<![if !vml]><![endif]>Is it wrong for a minister
to 'command' a lay member?
things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you."
(Tit 2:15) This verse is an interesting study into the proper function
of the ministry as opposed to the impression the translators seem to want to
‘Exhort’ in the Greek is 'parakaleo' the primary meaning according to Thayer
is "to call to one's side". Liddell & Scott indicate a primary
meaning of "call to one". This is in basic agreement
with Thayer. In the New Testament it is typically translated some form
of beseech, entreat or comfort. Webster's primary definition of
'exhort' is "to urge earnestly by advice, warning, etc. (to do what is
proper or required)". So while there is a connection with a warning, 'parakaleo' indicates a brotherly, non-threatening
Paul is telling Titus to
speak up and deal directly with people and not to let them ignore him.
Paul doesn't want Timothy to be either timid or dictatorial. As I
Timothy 5:1 indicates, use reason, sound logic and respect to encourage the
congregation to do what is right.
‘Rebuke’ (Titus 2:15) in
the Greek is 'elegcho'. The primary
meaning according to Thayer is "to convict, refute, confute:
generally with a suggestion of shame of the person convicted and/or by
conviction to bring to the light, to expose". Webster's primary
definition of 'rebuke' is "to blame or scold in a sharp way:
reprimand". Convicting or refuting, causing mild shame, fits
reasonably well with scold and reprimand. It would be directed at those
who should know better. It would be directing them into proper conduct
as taught by the word of God. Scripture is the only basis for any show
of authority. Paul is encouraging Titus to expose the error, refute the error
and convict of that which is right. It is not an attack on the person
or attempt to shame, but an exposing of error. Shame may or may not
result depending on the problem.
An interesting thing about
this verse is that in the next verse, Titus is told to teach the people
"to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men".
Shaming people and teaching them to be gentle and humble do not fit
together. It is not the right example. In the context it seems
that Paul wants Titus to bring them to the point they see their error.
He's not asking Titus to embarrass them in front of others. So when
Paul says "Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority.
Let no one despise you." (Tit 2:15) He wants Titus to draw
them to his side and show them the error of their way with a confident,
clear, humble and concerned message.
The Greek word used for
rebuke in I Timothy 5:1, 'epiplesso', is
different than that used in Titus 2:15. "Do not rebuke an older man,
but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers". It does
indeed carry the meaning of the English word 'rebuke'. This further
reinforces that 'rebuke' is not a good fit in Titus 2:15. If one is not
to 'rebuke' an elder or really even a younger man, why would Paul then tell
Titus to 'rebuke' anyone?
The primary meaning of 'epiplesso' actually implies a physical
assault. The secondary meaning involves harsh words. We assume
Timothy was not physically beating people. Again, Paul is instructing
that correction was to be given gently and with sincere concern for all, even
the junior members of the congregation. It should not be an attack,
even of only words.
Authority of Leadership
we command you, brethren, in the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw
from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition
which he received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow
us, for we were not disorderly among you; 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread
free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might
not be a burden to any of you, 9 not because we do not have authority, but to
make ourselves an example of how you should follow us." (II Thes 3:6-9)
Command here is an
interesting word. It is ‘paraggello’.
‘Command’ is actually a secondary meaning of this word. The primary
meaning is 'to send a message'. The implication is a message from a
higher power that is simply being transmitted by a messenger. Indeed,
in II Thessalonians 3:6 the ‘command’ is given "in the name of our
Lord Jesus Christ". Frequently when this word is used of or by
the Apostles, there is a reference close by indicating the ultimate authority
is from Jesus Christ. This is not always the case,
but if it is not the case that doesn’t automatically justify using the
secondary meaning of the word. The meaning would be determined based on
context. The context of scripture, particularly the New Testament has
Jesus Christ as the authority. He is the head. We are to be instructed
by His word.
Verse 9 above also
indicates Paul had certain ‘authority’. Based on the context, he had
the right to physical support from the congregation and the authority to
require it. It was his choice not to exercise this right or authority.
This same matter is dealt with in I Corinthians 9:13-19. Verse 14
clearly states that Christ directed that those who proclaim the gospel should
live by the gospel. So again, Paul goes to the source, but among
believers he clearly believed he had the right and authority to require
physical support from the congregation. This does not include a blanket
authority over the private lives of those in the congregation.
The authority Paul and the
ministry had was to teach and instruct in the way of
God. "For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority,
which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction, I shall
not be ashamed--" (II Cor 10:8 see also II
Cor 13:10). Beyond those things Paul claims
Unbecoming a Christian
The handling of the
co-habiting situation in I Corinthians 5 is interesting. Paul heard from some
source that someone included in the congregation of Corinth was co-habiting
with his father’s wife. We assume this was a step mother. Sexual
relations with a step mother were clearly condemned in the Law (Lev 18:8,
20:11). Paul’s reaction was swift and clear.
I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though
I were present) him who has so done this deed. 4 In the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the
power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the
destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord
Jesus." (I Cor 5:3-5)
It was obviously Paul’s understanding that such conduct was totally
unbecoming of a believer. It was egregious to the point that the perpetrator
had disqualified himself from fellowship with the rest of the
congregation. There are standards expected of believers.
Different people may disagree as to what those standards are. (Our
examination of the covenants
and judgments are a good place to
start if you are interested in input on that.) For Paul, a line had
Without being on the
scene, Paul ‘judged’ the situation. This assumes authority to make a
judgment. His determination: "Therefore put away from yourselves the
evil person" (I Cor 5:13b). The evil
doer was to be avoided and refused admittance to their fellowship. Paul
directed the congregation to take that action.
