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CHRISTIANITY HAS NO CLASS DISTINCTION (2)

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"Certainly in the little band of Jesus and his disciples there was no division into clergy and laity. Much as any [clergyman] would like to regard Jesus as his counterpart in the early situation, his manner, speech and mood were what we would today call 'lay.' And just so, the disciples who might look from here like a [newly formed] laity were really the preachers who were sent out. "In the rest of the New Testament the word for clergy (kleros) means not a special order among the Christians but all the Christians. And the word for laity (laós) means not a recipient part of the congregation but, again, all the Christians. All are called to one service, and all are God's people. Our distinction between clergy and laity was not known to the New Testament, so St. Paul could not have added 'clergy and laity' to the list of Jew and Gentile, slave and free, rich and poor, men and women who are one in Christ. Had he lived in the second century, however, he might have so expanded his list."--The Christian Century, October 12, 1955.

The Watchtower, June 15th 1958 Issue, Page 359, 409, 487-488: “The fact of the matter is that the very profession or vocation of a Christian clergy is without Scriptural foundation or precedent. The clergy-laity distinction was wholly unknown by Christians of the first century. They heeded Jesus' instructions: "Do not you be called 'Rabbi', for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for One is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called 'leaders', for your Leader is one, the Christ."--Matt. 23:8-10. Jesus gave no instruction about a clergy and a laity. Hence Jehovah's witnesses recognize no such distinction.

Jesus made no room for clergymen, doctors of divinity, or "fathers" as distinguished from the 'common herd' of sheep. In fact he warned against it, as did his apostle Paul. So to be one of Jehovah's witnesses one must be a minister. In the organization of Jehovah's witnesses all are brothers, all are preachers of the good news of God's established kingdom.--Matt. 23:8-12; 1 Pet. 5:3; Matt. 24:14. These Christian ministers and witnesses of Jehovah follow the example set by the apostles and go "from house to house," looking for those who are "conscious of their spiritual need." Finding such ones, they make return visits, endeavoring to start a weekly home Bible study. If successful, they continue this study, not only until the student dedicates himself to do God's will, but until he no longer needs such aid. All ministers are either being trained or training others. There is no clergy-laity distinction, nor are honorary titles bestowed upon any. All keep progressing from students to ministers who can assist others.--Acts 20:20; Matt. 5:3; 23:8.

Clergy-Laity Distinction: Jesus Christ had given no instructions for his disciples to be divided up into clergy and laity. They were all equals as members of a spiritual family, all spirit-begotten brothers of Jesus Christ, anointed to be a body of priests, with prospects of being heavenly kings and priests with Christ. The apostle Peter called them "a royal priesthood." (1 Pet. 2:5, 9) Jesus, the Head, does not split up the body of his congregation into a clergy class and a laity class of the "common people." He says to his followers: "Do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called 'leaders,' for your Leader is one, the Christ." (Matthew 23:8-10) So Jesus shows that there is no division among those who make up the true church. However, he did arrange for men to take the lead in the Christian congregation, to serve the spiritual needs of their brothers and organize the work of preaching the good news.

Jesus said such ones were not to "lord it over" their brothers but were to be like slaves or servants to them. (Matthew 20:25-28) Must All True Christians Be Ministers? "All things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of the reconciliation."-2 CORINTHIANS 5:18. "THERE was no distinction [in the Apostle Paul's day] between clergy and laity for there was no clergy." That startling statement, which appeared in the London Times, expresses a basic truth regarding early Christianity. There was no clergy-laity division. Does that mean that the Christian congregation was without any visible leadership? And were there no ministers in any sense? 2. Sometime after Pentecost, 33 C.E., as the number of anointed Christians grew by the thousands; it became necessary to appoint qualified men in each congregation to serve as overseers and as ministerial servants. But they did not form a clergy class. Their appointment did not depend on a university or seminary career. They did not receive a salary for their services.

They were humble men with spiritual qualifications, appointed by Holy Spirit to care for the flock. Were they, though, the only ones who preached the 'good news of the Kingdom'? Were they the only ministers in the congregation?-- Matthew 24:14; Acts 20:17 , 28; 1 Peter 5:1-3; 1 Timothy 3:1-10. These questions are answered by Paul's counsel in his letters to the Christians in Corinth. Note the introduction to his second letter: "Paul . . . to the congregation of God that is in Corinth, together with all the holy ones who are in all of Achaia." There is no doubt about it-he wrote to the whole body of anointed Christians in Corinth and Achaia, not just to those taking the lead. Thus his comments on the Christian ministry are very pertinent to "all the holy ones." Based on his activity and Timothy's, he reasoned: "Since we have this ministry according to the mercy that was shown us, we do not give up." "But all things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of the reconciliation . . . We are therefore ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us." He continues: "In no way are we giving any cause for stumbling, that our ministry might not be found fault with; but in every way we recommend ourselves as God's ministers, by the endurance of much."--2 Corinthians 1:1; 4:1; 5:18-20; 6:3, 4.

These words imply that every anointed Christian has to be a minister and ambassador for Christ. For what reason? Because the world, by its sin, is "alienated from the life that belongs to God" and needs a ministry of reconciliation in order that obedient and loyal people from all nations may have a relationship through Christ with the Sovereign Lord Jehovah.--Ephesians 4:18; Romans 5:1, 2. To the congregation in Rome, Paul wrote: "But what does it [God's Word] say?’The word is near you, in your own mouth and in your own heart'; that is, the 'word' of faith, which we are preaching. For if you publicly declare that 'word in your own mouth,' that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation."--Romans 10:8-10. Did Paul direct those words to a select few? His introduction shows otherwise, for he wrote: "To all those who are in Rome as God's beloved ones." He added: "I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ concerning all of you, because your faith is talked about throughout the whole world." Clearly, Paul directed his counsel and encouragement, including chapter 10, to the whole congregation. The privilege of making public declaration was open to all. In fact, he strengthened his argument by adding: "However, how will they call on him in whom they have not put faith?

