The Church Ethic
The First Supper, Jesus' Specific
Instructions, Conclusions of Gospels Survey
& 3 Models of Church Gatherings and Leadership
Examining the Models
Examining the Models
Conclusions and Study Expectations
Examining Church Gatherings
in the Gospels
The First Supper, Jesus'
Specific Instructions, Conclusions
Survey of Post-Ascension
Apostolic and Eldership
Functions in Acts and the Epistles
1 Corinthians 1-10 &
Introduction to 1 Corinthians 11-14
1 Corinthians 11-13
1 Corinthians 14
1 Timothy 2:12, Conclusions
on Women in Church Gatherings
Conclusions: 1 Corinthians
14, Church Gatherings & Leadership
First Supper –John 13-17 and the Communion Meal
taken a look at the final chapters of John, we will return
to the portion we momentarily skipped, John 13-17.
13 begins John’s record of Jesus’ last meal with his disciples.
This event is also covered briefly in each of the other gospels
(Matthew 26:17-45, Mark 14:17-43, Luke 22:14-46). Matthew’s
account of the Last Supper contains Jesus’ indication that
Judas would betray him and Jesus’ instructions for the continued
practice of the communion meal. Then there is the singing
of a hymn, Jesus’ mention of his pending suffering and death,
Peter’s denial that he would abandon Jesus, a time of prayer
on the Mount of Olives while the apostles fall asleep, Judas’ betrayal,
and Jesus’ arrest. Mark’s account records similar details.
Luke 22 records Jesus’ instructions for the communion meal,
his indication of who would betray him, an argument among
the apostles as to which would be the greatest in the kingdom,
Jesus’ indication that Peter would be tested, Peter’s confidence
that he wouldn’t abandon Jesus, Jesus’ prophecy of Peter’s
denial, going to the Mount of Olives to pray, an angel appearing
to strengthen Jesus, the disciples sleeping, and finally Jesus’
betrayal by Judas.
account of the Last Supper is the longest and most detailed
by far. Chapter 13:1 begins with Jesus washing the disciples’
feet. After a brief exchange with Peter over this, Jesus instructs
his disciples about service and leadership citing himself
as the example that they should follow. After this, there
is some discussion about Jesus’ remark that one of them would
betray him and Judas leaving to initiate that betrayal.
Judas’ exit, a long discourse from Jesus begins in John 13:31.
This discourse is important to our study for several reasons.
First, the context of this discourse is definitely a gathering
of Jesus’ disciples. And second, this chapter contains Jesus’
initiation of the communion meal which we will discuss later
in our study. At this point, we should note that the Last
Supper was a full meal. Specifically, it was a Passover meal
consistent with Old Testament Passover requirements. It was
not merely the eating of a small piece of bread and a sip
Matthew 26:17 Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the
disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover? 18
And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say
unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with
my disciples. 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed
them; and they made ready the passover. 20 Now when the even was come, he sat down with
Mark 14:12 And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover,
his disciples said unto him, Where
wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the
passover? 13 And he sendeth forth two of his disciples,
and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall
meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him. 14
And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the
house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where
I shall eat the passover
with my disciples? 15 And he will shew you a large upper
room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.
16 And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and
found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. 17 And in the evening he cometh with the twelve.
Luke 22:7 Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed.
8 And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat. 9 And they said unto
him, Where wilt thou that we prepare? 10 And he said unto
them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall
a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into
the house where he entereth in. 11 And ye shall say unto the
goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is
the guestchamber, where I
shall eat the passover with my disciples? 12 And he shall
shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. 13
And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and
they made ready the passover. 14 And
when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles
with him. 15 And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover
with you before I suffer:
we must note that the gospels inform us that Jesus commanded
the disciples to continue this practice as a model for later
Matthew 26:26 And as they were eating,
Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and
brake it, and gave it to the disciples,
and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup,
and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink
ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament,
which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Mark 14:22 And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it,
and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.
23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave
it to them: and they all drank of it. 24 And he said
unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is
shed for many. 25 Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more
of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new
in the kingdom of God.
Luke 22:17 And he took the cup, and gave
thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves:
18 For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the
vine, until the kingdom of God
shall come. 19 And
he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and
gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for
you: this do in remembrance
of me. 20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying,
This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is
shed for you.
New Testament further indicates how the early church took
these instructions at the Last Supper from Jesus to his disciples
regarding the communion meal. The early church took these
instructions to be instructions for their church meetings.
By comparing the passages above to the passages below, two
facts emerge. First, the phrase “breaking bread” became synonymous
in the New Testament for the communion meal. Second, the communion
meal itself became a hallmark and essential feature of church
gatherings. The reason for this was simple. The early church
understood Jesus’ instructions in the Last Supper to be instructions
for regular church gatherings. (In the passages below, we
see not only the use of phrases like “breaking bread” but
also the notion of eating a meal or feast as a central part
of those gatherings.)
Acts 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship,
and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Acts 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking
bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness
and singleness of heart,
Acts 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together
to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart
on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
1 Corinthians 10:6 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood
of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion
of the body of Christ? 17 or we being many are
one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of
that one bread.
Corinthians 11:17 Now in this that I declare unto you
I praise you not, that ye come together not for the
better, but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when ye come
together in the church,
I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly
believe it. 19 For there must be also heresies among you,
that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
20 When ye come together
therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s
supper. 21 For in eating every one taketh before other
his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.
