A Right Division

The pastoral ministry has suffered a serious blow in as much as it is now held in a confused manner so that whilst the term, the Ministry of the Word is still used, ministry, by many pastors, has moved from being informed by Scripture to being driven by personal experience.

Whilst there are too many reasons to explain this easily, one definite reason has been the way in which gender issues have been expressed in the world, in social and psychological theories, and how educated men and women in the churches have embraced these theories through their respective studies and thus have become vulnerable to the philosophy of humanism. And when we speak of Humanism we are speaking of the end of this age, where both the bodies and souls of men have become the commodity of Satan. In seeing how some individuals make of others a commodity we are naturally inclined to resist that attitude. 

When that effect is driven by husbands and fathers, then resisting that meaning becomes resisting men altogether. The churches have been unwilling to address this societal reality properly and so now we have a pastoral ministry that more reflects a duty of care than it does the ministry of the Word of God. At the back of that effect, there is a definite mind in the churches, as well a mind of Satan in the world. And whilst these two minds are informed by different ambitions, one significant explanation is measurable when we examine the two terms, dichotomous and trichotomous as touching upon the nature of man.

The dichotomous mind has it that a man is experientially two parts – soul and body. So that experience is our teacher, and an understanding of Scripture is formed not by a true quickening effect of the Holy Spirit; rather by impressions arising from intuition, being grounded in experience. It is as though the many are ignorant of spiritual realities altogether, and they that are informed, are divided by reason, and by faith. The outworking of this division cannot be asserted to mean that they that reason are lacking emotional understanding, neither that they that exercise faith are not emotionally informed. We really do need to see what the Scripture teaches more faithfully and depend less on our own reasoning or our emotional minds. True faith is in Christ and not in things. Thus in knowing Christ and His word given to us in the Scriptures, we are bound to come to a more reasoned and faithful walk.

That of reason says the Scripture must be laid hold of and well-read, and the other, that of faith, though agreeing, says that the Scripture cannot be entirely understood by reason alone, but must be illuminated to the mind by the Holy Spirit. Then a third voice speaks and says, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac, his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” James 2:14-26

A Necessary Division

This passage of Scripture by James requires us to accept that the Christian walk is a matter of faith and works. How are we to understand this claim? 

Whilst we were children, we received a childish distinction. We were told that to please God was good, and to displease God was evil. So that as we came to those temptations to lie or steal we found ourselves halted momentarily by this knowledge of good and evil and we were at once faced with a sudden choice. Either obey God and be found good or else disobey God and be found evil. The choice is never to steal or not to steal, or else to lie or tell the truth. The choice is whether to obey God or disobey God. As we mature and come into our youth, we learned that there is actually no such choice, whether to obey God or disobey God, there is only the power to choose. When we come to a living faith in God, we are faced with this same reality. 

As far as eternity is concerned, we were able to obey God and perceived no choice when faced with the knowledge of eternal consequences set against God’s provision. The conviction of sin is sufficient to press any man into obedience if we also see that Christ died to take our sin away. Consequently, the conviction of sin produces obedience. That is the moment of grace which saves for eternity. James then tells us that there are works that prove our faith. In short, if we say that we have faith, and have no works, we have made God be a liar. There is also another crisis which we must face as disciples of Christ. How will we come to the truth of God and Christ? How will we walk by faith if we are uncertain about the detail? There can be no issue about stealing or lying, but what of knowing how to judge ourselves?

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrew 4:12-16 

The writer of Hebrews tells us that it is the word of God that is able to separate the thoughts and the intentions of the heart. He also tells us that the means which makes that possible is grace. It must be clear therefore that whilst reading and studying the word of God is both necessary and desirable, a division has to be made according to the Scripture, and not as an intention to supply grace that removes its meaning. This division is first, spirit and soul, then joints and marrow and thoughts and intentions. It is by reading the word of God and desiring its effect in the renewing of the mind that we will prove that perfect and acceptable will of God in our own lives. 

