Self-elevated little popes!

A gem from A. W. Pink:

Self-elevated little popes!

(Arthur Pink, “Private Judgment” 1950)

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.” Matthew 23:8

In every generation, there are those of an officious spirit who aspire to leadership, demanding deference from their fellows. Such men insist upon unqualified subjection from their followers. Their interpretation of the Scriptures must not be challenged, their dictates are final. Everyone must believe precisely what they teach, and order all the details of his life by the rules of conduct which they prescribe–or else be branded as a heretic.

There have been, and still are, many such self-elevated little popes in Christendom, who deem themselves to be entitled to implicit credence and obedience, whose decisions must be accepted without question. They are nothing but arrogant usurpers, for Christ alone is the Master of Christians; and since all of His disciples are “brethren,” they possess equal rights and privileges.

“Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father–He who is in Heaven.” Matthew 23:9. This dehortation has ever been needed by God’s people, for they are the most part simple and unsophisticated, trustful and easily imposed upon. In those verses, the Lord Jesus was enforcing the duty of private judgment, bidding believers to allow none to be the dictators of their faith, or lords of their lives.

No man is to be heeded in spiritual matters, any further than he can produce a plain and decisive, “Thus says the LORD” as the foundation of his appeal. To be in subjection to any ecclesiastical authority which is not warranted by Holy Writ, or to comply with the whims of men–is to renounce your Christian freedom. Allow none to have dominion over your mind and conscience. Be regulated only by the teaching of God’s Word, and firmly refuse to be brought into bondage to “the commandments and doctrines of men.” Instead, “Stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made us free,” yielding unreservedly to His authority alone.

God does not require the minds and consciences of His children to be enslaved by any ecclesiastical dominion. Each one has the right to exercise his own judgment.

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care . . . not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:2-3. Instead of lording it over God’s heritage, preachers are to be “examples to the flock”–personal patterns of good works, holiness, and self-sacrifice; models of piety, humility, and charity.

Love of power has been as common a sin in the pulpit, as love of money, and many of the worst evils which have befallen Christendom, have issued from a lusting after dominion and ecclesiastical honors. Such is poor human nature, that good men find it hard to keep from being puffed up and misusing any measure of authority when it is committed unto them, and from not doing more harm than good with the same. Pastors are to make self-abnegation, and not self-exaltation, their constant aim.

The right of private judgment does not mean that each Christian may be a law unto himself, and still less lord over himself. We must beware of allowing liberty to degenerate into license! No, it means the right to form our own views from Scriptures, to be in bondage to no ecclesiastical authority, and to be subject unto God alone. Two extremes are to be guarded against:
1. slavery to human authority and tradition, and
2. the spirit of self-will and pride.

Private judgment does not mean private imagination, but a deliberate conviction based on Holy Writ! Though I must not resign my mind and conscience to others, or deliver my reason and faith over blindfold to any church–yet I ought to be very slow in rejecting the approved judgment of God’s true servants. Self-conceit is to be rigidly restrained. Private judgment is to be exercised humbly, soberly, and impartially, with a willingness to receive light from any quarter.

Ponder the Word for yourself; but mortify the spirit of haughty self-sufficiency, and be ready to avail yourself of anything likely to afford you a better understanding of God’s truth. Above all, daily beg the Holy Spirit to be your teacher! And always accord your brethren the same right and privilege, which you claim for yourself.


16 thoughts on “Self-elevated little popes!

  1. Thank you Manfred! I appreciate AW’s clear picture of 95% of Amerikkan Churchianity…
    What a joy you must have attending the gathering of the called out ones with a servant like Voddie! (Is it OK to be just a wee bit jealous of you for that and the best avitar on the blogosphere?)

    By the way, I watched the VP debate and Biden reminded me of the Jack Nicholson character in that movie where he shows up and says, “Here’s Jonney!” Oh and poor Ryan had to deal with being interrupted, like 100 times between Biden and Raddits…

    And to think he is a heartbreat away from “Commander and Thief!”


  2. Mickey,

    Yup – most churches are off the rails on many areas. I travel with Voddie, since I took a generous retirement buy-out from HP. He is a humble pastor who is not defensive.

    Biden also reminds me of Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Shining” – and the Joker in the Batman movies 🙂 Can’t stand to watch politics – too close to the edge of what grabs my sinful flesh.


  3. Yes, that is the movie’s name. I never saw it, just pieces elsewhere. Never saw batman either. Last movie of Nicholson’s I’ve seen is Cookoo’s nest. But that had no characters as insane as Biden looked last night…

    Voddie for President in 2016! VP Mighty Mouse…”Here I come to save the day!!”


  4. Getting back on topic here, I agree with Manfred on this topic of miss use of authority in the pulpet
    I think such men have low self esteme and need to agrandize themselve to feel they are in control, to the point that only they are right. Setting themselves as all knowing ie. God. He expects total obedience. accepting his word to be law and not to be questioned. People in general need to watch out for anyone who does that in a leadership copacity. It might be political, in the church, school, bbuisness, and even in the home. We can’t allow this kind of behavior to rule over us. Our freedom as Americans is to have free speech. We should be able to question. I am not a Catholic, so I don’t know what restriction one has as a member of the church. In our Bible, God encourages us to ask questions

    Others who responded, discussed the debate. I don’t want to see a socialist getting into office. He is great at promises, but terrible with actions. It seems that he will say anything to get our vote, with no intentions of following through with most of the promises. He is like a false teacher. That
    worries me a lot. I plan instead to vote for two men who are very experienced in buisness. That is what we need to turn this country around economically. Obviously there will have to be some sacrifices along the way. We need a stable government who is not in debt with other powers.