22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise
ye the church
and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall
I praise you in this? I praise you not. 23 For
I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto
you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he
was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat:
this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance
of me. 25 After the same manner also he took
the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament
in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in
remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink
this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. 27
Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this
cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and
blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so
let him eat of that bread, and drink of that
cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth
and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s
2 Peter 2:13 And shall receive the reward
of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure
to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes,
sporting themselves with their own deceivings while
they feast with you;
Jude 1:12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast
with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they
are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose
fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by
two facts make chapters 13-17 of John particularly and significantly
relevant to our study. Simply put, the early New Testament
church clearly took the Last Supper as having prescriptive
implications for later church gatherings.
third reason that these chapters are important to our study
concerns the characteristics of the discourse itself. The
discourse that follows spans four and a half chapters containing
125 verses. Of these 125 verses, Jesus is interrupted at times
by his disciples. In fact, several disciples speak up with
questions during Jesus’ instruction. Peter starts with two
questions in two verses at the beginning of the dialogue.
Thomas also asks a one-verse question. Philip does similarly
followed later by Judas (not Judas Iscariot). In four different
verses John makes the general notation that “the disciples”
spoke up with a question or comment either among themselves
or to Jesus directly.
this we can deduce that the disciples’ early experience and
“on-the-job” training was that gatherings allowed for interaction
and questions from those present. However, though the interaction
seemed open to all those present, the contribution, function,
and participation is not equally shared by all. In fact, of
the 125 verses that record this important and foundational
gathering, Jesus speaks for a commanding 116 of them with
the disciples speaking for only a total of 9 verses.
being the case, John 13:31 through the end of John 17 must
be understood as having implicit and foundational importance
to our study. It certainly corroborates the general model
we have seen throughout the course of our survey. It is certainly
relevant given that the context of these passages is a gathering
of Jesus’ followers. And it is relevant in that at least a
portion of this event (the communion meal) was taken by the
disciples as being prescriptive for later church gatherings
(1 Corinthians 10:16-17, 21).
be clear then, what we see in these four and a half chapters
is a gathering of Jesus’ followers, which was (at least in
part) taken by those followers as prescriptive for later meetings.
Furthermore, this prescriptive gathering is characterized
by a teacher-dominant format in which other men could speak
and ask questions, but in which there was not equal participation,
contribution, or function by all persons present.
while it is certainly clear that this prescriptive aspect
included the meal, the prescription may have included more
than just the meal itself. If that is the case, we might expect
later church gatherings to be characterized largely by one
person leading through teaching with some lesser, limited
participation from those with questions or comments. (Such
an expectation corresponds fairly closely to the expectations
of the Elder-Leadership model.)
we have also learned that the communion meal was taken as
a part of a full meal modeled after the Passover feast. The
fact that the communion meal was a full feast is also indicated
by problems Paul identifies with the Corinthian church’s meal.
Specifically, some of the Corinthians were getting too full
and others were going hungry. This result would not be possible
if the meal consisted solely of a single piece of unleavened
bread and a sip of wine.
might also make an additional note based on John’s longer
description of what happened at this gathering with Jesus
and his disciples on the night before he died. Though several
of the men are mentioned by name as speaking in the gathering,
there is no account of any of the women speaking over the
course of the gathering. It is generally held that Mary Magdalene
(as well as other women who were among the 120 disciples of
Acts 1 and 2) were present at this meal. However, in point
of fact, John provides no direct indication that they were
present. But, if we were to assume that Jesus’ women followers
were in attendance that night, the Last Supper might then
provide some precedent for later comments from Paul, in which
he states that women were to remain silent in church gatherings.
In short, if the women were present, John 13-17 would provide
additional early evidence that the silence of women during
church gatherings originated with Jesus (as exemplified at
the Last Supper) just as Paul seems to imply in 1 Corinthians
we continue our study of early church meetings we will see
if the descriptions of later meetings do, in fact, follow
the model of the Last Supper in all aspects including the
full meal, the limited number of speakers, the pre-eminence
of teaching, open participation for men to ask questions and
make comments, and the silence of women. All of these features
of the Last Supper gathering find their parallel in the Elder-Leadership
model for church gatherings. What we may find is that instead
of being the Last Supper, Jesus’ last meal with his disciples’
before his death was instead the First Supper, which was intended
to serve as a prescriptive model for all later church gatherings.
Instructions from Jesus on Leadership in the Church
concluded our survey on the topic of how Jesus Himself modeled
leadership and conducted gatherings, we should take a moment
to consider a few specific passages in which Jesus provided
instructions to His disciples about church leadership. The
first texts we will look at are Matthew 20, Mark 10, and Luke
Matthew 20:20 Then came to him the mother
of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him,
and desiring a certain thing of him. 21 And he said unto her,
What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two
sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on
the left, in thy kingdom. 22 But Jesus answered and said,
Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that
I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that
I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. 23 And
he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be
baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is
not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for
whom it is prepared of my Father. 24 And when the ten
heard it, they were moved with indignation against
the two brethren. 25 But
Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that
the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and
they that are great exercise authority upon them. 26 But
it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great
among you, let him be your minister; 27 And
whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister,
and to give his life a ransom for many.