When we apply the Scripture fully what we find is that grace proves Christ and not experience that supplies grace. Grace is not one’s experience, grace is that which is given by God to bear with the truth. Why we cannot easily believe this may be no more than taking account of our own bodies and the relationship that we have with others through them. Thus Paul, in seeking for greater grace, was told by Christ, “My grace is sufficient.” Yet his antagonists were for all that in authority in Israel, and throughout Asia Minor.

What has happened in the churches is that the pastoral ministry has become a ministry of care so that we no longer have pastors, but carers. And the Ministry of the Word has become psychological empathy.

Historical Scope of Terms:

Πνεῦμα, Ψυχή, and Σάρξ  – רוּחַ, נֶ֣פֶשׁ and בָּשָׂר

The Usage of Πνεῦμα, Ψυχή, and Σάρξ in Greek Writings and Translated Works from the Earliest Period to 225 A.D.; and of their Equivalents רוּחַ, נֶ֣פֶשׁ and בָּשָׂר in the Hebrew Old Testament.

I. Πνεῦμα, Ψυχή, AND Σάρξ In Greek writers – Homer to Aristotle

II. רוּחַ, נֶ֣פֶשׁ AND בָּשָׂר In the Old Testament

III. Πνεῦμα, Ψυχή, AND Σάρξ n Greek Writers –  From Epicurus to Arius Didymus.

IV. Πνεῦμα, Ψυχή, AND Σάρξ In Greek writers of the early Christian period. 

V. Πνεῦμα, Ψυχή, AND Σάρξ In Jewish Greek literature. 

VI. Πνεῦμα, Ψυχή, AND Σάρξ In ethnic religious writings contemporary with the New Testament. 

Πνεῦμα, Ψυχή, AND Σάρξ In the New Testament.

Burton, E. D. W. (1918). Spirit, soul, and flesh. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. Professor and Head of the Department of New Testament and Early Christian Literature at the University of Chicago.

Erasmus 

“These things afore written had been and that a great deal more than sufficient: nevertheless that thou mayst be somewhat more sensibly known unto thyself, I will rehearse compendiously the division of a man, after the description of  Origene, for he followeth Paul making three parts, the spirit, the soul and the flesh, which three parts Paul joined together, writing to the Thessalonieences. That your spirit (saith he) your soul and your body may be kept clean and uncorrupt, that ye be not blamed or accused at the coming of our Lord Jesu Christ. And Esaias (leaving out the lowest part) maketh mention of two, saying, My soul shall desire and long for thee in the night, yea, and in my spirit and my heart strings I will wake in the mornings for to please thee. Also Daniel saith, Let the spirits and souls of good men laud God. Out of the which places of scripture Origene gathereth not against reason the three partitions of man, that is to wit, the body, otherwise called the flesh, the most vile part of us, wherein the malicious serpent through original trespass hath I written the law of sin, wherewithal we be provoked to filthiness. And also if we be overcome, we be coupled and made one with the devil. Then the spirit wherein we represent the similitude of the nature of God, in which also our most blessed maker after the original pattern and example of his own mind hath graven the eternal law of honesty with his finger, that is, with his spirit the Holy Ghost. By this part we be knit to God, and made one with him. In the third place, and in the midst between these two he putteth the soul, which is partaker of the sensible wits and natural  motions.”

Erasmus, D. (1905). Enchiridion Militis Christiani (pp. 104–106). London: Methuen & Co.

The claim that spirit, soul and body, are a product of semantics or else unimportant is simply wrong. The thing I have noted myself in my studies is that the terms begin to be used outside of Israel approximately in parallel with the Assyrian Captivity of Israel in the 8th Century BC. As the Hebrew influence began to inform Assyrian culture, we have the beginnings of what today is called the Cabalistic occult practise of divination and sorcery. It is this particularly occidental understanding of the occult which is grounded in a knowledge of the creation of the heavens and the earth in its true revelatory Hebraic meaning. This can be evidenced by the Babylonian Creation Story.

