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Is Obeying Pastors Obeying God?
By Lin Qiao
Thanks to the Lord’s grace, all my family believed in the Lord. To repay the Lord’s love, I enthusiastically dedicated myself to the Lord, preached the Lord’s gospel, sustained and helped brothers and sisters, thus winning the praise of others. Very soon, I became a co-worker in the church. Pastor He often lived in my house and promised that I would be a focus of his cultivation. Also, he usually read Romans 13:1–2 to me, “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” And then he said to me, “These verses tell us that the powers are predestined by God; we should obey them, otherwise we are resisting God. …” His words sounded well-founded and I thought: According to his words, pastors are ordained of God, and the Lord grants them power, so we believers in the Lord ought to listen to them; obeying pastors is obeying the Lord and only by doing so can we be taken into the heavenly kingdom when the Lord comes again. Hence, if I had anything I couldn’t understand, I would ask for Pastor He’s advice. As time passed by, he became the idol in my heart and I listened to whatever he told me.
On an autumn morning, I went to the church to attend a meeting with co-workers. I heard from Co-worker Gu that Sister Luo and her husband had received a preacher from another place, and that they had even listened to his sermons. That made me startled: Sister Luo and her husband believed in the Lord for so many years. They received brothers and sisters of our church throughout these years and had love. They are true believers in the Lord. But why didn’t they listen to the words of pastors and elders? How could they receive a stranger as they pleased? Pastor Xiao was at my home today, so I had to go back quickly and report this matter to her.
However, before I finished my words, Pastor Xiao got angry and asked me to go with others to Sister Luo’s home right away to drive the preacher out. Then I called Co-worker Tang and Co-worker Li and we immediately got to Sister Luo’s home, but we failed to find the preacher. At that time, Co-worker Tang rebuked Sister Luo. Sister Luo explained herself at once, “That preacher is my nephew. He came over to visit my husband and me. We asked him to stay for several days. He just left today.” Hearing Sister Luo’s words, I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking: It is common for her to receive relatives and listen to her nephew’s sermons. I then went home and told all this to Pastor Xiao. Never had I thought that she said: “Sister Luo didn’t listen to the pastor and received the preacher out of town, she was actually disobeying the pastors, and so she was disobeying God. From now on, don’t let Sister Luo and her husband attend meetings in the church. And inform all brothers and sisters in our church to reject them.” When I did as Pastor Xiao said, I felt very guilty within and thought that it didn’t accord with God’s will to treat Sister Luo and her husband in this way. Because the Lord Jesus taught us, “A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another” (John 13:34–35). The Lord required us to love each other while Pastor Xiao had us reject Sister Luo and her husband. Her act completely went against the words of God, and God’s intention. But when I thought of Romans 13:1, “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers,” I was assured that I should listen to pastors’ words because pastors were those in power in the church at the present time, and disobeying them is violating the orders of the Lord.