Mark 10:35 And James and John, the sons
of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou
shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. 36 And he
said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? 37
They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on
thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.
38 But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can
ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with
the baptism that I am baptized with? 39 And they said unto
him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink
of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am
baptized withal shall ye be baptized: 40 But
to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to
give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is
prepared. 41 And when the ten heard it, they began
to be much displeased with James and John. 42 But
Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know
that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise
lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority
upon them. 43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you,
shall be your minister: 44 And whosoever of you will be the
chiefest, shall be servant of all.
Luke 22:24 And there was also a strife
among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles
exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority
upon them are called benefactors. 26 But
ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest
among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief,
as he that doth serve. 27 For whether is greater, he that sitteth
at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth
at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. 28 Ye
are they which have continued with me in my temptations. 29
And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed
unto me; 30 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
his book Reimagining Church, Frank Viola describes to his readers
his understanding of what Jesus’ meant in these passages.
brief, the hierarchical leadership structure characterizes
the spirit of the Gentiles. The implanting of these structures
into the church, therefore, is at odds with New Testament
Christianity. Our Lord didn’t mince words in declaring His
implicit disdain for the Gentile notion of leadership: “It shall not be so among you!”(Matthew
20:26 KJV) is His explicit
feeling on it. All in all, there is no room in the teaching
of Jesus for the hierarchical leadership model that characterizes
the institutional church. – Frank Viola, Reimagining
Church, Chapter 8, Reimagining Leadership, page
the Greek word for “exercise authority” in Matthew is katexousiazo.
Katexousiazo is a combination of two Greek
words: kata, which
means over; and exousiazo,
which means to exercise authority. Jesus also used the Greek
word katakurieuo in this passage, which means to “lord it over” others.
What Jesus is condemning in these texts is
not oppressive leaders
as such. He’s condemning the hierarchical form
of leadership that dominates the Gentile world. That bears
repeating. Jesus was not just condemning tyrannical leaders.
He was condemning the hierarchical form of leadership itself.
What is the hierarchical
form of leadership? It’s the leadership style that’s built
on a chain-of-command social structure. It’s rooted in the
idea that power and authority flow from the top down. Hierarchical
leadership is rooted in a worldly concept of power. This
explains why it’s endemic to all traditional bureaucracies.
It’s present in the vicious forms of liege/lord
feudalism and master/slave relationships. But it’s also
present in the highly stylized spheres of military and corporate
often bloodless, the hierarchical leadership style is undesirable
for God’s people. Why? Because it reduces human interaction
to command-style relationships. Such
relationships are foreign to New Testament thinking and practice.
Yet hierarchical leadership is employed everywhere in
secular culture. And the institutional church operates by
it. – Frank Viola, Reimagining Church, Chapter 8, Reimagining Leadership, page
to Viola, Jesus isn’t just condemning tyrannical leadership,
he’s condemning any form of leadership which places some individuals
over other individuals. But is this what Jesus is actually
saying in these passages?
we should note that Jesus indicates some sense of hierarchy
by affirming that there will be thrones on His right and left
hands when He comes in His kingdom.
it is true that Jesus is condemning the manner of leadership
exercised by the Gentiles and that Jesus forbids his disciples
from following that Gentile type of leadership. However, we
are told in Matthew’s account that in place of this Gentile
model, Jesus sets Himself as the example for leadership in
the church. From this we can see that Jesus gave us clear
indications of what He meant church leadership should be by
pointing to how He Himself leads.
if Jesus replaces the Gentile leadership model with the model
He Himself exemplified, is Frank Viola right to conclude that
Jesus’ model is prohibitive of speaker-dominant teaching during
church gatherings as well as a hierarchical structuring of
leadership? In order to assess the validity of Viola’s conclusion
we only have to ask whether Jesus’ own manner of leadership
precludes hierarchical structure and speaker-dominant church
did Jesus leadership involve gatherings in which a single
person dominated the meeting through lengthy teaching sessions?
Yes, it most certainly did. Did Jesus’ leadership of the church
involve him being in a position of authority over the rest
of the church? Yes, it most certainly does. Does authority
in the church flow from the top down from Jesus to the church?
Yes, it absolutely does. Does Jesus Himself provide indications
of hierarchical structuring within church leadership in which
some of His servants will be in a position over other servants?
Yes, in fact, he does.
22:28 Ye are they which have continued with me in
my temptations. 29 And
I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed
unto me; 30 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my
kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
in Luke 22:28-30, which occurs at the end of Jesus’ teaching
on Gentile leadership, we find Jesus indicating that the twelve
apostles will have a position of authority over others in
His kingdom. And we already know that Jesus said that there
would be two thrones on His right and left hand as well. Similarly,
we find Jesus giving a parable in Luke 19 where faithful servants
receive authority over ten and five cities respectively.
Luke 19:16 Then came the first, saying,
Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. 17 And
he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast
been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten
cities. 18 And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound
hath gained five pounds. 19 And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities.
in Matthew 24 and Luke 12, Jesus similarly speaks of those
who are rulers over the master’s house and over the rest of
the master’s servants. Note that in these passages Jesus is
describing servants being placed in a position over the master’s
household while the master is away.
Matthew 24:45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler
(2525) over his household, to give them meat in due season?