Understanding how the use of these terms – spirit, soul and body have come about, and why the ancient world began to use them, may be only possible in the context of the exile of Israel into Assyria in the 8th century BC. My view is that the trichotomous position passed into the ancient world outside of Israel proper by occult means, and only took on a formal understanding linguistically through the direct influence of Israel itself. In the end, the terms found their full meaning in the revelation of the Lord Jesus beginning at the Jordan River, the commission of the apostles and their eventual writing of the New Testament Scriptures.

It is essential to understand or else realise that the language of the New Testament is not English. It is Common Greek of the Hellenistic influence. When the Greeks began to assimilate the meaning and implications of the spirit, as distinct from the personality, and the personality as distinct from the physical body, these terms began to come into intellectual usage in the ancient western world.

There had already been a separate directly satanic influence on ancient Egypt through magical texts and meanings associated with the worship of false gods and the manipulation of the very elements. From the management of the river Nile, food production, accumulated wealth, improved health, increased happiness and a multitude of other daily realities and ambitions – the Egyptians were practising formal magical arts as a mechanism for directing their lives. Assyria similarly practised what amounted to the same magical art as could be found in Egypt. In these cultures, it is possible to find a corresponding use of terms as those of the Hebrews and eventually the Greeks, yet with no direct revelation of God to make substance and validity of their meanings. For this reason, there has always been an occult equivalence of these terms which have over time become so closely paralleled with the true meaning of these words, that claiming a trichotomous understanding of man, is beginning to be expressed as an occult insight. In short, if you hold such an understanding you will eventually be called a sorcerer.

The implications of the whole of the western world rest in these three terms and how the Greeks developed their use of Hebrew meanings which were incorporated philosophically and magically into Assyrian religious practises. When Israel and then Judah went into captivity, there was a correspondence in time and space between the Hebrew God of Israel and His revelation of Himself through the Law and the Prophets, and the occult world of satanic inspiration and the disclosure of what spiritual life meant to the whole of the pagan world. It is not without good reason that Daniel is given a name by the Babylonian king which translated means, chief sorcerer. No one doubted the reality of spirit; no one doubted the meaning of magic, both fear and effect (the soul) and no one doubted the meaning of the body and the realities of physical life. So that we can say with certainty that both the meaning of these words and their usage was to be found in several ancient languages by occultists, magicians, philosophers as well as historians. The only true meaning, however, could be found in Israel in the first instance and then the Church in the second.

It has been apostasy that has hidden their meanings, both in Israel and the Church. The grave meaning is that we now have a church that is embracing an essential understanding of Ministry of the Word that is grounded in a natural, soul and body, meaning, both of experience and intuition, where revelation and Scripture are being set aside.

It is a very easy thing to imagine that because a distinction and a true meaning is lost within the folds of history that either its true meaning is truly lost or the need to rediscover the words themselves and their relevance is a vanity. Nor does it mean that any distinction in words has to be made into a metric system of doctrine. Countless saints have walked faithfully throughout church history. It is only necessary to truly desire to please God and to obey the most basic requirement, to love not the world to discover the meaning and distinction between spirit and soul and to walk in it. At the root of this command to love not the world is a necessary willingness to deny the very body itself, and not by an ascetic practice, but a recognition of its lusts and desires which detract in comfort, from that which is a joy, in its discipline.

This business of the trichotomous nature of men, and how that very distinction lies at the heart of understanding the full meaning of salvation, is so essential that to ignore it is going to result in a terrible outcome. This simply cannot be underestimated in the hour we live in unless we lay hold of the cross unto death and the Scripture unto life. 

The ancient Greeks philosophised and speculated intelligently about the spirit as well as whether the soul was the same in meaning. They also exercised considerable efforts in seeking to understand human anatomy which contributed to the practice of medicine as well as giving rise to occult speculations about the soul. They also founded the first western schools of medicine. The physics and atomists of ancient Greece were as much concerned with the meaning of material substance (the body) as they were about the personality that pervades and shows itself through that substance. Yet in all these things it is clear that the ancient Greeks were minded to understand the soul and its relationship with heaven.

