Spiritual Authority

the Lupine Effect of false spiritual authority

in conversation this week over at The Untenable Position of a Whale, Dallas made mention of the lupine effect; so i thought it good to post, here, an explanation of our term from a comment dropped down under a Living Liminal post entitled The Dangers Of Religious Leaders.


Male Black Timber Wolf named Cayuga, from the Wolf Mountain Nature Center in Smyrna, NY – credit: HOTNStock

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Truth: church folk are some of the meanest people on the planet!

Thankfully, Christ has set us free from “religious people” and most especially from having to be “religious.”

If we take the word “religious” to mean anything beyond being bound to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves then we followers of Christ should not be considered a “religious people.”

When asked, I characterize my relationship with God as one of a spiritual nature, not a religious one. My life as a Spirit-led Christian is one of a freedom to live simply as I’ve been created to love.

From childhood on and by His Spirit I’ve loved the Lord, His people and His Word. And from childhood His Spirit has gifted me a shepherd and teacher, so naturally I’ve lead at times in the ekklesia according to these and other giftings. Even becoming the lead potato peeler for our making of mashed potatoes for dinner for the homeless. As we have it I’ve been gifted a natural leader, it’s integral to my personality.

Yet my point is this: Scripture tells us that As everyone in Christ Jesus has been given a gift—we are to minister these gifts one to another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Peter 4:10).

So then it is in this respect that we are all considered ministers—every single member of the Body of Christ has been called to be leaders in his and her areas of gifting. I believe this is what Scripture teaches.

So although we may lead a song, or facilitate a Bible discussion, or be entrusted as the cook in charge of mash potatoes, we are directed by our Master to repudiate any sort of titles that set us apart from others within the Ekklesia.

Not only all differentiating titles, but the false authority that is assumed by the occupiers of such ecclesiastical titles as “Pastor” and “Ruling Elder” and “Holy Father” and the like.

As I see it, the moment anyone other than Christ assumes any sort of headship over anyone else in the Body, this marks the moment of an adversarial transformation—the person spiritually shapeshifts into a wolf set against the flock of God.

Headships other than Christ’s are false heads and so called “ministers of righteousness” who have succumbed to the spirit of antichrist. Thus their delusional state—they’re drunk off the maddening wine of the woman spiritually known as Mystery Babylon, who in the flesh calls herself “Church,” (a nod to the goddess Circe who by her enchantments turned men into wolves).

So Yes, it’s the church systems employing control and hierarchy that are adversarial, that are antichristian. Go into any Calvary Chapel or Presbyterian Church, for instance, and you’ve entered into a Babylonian Whale. Yes, you’ve been swallowed by dangerous ground that bends everyone within her into perverse service to the Whore. Where—in the name of the Triune Godhead—they worship many mean idols, the “Pastors” being often the meanest.

In a recent book Wayne Jacobsen writes, ‘I’ve talked to many a young “church planter”. . . . Instead of rethinking the validity of the system [being planting], they assume it is flawed because the wrong people are in charge. Once the white hats take over, all will be well. They don’t realize it is the system of management itself that passes out the black hats.’

This passing out the black hats language illustrates perfectly the principle of the Lupine Effect. One essentially becomes a wolf, a bad guy, when he or she manages to get plugged into a controlling position of “authority” within the church. It is this system of false authority over others that actually shapeshifts its wearers into wolves—for a wearer can only hold and defend their magic hatship but by fleshly and worldly means.

Bottom line: this system of church management distorts our relationships with each other to the extent that just by wearing a hat of ruling authority the wearer inevitably transforms into an adversarial character the Word of God reckons an antichrist and wolf.

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see last two posts on Church Leadership and ἡγέομαι (hēgéomai) – a New Testament word study for the biblical scholarship behind the Lupine Effect.


ἡγέομαι (hēgéomai) – a New Testament word study

note: this belongs in conversation beneath my last post on Church Leadership.

Exactly, Bryn.

And those engaged in exercising any measure of authority over the people of God directly contradict Christ’s words to his disciples on how this thing called the Ekklesia is to function.

Let me show you as much with a look at the Greek underlying our word “leaders,” particularly ἡγέομαι (géomai) which is falsely translated (and egregiously so) in the NKJV of Hebrews 13: 7, 17, and 24 as “those who rule over (you)”.

First, we have in Matthew 20 the mother of John and James approach Jesus with the request that her sons might have the places of honor at his right and left hand in the Kingdom.

Her request was not in Christ’s power to grant, but he did address the Twelve with these words:

“You know the rulers [archōns] of the Gentiles have dominion over [katakurieúō] them, and those who are great [megáloi] exercise authority over [katexousiázō ] them. It shall not be this way among you. Now whoever desires to be great among you will take the form of a servant [diákonos]; and whoever desires to be first among you will take the form of a slave [doúlos]. Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (vv 25-28).

Then, as you remind us, in Matthew 23 our Lord addressed the behavior of the Scribes and Pharisees who took for themselves the places of honor at the feasts and in the synagogues. And while these religious leaders and occupants of the seat of Moses loved to be called, “Rabbi, Rabbi,” our Master called them “blind guides,” “hypocrites” and “serpents, brood of vipers.”

“But you—do not be called Rabbi,”1 said Jesus. “For One is your Teacher [didáskalos], and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father, for you have One Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called leaders [kathēgētaí], for you have One Leader [kathēgētés], the Christ” (vv 8-10).

So here we have our Master’s explicit word on the issue of leadership in God’s Ekklesia. We have One Leader. Any other so-called leaders—along with their exclusive titles of authority such as Reverend, Bishop, Pastor, and the like—are all categorical antichrists in direct rebellion against our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ignorant or not, these pretenders have exalted themselves against Christ and His Body as false heads of something the prophecy of Jesus Christ calls the Whore of Babylon.

Leader [kathēgētés] is Christ’s singular designation. It belongs to no one else.

Found only here in the New Testament kathēgētés has been variously translated in our English bibles as “instructor,” “teacher,” “master,” with the NASB translating it as “Leader.”

Here’s the entry for The Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament:

καθηγητήςkathēgētés; gen. kathēgētoú, masc. noun from kathēgéomai (n.f.), to lead or guide in the way, which is from katá, an intens., and hēgéomai, to lead. A guide in the way, a teacher, leader (Matt. 23:8, 10). Equivalent to rhabbí, rabbi, master, a title of respectful address to Jewish teachers.

Those behind The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament lean toward translating kathēgētés as “master,” and enter: “Jesus rejects any claim to leadership made by anyone in the Church,” which is true. However, these scholars contradict this truth as they go about defining the word hēgéomai in relation to Hebrews Thirteen (as shown below).

So Yes, the Word of our Master on the leadership of His Body should be most definitive—Do not be called leaders, for you have One Leader who is the Christ.

Note: the preposition kata in kathēgētés works as an intensive prefix designed to deepen or strengthen in some sense the meaning of the verb hēgéomai, which is the word we now key in on.

Now what does géomai mean?

It’s a fairly frequent verb in Ancient Greek, occurs twenty-eight times in the New Testament, and can be broken down into three basic senses.

The most common way hēgéomai takes its meaning, as found twenty times in the NT, involves a mental sense of the word, and means to engage in an intellectual process, such as—to think, to consider, to esteem, to view, to regard, to suppose, to believe, to hold, to count, to reckon.

We see examples of this mental meaning in Philippians 2:3, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem [hēgoúmenoi] others better than himself.” And in James 1:2, “count [hēgésasthe] it all joy. . .” (see footnote for NT verses containing all twenty mental senses of the word ἡγέομαι).2

Then we have the remaining two senses of the verb hēgéomai that must not be confused, as they often have been in our English translations of Hebrews Thirteen.