46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh
shall find so doing. 47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make
him ruler (2525) over all his goods. 48 But and if that
evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his
coming; 49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and
drink with the drunken; 50 The lord of that servant shall
come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an
hour that he is not aware of, 51 And shall cut him asunder,
and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there
shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Luke 12:42 And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his
lord shall make ruler (2525) over his household, to give them
their portion of meat in due season? 43 Blessed is
that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler (2525) over
all that he hath. 45 But
and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his
coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens,
and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; 46 The lord of that
servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him,
and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder,
and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
will cover these passages again later in our study, but for
now we should note that Jesus condemns the servants who have
been placed over the rest of the master’s household for beating
and mistreating the other servants. This condemnation seems
to fit pretty well with Jesus’ condemnation of Gentile leaders
who “lord their authority over” those under them. Consequently,
contrary to Viola’s interpretation, it would seem that Jesus
is mostly condemning the tyranny and oppression in Gentiles
hierarchies, not the hierarchical structure itself. Conversely,
if Jesus’ own idea of leadership was inclusive of some hierarchical
structuring then Viola is wrong when he concludes that “Hierarchical
leadership is rooted in a worldly concept of power.” Instead,
hierarchical leadership seems to be equally represented in
God’s own kingly authority. And, after all, kingly authority
is the basis of the liege/lord feudal systems and command-style
relationships that Viola condemns specifically. If Christ
is our king, then we have no basis for saying that the entire
notion of hierarchical leadership structures and “command”
style authority is “foreign to New Testament thinking and
practice” as Viola does.
Jesus Himself conducts speaker-dominant gatherings, occupies
a hierarchical leadership position, and speaks about hierarchical
leadership among his servants whom He would appoint over His
“household” while He is gone, it is impossible to understand
Jesus’ instructions to the apostles in Matthew 20, Mark 10,
and Luke 22 as Frank Viola suggests. Instead it is much simpler
and more consistent to understand Jesus as teaching His apostles
that even though He was their leader, His leadership served
to benefit them and not to benefit Himself. This was different
from the manner of Gentile rulers who used their authority
over others selfishly to benefit themselves at the expense
and even at the abuse of others.
same theme is also expressed in Jesus’ washing of the disciples’
feet during the Last Supper in John 13.
John 13:12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was
set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done
to you? 13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well;
for so I am. 14 If
I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet;
ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For
I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done
to you. 16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant
is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater
than he that sent him. 17 If ye know these things, happy are
ye if ye do them.
John 13, Jesus’ leadership and instructions inform the apostles
that their own leadership should be a service and a benefit
to those they lead and not simply for their own benefit. Likewise,
in Matthew 23, Jesus condemns the leadership of His generation
for their egotistical motivations and for loving the attention
and honor they received from others because of their position.
consider another teaching from Jesus on the topic of leadership
and whether or not Jesus’ comments were intended to remove
Matthew 23:1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude,
and to his disciples, 2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees
sit in Moses’ seat: 3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you
observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their
works: for they say, and do not. 4 For they bind heavy burdens
and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders;
but they themselves will not move them with one of
their fingers. 5 But
all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad
their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
6 And love the uppermost
rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7
And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi,
Rabbi. 8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your
Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9
And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father,
which is in heaven. 10 Neither
be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even
Christ. 11 But he that is greatest among you shall be
your servant. 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall
be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
Jesus forbids His disciples from using titles because the
Pharisees used such things to distinguish themselves from
common men. According to Jesus, only He is our master, and
we are all brethren. Certainly, Jesus prohibited the use of
titles in this passage, but are his comments here equally
prohibiting of leadership positions within the church?
1 Corinthians 11:1-3.
1 Corinthians 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. 2 Now I
praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and
keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. 3
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the
head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ
this passage, when he states that Christ is the head of every
man, Paul upholds Jesus statements in Matthew 23:8-10 that
we have only one master and that we are all brethren. In making
this statement Paul affirms that there is no intervening master
between each man and Christ. However, in verse 1 Paul tells
the Corinthians church to follow him as he follows Christ.
Why didn’t Paul simply say “follow Christ” instead of “follow
me as I follow Christ?”
a similar vein, Paul’s statement in verse 3 that “the head
of every man is Christ” is attached to two additional statements
indicating some sort of hierarchy in which Paul places God
as the head of Christ and man as the head of woman. This constitutes
a hierarchical structure of authority in the church while
at the same time preserving Christ’s unique leadership role.
look at Paul’s remarks in 1 Thessalonians 2 and 1 Corinthians
1 Thessalonians 2:11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and
charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,
12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you
unto his kingdom and glory. 13 For this cause also thank we
God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received
it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth,
the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that
Corinthians 4:15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors
in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten
you through the gospel. 16 Wherefore
I beseech you, be ye followers of me.
