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The Jewish People: Our Elder Brothers - VoxClamantis - 11-23-2013

Thank God for for the Wayback Machine. Jacob Michael's stuff is still out there, and there's gold in a lot of it. Here's his take on Romans 9, which explains what the Church means when referring to the Jewish people as our "elder brothers."

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The Riddle of Romans 9

If you don't know the Old Testament, you won't "get" St. Paul's writings. He makes use of literally hundreds of Old Testament allusions and quotes in his epistles, and he assumes that his readers know what he's referring to.

Most modern readers haven't got a clue what he's referring to, and so most modern readers end up interpreting his epistles - oddly enough - to mean the exact opposite of what he actually meant.

As a former Calvinist, I know full well just how often Romans 9 is appealed to by Calvinists as an open-and-shut apologia for their particular understanding of Predestination, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, etc.

But I also know, now that I'm a Catholic, just how unaware Calvinists are of the Old Testament background of Romans 9 - the interpretive key that unlocks the meaning of Romans 9.

Let me make a few brief analogies before I present my case for the proper interpretation of Romans 9. Assuming that I'm speaking to an American audience, what would you think if I said to you, "buy me some peanuts and cracker-jacks?"

You'd say I must have the munchies, right? I must want some snacks from the store, right?


Any American would be able to tell you that I've just quoted one line from a song that begins with the words "take me out to the ballgame," and that most likely I'm trying to say that I'd like to go to the ballpark and see a game.

That's what you'd understand if you knew the historical context of the words I quoted. But if you didn't know that historical tradition, you would never understand my meaning.

Likewise, if I said that the Church today is becoming more and more "of the people, by the people, for the people," who but an American would know that those words originally referred to the American government, and that therefore I must be - by quoting those words - likening the Church to an American democracy?

Again, if I said that I have certain "inalienable rights," am I referring to the right to have multiple wives, keep slaves, and grow my own marijuana? Any American would be able to tell you that I'm talking about the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

What would happen if I told a room full of Romanians that I wanted to "plead the fifth?" You're starting to get the idea now, I think.

We are like that room full of Romanians when we read St. Paul, because we have no familiarity with Israel's national history, prophetic tradition, covenant laws, etc. If we understood these things, we would understand St. Paul.

St. Paul begins Romans 9 with these words: "I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race."

That's an allusion to Moses on Mt. Sinai, after Israel had committed idolatry by worshiping the Golden Calf. Moses pleaded with God to forgive His people, because God was ready to destroy them all and start over with Moses' lineage; Moses says, "if thou wilt forgive their sin - and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written." (Ex. 32:32)

Keep that in mind, then, as you read the rest of Romans 9 - St. Paul has introduced the chapter by calling to mind the greatest act of spiritual adultery in Israel's history, when they rejected God and said of the Golden Calf, "this is the Lord who delivered us from Egypt."

St. Paul next says, "But it is not as though the word of God had failed." What is he referring to? He has just said, a verse earlier, "to them belong ... the promises" - and any Israelite would know that the one dominant theme in the prophets, the one thing promised to them in nearly every single prophetic book, was the restoration of Israel's divided kingdom (which had split way back in 930 BC), and the restoration of Israel's united kingdom mission to the Gentiles.

So why is St. Paul saying that "it is not as though the word of God had failed?" Precisely because it looks, to the Israelites, as though His word has failed; it is some 20-30 years after Jesus' Ascension, and St. Paul - the missionary to the Gentiles, mind you - is trying to pass off the message that Israel has rejected their Messiah, and so God has passed over them and turned to the Gentiles.

God's promises of restoration have failed, have they not?

No, says St. Paul. And why not? His next words: "For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants."

This is the thesis statement of Romans 9, and any interpretation of Romans 9 which is not in line with this thesis is already suspect. St. Paul does not employ irrelevant arguments, so if you interpret Romans 9 in such a way that it is irrelevant to the question of Israel's restoration, and Israel's claim to be Abraham's descendants in particular, then your interpretation is most likely way off the mark.

The argument St. Paul is about to mount is this:

1) God promised in the prophets to restore "Israel"
2) but "Israel" does not mean biological, ethnic, natural, and fleshly Israel
3) because not all who are physically and biologically descended from Abraham really belong to Abraham's true lineage
4) Therefore God is going to restore the "Israel" that is of te promise, not necessarily of the flesh
5) Therefore God's promises stand, and His word has not failed

St. Paul's next strategic move is brilliant: "...but 'Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.' This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants."

His logic is irrefutable. He has just made the shocking statement that not all who belong - physically and biologically - to Abraham are truly Abraham's descendants. How can he claim such a thing? He quotes just one verse, but any Israelite would know the story he's referring to ... "buy me some peanuts and cracker-jacks," remember?