How, in turn, will they put faith in him of whom they have not heard? How, in turn, will they hear without someone to preach? How, in turn, will they preach unless they have been sent forth? Just as it is written: 'How comely are the feet of those who declare good news of good things!'"--Romans 1:7, 8; 10:14, 15. How encouraging that is for every anointed Christian! It means that all of them should have the joy of spreading the Kingdom message of salvation to others. Yes, in God's sight, their feet can be and should be "comely" in a figurative sense. Why so? Because genuine Christianity is not an egocentric religion that leads to self-satisfaction, seclusion and vows of silence. On the contrary, it promotes an active Christian ministry expressed in word and deed! How conscious Paul was of that is seen by his exclamation: "Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!"--1 Corinthians 9:16; Isaiah 52:7.

Why It Is Wise to Stick to the Bible: “Do not go beyond the things that are written,” the Bible states. (1 Corinthians 4:6) Sadly, when people disregard that divinely inspired directive, spiritual harm usually results, and that is true of the clergy-laity arrangement.

How so? Please consider the following six points. 1. The separation of a clergy class implies that one must have a special calling to be a minister of God. Yet, the Bible says that all true Christians should serve God and praise his name. (Romans 10:9, 10) As for ministering within the congregation, Christian men in general are encouraged to reach out for that privilege, which is the Bible custom—1 Timothy 3:1. 2. The clergy-laity distinction exalts the clergy class, an evidence being adulatory religious titles. Yet, Jesus said: “He that conducts himself as a lesser one among all of you is the one that is great.” (Luke 9:48) In harmony with that spirit of humility, he told his followers not to adopt religious titles.—Matthew 23:8-12. 3. A paid clergy class can impose a heavy financial burden on the laity, especially when the former have lavish lifestyles. Christian overseers, on the other hand, care for their financial needs by doing normal secular work, thus setting a good example for others.—Acts 18:1-3; 20:33, 34; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10. 4. Because a clergyman may depend on others for financial support, he might be tempted to dilute the Bible’s message in order to please parishioners. Indeed, the Scriptures foretold that this very thing would occur.

“There will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled.”—2 Timothy 4:3. 5. The clergy-laity distinction tends to cause lay people to relegate religion to the clergy, while the laity just turn up for weekly services. Yet, all Christians must be conscious of their spiritual need and be good students of the Bible.—Matthew 4:4; 5:3. 6. When the laity is Biblically uninformed, they can easily be misled by clerics, even exploited by them. Indeed, history contains many examples of such abuses.—Acts 20:29, 30.

Abolishing All Distinctions: Scripture Reading: 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27-28; Col. 3:10-11. I. Believers Being One in Christ: After a new believer has received the laying on of hands, has come into the church, and has come under the headship of Christ, he has to see the oneness of believers in the Body of Christ. In other words, he has to realize the abolishment of all distinctions. This means that there should be no distinctions among believers who have become one in Christ. First Corinthians 12:13 says, "For also in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free." The word whether signifies the removal of distinctions. There are no worldly distinctions in the Body of Christ. Verse 13 continues, And were all given to drink one Spirit." We were all baptized in one Spirit into one Body and were all given to drink one Spirit.

Galatians 3:27-28 says, "For as many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There cannot be Jew nor Greek, there cannot be slave nor free man, there cannot be male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Here it says that in Christ we all are one. We are those who have put on Christ. The words put on are just one word in the original text. It does not mean "wearing" as much as it does "covering up." We were all baptized into Christ and have all put on Christ. There cannot be Jew nor Greek, slave nor free man, male and female, for in Christ we all have become one. This means that our oneness in Christ has abolished all of our former distinctions.

Colossians 3:10-11 says, "And have put on the new man, which is being renewed unto full knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all and in all." This passage also says that there are no more distinctions among believers. Galatians 3:28 says, "There cannot be," and this verse also says, "There cannot be." There cannot be distinctions because we have put on the new man. We have received and been incorporated into the new man, which was created according to the image of God. In this image there cannot be Greeks or Jews, circumcision or uncircumcision, barbarian or Scythian, slave or free man, for Christ is all and in all. Therefore, all the believers are one; they have become a single entity. From these three portions of the Scripture, we see that all believers are one in Christ, and all of their distinctions have been abolished. This is the basis upon which the church is built. If we bring all our earthly distinctions into the church and into the Lord, we will corrupt the church and spoil the relationships among the brothers and sisters. We must see that we have all been made one in Christ. Our past distinctions no longer exist among us when we are in the Lord.

There are no distinctions in the new man and in the Body of Christ. At least five distinctions are spoken of in the verses above. We see five contrasting pairs, but actually there are six differences. First, there is the difference between Greek and Jew. Then there is the difference between free man and slave. Following this there are differences between male and female, barbarians and Scythians, and circumcision and uncircumcision.

According to the apostle Paul, no matter what differences there are among men, we all have been made one in Christ. In this world, the most important thing to a person is his position, that is, his status. If I am a certain kind of person, I have to live up to my position or my status. But if we are to be Christians at all, these considerations must go. If we bring our personal status and position into the new man, we will make the new man old because these distinctions belong to the old man. Therefore, when we come to the church, we must give up all these things. Not done read next issue part 3.

Written By Dr. Lewis Akpogena
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