Jesus specifically forbids his followers from being called
by the title “father” in Matthew 23:9 (because God the Father
is our only Father), Paul describes his relationship with
the Christians in Thessalonica and Corinth as one of a father
to his children. In both passages he connects his “fatherhood”
to teaching them the gospel.” In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul even
concludes by again saying “be ye followers of me.” From these
passages it seems clear that the apostles did not take Jesus
statements in Matthew 23 as prohibitive of them having positions
of hierarchical leadership when it came to instructing of
Paul’s comments in these passages and Jesus’ other teachings
on this same subject, it is difficult to infer that Jesus
was condemning any and all forms of hierarchical leadership
structures in the church as Viola confidently claims. In order
to determine exactly how the apostles understood and applied
Jesus’ comments in these passages we will have to further
examine the mode of their leadership as exemplified later
in the New Testament after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Then
we will be able to know if the apostles understood Jesus to
forbid all practice of hierarchical leadership structures
and speaker-dominant meeting formats. We have already seen
some indications from Paul that they did not. But we will
continue to examine these questions as we continue our study
into the Book of Acts.
now, we can only be sure that Viola is simply wrong when he
concludes that “there is no room in the teaching of Jesus
for the hierarchical leadership model” and that, “Such relationships
are foreign to New Testament thinking and practice.” Viola
fails to take into account or mention other passages in which
Jesus teaches on the subject. And he does not provide his
readers with an examination of Matthew 20, Mark 10, and Luke
22 in light of these other passages, not to mention their
own context. Contrary to Viola’s overreaching conclusion,
Jesus’ New Testament instructions only indicate that leadership
must be understood and practiced as a service to benefit those
who are led and not in terms of a service provided by those
who are led to the benefit of their leaders. Nothing in Jesus’
words in these passages in any way forbid speaker-dominant
formats in church gatherings or the concept of some individuals
being in a position of oversight and leadership over others.
Rather, Jesus words in these passages actually demand hierarchy
and speaker-dominant gatherings for two reasons. First, because
in these passages Jesus cites himself as the pattern that
Church leadership is based upon. And second, because Jesus
himself serves in a hierarchical position, employs teacher-dominant
meeting styles, and, in fact, indicates that some of his servants
will oversee others while He is away and during His kingdom.
Consequently, Viola’s conclusion isn’t simply unsupported.
from Our Survey of Gatherings in the Gospels
have now completed our survey of the gospels. By proceeding
thoroughly through each passage and chapter of Matthew, Mark,
Luke, and John we have become familiar with the disciples’
experience and the nature of their gatherings during Jesus’
ministry. We have been tedious. To ensure that we did not
overlook any critical instances, which might inform us about what style of gatherings
the disciples experienced with Jesus or how Jesus’ trained
them “on-the-job” for their future leadership of the church,
we have not left out a single passage. What we have done is
to provide the larger historical narrative in which to context
later New Testament meetings.
we have seen is that the kinds of interaction in the gospels
can be classified into basically three general types or categories.
among these there are perhaps two categories, which we would
hesitate to call actual “gatherings” of Jesus’ followers.
The first of these two categories would be instances of intermittent
conversations or interactions between Jesus and one or two
people as he traveled about proclaiming the gospel. In many
of these occasions Jesus is engaged by a single person from
the crowd (the centurion, the synagogue ruler, the rich young
man, a mother, etc.). On some of these occasions Jesus is
approached by one or two members of the religious leadership
(a scribe, a Pharisee, a Sadducee, etc.) These intermittent
exchanges between Jesus and one or two persons sometimes may
have occurred in the presence of the crowds, but sometimes
they occurred in more isolated or less populated circumstances.
In either case, it is doubtful that anyone would seek to place
these two types of exchanges into the category of a “gathering”
of Jesus’ followers.
the second category, we also have instances recorded in the
gospels where Jesus is teaching the crowds who had come to
see him. These types of situations are both comparable to
and informative regarding gatherings of Jesus’ followers.
One reason to place these kinds of interactions into the category
of “early gatherings of Jesus’ followers” is because these
people had often followed Jesus about and left their daily
lives or routines to hear his teachings. They came to him
in large numbers in remote places (and sometimes in the cities
or at people’s houses). Consequently, in the most immediate
and natural sense, they simply were “gatherings” of Jesus’
followers (and potential followers). And what we see in these
circumstances is a format in which a single speaker dominates
the gathered audience through the teaching of God’s Word.
What we do not see is equal participation by all persons present.
admittedly many of those who had been a part of these crowds
and who had followed Jesus to hear his words, went away and
did not become part of his disciples. For this reason, it
might be suggested that these types of occurrences were more
like opportunities for public evangelism among the unbelieving
masses rather than gatherings of Jesus’ disciples. In that
case, maybe the format of these types of assemblies is not
necessarily informative regarding the manner of meeting of
Jesus’ disciples when they came together. Whether these instances
are applicable to Church gatherings will have to be determined
by looking at the structure of church gatherings in the book
of Acts and the epistles. If the church gatherings described
in those books begin to look remarkably similar in structure
to Jesus’ preaching to the crowds, then we ought to conclude
that the structure of Jesus’ preaching to the crowds should
also be deemed informative to how to conduct Church gatherings
examining these two types of interactions and gatherings we
arrive at a third and final category, one which most certainly
is relevant to the question of the disciples’ early experience
with gatherings during Jesus’ ministry. Our final category
is comprised of instances in which Jesus was gathered together
solely with his disciples and followers. In these cases, what
we observed was a model in which a single speaker, Jesus,
directed and lead the gathering. His speaking was heavily
teaching-oriented. We very clearly see that these meetings
allowed for open participation. By that we mean that at any
point one of the disciples (at least one of the male disciples)
could speak up, could make a comment, or could ask a question.