"Through Isaac shall your descendants be named" is from Genesis 21:12, and those words were spoken to Abraham by God. Why? Because Abraham was feeling bad about something his wife had just asked him to do. What did she ask him to do?
Quote: "Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac." (Gen. 21:10)

Did you catch the intended purpose - the strageic brilliance - of St. Paul's use of this quote from Gen. 21:12? This is the story in which Ishmael - a biological, physical, natural son of Abraham - gets disinherited. So very much is Ishmael disinherited, in fact, that in the very next chapter, when God wants Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, He says, "Take your son, your only son Isaac ..."

Thus St. Paul's argument is proven: not all who are biologically descended from Abraham are truly his descendants - Ishmael, for example.

His next example introduces a new and subtle level of complexity into his argument: "And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, she was told, 'The elder will serve the younger.'"

He is, of course, quoting Genesis 25:23, referring to Esau and Jacob - not as men, not as individuals, but as nations: "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples, born of you, shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger."

But why? What does the example of these two nations bring to the discussion? He quotes another bomb-shell passage: "As it is written, 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'"

That quote is not from Genesis. That's from the prophet Malachi, and that quote not only supports St. Paul's initial point, it subtly points the finger back at Israel.
Quote: "'I have loved you,' says the LORD. But you say, 'How hast thou loved us?'

'Is not Esau Jacob's brother?' says the LORD. 'Yet I have loved Jacob but I have hated Esau; I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.'" (Mal. 1:2-3)

On the surface level, St. Paul quotes this because it proves about Esau what it proved about Ishmael. Both Esau and Ishmael are biological descendants of Abraham, but both of them were denied the coveted inheritance. Remember, Esau "despised" his inheritance, and sold it to Jacob for a bowl of stew.

On a much deeper level, however, St. Paul quotes this passage because these are the opening verses of a much longer prophecy.

This is where we see St. Paul's strategy really put to use: quote one or two lines in order to evoke the entire message. "By the people, for the people," in other words. What does the rest of Malachi 1 say?
Quote: "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. You say, 'How have we despised thy name?' By offering polluted food upon my altar. And you say, 'How have we polluted it?' By thinking that the LORD's table may be despised." (Mal. 1:6-7)

Notice, then, how St. Paul has cleverly introduced the remembrance of Israel's less-than-perfect past; they had violated the father-son relationship and "despised" the Lord's name, just as Esau "despised" his inheritance. Did you notice how that word appears not once, not twice, but three times in those two verses?
Quote: "O priests, who despise my name ... 'How have we despised thy name?' ... By thinking that the LORD's table may be despised."

And what was Malachi just talking about before he started using this word, "despise?" Esau and Jacob. And what does the book of Genesis say?
Quote: "Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright." (Gen. 25:34)

Pay close attention there, because that passage comes from Genesis 25, which is alluded to in Malachi 1 - and St. Paul quotes from both Genesis 25 and Malachi 1 in Romans 9! Guess what St. Paul is doing here? If you think he's linking Esau and Esau's loss of inheritance with Israel as a nation, then you're on the right track.

In other words, Ishmael was disinherited, Esau didn't get the inheritance, and you, O Israel, even as far back as Malachi's time you were being compared to Esau - you're on your way to being disinherited yourself! Not everyone who is descended from Israel belongs to Israel.

Now St. Paul asks a rhetorical question: "Is there injustice on God's part? By no means!" But why, St. Paul? Why is there no injustice on God's part here?

He answers with another loaded quote from the Old Testament: "For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'"

And where does that quote come from? Exodus 33:19. And what is the historical context? What has just happened in Israel's history? God spoke those words to Moses, after Moses had just finished pleading for mercy on Israel's behalf, because they had just finished worshiping a Golden Calf! St. Paul began the chapter by alluding to this event, and now he evokes the memory of the sin again by explicitly quoting a verse from that story.

Here is where another subtle argument slips in, and it is a powerful one. The worship of the Golden Calf, which he has now alluded to twice, came just after the exodus out of Egypt. It was there, at that time, that God said to Moses, "And you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD, Israel is my first-born son...'" (Ex. 4:22) Do you feel the sweeping current of the argument?

Israel, wake up! Ishmael was Abraham's first-born son, according to the natural and biological order, yet he was disinherited and Isaac - the younger son - got the inheritance. Esau was Isaac's first-born son, also according to the natural and biological order, and once again, he forfeited his inheritance to Jacob, the younger son. Israel, you too are God's "first-born son," according to the natural order of nations - but you can not rely on that natural status, because that is not what God takes into account.

His next words say this very thing, in fact: "So it depends not upon man's will or exertion, but upon God's mercy."

In other words, it does not depend upon natural power, prestige, status, etc., so do not fall back on your "first-born" status - or you, like Ishmael, like Esau, will be disinherited and your inheritance will be given to the younger-brother Gentile nations.

Next, St. Paul strengthens the argument by tying a few of these elements together: "For the scripture says to Pharaoh, 'I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.' So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills."