One sense means “to guide” and “to lead,” and the other sense means “to govern” and “to rule,” signifying “two different sets of interpersonal relations” (Louw & Nida 36.1).

As we consider the eight remaining occurrences of hēgéomai—we look to both its shape and context to determine our sense of meaning. In each respective instance we see the verb inflected as a present participle. So they share an identical form. However, each particular context makes clear for us our understanding of what was Written.

In Luke 22:26 we have a clear example of how Scripture interprets Scripture as Jesus delimits this present participle for His disciples to a guiding and leading explicitly divested of any governing or ruling power and authority. So in all truth—brothers and sisters in Christ—we need look no further than how our Head defined this word for us in respect to interpersonal relations between members of His Body.

Now—to break it down in terms of form and function—it is in the grammatical form of a present participle that hēgéomai finds its function as a verbal adjective in six of the remaining instances, and as a noun in two.3

In the Greek Seleucid and Ptolemaic Kingdoms the present participle of hēgéomai was a technical term for one in charge of a city. This participial form referred also to the whole spectrum of Roman authorities in their various governing roles, and carried the same basic meaning as its noun form—hēgemón.

Hēgemón was the official title of a Roman governor. Pilate was a Hegemon (Matt 27:2); Felix was one (Acts 23:24); Festus also (Acts 26:30).

Yet only twice in the New Testament do we find the present participle of hēgéomai used in a “governing” and “ruling” sense—as nouns in Matthew 2:6 referring to Jesus Christ as “Ruler [hēgoúmenos]” and in Acts 7:10 referring to Joseph as “governor [hēgoúmenon]” over Egypt.

The remaining six occurrences then are to be understood strictly in the “guiding” and “leading” sense—

In Acts 14:12, between Paul and Barnabas, Paul was the “leading [hēgoúmenos] speaker.”

In Acts 15:22  we read of “leading [hēgouménous] men among the brothers.”

And most importantly: so that no one might twist and change the intent and meaning of Hebrews Thirteen, Jesus, in Luke 22:26 (as shown below in context), defined the ekklesial nature and scope of this present participle as a “leading” from the bottom as a humble servant, not as a “ruling” from the top as a governing authority—especially not in any fashion or form of an “ordained” minister as the church scheme employs today.4

So from Christ Jesus we see our personal life ministries as holy persuasive callings that have nothing to do with a system of government that demands obedience and submission to a set of rulers or leaders within the church.

That would be the governmental system of the Antichrist, empowered by the same spirit of error that inspired the King James mistranslation of Hebrews 13:17, which reads, “Obey them that have the rule over [hēgouménois] you, and submit yourselves.”

Consider now how our Master made it impossible to translate hēgéomai in the “ruling” or “governing” sense in Hebrews Thirteen—as seen in light of His instructions to us in Luke Twenty-Two:

“There arose a dispute among the disciples as to who should be considered the greatest. And Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise rule over [kurieúousin] them, and those who exercise authority over [exousiázontes] them are called Benefactors [title of honor]. But it must not be this way among you. On the contrary, he who is greatest among you must become as the youngest, and he who is leading [hēgoúmenos] as one who is serving [diakonōn]. For who is greater, the one reclining at table or the one serving? Is it not the one reclining at table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves’ ” (vv 24-27).

As the English mistranslation of hēgéomai in Hebrews Thirteen provides the proof text for the priests and apologists of the Whore of Babylon to ground their hierarchical schemes upon—I want to contrast for you now the false New King James Bible renderings of these three remaining present participles against translations holding true to Christ and the grammatical structure of hēgéomai:

Hebrews 13:7

FALSE – “Remember those who rule over [hēgouménōn] you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (NKJV).

TRUE – “Be mindful of those who have guided you, who spoke the Word of God to you; consider carefully the outcome of their behavior, and imitate their faith.”

Hebrews 13:17

FALSE – “Obey those who rule over [hēgouménois] you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (NKJV).

TRUE – “Have trust and confidence in those who are guiding you and give way to their care, for they are watchful for your souls as those who must give an account. Allow them to do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Hebrews 13:24a 

FALSE – “Greet all those who rule over [hēgouménous] you, and all the saints” (NKJV).

TRUE – “Embrace all those who are guiding you and all the saints.”

We can just as well translate the present participle as “those who are leading,” however, I opted for the language of guiding over leading for the sort of perverse energy that has built up around the word “leaders” and the actions of “church leadership” among the daughters of the Whore of Babylon.

It should be noted that most of our English Bibles have the present participle translated as “leaders,” as in the ESV of Hebrews 13:17 which reads, “Obey your leaders, and submit to them.”

I contend that all three words here—obey and leaders and submit—are inappropriate renderings of the intent and meaning of the underlying Greek New Testament.

Since Jesus told us not to call ourselves “leaders,” then it’s best to stay faithful to the present participle form as written in the original text of Scripture and translate hēgéomai not as a noun but as a verbal descriptor—as those who are guiding, or those who are leading.

And all authoritarian language must be abandoned, it doesn’t belong. It was superimposed upon our English Bibles by a system of antichrist that had long displaced Christ as the Head of the Ekklesia.

Also, the Greek word behind “obey” is peíthō and basically means—to persuade, to convince; to trust, to believe. It’s the same word found in a passive voice in the very next verse: “Pray for us, for we are confident [peíthómetha] that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably” (Heb 13:18).

And the Greek word behind “submit” is hupeíkō and literally means—to give way, to yield.

These two verbs are imperatives in the volitional mood exhorting us to respond to those who are guiding with nothing less than a willful and informed assent.

Again, the proper reading is, “Have trust and confidence in those who are guiding you and give way to their care” (Heb 13:17a).

All other popular renderings that follow the traditional language of the Authorized Versions should be seen as the cornerstone verse of the Adversary by which he attempts to ground with false scripture his hierarchical building project called the Church.

So I believe if Hebrews 13:17 is properly understood as being divested of any and all authoritative energy, then this house of cards—built up and out of other false scripture—will perforce collapse.

Now it should go without saying that the entire letter to the Hebrews must be held together as a whole in order to properly discern what these verses in question mean for the faith and practice of the Ekklesia.

“Long ago and in many parts and in many ways,” begins Hebrews. “God spoke to our fathers through the prophets. But in these last days He has spoken to us through His Son” (1:1-2a).

“Therefore we must pay more careful attention to what we have heard, lest at any time we drift away” (2:1).

“As the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice. Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion’ ” (3:7-8a).

“For Christ in His perfection has become the Source of eternal salvation to all engaged in obeying [hupakoúousin5] Him” (5:9).

“So see to it that you do not disobey the One who is speaking from heaven” (12:25).

Hebrews begins and ends and resounds throughout with an emphasis on trusting and obeying the Word of God’s Son. The final words we have in chapter thirteen exhort those who are guiding others in the exploration of God’s Word to be faithful and true in their exposition and expression of It. Moreover, their lives must faithfully line up to the truth of Its teachings.

Consider, Bryn, what a perfect companion the letter to the Hebrews is to the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

For in Revelation we hear His voice from heaven calling His Bride to come out of the Whore of Babylon:

“Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (Rev 18:4-5).

Now, I ask: do we hear an echo of this call to “come out of her” in Hebrews Thirteen?

I believe so:

As Christ gave himself as our sacrifice and sanctified us by his blood outside the Jerusalem gate, we are instructed therefore to “go out to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no lasting city. Instead, we desire the one to come” (Heb 13:12-14).

The desired city to come was mentioned just a few verses earlier in Hebrews Twelve:

“For you have not come to [Mount Sinai (where the old covenant law was given)]. . . But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to myriads of angels, to the festal assembly, to the Ekklesia of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to the Mediator of the new covenant—Jesus, whose sprinkled blood speaks of more excellent things than the blood of Abel” (Heb 12:18, 22-24).