In many instances we see the disciples doing just that. But
what we do not see is the concept of equal participation,
contribution, and function by all those present. The teaching
and leadership function was performed by Jesus who also did
the bulk of the contributing and speaking. In no case anywhere
throughout any of the gatherings during Jesus ministry do
we have any instance where all those gathered spoke, functioned,
and contributed equally. Instead, the format is one of imbalance.
One person dominates the meeting by teaching the Word. This
is how Jesus trained His disciples to lead the church and
conduct church gatherings. And on that note, this third category
seems quite similar to the second category in which Jesus
spoke in dominating fashion to larger crowds that had gathered
to hear his teaching. Together, these two categories show
that from public evangelism to discipleship, Jesus’ handed
on a model of gatherings to his disciples, which was speaker-dominant
rather than a model of equal contribution by all.
that we have familiarized ourselves with Jesus’ own manner
in conducting gatherings let us compare what we’ve learned
with our Expectations Chart to determine how our
models for church gatherings and leadership fit with the model
the disciples experienced during their “on-the-job” training
time with Christ. Below is the Expectations Chart which we compiled based
upon the key features of each model on the main issues of
church gathering and leadership. After reviewing this chart
we will assess how the expectations of each model fit with
the New Testament data.
Gathering and Leadership Models and New Testament Expectations
A: Church Leadership.
Model – New Testament church communities will be lead
by a single individual head pastor. New
Testament church communities will not involve shared leadership
distributed to a group of elders or overseers who together
share the leadership of the church community.
The Viola Model
– New Testament church communities will be lead by a group
of individuals called elders or overseers who together share
the leadership of the church community. New
Testament church communities will not be lead by a single
individual head pastor.
Model – New Testament church communities will be lead
by a group of individuals called elders or overseers who together
share the leadership of the church community. New
Testament church communities will not be lead by a single
individual head pastor.
B: The Communion Meal.
Model – New Testament communion meals will consist of
only a small portion of bread and a small portion of wine.
New Testament communion meals will not consist of a full meal.
The Viola Model
– New Testament communion meals will consist of a full meal.
New Testament communion meals will not consist
of only a small portion of bread and a small portion of wine.
Model – New Testament communion meals will consist of
a full meal. Testament
communion meals will not consist of only a small portion of
bread and a small portion of wine.
C: Format and Common Features of the Meeting (not including
Model – New Testament church gatherings will consist of
a large segment of musical worship and a large segment devoted
to an absolutely uninterruptable teaching from the head pastor.
New Testament church gatherings will not involve any participation from
anyone besides the main speaker.
The Viola Model
– New Testament church gatherings will consist of every person
participating, functioning, and contributing equally. New
Testament meetings will involve various types of activities
including: singing a song, reading a poem, performing a skit,
giving a short teaching, giving a word of encouragement, providing
a testimony, or offering a prayer. New Testament church gatherings will not contain special roles or tasks
reserved for certain, distinct individuals including pastors
or elders/overseers. New
Testament church gatherings will not involve one, two, or
three individuals dominating the time and contributions of
the meeting while all other attendees contribute and participate
to a much lesser extent (primarily in the role of an audience).
New Testament meetings
will not contain long sections of musical worship or teaching.
Model – New Testament church gatherings will consist of
a large teaching component lead by one to three male leader(s)
called elders and may be interrupted by other men with questions
or comments. New Testament church gatherings will also include
prayer (and possibly some singing). New Testament church gatherings will not consist
of a large segment of musical worship or an absolutely uninterruptable
teaching from a head pastor. New Testament church gatherings
will not consist of every person participating, functioning,
and contributing equally.
D: Gender Participation.
Model – (Views on the participation of women in leadership
and church services will vary depending on the denomination.)
The Viola Model
– New Testament church gatherings will include the participation
of both men and women with no distinctions or limitations
based on gender. New Testament church gatherings will not be
limited to participation from men only and will not restrict
the participation of women.
Model – New Testament church gatherings will limit participation
to men only. New Testament
church gatherings will not include examples of women speaking,
teaching, or asking questions.
how do these expectations compare to what we read in the gospel
accounts of Jesus’ ministry? Let’s do a category by category,
model by model analysis.
A deals with the issue of church leadership. The essential
distinction between the three models is whether church leadership
is held by a single, individual person such as a head pastor,
by a group of individuals collectively, or by all members
of the church equally. At this point, having surveyed the
gospels, we have only seen one passage that touched on this
topic directly. That passage was Matthew 18.
Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother
shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between
thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained
thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then
take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or
three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church:
but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee
as an heathen man and a publican. 18 Verily I say unto
you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven:
and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in
heaven. 19 Again I
say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching
any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of
my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together
in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
we read through this passage earlier we noted that in verses
19-20, Jesus places the authority for decision-making in the
consensus or agreement of his followers. By establishing this
model of decision-making, Jesus is contradicting the concept
of a single-headed leadership for the church and placing church
leadership under shared authority.
the three models that we are studying one model, the Pseudo-traditional,
model vests leadership of a New Testament church community
in a single individual head pastor and rejects the notion
of shared leadership held by a group of elders or overseers.