Once again, Egypt is alluded to, but this time Pharaoh is thrown into the mix. Why Pharaoh? Because Pharaoh was also a first-born, and an obviously wicked and hard-hearted first-born. The passage which St. Paul quotes is from Exodus 9:16, in the middle of a paragraph that could easily be read as an indictment against the Israel of St. Paul's day:
Quote: "For by now I could have put forth my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth; but for this purpose have I let you live, to show you my power, so that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. You are still exalting yourself ..." (Ex. 9:15-17)

It is also significant that St. Paul uses this verse, because this verse introduces the seventh of the ten plagues which Moses visited upon Pharaoh. Those plagues were instances of mercy from God's hand, ten chances for Pharaoh to repent and do the right thing. Notice that the passage St. Paul quotes does not say that God raised up Pharaoh for the purpose of destroying him, but for the purpose of showing God's power.

God's power would have been demonstrated through mercy, if Pharaoh had repented - the supernatural display of cosmic power in the ten plagues was not necessary, strictly speaking. However, Pharaoh's hard-hearted response made it necessary for God to destroy him. Not only is this not the Calvinist presentation of a God who raises up people and elects them for destruction, this is just the opposite: it is an affirmation of Man's own responsibility to respond to God's mercy.

Indeed, this is what St. Paul said to Israel just seven chapters earlier, in a passage eerily reminiscent of Pharaoh and Egypt: "Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed." (Rom. 2:4-5)

The passage which St. Paul quotes from Exodus 9 leads us to the end of that chapter, which says, "But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again, and hardened his heart, he and his servants." (Ex. 9:34) This is why St. Paul then says, "So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills."

Wait a minute, though - who hardened Pharaoh's heart? St. Paul seems to say that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, but that passage in Exodus says of Pharaoh that "he sinned yet again, and hardened his heart." What's the answer to the riddle? Go back eight chapters and St. Paul gives you the key:
Quote: "Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him ... Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity ... For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions ... And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct." (Rom. 1:20-29)

If God's nature can be seen through nature itself, then a fortiori Pharaoh should have been able to see God's nature and power in the very visible and super-natural acts performed by God through nature, and the suspension of the laws of nature - water turning to blood, deep darkness, frogs, hail, etc. So what does God do with such people? Hardens their hearts. And how? Three times St. Paul says it: "God gave them up ..." In other words, He lets them have exactly what they want.

Pharaoh had ten chances to repent, and he refused, so God "gave him up," we could say. God responded to Pharaoh's hardness of heart by giving him more of what he wanted, more of the same.

But this is beside the point, in a way. St. Paul is not interested here in a theological discussion of God's passive or active role in hardening the heart of man - he dealt with that in Romans 1. What he is interested in showing here is that Pharaoh had a hardened heart and that he refused to repent after being given many opportunities. Why would he want to stress that Pharaoh had a hard heart? Remember what St. John said about Israel?
Quote: "Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him ... For Isaiah again said, 'He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.'" (John 12:37-40)

Likewise, Jesus Himself said that Israel was hard of heart way back in the wilderness: "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." (Matt. 19:8 )

Finally, Ezekiel had prophesied that the time would come when God would "sprinkle clean water" upon Israel and "cleanse" them from their idols; but notice what God says about their hearts: "I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezek. 36:25-27)

St. Paul's message is striking: Pharaoh, the first-born son, who was given many chances to repent, had a hard heart of stone, and was destroyed for that hardness; Israel, you are also the first-born son, but you have had a hard heart ever since your sojourn in the wilderness, and you are now being given time to repent - if you harden your heart like Pharaoh, you will be destroyed like Pharaoh.

If Israel has become like Ishmael, and like Esau, then they have also become like Pharaoh and Egypt, their historical arch-enemy.

Now, follow carefully St. Paul's next move: "You will say to me then, 'Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?' But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me thus?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?"

The question he poses is logical: if God hardens whoever He wants to harden, and shows mercy to whoever He chooses ... if He arbitrarily chooses to love Jacob but hate Esau, then why does He find fault - grounds for judgment - with anyone? We are all just following His chosen path, the path He willed for us to follow, right?

St. Paul's answer appears to be a dodge: shut up and stop asking such impertinent questions, you mere mortal! In reality, however, St. Paul's answer is no different than it has been throughout the rest of this chapter: why does God still find fault? Who has resisted His will? You have, O Israel, beginning with your rejection of God in favor of the Golden Calf, and continuing even up until about 20 years ago when you rejected God Incarnate with the words, "We have no king but Caesar!"