We have no direct example
of what Paul would have done had he been in Corinth. However, in order
to have the congregation "put away from yourselves",
the whole congregation had to be involved. It only makes sense that
Paul would fully explain to the congregation his reasoning and the
justification for his judgment. He would have used this example to
further edify, i.e. instruct and teach the congregation what is acceptable
and what is not.
In this particular case,
Paul was a great distance away. The responsibility for addressing the
matter fell on the congregation. Ultimately, it would have required the
participation of the whole congregation anyway, but Paul considered that his
judgment was appropriate and necessary for the safekeeping of the
congregation (I Cor 5:6). At the same time,
it is no surprise that he was quick to invoke the source of his authority, our
Messiah. A true representative of Christ will not attempt to promote
himself, but his Master.
Distance was evidently not
the only reason Paul had the congregation handle this matter. "For
to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to
the test, whether you are obedient in all things" (II Cor 2:9). Paul was interested in knowing whether or not
they would obey his "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ"
Some who would minimize
the authority of true ministers of God examine the Greek word for ‘obedient’,
"hupekoos", and emphasize its
aspect of ‘hearing’. The intent is obey.
The intent of this word is similar to ‘shama’
in the Hebrew or the phrase ‘listen to me’ in English. Paul was a
native Hebrew/Aramaic speaker. The use of ‘hear’ in Hebrew/Aramaic
meant to obey, just as much as to hear or listen. It accomplished
nothing to just listen if one did not act on or obey what was said. The
expectation of the speaker was that people hearing would act on what they
The reality of the
situation is that concerning the Law of God and the safe-keeping of the congregation,
true ministers are to speak with the authority of Jesus Christ. As
stated in the beginning of this study, if the minister is speaking in accord
with God’s Law, why would anyone want to be contrary? The problem comes
in if a leader decides he wants to dictate personal conduct not covered or
addressed in principle by the word of God. In that case, the
individuals involved should weigh an opinion as an opinion. They are
responsible for their own conduct. Their Master is Messiah. They
answer to Him, not the minister, unless the matter has repercussions for the
Where there is no law,
there is no sin (Rom 4:15, 5:13). Care should always be taken to assure
that the matter is not addressed by God in principle, even though not in the
letter. This is not always obvious, which is why we have leaders that
supposedly dedicate themselves to the study of the mind of God.
We should keep in mind
that the Creator considered the leaders of Ancient Israel to be shepherds.
"Wherever I have moved
about with all the children of Israel, have I ever spoken a word to anyone
from the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel,
saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’" (II Sam 7:7,
see also Num 27:17-20, II Chr 18:16)
Every leader of Israel
from Moses to Saul was a shepherd to Israel. I Chronicles 11:2 also seems to equate being a shepherd with being a ruler.
Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel."
This illustrates the
intention of the Creator. In Yeshua/Jesus,
the Father has the kind of ruler/leader that He desires, i.e. one that truly
shepherds His people. The godly leader, ruler, chief of the
congregation, whatever one wishes to call him, will relate to the
congregation as Yeshua does. He will be a
good shepherd to his flock. He will serve the sheep by providing them
with a balanced diet of knowledge and understanding. He will protect
them from false witnesses that would lead them astray. He will conduct
himself in a manner exemplary of the Father Himself and worthy of imitation.
The well being of the congregation will be paramount in the leaders’
mind. He will work to enable them, not maintain or promote his own
"So he shepherded
them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them by the
skillfulness of his hands." (Ps 78:72)
"Here I am.
Witness against me before the LORD and before His anointed: Whose ox have I
taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I cheated? Whom have I
oppressed, or from whose hand have I received any bribe with which to blind
my eyes? I will restore it to you." (I Sam 12:3)
Although in a position of
advantage and authority a true representative of the Master will not use his
position to his personal advantage. He will look to his Master to
support his needs. He will not seek to extract anything from those he
"I will leave in
your midst A meek and humble people, And they shall trust in the name of the
LORD." (Zep 3:12)
The true leader will be an
example to the congregation of meekness and humility. He will fear the
Creator and depend on Him to provide. He will not depend on his own
cunning manipulation. The leader needs wisdom and understanding, but
not so he can take advantage of anyone. His wisdom will be in
impartiality, fairness, mercy and justice. He will not be particularly
concerned about money, unlike the corrupt shepherds that are mainly concerned
with and feed themselves (Eze 34:2-3, 8).
In Titus 1:5 Paul
'commanded' Titus. Indeed this seems to be a reasonable rendering of
the Greek. If he could command another minister, could he not command a
Well, yes, and no.
Titus was Paul's assistant. This is indicated in Galatians 2:1.
He was apparently fulfilling a similar function to that of Timothy (Acts
16:19). Paul considered Titus to be his son in the faith (Titus
1:4). It was apparent to the leadership of the church that Paul, in
particular, had been chosen to lead the distribution of the gospel among the
gentiles (Gal 2:9). Certainly as Titus was around Paul, he learned to
take on more and more responsibility. Ultimately, he was more or less on
his own, but because of Paul's unique calling and background and the initial
relationship between Paul and Titus, Paul remained the senior. Titus
was there to assist Paul in the maintenance of the churches. In this
area, Paul had a right to command in matters concerning doctrine and the work
of the ministry Paul led. This did not give Paul a right to dictate his
personal opinion to members of any congregation.
Paul was dedicated to the
preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was concerned with teaching
people how to walk with their Creator, not unrelated details of life.
It was his responsibility to make clear the way of God.