As such, Jesus’ statements in Matthew 18 directly contradict
the expectations and structure of the Pseudo-traditional model
of church leadership. Conversely, the expectations of the
Viola model and Elder-Leadership model both fit very well
with Jesus’ instructions in this passage because both conceive
of church leadership as shared by a group rather than restricted
to a single head.
similar analysis of Category B, which deals with the communion
meal, also indicates that the Pseudo-traditional model contradicts
the New Testament model for church gatherings. The Pseudo-traditional
model practices a communion meal, which consists of only a
small portion of bread or cracker and a small portion of wine
or juice. It was apparent from our survey of the gospels that
the communion meal was instituted based on the Old Testament
Passover, which was a full meal
(Matthew 26, Mark 10, Luke 22, and John 13-17). Conversely,
once again both the Viola model and the Elder-Leadership model
fit with the gospel accounts regarding the practice of a full
meal for communion.
C of our Expectations
Chart concerns the issues of format and common features
of church gatherings. The Pseudo-traditional model typically
holds to a church gathering consisting of a large segment
of musical worship and a large segment devoted to an absolutely
uninterruptable teaching from one person, usually the head
pastor. In complete contrast to this, the Viola model requires
that all persons function, participate, and contribute equally
during the meeting and that no long teaching or long musical
segments occur. Instead, in the Viola model meetings are characterized
by such activities as each person singing a song, reading
a poem, performing a skit, giving a short teaching, giving
a word of encouragement, providing a testimony, or offering
a prayer. Finally, the Elder-Leadership model envisions a
church gathering as a teaching session lead by one to three
persons, but where others can participate by asking questions
or making comments during the course of the teaching.
this category, our survey of the gospels could fit with either
the Pseudo-traditional model or the Elder-Leadership model.
As the following list shows, the gospels provide examples
of both uninterrupted teaching from Jesus as well as examples
of Jesus teaching with some participation from his disciples.
Matthew 5-7 – Jesus speaks to the crowd gathered on the hillside
and delivers the Sermon on the Mount. He is uninterrupted
for 106 verses.
Matthew 10 – Jesus gathers the twelve and instructs them uninterrupted
for 37 verses.
Matthew 11 – Jesus teaches the crowds for 23 verses, uninterrupted
Matthew 13 – Jesus teaches the crowds and his disciples in
a long discourse where Jesus speaks for 46 out of 53 verses.
There is some interaction and questions from the disciples
about the parables.
Matthew 17 and 18 record a series of interactive dialogues
while Jesus is gathered together with disciples. Jesus is
featured as the teacher with his disciples asking him questions.
Matthew 19 – Jesus is gathered with his disciples and teaches
them uninterrupted for 19 verses.
Matthew 23 – Jesus instructs the crowd gathered around him.
He is uninterrupted for 38 verses.
Matthew 24-25 – Jesus is gathered with his disciples who ask
him about his return and the coming of the kingdom. Jesus
responds with 93 uninterrupted verses instructing them what
will happen and what to watch for.
Mark 13 – Jesus is gathered with his disciples who ask him
about his return and the coming of the kingdom. Jesus responds
with 33 uninterrupted verses instructing them what will happen
and what to watch for.
Luke 6 - Jesus speaks to the crowd gathered on the hillside
and delivers the Sermon on the Mount. He is uninterrupted
for 30 verses.
Luke 8 – Jesus teaches the crowds and his disciples for 14
verses. He is interrupted in the middle of this by a question
from the disciples about the teaching.
Luke 10-22 – Jesus teaches the crowds and his disciples who
are gathered together to hear him. Jesus’ speaking comprises
419 of the 538 verses, which end with Jesus praying in the
Garden of Gethsemane
before his arrest. Some minimal interaction from others does
John 13-17 – Jesus gathers together with his disciples on
the night before his death. These four chapters consist of
125 verses with Jesus teaching his apostles for 116 of the
verses. During Jesus’ discourse, he is on several occasions
interrupted by the disciples who comment and ask questions.
in contrast to the Pseudo-traditional model, we must note
that we did not see any examples where gatherings during the
ministry of Christ contained a large segment of musical and/or
corporate worship. In this respect, we would have to say that
on the topic of the format and common features for church
gatherings, the Pseudo-traditional model does not fit the
gatherings recorded in the gospels.
nowhere in our survey of all four gospels did we find instances
of gatherings during Jesus’ ministry in which everyone present
was portrayed as participating, functioning, and contributing
equally through songs, poems, skits, short teachings, encouraging
words, testimonies, or prayers. So, we must conclude that
the Viola model does not accurately describe the disciples’
experience and “on-the-job” training in gatherings during
the ministry of Christ.
final category, Category 4, deals with the issue of gender
participation in church gatherings and leadership. With regard
to this issue we can only note that we don’t have a single
instance or recording of Jesus’ women followers speaking in
any of Jesus’ gatherings with his disciples (or even with
the crowds such as the Sermon on the Mount or the Olivet Discourse.)