  5. Three thoughts:
    1. While I appreciate Pink greatly, and strongly agree with his article, he misuses Galatians 5:1, “Stand fast in the liberty….” This is referring to bondage to the Law.
    2. 2 Cor 1:24 “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.” If Paul wouldn’t exercise dominion over their faith, I don’t think I’m qualified as a pastor to do so, either.
    3. Pastors / elders DO have responsibility / authority to enforce the teaching of right doctrine and see that things are done “decently and in order” within the church. The latter may often involve establishing guidelines / policies >within the church< which are not necessarily commanded by Scripture. This should not be done in a "lording it over" manner, but it is an appropriate use of authority. This may be decisions as important as deciding who teaches when, or as mundane as setting the times of deacons' meetings, but someone has to make a decision as to when that will be….


  6. Jon,

    Many thanks for your thoughtful comment.
    1. Paul and Pink were referring to the bondage of law that men are inclined to impose on one another. In Paul’s day, it was Jews; in Pink’s day it was Rome and those who follow her model. Christ gave us liberty from the wages of sin and from the unlawful spiritual bondage of man.
    2. “Dominion” is not quite the right word to describe the proper authority Paul or a pastor is to exercise. Both Apostle and pastor have authority, though differing in scope and reach. Since we no longer need or have Apostles, the position of elder/teacher/pastor is the highest spiritual office on Earth and does have certain authority and service responsibilities. Individual Christians also have responsibility to submit to their elders as unto the Lord, holding these men in high regard and to high standards.
    3. Amen and no further comment 🙂

    Blessings in Christ, my brother – press on for the glory of our God and the good of His people.


  7. Manfred, re: #1. Fair point. Perhaps we could say that Galatians 5:1 is not really talking about bondage to “self-elevated little popes,” but that the principle it teaches applies to that problem.

    Re #2, I agree.

    Lord bless.


  8. “I agree with Manfred on this topic of miss use of authority in the pulpet”

    What is interesting is that the puplit has no authority whatsoever, it is to many protestants what religious icons are to the greek orthodox. -Jim


  9. “Perhaps if we would think of Pastor/Shepherd as a gift rather than a position”

    That is a very good point too, if we want to really have honest discussion about the church we need to first define what the church is. First lesson is that it is not a building or an organization. Jesus said it was called out people who were all brethren, and so should not call people by religious titles. Of course that does not nullify brethren who are recognized, qualified, and called as elders/pastors too that are worthy of double honor. This is in the context of real relationships and shared life, not religious constructs. Sadly today though we are talking about an office (a religious construct of rome and king james) and a made up position of senior pastor. This along with the teaching that all other gifts have ceased besides teaching makes an honest conversation almost impossible.


  10. Deirdre – Amen! Those who are called to serve in the local church as elders/teachers/pastors are gifts from God. This article rebukes those self-elevated little popes, who were not called by God nor tested by others called by God and established and tested. These self promoters are a plague on the church.


  11. Reading this, I couldn’t help but think of the seeker-friendly Purpose Driven pastors that are on every corner in the U.S. Whenever any of their methodology or interpretation is questioned, those holding them accountable to Scripture are shown the door under the excuse of “unity” and “growth”.
    Some talk about politics in the comments here, and I have to be honest – the wicked politicians and lies aren’t nearly as scary to me as the insidious man-focused preaching I see in the neighborhood church. The bad politics lead us to slavery, but the bad preaching leads us to Hell.


  12. +1 ChurchSalt. even those who are not aligned with Rick Warren are often popes, such as Ed Young, Sr. in Houston. “Unity and growth” are their mantra and lead to nothing worth having.


  13. Great read. Thanks for posting it. I love me some Arthur Pink! I was made aware of this page by a man from my church who sent me an email with the link and honored me with the following statement:

    “Ran across this article written by Pink. I send this as a compliment as to what you are not. You are not an authoritarian self made little pope. Quite the opposite. Sadly I think you are in a shrinking minority these days.” Simultaneously a wonderful compliment to me and a saddening commentary of the modern church at large.

    I pastor a small church in Boise. I do not allow people to call me “pastor” or “reverend” or “minister” as part of my name (“Pastor Scott” or “Reverend Guinn”), because I do not want any inkling of the pedestal mentality Pink speaks about–I’m just “Scott.” I take very seriously the mandates of Scripture that “Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). “Pastor” means “shepherd,” and really “under-shepherd” at that, with Christ as the Chief shepherd. And He showed us what Christian leadership and shepherding are all about–SERVANT leadership, not dictatorial flexing and “royal primping.”

    Earlier today my church gave me a basket of cards and goodies in honor of pastor appreciation month. I’m certainly thankful for that. But personally, I think more pastors would be better served by showing their appreciation for their flocks.

    In HIM>



  14. Always a joy to hear of humble, devoted servants of our Lord who rightly understand their call to shepherd the flock God has placed under their care. Press on, my brother Scott! I shiver for ya, as it’s sunny and 83 in Houston as I type this 🙂


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