Notice how this contradistinction between the mountains and the covenants parallels what is written in Galatians Four of the two women who represent the two covenants that correspond to two distinct Jerusalems:

“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one from the slave woman and one by the free woman. But the son of the slave woman was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman through the promise. Now here is how this allegory is to be interpreted: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children of slavery—this is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem as she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free—she is our mother” (Gal 4:21-16).

In the Hebrew language the name Jerusalem is spelled in the dual—meaning two of. For there is at once the old and earthy Jerusalem—called the Great Whore of Babylon (Rev 17 and 18), and there is the new and heavenly Jerusalem—called the Bride and wife of the Lamb (Rev 21 and 22).

So in light of these Hebrews, Galatians, and Revelation passages we formulate these two contrasting equivalencies:

Mount Sinai = old covenant = slave woman = earthly Jerusalem = Whore of the Beast

Mount Zion = new covenant = free woman = heavenly Jerusalem = Bride of the Lamb

So with deep irony we find this direction to come out of Jerusalem smack dab in the middle of Hebrews Thirteen—the key spot in our corrupt English Bibles where antichrists point to in order to coerce obedience and submission to themselves.

Yet in the original Greek we read of no hierarchy or any such expression of false authority, only the opposite: for the Ekklesia, here, is being called to come out of the Jerusalem camp—both out of the legalistic system of the old covenant, and out of anything new whose communal faith and practices differ from the Word of God.

So in all truth of Scripture this means the people of God are being called to come out of the Roman Catholic Church, out of the Presbyterian Church, out of Calvary Chapel, and out of any and all institutional expressions of the antichrist.

For the sake of your tradition you have made void the Word of God,said Christ. “In vain do you worship Me—teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt 15:6, 9).

Remember that the letter of Hebrews was written to saints who had become “dull of hearing” (5:11), a Biblical expression portraying “an unwillingness to listen to Christ to the point of disobedience,” and as such they had become unknowing and in danger of apostasy.

Here’s what was written to the entire enlightened community:

“For it was expected of you to be teachers by this time. However, you need to be taught again the first principles of the Speakings of God. You have come to rely on milk and not solid sustenance. For all who live merely on milk exist as infants, inexperienced in the Word of Righteousness. But the mature live off the solid meat of Scripture, having their spiritual discernment exercised to the point of being able to judge rightly between what is good and what is evil” (Heb 5:12-14).

The emphasis here is on knowledge of God’s Word, which is necessary for both our obedience to Christ and our discernment of spiritual realities.

Quite simply, the key to the whole shebang is trusting and obeying Christ, which is the ultimate thrust of Hebrews. Nowhere in its thirteen chapters will we find the writer making any sort of distinction among the beloved between exclusive leaders and those who owe them obedience or submission. Such a divisive idea is a distortion of the Church and is nowhere supported in the New Testament.

Again, just the opposite is taught, as we read in First Corinthians Twelve:

“Now God has so united the Body, that those who are lacking in it are given greater honor, in order that there may be no division in the Body, but that all the members would have the same care for one another” (vv 24b-25).

Although the Church’s hierarchical scheme of government appears to have the support of God’s Word—we find no such thing in a proper reading of the underlying Greek.

So why then do we have such authoritarian language in most of our English Bibles?

History tells us it was first imposed upon us by those who assumed themselves Heads of the Church of England. So ultimately it was an imposition of the Adversary through the machinations of his captive whores—men inspired to do their father’s will by the spirit of error and antichrist.

A few years previous the likes of these Heads were burning people at the stake for the mere possession of a Bible. Translating the Word of God into English was also punishable by death. But then the Heads of the English Church had a sudden reversal of heart and decided to issue their own Authorized Version in 1611 and present that to the world as God’s Word.

Intriguing, isn’t it?

The question also needs to be asked: for the saints who had long been under the influence of the Whore—how were they to know this clergy-laity system of ecclesiastical rule was based upon doctrine foreign to Scripture, especially since the language of the King James Bible purportedly taught such an hierarchical institution?

The answer is no different for us today than it was for the 17th century English speaking world: the Ekklesia is bound not to know the truth of God’s Word on this matter as long as they take the Authorized Version as their Word of Righteousness, or any other version—like the NKJV, NIV, NASB, and ESV—that follows the traditional authoritarian language of the AV1611; these versions are corruptions that mask some fairly significant spiritual realities and should not be taken as God’s unadulterated Word of Truth.

So the Body of Christ is in need of a pure and undefiled English Bible Translation.

Yes, yes, I do trust they are otherwise honorable saints—our contemporary evangelical scholars employed by the Christian publishing houses to provide good and updated translations to the world—but they have completely missed the mark on this rather big note.

And I suspect they have done so for having grown up inside the Whore and taken for granted as good and right the Leadership structure that institutes herself as Church. Plus the standard biblical lexicons and theological dictionaries—the tools of their trade—are largely apologia for the Whore on this twisted matter.

Know that in a very real and magical sense the institutional structure of the Church has been conjured and maintained by a body of words antithetical to the language of the New Testament.

Even the name she goes by is a lie. Yet it’s integral to the magic of Babylon and serves to bend and bind various clusters of lies together that, in turn, work to bend and bind the people of God in service and submission to The Church.

As mentioned earlier, this misnomer—Church—serves as the linguistic keystone that locks into position a vast religious complex of adversarial terms and adverse realities. And as such we call the Whore’s tongue Churchspeak, and the Whore’s realm of authority The Church.

But I suspect I sound like a madman to Babylonian church folk and to anyone else not on intimate terms with the language and teaching of Scripture. So let’s finish up by answering with God’s Word some of the twisted logic that exists beneath the false translations of hēgéomai.

As referenced above, the scholars behind the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament contradict Christ’s Word in their arguments for an hierarchical application of hēgéomai to Hebrews Thirteen. And they do this in line with the same scholastic assumptions of Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.

Examine for yourself in these two quotes (taken from their respective lexical entries for hēgéomai) the faulty reasoning underpinning their assertions of hierarchy.

From the EDNT:

The author of Hebrews mentions church leaders in a greeting (πάντες οἱ ἡγούμενοι, 13:24). He distinguishes them from the ἅγιοι, the “normal” church members, mentioning the leaders first. Thus he indicates that for him a hierarchically structured church is in view; since they are leaders of the church responsible to God as “watchers over souls,” obedience is due to the ἡγούμενοι (13:17).

And from the TDNT:

In the greeting in 13:24 the ἡγούμενοι are mentioned before the ἅγιοι. The community is obviously divided into those who lead and those who are led. In 13:17 they are pastors responsible to God. God has entrusted the other members of the community to them, and therefore these owe them obedience.

Where does one ground such assumptions?

In direct defiance of Christ’s delimitation of our present participle to the realm of a guiding and leading, these scholars plug a governing and ruling sense into the word—thus assigning to them a very different relational (i.e., spiritual) dynamic than what the Word of God teaches for the Ekklesia.

I’m thinking maybe these scholars became deaf to their Master’s voice from having grown up inside the antichristian traditions of the Church. Perhaps the perverse reading of the AV1611 became the obvious choice for these apologists from having drunk deeply from the cup of the Whore.

But the living and powerful and piercing Sword of God calls these deceived and deceiving scholars out as those who lie against the truth.

In the same breathe in which the writer of Hebrews exhorts the fledgling community to stay faithful to the Word of Promise he warns them not to be carried away by extra-biblical doctrines:

Remember or “be mindful of those who have guided [hēgouménōn] you, who spoke [elálēsan] the Word of God to you; consider carefully the outcome of their behavior, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings” (Heb 13:7-9).