From the end of the third century AD to approximately the 10th Century, the terms spirit, soul and body as distinct realities of experience and essence were lost and buried in the Roman Catholic Church. The meaning became subjugated to Latin texts which did not express these terms fully, as well as apostate men who had no interest in true spiritual life. In such a mind it is not necessary to distinguish between spiritual life (spirit) and natural intelligence (soul). Their concern was power and the establishment of primacy of power. The Crusades and the sacking of Constantinople with the removal of Islamic libraries to the West began the process of assimilating Greek philosophical meanings and ideas of the ancient world into secular societies, through the founding of Universities, ex-ecclesia, on these Islamic treasures of learning acquired by conquest from Byzantine Christians. In short, the ancient Greek Hellenistic world of philosophy, mathematics and reason was rediscovered by the men of learning in the West and led to a provocation and a process that became the first enlightenment.

The effect of this eventually led to the 12th-Century Renaissance and the re-examination of ancient Greek literature – from the philosophers to the occultist alike. This early re-examination essentially supported the continued embrace of a dichotomous view of mankind, but in that process what we now understand to be occidental occultism emerged with its intuitive occult understanding of the trichotomy of man. As a former occultist, I was introduced to this trichotomous reality even before I had any true knowledge of God. Today the New Age occultist also embraces this same understanding. However, the meaning is distorted and takes on the form found in ancient magical texts written in Greek over two thousand years ago. So side by side with the dichotomous scientific material paradigm of a European dominant philosophical, political and economic model of power, which eventually emerges as the Enlightenment – and a continuation of the dichotomous view of mankind, we have the trichotomous and ancient occult understanding of occidental magic or sorcery.

This manifested itself intellectually in what eventually became known as alchemy, and even Sir Isaac Newton was caught up in its meaning and effect. Its proper occult meaning is found in ancient Egypt in the Hellenistic period written in common Greek where the Hebrew meanings of spirit, soul and body were corrupted by those who were seeking their own metrical and spiritual benefit. In other words, these three terms – spirit, soul and body had already been corrupted in meaning from their original Hebrew meanings – which came by revelation of God, to their Greek equivalencies as prescribed by Satan’s activities in the world of occult thinkers before they were formally adopted into the occidental world of magical arts.

The significant point here is to simply realise that before the philosophers and occultists of the Hellenistic period of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt – as well as the Greek philosophers, who had essentially developed the use of these three Greek words Πνεῦμα, Ψυχή, & Σάρξ (Spirit, Soul & Body) the true meaning, was already corrupted. It was a meaning which was lending itself to a dichotomous understanding for all practical purposes. However, with the advent of Christ, the early church had no difficulty in using these words to describe reality – spirit, soul and body. The early Greek church fathers, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, and Basil of Caesarea, for more than two centuries, had no trouble with their meaning at all.

Today that struggle over the implication of a dichotomous understanding of man, and a trichotomous understanding of man forces a concern by rationalists who take the name of Christ, as well as spiritually-minded believers who also take the name of Christ. The rationalist is offended at the implication of a spiritual dynamic which exceeds their own ability to lay hold of it with the mind, and thus embraces modern philosophy and meanings, whilst using the same language as the spiritual believer. Yet such as those who embrace mere philosophy are divested of a truly spiritual mind. Where the distinction ends, is a choice to reject a trichotomous understanding set in real meaning, and embrace a dichotomous understanding which fails to make a proper distinction between the natural man and the new creature in Christ. To that end, we would say that the actual meaning of these words cannot be laid hold of metrically as one writing a poem, but spiritually as one walking by faith. It is not a matter of words – but a spiritual reality. However, for those who press rationalism instead of spiritual truth – even the words become necessary and essential – even if they are in no wise benefitted from the words themselves.

