministry in Acts 13:10 . . . , O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?
When have you heard of a preacher confronting a brother like Paul did when Peter was in error as in Galatians 2:11, “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.”
When I was a protestant, before I was a believer, the re-occurring themes that I heard in Sunday School were, “Do good and Share,” and “Don’t Fight,” and “Support UNICEF.” Our pastor was not confrontational. He did not preach the Bible. He was religious. He had services. He provided “Communion”, but I never heard him say “Ye must be born again” or “Thou shalt not…” His kind of religion did not and does not appeal to me. I never received help for my soul in that environment.
Bible people are at odds with a sin-cursed world. We do believe that the new birth changes lives. We do believe that saved preachers are anointed by God to deliver His message to a world full of sinful people. Our tolerance and compassion for one another has corrupted our own garments. We tolerate men in the ministry who are not qualified to occupy the office of a preacher or a pastor. We look the other way when we see corrupt men leading churches in unrighteousness. We hold our peace for the sake of unity, and let wicked men prosper without raising so much as a finger to the aid of God’s people or offering so much as a question as to their intentions. Make no mistake about it. I am not for having organizational structure which is over the affairs of a local church. I am not in favor of popery or regional officials which control the pastors in their ministries. What I am for is men who will not look the other way when they see corruption and know who is responsible for it. Men who know they are first of all God’s men and not fearful to point out the sin and corruption that ruins ministries and discourages Christians. As long as we continue to look the other way and refrain from holding ourselves accountable to one another, men of corrupt minds and practices will continue to occupy pulpits in our land. We will all suffer reproach for it. We have all referenced scriptures which warn people not to touch God’s anointed and to do His prophets no harm. I wonder if we have carried this too far. I know I am not infallible. I know I need to be accountable to my peers and seniors. I know I have never been a member of a church that was sovereign or capable of being faultless. I am absolutely aware that I have benefited by the wisdom and counsel of members as well as leaders in the churches with which I have been affiliated. I am sure that some men have wrested the scriptures to accommodate their own agenda, not serving the purposes of God nor holding themselves accountable to the churches in which they function. So, if I come to you in love to point out a better way to function or a sin or weakness in your life and ministry, I do it for your good and God’s glory. I would expect the same from you, my friend. I do not believe the man of God is infallible, nor that the church is sovereign. Doing right is a choice. When a man chooses not to do right somebody must speak up, lest the wrong choices of corrupt men become normal, acceptable procedures. God has a protective hedge around His pastors. Evil men with corrupt minds sometimes quote all the scriptural reasons why it is nobody’s business what goes on in their local churches. They use such verses as:
1Ti 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
1Ch 16:22 Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.
They seemingly overlook or neglect such verses as:
1Pe 5:3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
1Ti 5:20-21 Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. 21 I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.
The scriptures they quote are wonderful in their context. What they say is true, but they say it to cover up their own wickedness and hide their unfaithfulness to the Lord. Let us in our own generation take a giant step forward in the matter of accountability to God, and, to One another. Let us be authentic in our desire for revival in the land and practical in the application of the necessary ingredients to procure it. Let us be willing to deny ourselves and our own agendas and seek the Lord with all of our heart in the firm hope that He will look upon us with favor and bless the works of our hands.