That is St. Paul's answer, but how does he communicate that answer? By suddenly injecting the conversation with words like "potter," "clay," "vessel for beauty," etc. What is he talking about? He's reminding Israel of something God said years and years before, through Jeremiah:
Quote: "So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: 'O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? says the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will repent of the evil that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will repent of the good which I had intended to do to it.'" (Jer. 18:3-10)

Is God's message here, "I will choose which vessels to destroy and which to elevate, and I will choose arbitrarily without being questioned, because I'm God and I can do what I want?" No! His message to Israel, first through Jeremiah - when Israel faced the prospect of exile - and then again through St. Paul - when Rome and the destruction of Jerusalem was only years away - is quite simple: I can make of you a vessel of beauty, or I can make a vessel fit for destruction, and it all depends on whether or not you will hear my voice, repent, and turn from your evil ways.

When St. Paul speaks of how God has "endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction," he is saying nothing different than when God said through Jeremiah, "If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it" - i.e., a vessel made for destruction - "and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will repent of the evil that I intended to do to it" - i.e., God endures with much patience.

He has patience with those nations - the Gentiles - because He wants "to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory" - who is St. Paul talking about? Israel, "us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles."

Here is where St. Paul uses the first-born theme to give Israel hope; if God will endure with much patience those Gentile nations who are fit for destruction, then a fortiori He will endure with more patience His first-born son among the nations. If He will forgive the Gentile nations and make them beautiful vessels of honor, then how much more will He forgive Israel and restore Her to Her former glory?

So much more could be said about this most perplexing chapter in Romans, but this should suffice to answer some basic questions, and get the reader started along the right path to understanding the chapter more fully.

The key, I will repeat, is reading St. Paul in the context of the Old Testament, which, because St. Paul was a trained scholar in the school of the Pharisees, would certainly have been familiar ground for him. The Old Testament is St. Paul’s theological playground, and the only problem is that he sometimes presumes too much in thinking that his readers will be able to follow his subtle and complex arguments.

But follow them we must. And the best way to begin is by opening your Old Testament and re-reading the texts until they become familiar to you. Only then can you hope to have a chance at understanding St. Paul the way he intended to be understood.

______________________________________ End Article ______________________________________

For more on this topic, see

Re: The Jewish People: Our Elder Brothers - Vincentius - 11-23-2013

Is this "Lumen Gentleman"?  Where does he write now?

Re: The Jewish People: Our Elder Brothers - VoxClamantis - 11-23-2013

(11-23-2013, 11:19 AM)Vincentius Wrote: Is this "Lumen Gentleman"?  Where does he write now?

Yes, that's from "Lumen Gentleman." I don't know where or if he writes now, alas.

Re: The Jewish People: Our Elder Brothers - PrairieMom - 11-24-2013

Whoa. Mind blown!

Did this guy write more stuff?

Re: The Jewish People: Our Elder Brothers - Vincentius - 11-24-2013

Lumen Gentleman and I corresponded occasionally when he was here in FE.  Here is one of the better apologetics articles he wrote contra so-called "pastors" of non-Catholic faiths:

By What Authority?

A Challenge to Protestant Pastors, and others who have their own interpretation of the Scriptures, not keeping in mind the warning given in [2 Peter 3:16]

"As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction."

Read -- [2 Timothy 4:3] For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears:

Here is an important scriptural passage about "interpreting" what is in the Bible:  "The Apostle Philip and the Eunuch" (a good example of Protestants trying to wrestle the meaning of the Scriptures.  It shows that you need someone of authority to tell you what the scriptures mean.  You cannot rely on your own judgment and say this is what I am saying, which you may be in error): [Acts Of Apostles 8:30-31] 
30 And Philip running thither, heard him reading the prophet Isaias. And he said: Thinkest thou that thou understandest what thou readest?
31  Who said: And how can I, unless some man show me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
32 And the place of the scripture which he was reading was this: He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb without voice before his shearer, so openeth he not his mouth.
33 In humility his judgment was taken away. His generation who shall declare, for his life shall be taken from the earth?
34 And the eunuch answering Philip, said: I beseech thee, of whom doth the prophet speak this? of himself, or of some other man?
35 Then Philip, opening his mouth, and beginning at this scripture, preached unto him Jesus.

-------------------------------------------------------------/ 0 /-------------------------------------------------------------------

Jacob's article begins here:

By What Authority?

This article is written with a very specific and limited group in mind:   Protestants who call themselves "pastor."

The title of this article is, of course, taken from the pages of Sacred Scripture. The Jews asked this very question of Jesus:

"And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, 'By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?'" (Matt. 21:23)

So I ask you Antony and Michael, and the "pastor" of your Church:  "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?"   You must answer truthfully.   I know the Scriptures myself, but I do not claim to have authority to teach.

This is indeed a legitimate question, and one that any sincere Christian ought to ask of anyone who claims to be a leader appointed by God. This is my challenge to Protestant pastors: "by what authority" do you claim your title and position, and "who gave you this authority?"

To understand the gravity of this challenge, I must define the term "pastor." What is a "pastor?" The word is from the Latin, in fact, and it means - quite simply - "shepherd." If you call yourself a pastor, you are claiming to be a shepherd of God's flock.