While this information is inconclusive on whether women were
permitted to speak, teach, or ask questions during church
gatherings, it is still informative regarding the nature of
the disciples’ experience of gatherings during the ministry
of Christ. That being the case we must again recognize that
the Viola model does not fit with the gatherings recorded
in the gospels. However, the Elder-Leadership model is consistent
with the descriptions we have read.
regard to our four categories, an overall assessment provides
the following results for each of the three models. The only
model that fits the gospels’ description of gatherings during
Jesus’ ministry in all four categories is the Elder-Leadership
model, which held to shared leadership of the church, a full
communion meal, long presentations of teaching by a dominant
speaker, and a lack of participation by women.
both the Pseudo-traditional model and the Viola model are
contradicted by the gospel accounts in two categories. The
Pseudo-traditional model fails to fit with the gospel accounts
by restricting church leadership to a single head, by shrinking
the communion meal down to small portions of bread and wine
instead of a full meal, by inserting a large segment of musical
worship into the church gathering. The Viola model fails to
fit with the gospel accounts by requiring equal participation,
function, and contribution by all, by prohibiting long presentations
of teaching, and by suggesting that women participated in
an equal manner to men at the gatherings.
be fair, a few important points must be mentioned with regard
to the analysis of these models in comparison to the gospel
accounts. First, just because we see shared church leadership,
a full communion meal, speaker-dominant gatherings, and no
instances of women speaking at the gatherings prior to Jesus’
ascension does not mean that such practices were necessarily
maintained after Jesus’ ascension. To be sure, what we have
learned from the gospels does provide pretty strong indications
for what we might expect the apostles to put into practice
after Jesus’ ascension, but it is at least hypothetically
possible that pre-ascension meetings possessed certain, unique
features because of the fact that Jesus was physically present
(or for some other reason.) The question still needs to be
addressed as to what format the church would employ for their
meetings after Jesus had ascended. How were church gatherings
conducted when Jesus was not physically present to speak,
teach, and lead the church? We have not yet answered these
important questions fully. To fully answer them we must turn
to the rest of the New Testament.
despite the fact that we have not examined the rest of the
New Testament to see how gatherings were conducted after the
ascension, we have seen two extremely relevant starting points.
First, we have already noted some indications that the Last
Supper was intended to serve as a model for future church
gatherings. In fact, the Last Supper may have solidified both
the full communion meal as well as the speaker-dominant model,
which Jesus exemplified during his earthly ministry, as essential
and defining format components for future church gatherings.
we have resolved the question of what Frank Viola calls the
apostle’s “on-the-job” training.
is a very big topic. But, in short, the way that Jesus Christ trained Christian workers was to live
with them for a period of years. It was “on the job” training.
He mentored His disciples at close range. They also lived
in community together. Jesus did the work, they watched, and
then they went on a trial mission which He critiqued. He sent
them out, and they carried on the work themselves. – Frank
Viola, Pagan Christianity,
Chapter 10, Education: Swelling of the Cranium, page 218
provided the initial model for this “on-the-job” training
when He mentored the Twelve. – Frank Viola, Pagan
Christianity, Chapter 12, A Second Glance at the Savior:
Jesus, the Revolutionary, page 249
it is accurate to view the disciples’ time with Jesus prior
to his ascension as their “on-the-job” training for how to
structure church gatherings and leadership, our survey of
the Gospels plainly demonstrates that the apostles were clearly
not trained to conduct meetings involving equal participation
by all. We now can be confident that the “on-the-job” training
of the disciples included a familiarity with gatherings dominated
by teaching from a single speaker with some participation
from others. This was what they saw Jesus do throughout His
ministry. Consequently, anyone proposing a model, which either
entirely rules out audience interaction or conversely requires
full and equal participation from everyone present, would
have to abandon any appealing to the “on-the-job” training
that the apostles received from Jesus.
brings us to a rather revealing fact. Even though we do not
yet know if the structure of church gatherings and leadership
changed after Jesus’ ascension, we do know that in order for
either the Pseudo-traditional or Viola models to be biblically
valid, there necessarily must have been such a change after
Jesus’ ascension. If the pattern seen before Jesus’ ascension
remained the defining model in the Church throughout the rest
of the New Testament, then neither the Pseudo-traditional
or Viola models can be biblically valid.
the Pseudo-traditional model is biblically valid we would
expect to see church gatherings in the Book of Acts and the
rest of the New Testament trending in a new direction towards
uninterrupted monologues, abbreviated communion meals, and
large segments of musical worship. However, if church gatherings
in the Book of Acts continue to be characterized by interaction
from the audience during the teaching sessions, full communion
meals, and the absence of large segments of musical worship,
we would likely discard the Pseudo-traditional model altogether.
there is no place in the gospels where Jesus instructed or
trained the apostles to conduct gatherings where everyone
participated, functioned, and contributed equally or where
the women were recorded as speaking during the gatherings.
We have seen that Jesus instructed them to continue to meet
using the Last Supper as a model. He instructed the disciples
before His ascension to teach all things as He had taught
them. And He continually exhibited a teacher-dominant model
for church gatherings in which at least the men interrupted
His teaching with questions or comments.
this is the case, if the Viola model is valid we must be able
to identify when, where, and why the change toward “every-member”
participation and functioning was made. We must be able to
clearly point to examples of women speaking, teaching, and
asking questions during the gatherings. And we would have
to be able to determine when the teaching-dominant gathering
was abandoned in favor of shorter activities including skits,
songs, and poems. If no such change is apparent or identifiable
and we are able to easily fit what we read in the rest of
the New Testament to the model we have seen in Jesus’ ministry,
then we will have to reject the Viola model as well.
we find as we proceed forward, we must keep in mind that this
is the status quo at the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth.
This is the experience and training that the disciples had
from gatherings during the ministry of Christ. These are the
questions and expectations that we must keep in mind as we
arrive at the Book of Acts and as we survey the record of
post-ascension church meetings when Jesus is not present to
lead the church.