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Self-Appointed Teachers Are Dangerous

Within the New Testament, the Apostle Paul wrote three pastoral letters (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus) to his appointed leaders encouraging and teaching them how to continue the work of ministry that he himself began in areas such as Ephesus. Contained within these letters are reminders, charges, and instructions from an aging Paul on how to continue building upon the foundation laid by Jesus and the Apostles for the health of the church. Shortly following Paul’s opening in 1 Timothy, Paul brings forth an important reminder to Timothy concerning those who would insist on being teachers yet having never been appointed.

3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”
(1 Timothy 1:3-7 ESV)

Here we see that Paul speaks to his spiritual son Timothy about the dangers of those who would push their charges contrary to Paul and Timothy’s charge of love and it sure does sound very similar to what we’ve been seeing within the pronominan/Messianic movement in the past ten years or so. What I hope to do here is explain why this warning given to Timothy two thousand years ago has become even more relevant today than ever before.

The Biblical Model of Leadership

Not only does God’s word discuss what Christians should be doing, it also describes how people should be appointed. Paul explains later in 1 Timothy the qualifications for overseers and deacons from 3:1-3:13.

“​1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. 8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.”
(1 Timothy 3:1-13 ESV)

Throughout the Bible, we see effective leaders being appointed by God not of themselves. From the time of Aaron the High Priest to the Apostles, we see God appointing these people into leadership. No high priest just woke up and decided to become a priest; rather, they were called by God and then ordained by the current high priests. We also see this model represented by the Apostles; no Apostle just decided to be an apostle but was rather called by Jesus and trained under him in the office. And while we no longer have those who hold the offices of Levitical priests or Apostles, we still have church leaders, overseers, deacons, and pastors who must also follow this principle of divine-appointment and ordination.

I have personally seen dozens of congregations in every walk of Protestant Christianity who suffer because of the self-appointment of its leader or leaders. Typically, when the leader or leaders of such a congregation steps down or leaves, the church finds itself in an identity crisis and most times fades into a dissolution. Why? Because by self-appointing a leader, a church is not built on a biblical principle; rather, it is built on a personality, and when that personality is gone, the church’s entire identity leaves with it. The biblical model ensures that the office is that which leads the church, not the incumbent, and the incumbent is only effective when established by God himself.

This is also why an accredited education and training are necessary for leaders. Those who appoint themselves as leaders of churches most times lack the qualifications of actually being a leader. No, the bible does not explicitly say that church leaders are required to have completed a seminary degree, but it does say that they are to be formally trained and vetted, and that is the very point of our seminaries today. Most people think that seminary is just where men and women attend to be indoctrinated or taught that school’s theological positions, but as a seminary graduate myself, I can assure you that theology makes up perhaps half of what we are taught and trained, and my school was no anomaly. Seminary exists to train up the future leaders of the church, not just the teachers. A seminary degree such as a Master’s of Divinity or Bachelor’s of Christian Studies contains classes that cover and train students in various subjects, such as conflict management, hermeneutics, counseling, ministry dynamics, evangelism, philosophy, programming, and many others. To say that a church leader does not need such training is unbiblical and dangerous because it leads to tempations, as we will discuss next.

The Temptation of the Self-Appointed

Those who have not been trained or divinely-appointed fall into many temptations. As Paul warns Timothy, these people swerve from apostolic doctrine and ensnare themselves into vain discussions in hopes of being “teachers of the law” while not “understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 3:7 ESV). For most, I am sure that this is a natural consequence of someone who makes the choice to become a “teacher of the law” or a leader. Speaking to his appointed leaders, Jesus reminded them that they, too, did not choose their office of apostleship but that he chose them for it.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
(John 15:16 ESV)

Had Jesus just allowed anyone to become a leader of the church in its inception, there would have been problems. Many people are hungry for power and that hunger can clearly lead to those people sometimes making terrible decisions for the good of man by chasing what they wish to chase rather than what should be chased. Jesus avoided this problem in the conception of his church by selecting specific people to assume leadership following his departure by telling them to follow him and become fishers of men (Matthew 4:18-19). It was not his intention to have open interviews for the positions of apostleship for the church and that principal remains to this day.

Within the pronomian/Messianic communities, there exist many self-appointed leaders, some who operate exclusively on platforms like Facebook and YouTube without having any sort of formal education, training, divine-appointment, or vetting by other established and divine-appointed leaders. These people, all too often, are tempted to teach what they believe are the “hidden secrets held hostage by the church” and are found to be teaching ridiculous doctrines such as flat Earth, anti-establishment/church, bloodline necessity, sacred-name-onlyism, serpent seed doctrine, and many other dangerous schools of thought; these people are a danger to our churches and the health of our movement and should not be recognized as legitimate teachers according to the biblical mandate for leaders. They are, confidently I assure you, the very people of whom Paul warns his disciple Timothy in the opening words of his first letter, and their dangerous temptations, which derive directly from a lack of divine appointment and vetting, cause them to make confident assertions about things of which they know nothing. Our churches need not suffer from such mishandling of apostolic principles.

Conclusion

We can, hopefully, now see that there are biblical mandates when it comes to establishing church leaders in our time and that those mandates differ not in principle now from the time of Aaron the High Priest or the establishment of the Apostles to us today. Our churches ought to be establishing leaders not on the words and wants of untrained and unvetted men, but on the truth that leaders are to be trained, learned, diligent, above reproach, respectable, gentle, and tested by those already having been those things for a time. Without such a system in place, our “leaders” will cause more harm than good for those seeking to enter into or enrich their covenant relationship with Almighty God.

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