The term "pastor" is also interwoven with the biblical term "overseer," or "elder" - in the Greek, episkopos, or "bishop."

We see this in St. Paul's farewell discourse to the elders of Ephesus:

"Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son." (Acts 20:28)

There is the connection:   the "episkopoi" of the church at Ephesus have guardianship over "the flock" of God's people.

Further, to be a "pastor" (shepherd, overseer, elder) is also to be an "ambassador" for Christ (c.f. 2 Cor. 5:18ff).

This is no light responsibility, and Scripture tells us that this position is never self-appointed. That is, no man can merely take it upon himself, of his own initiative, to start shepherding God's flock:
"And one does not take the honor upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was." (Heb. 5:4)

Now, the astute reader will note that the above passage is referring specifically to the office of High Priest. Some may object that it only this highest of offices that cannot be self-appointed. But this is false, since this passage speaks of pastors as well as the High Priest.   Am I reading too much into this passage?   No, for we see that, just as a "pastor" is a shepherd of God's flock, so the priests and High Priest are also shepherds of God's flock:

"The word of the LORD came to me: 'Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?'" (Ezek. 34:1-2)

Here Ezekiel rebukes the priests of Israel, and explicitly calls them "shepherds." We can see the connection with the title of "pastor" simply by examining the Latin Vulgate text of this same passage:

"fili hominis propheta de pastoribus Israhel propheta et dices pastoribus haec dicit Dominus Deus vae pastoribus Israhel qui pascebant semet ipsos nonne greges pascuntur a pastoribus."

Thus, when Heb. 5:4 addresses the office of High Priest, it is the office of High Shepherd, High Pastoribus. Clearly, the restriction of Heb. 5:4 applies to all "shepherds," all "priests," all "pastors":   the office, because of its solemn duties and grave responsibilities (James 3:1), cannot be taken upon oneself, but rather, one must be called to this office by God.

The same, of course, goes for "ambassadors."  The dictionary defines the word to mean, an "authorized messenger or representative" - thus, an ambassador must be sent.   In fact, the word "apostle" is Greek for "sent one."  To this we can add the words of St. Paul, who says that preachers must be "sent." (Rom. 10:15)

Now, what does "to be sent" mean, except that someone in authority over you has conferred the privilege and authority upon you?   In fact, it goes without saying that the one who confers the authority must be superior in authority to the one being commissioned, since no one can confer that which he does not possess himself.

**In other words, a congregation's vote cannot suffice, Scripturally speaking, to appoint a man as "pastor," since the congregation (of inferior authority) cannot confer superior authority upon a man.**   [This is the method employed by protestant "churches" and communities.]

What is the Scriptural pattern for such things?   This we can ascertain by observing the mission of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.   It is a pattern of Divine Succession:

God the Father sends Jesus Christ  "...these very works which I am doing, bear me witness that the Father has sent me." (John 5:36)

Jesus, in turn, sends the Apostles "...As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." (John 20:21) 
Can you or your pastor make that claim?

Jesus sends these Apostles "as the Father has sent me," that is, in the same manner, with the same authority: "all authority."

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Matt. 28:18)

The Apostles, then, did not take their office and authority upon themselves, but were appointed by a Superior Authority, Jesus Christ. The Scriptures attest to the unique authoritative status of the Apostles in several ways, which we will examine now.

Scripture shows that only the Apostles are "entrusted" with the care of the Gospel message:
• St. Paul  "...they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised."(Gal. 2:7)

" Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Cor. 5:19)

" accordance with the glorious gospel of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted." (1 Tim. 1:11)

• St. Timothy
"Paul, Silvanus [Silas], and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians... we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel." (1 Thess. 1:1, 2:4)

"O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you." (1 Tim. 6:20)

"...guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us." (2 Tim. 1:14)

You may object at this point that St. Timothy was not an apostle.   I will concede that he was not an "Apostle," with a capital "A," but you must concede that Scripture clearly calls St. Timothy an apostle, thereby attesting to his apostolic authority:

"Paul, Silvanus [Silas], and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians... nor did we seek glory from men, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ." (1 Thess. 1:1, 2:6)

It is not only St. Timothy who is called an apostle by Sacred Scripture, but also St. Barnabus, Apollos, and St. Titus:

St. Barnabus - "But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out among the multitude..." (Acts 14:14)

Apollos - "I planted, Apollos watered... He who plants and he who waters are equal." (1 Cor. 3:6, 8)

"I have applied all this to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brethren... For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death." (1 Cor. 4:6,9)

The objection will be raised:   Titus is nowhere in Scripture explicitly called an apostle. I reply, it is implicit in what kind of authority is accorded to the apostles. Scripture testifies that only apostles are given full authority. Compare what is said of St. Paul and St. Timothy (both of whom are called "apostles") with what is said of St. Titus:

St. Paul - "...nor did we seek glory from men, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ." (1 Thess. 2:6)

St. Timothy - "As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine..." (1 Tim. 1:3)

"Command and teach these things." (1 Tim. 4:11)

"Remind them of this, and charge them before the Lord to avoid disputing about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers." (2 Tim. 2:14)

St. Titus - "This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you." (Tit.1:5)

"Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you." (Tit. 2:15)

"...our boasting before Titus has proved true. And his heart goes out all the more to you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, and the fear and trembling with which you received him." (2 Cor. 7:14-15)

Scripture also shows that only the Apostles refer to the Gospel message as their own personal possession:

"...when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus." (Rom. 2:16)

"Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ..." (Rom. 16:25)

"Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel." (2 Tim. 2:8)

"Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians... for our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." (1 Thess. 1:1 & 5)

"Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians... God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel..." (2 Thess. 1:1 & 2:13-14)

The Apostles possessed the Gospel message precisely because it was (as the above passages demonstrated) "entrusted" to them, i.e., given to them, and not taken by them on their own initiative. This is completely in keeping with the restriction imposed by Heb. 5:4.

Thus far we have established how the Gospel message and the necessary authority that accompanies its preaching was passed on from God to Jesus Christ, then to the Apostles.

The question we must ask now is this: after the original 12 Apostles, how is this Gospel and apostolic authority passed on?   Is it passed on at all?   After the death of the last Apostle, can any individual who feels "called" by God simply take up the mission and message and carry on where the Apostles left off?

The answer to this question is plainly "no," as we have already begun to see from Scripture. The mission and the message can only be passed on by someone who first possessed it. That is, the mission does not merely entail preaching the message, but with it comes the authority to spiritually "reproduce" and pass on the necessary authority to the next generation. Let us recap and see how this is so:

God is the source of this mission and authority.

He passes it to Jesus ("the Father has sent me... all authority has been given to me").
Jesus passes it on - along with "all authority" to act "in my name" - to the Apostles ("as the Father has sent me, [i.e., in the same way and with the same authority] so I send you," "go and make disciples")

The Apostles pass the mission and authority on to men like St. Timothy and St. Titus ("with all authority" Tit 2:15)

The second apostolic generation is expected to entrust the mission to the next generation, ad infinitum
It is this last point that we must now unpack and develop a bit further. The first generation of Apostles takes care to not only pass along the message, but also creates new pastors with apostolic authority to continue transmitting the message:

"And when they [Ss. Paul and Barnabus] had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed." (Acts 14:23)

St. Paul says:  "This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you." (Tit. 1:5)

"...and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (2 Tim. 2:2)

Note once again the appearance of the word "entrust" in this last passage. St. Paul expects that St. Timothy will "guard what has been entrusted" to him, and then later "entrust" that same mission and authority "to faithful men."

There can be no other reason why St. Paul would leave his two spiritual "sons" (Ss. Titus and Timothy) explicit instructions about the qualifications for overseers, elders, bishops, etc. (c.f. 1 Tim 3:1-7, Tit. 1:5-9), than that he expects them to confer apostolic authority on new men who meet those requirements.
I mentioned earlier that the Apostles were given the responsibility of spiritually "reproducing" new pastors and bishops. It would be profitable for us to look at this in more detail.

In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve. This much we all know (again, I am assuming that I am addressing Protestant pastors who are at least mildly literate in Scripture). What may be new to you, however, is the implicit Father/Son imagery that is used in the creation narrative:

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him... then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." (Gen. 1:27, 2:7)

"When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth." (Gen. 5:3)

What these two passages tell us is that, when God created Adam, He was fathering a son in His own image and likeness. Note that God, in the act of fathering his first human son, breathes on the Man, at which point the Man receives his living spirit. Compare this to Jesus and the Apostles:

"Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" (John 20:21-22)

In the context of conferring His authority on the Apostles, commissioning them to go in His name to build and govern His Church, Jesus does the very same thing His Father did to the First Adam: He breathes upon them, gives them the Spirit, and "fathers" them, spiritually speaking.

This is why the Apostles then turn around and "father" new sons (that is, pastors, bishops, etc., with apostolic authority) - because this is what Jesus did to them. Thus we see St. Paul referring to Ss. Titus and Timothy (both second-generation apostles, according to Scripture) as his "sons," and calling himself their "father":

"But Timothy's worth you know, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel." (Phil 2:22)

"To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." (1 Tim. 1:2)

"To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." (2 Tim. 1:2)

"To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior." (Tit. 1:4)

From here, we turn to the area of preaching specifically, that is, intepreting and teaching Scripture.

Along with the title of "pastor," you (if you are a Protestant pastor) take upon yourself this responsibility, of "rightly dividing the word of truth" and teaching your flock from Scripture. Yet, as the Scriptures note that only the Apostles are "entrusted" with the Gospel, and only the Apostles refer to the Gospel in the possessive, so also the Scriptures teach that only validly appointed and commissioned "ambassadors" can have the responsibility of teaching Scripture in this authoritative fashion.