Yet today the wolves stand in their pulpits and in the tradition of their fathers teach a false spiritual authority in order to dominate, fleece and feed off God’s sheep. And for generations it has been going on like this, with the wolves and the sheep apparently knowing no other way—for the Whore has entrained all creatures within her to perceive, think and behave according to her sorceries, doctrines and traditions!

Notice how our first occurrence of our present participle in Hebrews Thirteen refers to those who spoke [elálēsan] the Word of God to them. To get technical for a moment, the reason we translate the present participle in the past tense here is for it’s qualifying relationship to the following verb shaped in the indicative mood and aorist tense, an inflection which typically denotes past time—so we translate the word as “spoke.”

Those guides of Hebrews 13:7 are inclusive of anyone and everyone who has ever spoken the Word of God to them, including those of verses 17 and 24. And they were not rulers, that much we know, but fellow members of Christ’s Body entrusted with knowing, sharing and living out God’s Word—the standard by which the faith and practice of every saint and ekklesia is to be measured by.

“To all hearing and obeying Him—Christ is the source of their eternal salvation” (Heb 5:9).

To assert that exclusive obedience is due the pastor is an assumption based purely upon the commandments and traditions of men. These scholars are guilty of casuistry, of engaging in tautological argumentation, circular reasoning, and outright ecclesiastical madness. But that’s the nature of the beast.

Just because those who are leading are mentioned before the saints should not be confused for a divided community wherein the clergy are owed obedience and submission from the laity.

Yes—those who are leading are those who must give account for how they do so. And, of course, shepherds and teachers will be held to a stricter judgement, as James 3:1 teaches. But that in no way displaces the truth that everyone in Christ Jesus is “responsible to God” for how we go about serving and caring for one another.

“For all things are laid bare and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we all must give account” (Heb 4:13; see also Rom 14:12).

As we have things it is not sound to assume that what is the norm ought be the rule for the people of God. That would be an assertion based upon the authority of tradition. A tradition that has long made void the authority of God’s Word.

As Children of Light our obedience and submission is due our Lord as we discern His pleasure by His Spirit and His Word. That is our way of grace and salvation. To do otherwise is to risk serious discipline at the hands of a Holy God (see Heb 12:3-17), and removal of ekklesial status for a community of faith (see Rev 2:5 with 1:20, and also 2:16).

“Therefore we must pay more careful attention to what we have heard, lest at any time we drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels was legally binding, and every violation and disobedience received a just punishment, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation that was first spoken through the Lord and was confirmed as true to us by those who heard” (Heb 2:1-3).

1. From Zodhiates’ The complete word study dictionary: New Testament.

ῥαββί rhabbí; indeclinable masc. noun transliterated from the Hebr. rabbī (not found in the OT), my master. A doctor, teacher, master; a title of honor in the Jewish schools which continues until modern times (Matt. 23:7, 8; 26:25, 49; Mark 9:5; 11:21; 14:45; John 1:38, 49; 3:2, 26; 4:31; 6:25; 9:2; 11:8). In Matt. 23:8 it is explained by kathēgēté̄s (2519), a teacher, master; in John 1:39 by didáskalos (1320), an instructor in reference to usage rather than to meaning.

In Hebr. rhabbí means a great one, chief, master. This was introduced as a title into the Jewish schools under a three–fold form, Rab, as the lowest degree of honor; Rab with the first person suffix i, Rabbi, my master, with higher dignity; and Rabboni, meaning my great master, the most honorable of all. This was publicly given to only seven persons, all of the school of Hillel and of great eminence.

In the days of Christ the title was misused by Jewish teachers in that they used it to require implicit obedience to their decisions and traditions and words rather than to those of the law and the prophets.

ῥαββονί rhabboní; indeclinable masc. noun from Rhabbí (4461), master. The highest title of honors attributed, usually to the president of the Jewish Sanhedrin if he was a descendant of the school of Hillel. It means my great master and was addressed to Christ by blind Bartimaeus and Mary Magdalene (Mark 10:51; John 20:16).

2. The twenty mental senses of the word ἡγέομαι can be found in these verses in the NT: Acts 26:2; 2 Cor 9:5; Phil 2:3; 2:6; 2:25; 3:7; 3:8 (twice); 1 Thess 5:13; 2 Thess 3:15; 1 Tim 1:12; 6:1; Heb 10:29; 11:11; 11:26; James 1:2; 2 Pet 1:13; 2:13; 3:9; 3:15

3. The form and meaning of this word appears to be etymologically influenced by two different words: ‘ago (ἄγω) a verb that means “to lead”, and hegos (ἡγός) a noun that means “leader”, which disappeared in favor of the noun hegemon (ἡγεμών), according to José Miguel Jiménez Delgado’s recent paper “On the etymology of ἡγέομαι”.

4. Ordination is not a Biblical concept. It’s based on the Latin ordo—a word signifying an order, class, caste, station; an ecclesiastical rank or office; basically a position within a body structured as a hierarchy. The term for the legal act of installing one into a ranking corporate position is ordinatio. For the Church this involves a division of the Ekklesia that violates, for one, 1 Cor 12:25, “For God has so composed the body so that there may be no division in the body—but that the members may have the same care for one another.” 1 Peter 4:10 tells us, “As each one [in Christ] has received a gift we are to minister these gifts to one another as good administrators of the many-colored grace of God.” Every born of the Spirit one of us has been gifted in order to be ministers of God’s grace. There is no division in the Body of Christ between those who are ministers and those who are not. The word hierarchy comes from the Greek ἱερός ‎(hierós, “holy”) and ἄρχω ‎(árkhō, “I rule”) conveying a concept of ekklesial separation that runs antithetical to Scripture.

5. Our primary New Testament word for “obey” is hupakoúō and means “to hear” in the sense of “heeding,” thus we understand it as an “obeying.” So hupakoúō is a type of “hearing” that is to be followed by the appropriate response to the call.


related posts:

on Church Leadership

the Lupine Effect of false spiritual authority

on Church Leadership

this is both an update to my understanding of spiritual authority and a comment to be placed beneath a Living Liminal post entitled If You Can’t Crucify, Why Not Shun?

Circe Offering the Cup – 1891 – John William Waterhouse

. .

I took some hours the other day and translated James 4:4-5 from the Greek. Here’s what I came up with:

You adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is hatred of God? Therefore whoever desires to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think it is for nothing that Scripture says, “Jealous with deep desire is the Spirit He has caused to dwell in us”?

As I searched the Old Testament Scriptures for James’ quote here (in order to examine the Hebrew wording underlying the Greek) I found no such concise saying anywhere.

Yes, Scripture teaches that “Yahweh—whose name is Jealous—is a jealous God” (Ex 34:14). His jealous nature is present throughout all three components of the TaNaCH—the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. Wherein also is taught the idea of His indwelling Spirit. We read in the Prophets how Yahweh would one day place His Spirit within His people causing them to live in perfect obedience to His ways.

In John’s Gospel our Lord Jesus expressed this entry into a oneness with the Godhead as a matter of being “born of the Spirit.” Also Paul in his letters to the saints wrote of how our sanctified bodies are now the temple of the living God, the residence of the Holy Spirit.

So although this quote couldn’t be found in such precise form anywhere else in Scripture, the saying—Jealous with deep desire is the Spirit He has caused to dwell in usis a principle clearly taught throughout the whole of Scriptures.

With that in mind, Living Liminal, I want to remind us of the teaching of Jesus concerning your ex-church situation, particularly why all those church folk treated you so hatefully.

He said, “If the whore hates you, you know that it hated Me before you. If you were of the whore, the whore would love its own. Yet because you are not of the whore, but I chose you out of her, therefore the whore hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”

You may know that all I did was replace the word “world” with the word “whore” as found in John 15:18-21. This interplay of terms is proper and true to the logic and teaching of Scripture, for the whore is the one who corrupts and leads the world astray by her sorceries and whoring ways (see Revelation 17 and 18).