One day, I came across Sister Xiaomin whom I hadn’t met for many years. We were very glad at meeting each other, so we chatted as we were walking, and unknowingly, we arrived at Xiaomin’s home. Xiaomin asked me: “Are you still receiving pastors at home? What do they preach about?” Hearing this, I thought: Why not tell her my puzzle and hear her opinions? So, I told all my thoughts to her. Then, Xiaomin smiled, saying: “Previously, I had the same opinion as yours and believed the pastor’s interpretation of these verses, because I thought: All the powers are ordained by God and I ought to obey them. If I resist them, I’m resisting God. Besides, I thought that the pastors in the church are appointed by God, and thus blindly obeyed them. Actually, these verses are the words of Paul; they have no basis in the Lord’s words and, they are not confirmed by the work of the Holy Spirit. No matter in which age God works, people anointed by God are clearly testified by the word of God. Let’s read some verses: ‘He said to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me? He said to him, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him, Feed my sheep. He said to him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, Love you me? And he said to him, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.to him, Feed my sheep’ (Jhn 21:16–17). ‘And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ (Matthew 16:19). We can see from God’s words that Peter was anointed by the Lord Jesus and evidenced by the Lord’s words. After the Lord Jesus resurrected and ascended to heaven, people at the time who obeyed Peter’s leading and shepherding were obeying God. Besides, in the age of Law, Jehovah God called Moses Himself to lead Israelites out of Egypt. At that time, if Israelites obeyed the leadership of Moses, they were obeying God. If not, they were resisting God. Take, for example, the 250 leaders. They disobeyed Moses and as a result, the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up. Then, let us think about the words of these religious pastors. They themselves say that they are established by God and that we ought to obey them; is there God’s word as proof? The majority of them are trained in theological schools and they study theology and the Bible. They become pastors because they have graduate certificates in theology, not because the Holy Spirit personally bore witness to them and used them. So, none of the religious pastors and elders are established by the Lord. I’ve heard that there are even some pastors who don’t believe the Lord Jesus came from conception by the Holy Spirit. They don’t think ‘conception by the Holy Spirit’ has any basis or conforms with science. They are even less likely to admit that Christ is the manifestation of God. If such pastors existed during the time when the Lord Jesus worked, they certainly would not have accepted the Lord Jesus. But we are so foolish. After believing in God, we simply think those who can explain the Bible, who have pastor certificates and gifts, and who hold the title of a pastor or an elder, are selected and established by God. We even think that listening to and obeying pastors and elders is obeying God, and that if we believers in the Lord listen to pastors and elders, we surely can be saved by God. Now we can see this viewpoint is too absurd. When it comes to how to deal with pastors and elders, we should go by the word of the Lord to see whether their words are in accordance with the Lord’s will, whether their words are accompanied by the work of the Holy Spirit. If pastors and elders are people who love the truth and pursue the truth, then they will surely have the work of the Holy Spirit, and be able to lead us to practice and experience God’s words, fear God and depart from evil. Respecting such people accords with God’s intentions! If some pastors don’t love the truth, but only care about explaining their Bible knowledge and theological theories to show themselves off and build themselves up, if they don’t exalt God, bear witness to God, don’t lead us to practice and experience the Lord’s words, and even lead us to the path that betrays the truth and opposes God, then we should stand on the side of God to expose them and reject them. That is truly following and obeying God and satisfying the Lord’s intentions. Therefore, when it comes to how to deal with pastors and elders, we should pursue the truth and understand the Lord’s intentions. We cannot blindly treat them according to our conceptions and imaginations. Or we’ll easily regard following and obeying man as following God and obeying God. In that case, it will be hard for us to succeed in believing in God.” Hearing Xiaomin’s fellowship, I felt much brightened. I nodded and said: “Indeed. Over these years, I saw these pastors coming to my home believed in the Lord yet didn’t practice according to the Lord’s word. Pastor Xiao expelled Sister Luo and her husband from the church just because their nephew, a believer in the Lord, came to visit them and fellowshiped the words of the Lord with them. Pastor Xiao even asked all brothers and sisters in the church to reject them. I knew Pastor Xiao’s deeds were against the Lord’s word, but I dared not speak out and even blindly followed her whatever she said. I wasn’t obeying the Lord at all!”