Although many Protestant pastors apply St. Paul's words, "rightly divide the word of truth," to themselves, in fact, these words were written to St. Timothy specifically, not to the congregation in general.

2 Tim. 3:16-17 shows the relationship between the legitimate ambassador and Scripture:
"All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

There is the relationship: the Scriptures are a tool for "teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness," but who is to use this tool for these purposes? That is, who has the authority to teach, reproof, correct, and train others in righteousness?    The "man of God" has this authority.

But, who is the "man of God?"   You may wish to claim this title for yourself as well, but a short survey of Scripture's use of the title will reveal that this, too, is a privileged title that cannot be simply taken upon oneself:

Moses - "This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death." (Deut. 33:1)

"Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal; and Caleb, the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, said to him, 'You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me.'" (Josh. 14:6)

The Angel of the Lord - "Then the woman came and told her husband, 'A man of God came to me, and his countenance was like the countenance of the angel of God, very terrible; I did not ask him whence he was, and he did not tell me his name...' Then Manoah entreated the LORD, and said, 'O, LORD, I pray thee, let the man of God whom thou didst send come again to us, and teach us what we are to do with the boy that will be born.'" (Jud. 13:6, 8)

Samuel - "The servant answered Saul again, 'Here, I have with me the fourth part of a shekel of silver, and I will give it to the man of God, to tell us our way.'" (1 Sam. 9:8)

Elijah - "And she said to Elijah, 'What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!'" (1 Kings 17:18)

Elisha - "And she went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out... When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed." (2 Kings 4:21, 32)

David - "According to the ordinance of David his father, he appointed the divisions of the priests for their service, and the Levites for their offices of praise and ministry before the priests as the duty of each day required, and the gatekeepers in their divisions for the several gates; for so David the man of God had commanded." (2 Chr. 8:14)

St. Timothy - "But as for you, man of God, shun all this; aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness." (1 Tim. 6:11)

Contrary to the opinion that the "man of God" can be any Christian without distinction, Scripture itself will not allow such an interpretation, insisting that the "man of God" is a figure of authority, either commissioned by God directly through Divine Intervention (such as Moses or the Angel), or appointed by another holder of authority (such as Samuel, David, Elisha, and St. Timothy).

From this very brief survey of the phrase "man of God" (there are perhaps a dozen or so more passages, relating to the characters listed above - I have chosen representative verses), we see that what holds true for "pastors" holds true for the "man of God":  it is a title of authority that can in no way be taken upon oneself, but rather, it is bestowed upon a man by a higher authority. A man must be called by God to hold this title of "man of God."

But there is another objection here:   you will say, "I have been called by God to be a pastor."
Very well, let us take another look at Scripture to measure your claim.

Biblically, there is only one way to become a legitimate ambassador of Christ, or "pastor": by appointment from a superior.

This can be done in two ways:   (1) being commissioned by a legitimate ambassador (apostolic succession), or (2) being called directly by God. We saw examples of this in Scripture already: Ss. Timothy and Titus were appointed to their positions of authority by succession, Moses was appointed to his position directly by God, with no human mediation.

As to the first method, apostolic succession comes through the laying on of hands in ceremony:  "Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands... guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us." (2 Tim. 1:6, 14)

When St. Paul imposed his hands on St. Timothy, he passed on a legitimate apostolic authority, "entrusted" the "truth" to him, and imparted the gift of "the Holy Spirit" for the safekeeping and preservation of the Gospel.

As has already been said, only a superior can do this, and not an inferior, since an inferior cannot pass on what he does not already possess.

Now, the majority of Protestant pastors reject entirely the notion of apostolic succession (although it has now been shown, from Scripture, that apostolic succession is the ordinary means of transmitting apostolic authority and the Gospel message), and so only one option remains for the Protestant pastor: to claim to have been appointed directly by God, as Moses was -- that is, by "extraordinary" means.

To those who would make such a claim, I issue this warning:  you had better be sure of your claim.

Scripture does not speak well of those who illegitimately take this position upon themselves. In the book of Acts, illegitimate leaders attempted to confuse the Christians by claiming that circumcision was necessary for salvation. The Council of Jerusalem commented upon this, saying:

"...we have heard that some persons from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions..." (Acts 15:24)

Note well what is presumed here:   that it was wrong of these men to act in such a way without first having received their commission, their "instructions," from those in legitimate authority.

Further, when King Jereboam began to rule the northern tribes of Israel, it is noted that his sin was not dividing the kingdom, but dividing the Old Testament "church" by setting up alternative places of worship, and illegitimately appointing pastors:

"And this thing became a sin, for the people went to the one at Bethel and to the other as far as Dan. He also made houses on high places, and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites." (1 Kings 12:30-31).