She is the world par excellence, the Whore of Babylon who casts her proud and glamorous image upon reality in order to seduce and extract worship and service to herself. By the words of prophecy we see her ruling the world through the system of antichrist, holding the reins of power through her illicit affair with the spirit of this world, riding upon a trampling beast bound on exacting absolute submission to their antichristian ways, and demanding obedience to them to the point of death.

Note: the Greek prefix anti- in the word antichrist means “in opposition to”; “working against”; “in place of”; an antichrist is one who has placed himself or herself “over against” Christ and His Body. We read in 1 John 2:3-6, 18-27 of the lying and disobedient character of the Antichrist and antichrists—with 1 John 2:22b reading, “He is antichrist who denies [arnoúmenos (i.e., refuses to obey, cf. 1 Tim. 5:8; Titus 1:16; Jude 1:4)] the Father and the Son.”

Who then do we mean by the “whore” but the “church” structured as a hierarchy with specially anointed Leaders assuming power and control over God’s people under the clerical aegis of “spiritual authority.”

It should be understood by all Christians that our Master absolutely forbade in no uncertain terms any members of Christ from calling themselves “leaders” (the Greek of Matthew 23:10 makes this patently clear: kathegetai), or from exercising ruling authority over others (as the Greek of Matthew 20:25-28 and 2 Corinthians 1:24 teach).

It is this assumption by church leadership of a spiritual authority over their respective congregations (however the power relations and control mechanisms are organized) that deranges and destroys what might otherwise be experienced as and considered to be a legitimate expression of the body of Christ.

I’d like to say, for the time being I’m afraid the ekklesia of God is far from understanding the dynamics of “spiritual abuse” when most of our underlying assumptions of “spiritual authority” are upside-down inside-out misconstruals of Scripture. There’s some education that needs to occur.

To tell you the truth, the popular idea and expression of spiritual authority within the church is something our Lord finds quite hateful and adversarial!

Here’s the diabolical scope of such ecclesiastical enterprises—any personal assertion of authority or institutional hierarchy is itself spiritual illegitimacy, the governing system of the antichrist, an operation completely estranged from Christ’s pleasure.

It’s not a good gone bad, but an evil masquerading as good. A completely other being. Mystery Babylon. The sorceress queen with her many whoring daughters. The earthly and Old Jerusalem, not the heavenly New Jerusalem; not the faithful Bride of Christ, but the adulterous Whore of the Beast.

So you’ve seen firsthand how these “failures” of church leaders are “systemic as much as individual.” And we are told as much in Scripture how the antichrist is realized as both a person and a system.

It should be known, these church systems planted all across our planet are spiritually abusive by design. It’s their structural disposition. By nature of the spirit of error and antichrist inhabiting these hierarchical beasts the Holy Spirit is at once displaced while the people of God are swallowed whole and placed in spiritual bondage to the Archons and Powers. So from the Dragon’s perspective these houses of bondage are marvelous “successes” as they work to destroy the spiritual life of those who make their home within them.

It is these adversarial systems that God is calling us to come out of. In the Revelation of Jesus Christ we hear His voice from heaven crying:

“Come out of the Whore of Babylon, My people, lest you participate in her sins, lest you share in her plagues. For her sins have piled high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (18:4-5).

The Jealous indwelling Spirit of Christ is the sole Leader in the midst of God’s Ekklesia ruling His Children of Light by His Holy Scriptures.

Any mere human being beyond Jesus Christ Himself who dares (however blind in his zealousness) to assume any fashion of spiritual authority or governing headship over the people of God has aligned himself with the Adversary and god of this world.

Yes, these presumptuous church rulers place themselves in league with the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day and are likewise to be identified as “blind guides” and “serpents, offspring of poisonous snakes!”

Please know, the spiritual authorities overseeing the churches are just that—the spiritual rulers and authorities spoken of in Ephesians 6:12, “For our battle is not against blood and flesh beings, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

In Colossians Two, these rulers and authorities are the elemental spirits of the world who deceive and capture souls through the false teachings and doctrines of men who insist upon obedience and submission to their religious commands and antichristian traditions.

So what then is the true nature and scope of spiritual authority for the saints in Christ Jesus?

We find our answer in the Gospel of Luke:

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!

And Jesus said to them, “I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Observe and understand, I have given you authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; not one will by any means hurt you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven”(10:17-20).

Quite simply the spiritual authority entrusted to every member of the Body of Christ is the power to subject dark spirits to the ekklesia. It is not—as the priests of the Whore of Babylon will tell us—a power to subject God’s people to themselves.

“But, but you lie,” Church Leaders will say to me. “I have it right here in my NKJV Bible. Hebrews 13:17 reads, Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive. Or in my ESV it reads, Obey your leaders and submit to them. So you see, God has ordained a division in the body between leaders and laity. The clergy are appointed to rule and the congregation is required to submit to their leadership. It’s right there in the B-I-B-L-E.”

No, No it’s NOT, is my answer to them. Those quoted words are false translations foisted upon the world by intrigue and malice of antichrists and agents of the Adversary. I’m not kidding. It was language mandated by those who assumed themselves heads of the church, for instance, in the days of King James when good translations were getting out of hand and an “authorized” version was needed to contain the situation.

Too much to get into in a mere comment, but the proper way of rendering the Greek of Hebrews 13:17a into English is, “Follow those who are leading and yield.” Actually, our imperatives “follow” and “yield” are in the volitional mood exhorting us in this manner: “Allow yourselves to be persuaded and willfully yield to their leading.”

The wolves of Babylon twist this mistranslated verse to mean They alone are the leaders, when the truth is there is no such division or position of ruling authority over the ekklesia of God outside of Master Jesus Himself. The Good Shepherd alone rules by His Word through His Holy Spirit. The Hebrews context points to the ministry of the entire ekklesia, not to some exclusive submission to a ruling class of Elders, or Pastors, or Board of Directors, or whatever name such unbiblical Leadership might fall under.

“As each one [in Christ] has received a gift, we’re to minister these gifts to one another as good administrators of the many-colored grace of God,” reads 1 Peter 4:10.

And, “to each is given a unique shining expression of the Spirit for the common good of the body,” reads 1 Corinthians 12:7.

So it is the indwelling Spirit who causes us to shine, becoming, Himself, visible in the ministry of our spiritual gifts in service to one another.

Paul goes on to say:

The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another (1 Cor 12:22-25).

Every single member of the Bride of Christ is a minister and servant of God.

The Children of Light stand unified together as princes and princesses of the universe, priests and priestesses of God and of Christ, the prophets and prophetesses of a Jealous indwelling Spirit. Praise Yah!

True Biblical Leadership recognizes no ruling authority outside of God Himself who leads us by His fiery Spirit by the light of His flaming Sword.

So, again, why are all these church folk so hateful and spiritually murderous?

Quite simply, they are oblivious to the good pleasure of our Lord.

Remember what Jesus said, “They will make you outcasts from the synagogues. Yes, the time is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things to you because they have not known the Father nor Me” (John 16:2-3).

Why do they not know Jesus nor the Father?

The answer, I believe, can be summed up with the maxim, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of God.”

Many believers simply do not know the Word of God, and in many Bible Churches where they pride themselves on knowing God’s Word, much of what they conceive as knowledge is but a twisting of Scripture to suit their local or denominational idolatries. It’s not just milk they’re serving, but spoiled milk. In truth their cup of wine and bread of communion are full of poisons and deaths of many kinds.