Those who do love the truth and are minded to be spiritual men with or without knowing it, joyfully embrace the spiritual man and reject a determination to be self-seeking. To embrace a spiritual mind is to embrace the new life and lay hold of it at any cost.

Getting back to the centrality of these three seemingly unimportant words, I would argue that it is necessary and proper to set them in their correct framework of discovery by the western world through Israel to Babylon, via Babylon to the ancient Greeks, from ancient Greece to Rome and the Hellenistic world of Ptolemy in Egypt, Judea and Byzantine. Thereafter via Islam as the masters of the Byzantine world to the medieval world of 12th-century ex-ecclesia Europe and the occult world of the occident, and right up to the present day. In all of this usage, the only true and proper meaning of these words can be found in Israel at the beginning of the revelation of God to Israel, through the Law and the Prophets, and then in finality through the true church by the Apostles and the Prophets, in the writing of Scripture. Everything else is a misuse of truth or corruption of its biblical meaning.

Meaning & Reason

Understanding why the trichotomous position is thought to be wrong, or else problematic by some brethren and hence rejected or else simply not looked into cannot possibly be a matter of simply insisting that the Scriptures do not reveal something of what that distinction between spirit, soul and body means. At the same time, it is equally true that the Scripture does often interchange all of these words in a variety of ways. Yet a careful study of Hebrew and Greek Scriptures does give us a clarity that makes sense.

For example, the physical body itself is often referred to in terms of God’s creative authority. God made the man. This is true of his body, as it is true of his soul. Yet the Scripture clearly points to something of another way of thinking about the body and the soul beyond speaking about physical creation. There is clearly a view of the body which is expressed in terms that go beyond a simple physical description. This difference points to the problem of having the attitude of remaining a natural man after conversion. When the scripture tells us that, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul ” we are not reading about the corruption of something, rather we are reading about the order of things as well as the original condition of things. In Genesis 2:7 we read that “The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.” This description of man as a living soul is a description of a sinless man. It is not the description of a fallen man. It is the description of the physical man and the soul as well. It is the revelation of God as to the origin of the human body itself in its sinless perfection, as well as the soul. In speaking about the body and the soul, therefore, the Scripture speaks of the natural body, as well as the soul, which is also natural. In 1 Peter 2:11, this relationship between the natural body and the natural soul is clearly expressed. Yet it is expressed in negative terms. Peter is saying very clearly that the body itself has a consequence and effect on the soul. Even if we discount the whole question of a sin nature, what that sin nature is, or where the power of sin expresses itself, we cannot change Peter’s words. Setting aside all of these things we cannot remove from the simple and straightforward meaning of what Peter has said. “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11) Paul says a very similar thing as well. Again if we set aside any question of sin, sinfulness, or sin nature, we see that Paul also draws a real distinction between what is natural and what is spiritual. “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:1)

Even if we absolutely insisted that what Paul is saying here, with regard to the maturity of the Corinthian believers, means no more than saying, you are immature there would be no getting away from the fact that he is speaking about that which is natural, to born again men and women. He is doing this to make the point that natural or fleshy lusts impact the soul and moderate behaviour negatively. 

To Quote Erasmus once again

“Thou prayest, and judgest him that prayeth not. Thou fasteth, and condemneth him that fasteth not. Whosoever doeth not that thou doest, thou thinkest thyself better than he: beware lest thy fast pertain to thy flesh. Thy brother hath need of thy help, thou in the mean space mumblest in thy prayers unto God, and wilt not be known of thy brother’s necessity. God shall abhor these prayers: for how shall God hear thee while thou prayest, when thou which art a man canst not find in thy heart to hear another man. Perceive also another thing. Thou lovest thy wife for this cause only, that she is thy wife. Thou doest no great thing, for this thing is common as well to infidels as to thee: or else thou lovest her for none other thing but because she is to thee pleasant and delectable. Thy love now draweth to thee fleshward.” 