That being said, let us examine the claim of the Protestant pastor who purports to have been called extraordinarily by God. We will look at three examples of men (or groups of men) in Scripture who were truly called by God directly to their ministry: Moses, Jesus Christ, and the Apostles.

Scripture teaches that this supernatural, extraordinary calling by God directly is the exception, not the rule. The rule is appointment by succession (as in the case of the kings, prophets, and the second generation of apostles).   In the exceptional, extraordinary case, Scripture requires the proof of miracles, signs, and wonders for authenticity:

Moses - "Then Moses answered, "But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, 'The LORD did not appear to you.'" The LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" He said, "A rod." And he said, "Cast it on the ground." So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. But the LORD said to Moses, "Put out your hand, and take it by the tail" -- so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand -- "that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you." Again, the LORD said to him, "Put your hand into your bosom." And he put his hand into his bosom; and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, as white as snow. Then God said, "Put your hand back into your bosom." So he put his hand back into his bosom; and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. "If they will not believe you," God said, "or heed the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or heed your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it upon the dry ground; and the water which you shall take from the Nile will become blood upon the dry ground." (Ex.4:1-9)

"...the LORD said to Moses, "I am the LORD; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say to you." But Moses said to the LORD, "Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips; how then shall Pharaoh listen to me?" And the LORD said to Moses, "See, I make you as God to Pharaoh; and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet... You shall speak all that I command you; and Aaron your brother shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt..." (Ex. 6:29-7:3)

The Apostles - " shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his own will." (Heb. 2:3-4)

"Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, "Look at us." And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, "I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God." (Acts 3:1-9)

"And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus." (Acts 4:29-30)

"And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people." (Acts 6:8)

In addition to the Apostles in general, there is the specific case of St. Paul, whose calling truly was extraordinary, in a way that the other apostles' calling was not. They were called by Jesus while he was still a man on the earth; St. Paul was called through a vision and a heavenly voice. Thus, we see in Scripture:
"And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them." (Acts 19:11-12)

His calling was extraordinary, and so, in keeping with this, he performed "extraordinary miracles." Finally, we come to our last example: Our Lord Himself. His was, of course, an extraordinary calling, He being sent on His mission to earth by God the Father directly. "Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. (John 14:10-12)

"If I bear witness to myself, my testimony is not true; there is another who bears witness to me, and I know that the testimony which he bears to me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony which I receive is from man; but I say this that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has granted me to accomplish, these very works which I am doing, bear me witness that the Father has sent me." (John 5:31-36)

This last case should truly give pause to any professed follower of Christ who claims to have been called as a Shepherd of God's flock.  Where are the miracles that must attend your ministry as verification of your extraordinary calling?   If even Jesus submitted to this proof-test, how can any mere man exempt himself from this same test, unless he wishes to say he is greater than even Jesus?

Here, then, is the summary of what we find in Scripture: no man can take the responsibility or title of "pastor" to himself. Rather, he must be sent by God, either indirectly (via succession), or directly (via extraordinary calling).   If he claims the latter, his mission must be accompanied by miracles, signs and wonders as proof of his Divine vocation.  This is the crux of my challenge to you, if you are a Protestant pastor:   by what authority do you claim your office?   By succession?   If so, demonstrate that you were called by a superior authority who himself had a legitimate claim to his office.    By extraordinary calling? If so, then show the required signs and wonders that authenticate your ministry.

In conclusion, I say to you: you must be absolutely sure, for your own soul's sake, that your calling is legitimate.   In Numbers 16, Korah set himself up as an illegitimate authority against God's appointed authorities, and was destroyed for his audacious act. This problem has not disappeared in our day, for we find St. Jude warning us of falling into the same sin:

"Woe to them! For they walk in the way of Cain, and abandon themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error, and perish in Korah's rebellion." (Jude 11)

You may choose to brush this challenge aside, but that will not absolve you of the account that you will have to give before God one day regarding these issues.   I invite to ask yourself, honestly: have you set yourself up illegitimately against the legitimate authorities who can prove their mission by succession? Are you in danger of being destroyed (loss of your salvation) for committing Korah's sin?

One side note, to those of you who read this who are not pastors:   this same challenge applies secondarily to you.   Are you certain that the man who shepherds your soul is a legitimate leader?    Or are you following a self-appointed shepherd who is in rebellion against God's appointed authorities?

Re: The Jewish People: Our Elder Brothers - VoxClamantis - 11-24-2013

(11-24-2013, 12:16 AM)PrairieMom Wrote: Whoa. Mind blown!

Did this guy write more stuff?

He used to, but no more, to my knowledge.  I think he got burnt out on the Toxic Trad stuff, too. But that sort of writing shows how wondrous it is to read Sacred Scripture using Typology, like the Apostles and Church Fathers did. It shows the Bible for what it is:  a true masterpiece with layer upon layer of Mystery inside. Very fascinating stuff...