Xiaomin said patiently: “We blindly obeyed them because we didn’t understand the truth, and had no discernment of pastors and elders. About this question, let’s read a passage of God’s word: ‘Pastors and leaders in the religious world, for example, rely on their gifts and positions to do their work. People who follow them for a long time will be infected by their gifts and be influenced by some of what they are. They focus on people’s gifts, abilities and knowledge, and they pay attention to some supernatural things and many profound unrealistic doctrines (of course, these profound doctrines are unattainable). They do not focus on changes to people’s disposition, but rather they focus on training people’s preaching and working abilities, improving people’s knowledge and rich religious doctrines. They do not focus on how much people’s disposition is changed or how much people understand the truth. They do not concern themselves with the substance of people, much less try to know people’s normal and abnormal states. They do not counter people’s notions or reveal their notions, much less mend their deficiencies or corruptions. Most of the people who follow them serve by their natural gifts, and what they express is knowledge and vague religious truth, which are out of touch with reality and are completely unable to confer people with life.’ God’s word exposes the substance of the religious pastors. They all rely on their status, gifts, and theological knowledge to do the work. They speak some biblical letters and doctrines and knowledge for us to keep, and use them to deceive us and mislead us. And they never exalt the Lord, or bear witness to God, or ponder on the Lord’s word, nor do they practice according to the Lord’s word, and their real life is divorced from the Lord’s word. However, we foolish and ignorant people continue to worship their gifts and their theological theories, and whatever things we met with, we don’t seek the Lord’s intention but only know to ask the pastors for their advice; whatever we do, we do it according to the pastor’s words. Ouris like that of the Israelites who follow the Pharisees. They believed in God not based on God’s word, but on the word of man. They merely listened to the word of man in all things, and worshiped status and power: They thought that scribes and the chief priests had authority, so, they listened to and obey scribes and the chief priests in all things and thought that obeying them was obeying God. Yet they never sought whether the word of scribes and the chief priests accorded with the truth or God’s will, but only followed them blindly. When the Lord became flesh and came to do the redemption work, the scribes and chief priests didn’t accept His work, and nor did these Israelites; how the scribes and chief priests fabricated rumors and slandered His work, Israelites went along with them; how the scribes and chief priests condemned and blasphemed the Lord Jesus, Israelites followed them. Although the Israelites also saw the Lord Jesus were capable of performing signs and wonders, healing the sick and casting out demons, raising men from the dead, yet because the Lord Jesus was too ordinary and common in His outward appearance, and didn’t have power or status among men, they followed the chief priest and scribes to deny, attack, and blaspheme the Lord Jesus by saying that the Lord Jesus was driving out demons by the prince of demons, and thus they rejected the Lord Jesus. However, Peter and the other apostles believed in God in a different way. They did everything based on the Lord’s word, regarding it as their mottos, and no matter in what environment, they didn’t deny God. Just as Acts 5:28–29 recorded, ‘Did not we straightly command you that you should not teach in this name? and, behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood on us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.’ From the verses, we can see Peter and the other apostles disobeyed man but obeyed the Lord.”
Hearing God’s word and Xiaomin’s fellowship, I realized that over the many years of believing the Lord, I had a muddled faith in the Lord. I didn’t pay attention to the Lord’s word, but only worshiped pastors’ gifts, their ability of explaining Bible knowledge, and I even put in my mind Pastor He’s word “The powers are ordained by God. Resisting them is resisting God.” Only then did I realize: Even Pastor He and others themselves cannot differentiate Paul’s word from the Lord Jesus’ word, despite the fact that they are familiar with the Bible and often explain the Bible to people, then how can I know the Lord and enter into the kingdom of heaven by following them? I was really blind and ignorant, completely deceived by their gifts. Furthermore, I also understood: Pastor He’s purpose in saying that he would train me in working and preaching for the Lord was actually to bring me before him, to make me listen to his words and obey him. As a result, I practiced according to his words over these years of believing God. I knew clearly that these pastors didn’t practice the word of the Lord, but I didn’t seek the Lord’s intention, and blindly obeyed them. I was just like the Israelites who followed the Pharisees: I didn’t have any discernment of the pastors at all; nominally, I believed the Lord while in reality I was resisting the Lord! Today, it was the mercy of the Lord that allowed me to meet up with Xiaomin, whose fellowship about how to discern the substance of pastors had resolved the confusions I had had for years. Then, I said with emotion: “Xiaomin, your fellowship today is too beneficial to me, making me have some discernment of the pastors. From now on, I should not blindly listen to the pastors. So much thanks to the Lord. Now I know that since we believe in the Lord, we ought to practice according to the Lord’s word, and pursue to be ones who obey the Lord.”