From myself having been vomited from the Whore, I can see now the Church for the Great Lie she is, a Lie sustained by the mistranslation and twisting of certain Scriptures to the point of even naming herself after the Goddess Circe who turned men into pigs and wolves and lions and tigers and bears, drugging them into submission, taming and training them to perform in her Circus set up to honor her father and god of the Sun.

It should be known, the word “church” is a biblical misnomer, pagan in origin however you trace it—the linguistic keystone locking into position a virtual prison of ecclesiastical concepts and conditions designed to contain and control the people of God.

Christ named His body the Ekklesia. The Antichrist named his body the Church. That’s how all-encompassing the Lie has become. That’s how deeply the world has drunk from her golden cup.

So may the spell be broken. And may the sanctified Bride, at least, stop calling herself the Church—for the word “church” in all it’s speculative and popular etymologies points to a building or temple made with hands, not to a people as the word “ekklesia” means and Scripture intends. Where it does point to a person—it is to the Goddess Circe, a sorceress with many cruel similarities to the Whore of Babylon.

Now may I entreat those saints still inside her to consider: What was true for me may be true for you—the impossibility of thinking outside the church when you’re still inside her!

So let’s Obey God, stop drinking from her cup and come out of her—so that we might more clearly and cleanly partake of the fellowship of the Father, Son, Spirit and the Saints.

Everywhere in these man-made cults particular preachers and teachers point to these words in their English Bibles—Obey your leaders and submit to them—then point to themselves as the body’s appointed leaders.

It is these dishonest points of translation that exalt their precepts against the Word of Christ which leaders within these churches wield like rods to subjugate and scepters to perpetuate the lie of such a sickening thing as an ecclesiastical rule and authority over the people of God.

Children of Light, never forget—we are individually and corporately led by the Spirit in Christ Jesus Who alone is Head of His Body the Ekklesia.

All other such pretensions and presumptions of rule shape those Leaders into antichrists and (wittingly or not) agents of the Adversary.

Ekklesia literally means “called out ones.” As God first called Abraham and then Israel out of Babylon, He in these last days is calling the saints out of the Church of Babylon, out of the religious institution of the Whore.

“Come out of her, My people, lest you participate in her sins, lest you share in her plagues,” says God (Revelation 18:4).


ἡγέομαι (hēgéomai) – a New Testament word study

the Lupine Effect of false spiritual authority

Big Fish Vomit

here’s my comment dropped today beneath a most worthy post at Crossroad Junction:

I Confess: I Killed Ekklesia

. .

“Abandoning man-made traditions is hard,” said Jim Wright.

And abandoning man-made traditions is nigh impossible until we’re able to discern these traditions as man-made and not divinely instituted.

I’ve only recently come out of the institutional church. And my heartbreaking exit was not of my own accord. In the last two instances I was displaced by men—ruling elders (of a small, struggling Presbyterian church) and then a founding elder (of a church plant)—who held such positions of headship over our assemblies that they effectively squeezed out of fellowship those who would (lovingly and faithfully) attempt to hold them to account for how they were leading.

Ultimately, they were strangulating the life from the body. Yet, these elders couldn’t be checked for having assumed for themselves autonomous control over their operations.

FYI: I’m presently in the process of pursuing and holding these men to open accountability for their abuses against the body of Christ (in the Presbyterian case), and for—get this—killing our ekklesia (in the church plant case).

That being said, let me share with you how inversely ironic Jim’s killing of ekklesia is to the single handed killing of ours by our young pastor who planted our now defunct church:

Where Jim’s home fellowship against his contrary intent “became an extension of him, his gifts, his vision, his ministry”. . . Our pastor against the resources he had at hand (i.e. other gifted shepherds and teachers) with full intent became, himself, the central head of our ekklesia.

He was the gifted bus driver, with the rented bus being his personal ministry. And apparently if he perceived anyone to be “off vision,” they were left off the moving bus. Until, of course, he had left so many of us behind that all who remained onboard were nearly just he and his family. So then the young pastor turned in the keys, thus officially killing our fellowship, but only really after having already strangulated the life from our body.

Proof that our pastor made himself the central head of our ekklesia is that I was displaced from the body. If he didn’t have full control on that account, I’m certain we’d still have a gathering of saints coming together under the banner of East End Ekklesia (E3), and I’d still be a vital member of her fellowship.

Jim writes, “Some might protest that I had no right to unilaterally kill that fellowship—but the fact that I could is the best evidence I can offer about the underlying problem . . . which was the focus on me, my vision, and my good intentions. . . .

“In shutting it down, I finally had to surrender all pre-conceptions about what the Lord wanted to do in us and through us. I had to die to my vision, and in so doing, let God burn out of me the impulse to make it happen as a reflection of my own gifts, calling and motivations.”

I’d love for our young visionary pastor to read Jim’s confession. See, our fellowship was resource deep with extremely gifted men—so ever willing and only waiting for the green light to serve. However, in the end, these men amounted to being basically props in the pastor’s personal production.

And because the life and health of the church had been so completely bound up with the health and life of the pastor—E3 was his baby, no one else’s—I found it (with tears and deep regret) a good thing that the young pastor would kill it. For if he hadn’t (and for the way that he had bent everyone in the body) the church would have grown up sick and deformed. . . and, actually, something other than a true ekklesia of God. As structured, E3 had to die.

There’s so much to say on this, but I want to come back full circle to the idea of “abandoning man-made traditions.” For this is an ENORMOUS issue (both for the founding elder of E3, and for we who have since gone “organic”)—discerning the ecclesiastical difference between divinely-ordained tradition from that of man-made traditions that embody our so-called churches.

I’m a 45 year old man who grew up (a PK) and spent his entire life inside the church. . . yes, up until our founding elder displaced me from his E3 operation in February of 2012, which has given me two and a half years on the outside. Yet, my lungs, I have to imagine, are still being cleansed from a life build-up of church toxins (i.e. ecclesiastical assumptions). More scales than I’d like to admit has since fallen from my eyes.

The deception of the church is quite marvelous. And even though I consider myself a man of keen discernment, it wasn’t until the Big Fish had vomited me from her belly that I was able to more properly discern the difference between the faithful bride of Christ and the idolatrous whore of Babylon.

I read these words of prophecy as applying to the institutional church today, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues” (Rev 18:4).

Jim, I appreciated reading what you wrote.
Much thanks,
David from Pittsburgh

Ross Kronenbitter Fourth Presbyterian Church Abuser

. . . this is a continuation of My Church Abuse Story.

What do I mean by Church Abuse?

I consider church abuse to be a subcategory of spiritual abuse—a spiritual abuse that occurs within the context of the church.

What is Spiritual Abuse?

I believe spiritual abuse is the most potentially devastating form of abuse that can ever come against a person—for it is a sacred violation against the soul. When the spirit is crushed and broken, the entire person is affected—mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually.

Although extreme forms of spiritual abuse have been likened to “the raping of the soul,” please know, just a mere jot or tittle of spiritual abuse is seen by God as an inappropriate touching or tampering with the identity and desires that belong exclusively to that person and God alone.

One of the reasons we spiritual teachers will be held to a stricter judgement is that the Word of God is sharper and more piercing than any two-edged sword—when wielding it with divine authority we had better make sure we are cutting straight!

Here is a good baseline definition of spiritual abuse from Jeff VanVonderen’s book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse:

Spiritual abuse occurs when someone in a position of spiritual authority—the purpose of which is to ‘come underneath’ and serve, build, equip and make God’s people more free—misuses that authority by placing themselves over God’s people to control, coerce or manipulate them for seemingly godly purposes which are really their own.

With this post I’d like to offer into evidence a series of encounters centered around my attempt to confront and correct just one recurring matter of Spiritual Abuse at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh. Even after going through a Matthew Eighteen process, Ross Kronenbitter still—against what I shared with him from Scripture—continued to pray publicly for God to discipline us.

During a Thursday evening gathering at Fourth Presbyterian on September 2, 2010, as I was due to preach on Sunday, Ross felt compelled to lay his hands on me and pray that God would discipline me. Some days later when Ross called me on the phone I took that opportunity to broach with him my concerns. It didn’t go well. Then on September 17, 2010, Ross called me back and wanted to have a face-to-face discussion with me regarding godly discipline. That afternoon in preparation for a possible meeting I took the time to write an email detailing my thoughts. So now I enter into evidence this email and his response to me [only slightly redacted to cover privacy concerns] as a thin slice of Ruling Elder Ross Kronenbitter’s spiritually blind and abusive bearing.

After I was voted out I challenged the Three Elders to examine these two emails for the spiritual abuse leveraged against me. Their unanimous response was: We—see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

At that time I asked myself—Am I out of my mind? I knew I wasn’t.

Sincerely, I would like to hear from any elders within the EPC (or elsewhere) who believe that what Elder Ross Kronenbitter wrote to me was not spiritually abusive.

Also, I’d love to hear from any children of light who might be willing to share any words of encouragement toward helping us discern the rightness and wrongness in all of this.

Yet before I personally detail both the subtle and blatant spiritual abuses inherent in Ross’ language, please read this exchange between us with these critical questions in mind:

As Ruling Elder Paul Metzger used the words “contention” and “judging” to describe my disqualifying lack of maturity, I ask: Who was improperly “judging” who here?

And regarding Paul’s other descriptor, I ask: Where and with Whom was the real “contention”? 

In other words: According to the Word of Truth—who was in or out of line with the heart and mind of Christ in this?

From: David
Date: Fri, Sep 17, 2010 at 2:36 PM
Subject: re: Godly discipline..
To: Ross


you stated in your phone call this morning that you wanted to get together for lunch or coffee to discuss the issue of Godly ‘discipline’ that was brought up in one of our last conversations.

I had asked you if ‘When you pray, do you ask the Lord to discipline you?’ You said, ‘yes.’ You then asked me if I did. I said, ‘no,’ and shared with you my personal understanding of what the discipline of the Lord means to me. I explained how I thought it was inappropriate for you to pray for me in public for the Lord to discipline me. Allow me to reiterate this with some additional thoughts.

The idea of Godly discipline is perhaps most prominently displayed in Hebrews 12. The Greek word behind the English word ‘discipline’ is paideia which carries with it a certain breadth of meaning. It is for both the Biblical and the contemporary English understanding of this word that I have my concern.

Biblically, this word ‘discipline,’ as it relates to our relationship with God as His children, involves a loving and nurturing type of training and admonition. Yet, it’s the type of training that ‘has teeth to it’ as Tim Keller puts it. It’s an unpleasant chastening—so much so that the writer of Hebrews likens the discipline of God to a scourging. There’s a kindred verb, paideuo, that signifies the act of flogging (cf. Luke 23:16,22).

Note: the Biblical idea of discipline has both an instructive and a punitive meaning (see 2 Cor. 6:9 where paideuo is rendered ‘punished’ in the ESV). The contemporary understanding of the word also conveys a punitive sense. Here’s an English dictionary definition—‘discipline: punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.’

Godly discipline is an inevitable part of our process of sanctification. Not a single child of God escapes from the loving and often unpleasant discipline of the Lord. The Lord Jesus (as an imperative in Rev. 3:19) commands us to conform ourselves to holy living. He says, ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.’ This corrective action of personal repentance is to be zealously undertaken in order to avoid the disciplining correction of God. We are called to repent of sin in our lives so that we might escape His judgment. It is only after we refuse to obey God’s will that he resorts to punishment (see Lev. 26:18).

In understanding the concept of discipline it may be helpful to ask, When is it appropriate to employ church discipline? I believe part of the answer involves a situation where a member of the body is unrepentant or unable or unwilling to affect a change in their sinful behavior. Initially, the sinning member is to be approached privately. An emphasis on privacy is part of the thrust of my concern. If you feel someone is in need of correction or discipline—by God or themselves or the church—the initial approach should be a private one; it shouldn’t be addressed in a public setting.

Another consideration: If I in prayer were to ask the Lord to discipline me it would be out of a recognition that I, personally, haven’t the selfdiscipline to correct myself. Perhaps some people are beyond the sort of selfdiscipline that is needed to conform their lives to the will of God. In fact, in a significant way, all of God’s children—by nature of still being in the flesh—inevitably sin against Him. But after giving ourselves over to sinful behavior it’s imperative for us to confess and conform ourselves to God’s righteous standard. A life long process.

I sincerely fear the loving discipline of God. That is why I endeavor to live a life of selfdiscipline—to avoid God’s corrective measures. For instance, when I recognize the sin of pride in my life I don’t—as the means of correction—ask the Lord to discipline me. Neither do I ask the Lord to humble me. I correct myself and do all I can to assume a posture of humility. For Scripture tells us to humble ourselves (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6). It’s a heavy thing to be humbled by God, a fearful thing to fall into His hands.

Also, we, personally, are to judge ourselves so that we might not be judged by God. In 1 Corinthians 11:27-34 the Apostle Paul entreats us to examine ourselves with proper discernment, for ‘if we judge ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.’ It is for the sake of righteousness and holiness that we are both self-disciplined and experience the discipline of God (Heb. 12:10-11).

When you openly pray for the Lord to discipline others—according to the understanding I have just laid out from Scripture—you are making a judgment concerning them. If your discernment is correct, that they are in danger of being subject to the correction of God, then your prayer for them should be private, and perhaps offered only after you have confronted them personally as to the sin in their lives.

I don’t believe you necessarily share my understanding of God‘s discipline—at least not according to our last conversation on this. However, I would want you to be sensitive as to how other people appreciate the discipline of the Lord. It’s a last resort measure. It’s only employed when the children of God lack the selfdiscipline to conform themselves to the righteous and holy life we are called to live.

Ross, do you see where I’m coming from, and what are your thoughts in return?

In Christ,


Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Prov. 27:17

Here’s Ross Kronenbitter’s response:

From: Ross
Date: Tue, Sep 21, 2010 at 10:23 AM
Subject: Re: Godly discipline..
To: David

Thank you, David for your explanation. I will not pray for discipline for you publicly.

I prefer not to claim I understand where people are coming from but I do appreciate the effort of your explanation.

My concern is for you and also for the church as a body. What I came away with from our conversation was a distinct sense of struggle and I felt it was my duty as an elder and fellow christian and responsibility as a friend to respond. This came to light when I called you to inform you of [a Fourth concern] and the conversation turned into the issue of public prayer for discipline. My concerns are three-fold.

1) The accusations towards me and the righteous attitude. My concern is about what is working in you to accuse me (of having some agenda in praying for you?). This didn’t really sink in until I reflected on the

(2) “self-discipline” effort you described by phone. I’m not sure anyone can do it themselves. We are instructed to be sanctified in Christ and to be perfect. However, I sensed some sort of deception, either self or outward, which may only become clear over time by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is why I’m trying to help.

(3) Is the issue of public/private character assassination that you’ve demonstrated regarding me personally, [name withheld] and George Scipione. Reflecting on it added to the sense of need.

I feel God gave us this conversation to forward his purposes. In my response I am trying to be as true to scripture and the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ as possible. I love you in Christ and am hopefully dying to myself in him and in this effort. Whatever is at issue here for us, God is in charge. If we truly desire his refinement, he will. He is sure to complete his work in us. If we resist, scales will grow thicker and walls will be built higher. He is the one that can transform and reconcile. He is the one that builds us into a Holy temple. God Be Praised.