Sister Xiaomin also fellowshiped the truth for me about what obeying God and following God was, and what obeying man and following man was. She said to me: “About this aspect of truth I understand too little. Let’s have a look at a passage of God’s word.” I agreed joyfully. God’s words say, “Of principal importance in following God is that everything should be according to the words of God today: Whether you are pursuing entry into life or the fulfillment of God’s will, everything should be centered around the words of God today. If what you commune and pursue are not centered around the words of God today, then you are a stranger to the words of God, and totally bereft of the work of the Holy Spirit. … Those who can follow the present work of the Holy Spirit, and who are able to follow the footsteps of God, such that they follow God wherever He leads them—these are people who are blessed by God. Those who do not follow the present work of the Holy Spirit have not entered into the work of God’s words, and no matter how much they work, or how great their suffering, or how much they run about, none of it means anything to God, and He will not commend them. … ‘Following the work of the Holy Spirit’ means understanding the will of God today, being able to act in accordance with the present requirements of God, being able to obey and follow the God of today, and entering in accordance with the newest utterances of God. Only this is someone who follows the work of the Holy Spirit and is in the stream of the Holy Spirit. Such people are not only capable of receiving God’s praise and seeing God, but can also know God’s disposition from the latest work of God, and can know man’s conceptions and disobedience, and man’s nature and substance, from His latest work; furthermore, they are able to gradually achieve changes in their disposition during their service. Only people such as this are those who are able to gain God, and who have genuinely found the true way.” Sister Xiaomin fellowshiped: “It can be seen from these words that following God primarily refers to following God’s present work, submitting to and practicing the words of God today, being able to uphold God’s commandments, seeking out God’s intentions in all matters, putting things into practice in accordance with God’s word, and absolutely submitting to the work and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Finally, it refers to becoming a person who practices the truth and follows God’s will; only by doing these things can someone be said to follow God and be someone who gains God’s salvation. If we outwardly base our faith on the Bible and exalt the Bible, but in reality we practice and experience everything according to the teachings of man, instead of submitting to and practicing the words of God or grasping God’s intentions and if we only adhere to religious ceremonies and rules, this is following man. If we follow and practice the word of people as if it was the word of God, yet consider the Lord Jesus a mere figurehead and ignore the word of the Lord and don’t abide by His commandments, then we will surely be spurned and cursed by the Lord Jesus, just like the hypocritical Pharisees. There are many people who have faith in the Lord, yet they also maintain blind faith in spiritual celebrities or pastors and elders and they worship the hypocritical Pharisees. Whatever befalls them they don’tto seek His will, but rather run to the pastors and elders to seek guidance and they do the same when it comes to studying the true way. If the pastors don’t let them seek and accept, they will not accept regardless of how much what others say conforms to truth. The result is that these people are deceived and misled by the hypocritical Pharisees and religious leaders and that they start down the path toward resisting God; these are the consequences and conclusions for following man instead of God. Just as the Lord Jesus said, ‘And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch’ (Mat 15:14). The only way to truly follow God is to solely base our faith on following closely the work of the Holy Spirit, accepting and obeying the word of God today, and giving our utmost effort to fulfill the duties. People who truly follow and submit to God will never be abandoned by Him. Those who stubbornly worship religious pastors and elders are submitting to man and have become followers of man. These people will be revealed by God’s work in the last days and they shall be eliminated and cast aside.”
Through the words Sister Xiaomin read and her fellowship, I understood more clearly about this aspect of the truth. The key for us believers in God to be saved by God is to follow God’s present work, to practice obeying the words of the Lord, and removed man’s place within our heart. In the process of working for the Lord, we should put aside our own notions and imaginations, take the Lord’s words as norm in everything, strictly obey the Lord’s commandments, and perform our duty properly. Only in this way can we walk in the right way of believing God and gain the beautiful promises God gives us. Thank God, I’m willing to correct my previous absurd viewpoints, and strive hard to cooperate with the Lord in pursuing the truth and obeying the work of the Holy Spirit.
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