David, I send this with my prayer for the Holy Spirit to work in this and God’s will be done. Please seek the other elders and Pastor Eric on this. I would rather not discuss it further until you have spoken and prayed with them. I insist on this as our history demonstrates that working through these issues privately has not been healthy for me or the church. I also believe that the root issues are bigger than what we can or should handle privately. Thank you.

With my love and appreciation and all blessings in Christ Jesus, Ross

So then at my place on Saturday, October 2, 2010, I confronted Ross (in Matthew Eighteen fashion) about the inappropriateness of his public prayer for discipline, with Carl Schartner and (the man I affectionately call) the MOB as witness.

The meeting ended with Ross only committing himself to not praying God’s discipline for me, but continuing to follow his conscience on praying God’s discipline for others. He saw nothing wrong with it.

My question now is pointed to Ruling Elder Carl Schartner:

Carl, as the only other recognized Elder in attendance, it fell on you to make a determination on the biblical legitimacy or illegitimacy of what Ross was doing. But you spoke few words, and did not correct him. Why not? Did you believe this was just a matter of “interpretation,” or a “personal issue” between Ross and I? Do you believe as Ross does that praying for God to discipline the Body of Fourth is spiritually sound?

On my last Sunday there, March 20, 2011, Elder Ross Kronenbitter stood before the congregation of Fourth and prayed that God would discipline us.

On doing this did he not realize that he was breaking his personal promise not to pray such a thing for me when he prayed for God’s discipline for us?

There’s a lot of fuzzy, contradictory logic operating in the minds of these Ruling Elders. And it’s for this reason that I’m wanting everything out in the open and on the record—so their rank duplicity might be apparent to all.

For me, this is their most egregious act of duplicity:

Session gave me their word on April 21, 2010, that as a member of Fourth I would be entering into a complementarian church. I made a point of securing this reality. I would not have become a member otherwise. Then weeks later, from out of the blue, they bring in—against my protests—an egalitarian pastor who displaced me exactly at the point of my complementarianism.

You Elders not only betrayed me and the rest of the Body of Fourth in this—You betrayed the generation of your children!

Now here’s precisely how Elder Ross Kronenbitter spiritually abused me:

First, in front of my brothers and sisters at Fourth Presbyterian, he laid his hands on me and prayed for God to discipline me.

Then, when I privately challenged him as to the biblical illegitimacy of such a prayer, instead of persuading me from Scriptures that what he did was proper, he—with an air of condescension—assigned sin to my person; accused me of being deceived and self-righteous; intruded into my personal life in areas he was NEVER invited; misconstrued all sorts of things; suggested that I was resisting the work of the Holy Spirit and if I continued to do so “scales will grow thicker”; dismissed his personal accountability to me by insisting that I “get help” from the other elders and Pastor Eric; then summed up all of his belittling madness in the most flowery of biblical language. “God Be Praised.”

In other words: After I confronted Elder Ross Kronenbitter on his spiritual abuse, his answer back to me—straight from his misguided heart—was an exponential magnification of the very thing I was attempting to check and correct.

[[ see Obey your leaders and submit to them ]]

In a May 11, 2011 email, I challenged the Three Elders to discern for themselves the abusive contours of several encounters between Ross and myself involving “an ongoing pattern of accusations and attacks that occur after I have attempted to challenge Ross—in his position as elder—with something to be considered in light of Scripture.” I included these two emails as evidence. As mentioned above, their unanimous response to me was: We—see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

Elder Carl Schartner responded with this logic: “In my judgment, Ross prefacing with ‘I sense’ takes it out of the abusive category. If the language had been something like, ‘The Lord has revealed that …’, then I would consider this abusive.”

Here’s a portion of my reply:

Carl, your answer disturbs me, and let me try to explain why. The perceived abuse here isn’t contingent upon whether Ross said what he said by prefacing his discernment as if coming directly from the Lord or directly from his own heart. This distinction of source you are making is entirely irrelevant to the fact that Ross is expressing to me how I am self-righteous and operating with self-deception.

Now, since you do not consider this abusive, I have to ask you then—Are you supporting Ross’ claim that there was “some sort of deception [in my life], either self or outward, which may only become clear over time by the power of the Holy Spirit”?

Our reality is this: Either I was practicing self-deception or I was not. I know myself a lot better than session does, and I’m telling you that I am a true and honest man in my relationships with God, with others, and with myself.

If, as I claim, I was not operating with self deception, then what Ross leveled against me was spiritual abuse—assigning sin to me that I am, in truth, free of. Now, my question again to you—Are you, also, ascribing sin to my life as Ross has done? This, in my eyes, is the only way you can consider what Ross did to me as not abusive.

Note: the very conversation and email that Ross is responding to involves my calling him on something that involves the presumption of sin upon my life.

I also felt the need to answer some of Ross’ accusations—lest they take his word as their final determination—against me.

I’m a fairly open and honest man, but there is much of my life that I guard as private. When Ross had called me on September 17, 2010, I was wrestling with a decision to leave my girlfriend. Ross’ sense of duty and perverse desire to help me in my struggle with some assumed sin in my life—a hidden sin, at that—was both blindly intrusive and spiritually abusive! And exists as an example of Ross behaving as a sin-sniffing, sin-projecting wolf.

Also, I never accused Ross “of having some agenda in praying” for me. I recognized his intentions as being good, I was not addressing his heart, but how our minds should be informed by the Word of God on this. His email response to me all by itself should be proof enough of the “lack of discernment and understanding which makes Ross acting in the office of elder a highly dangerous situation,” as I told the Elders.

Above I characterized Ross’ heart as misguided, in part for the dark counsel he’s been getting from Persons over at the Reformed Pittsburgh Theological Seminary—a very graceless, legalistic institution (RPTS). Their version of being Reformed is Reconstructionist (for those in the know). Which brings me to the final thing (for the moment) that I’d like to share:

My alleged “character assassination” of George Scipione (a Professor at RPTS and Director of the Biblical Counseling Institute) involved, as far as I’m aware, this singular remark I made during Sunday School: “I would never take anyone to see him!” Spoken after our brother had just described his recent encounter with a biblical counselor who had made him feel small and worthless and faithless and hopeless and utterly beat-up (our brother punctuated his wording with the pantomiming of a man beating someone up with a baseball bat).

I asked, “Was this George Scipione?” He said, “Yes.” Then I said what I said sharply —as both a rebuke to Ross, who was sitting to my right, and as a warning to the rest of the class. But not everyone was warned, and Ross still referred others to Dr Scipione. Later, as I talked to our brother about his encounter—I received the vivid impression of a professor practicing a most crushing form of spiritual abuse in the name of Biblical Counseling. Ross was not only blind to it, he was being mentored to practice it too.

As Mr Ross Kronenbitter apparently thinks this sort of shepherding and discipleship “to be as true to scripture and the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ as possible,” I will tell you this: Ross is a spiritually blind and sick bully who has made himself an enemy of Christ and His Sheep.

Ross, as you may or may not know, our brother was in counseling with me. . . except we didn’t call it counseling, we called it getting together for lunch. What I can attest to concerning our brother was that every time he and I got together to encourage each other and pray for each other and cover those issues of concern in his life—he left my place refreshed in the Spirit full of peace and joy and hope and confidence! Does this register with you? Can you distinguish the good fruit from the bad? Are you able to discern the difference between faithful shepherds and ferocious wolves? I know you to be someone who can not. And for that reason we have a bloody WAR on our hands!

Please know, You spiritually blind Elders, what I’ve exposed so far is but the tip of the Fourth Church Abuse ice-burg—which means this is but the tip of my SWORD against you.

“As for those elders who persist in sin, [I, David Johnson] rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Timothy 5:20).


[[ more to come ]]

related posts:
my Archimedean Sword
My Story