Here is my paraphrase:

You pray and judge him that does not pray. You fast and condemn him that does not fast. When someone doesn’t do what you do, you think yourself to be better than he. Be careful because your fast may prove to be no more than something for your own purposes. Your brother has need of your help. You always complain to God when you are praying, and don’t want to see your brothers need. God rejects such prayers. How can God hear you when you pray if you who are the same in nature as your brother do not see your brothers need? Understand this as well! The only reason you love your wife is that she is your wife. That is no great achievement; even unbelievers do the same thing. Perhaps you love your wife because she is beautiful and desirable to you. Such love is natural and thus it is of the flesh.

Although Erasmus is writing his article to present the trichotomous view of Origen, in this short passage he ends up speaking about just two things. These are the body and the soul. The meaning of this passage draws us to a dichotomous view, and yet his deeper intention is to show that if our conduct and behaviour is merely natural, we are not spiritual at all. Herein lies a Scriptural reality. When dealing with conduct and behaviour, the scriptures always draw a simple dichotomous understanding. Yet the scriptures clearly show that a man is much more than what he is by nature of the body and the soul. The apostle Paul says the same thing when he tells the Ephesians, “husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.” And whilst it is clear that Paul did not intend a negative connotation by writing these words, he clearly is expressing what the direction of natural affection is. 

Again in Genesis, we read, “And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman Because she was taken out of Man.” This is the meaning of natural love between a man and a woman, and this is the meaning of Paul’s words when he says, “He who loves his wife loves himself.” Erasmus says, “Thou lovest thy wife for this cause only, that she is thy wife. Thou doest no great thing, for this thing is common as well to infidels as to thee: or else thou lovest her for none other thing but because she is to thee pleasant and delectable. Thy love now draweth to thee fleshward.”

It must be evident that to love one’s own wife is both natural and reasonable. Moreover, it was in this natural condition that the woman was taken from the man. This being whilst Adam was in his state of innocence; without sin, and means that all such love of a man for his wife is both good and purposeful in the will of God. Yet both the Apostle Paul and Erasmus were seeking to illuminate another reality altogether. Paul calls it a mystery, and says, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church,” and Erasmus says, “But thou lovest her for this thing chiefly, because thou hast perceived in her the image of Christ, which is godly reverence, modesty, soberness, chastity: and now lovest not her in herself but in Christ: yea rather Christ in her. After this manner lovest spiritually.”

When we speak about conduct arising from the natural man, we can speak of a dichotomous understanding, but if we desire to move on to a trichotomous understanding, we must of necessity speak of the spiritual man and not simply the natural man. In short, we must speak of spirit, soul and body. To fail to understand the spirit of man is to fail to understand God’s purposes in creating him, and that God is Spirit.

Now Cometh The Hour

Whilst I can speak of a dichotomous view of man as body and soul, if all we know is body and soul, we will not only miss a great deal of wisdom and revelation of God from the Scripture, but we will be demonic at times too. Whilst the soul does not always sin, the body itself is ruined – and unless we have a mechanism to take account of that fact we will be merely natural in our speech and behaviour. 

“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever.”

Much of that natural ability in the churches may be harmful and even perverse. If we walk as a natural man, we will do many natural and reasonable things, whether husband and father, mother and wife. Yet ministry is not simply a matter of being natural, in the pastoral sense of being caring, albeit that it is a matter of ability. It is a calling of God. The mother who lays waste to her children in a mind of destruction is no less demonic than the father who seeks to control his wife to an end of his pleasure. If that is in the home, then it will also be found in the churches – in the body of Christ.

The mother who is distracted to the point of bitterness and anger, and thus may hate her children, is no less wicked than the man who drives his wife into obedience through oppression in her own body. Both, however, carry the weight of God’s authority, being fathers and mothers of children, and husbands of one wife. So we overlook much of our speech and conduct and cover it over. How easy is it for an abusive husband to hide his abuse because his wife is in submission to him for the Lord’s sake? It is not, however, hidden from God. Similarly, it is also understandable how it is that some mothers do indeed become angry with their children and may do them considerable harm if that anger is not balanced by love and kindness.

The way that the church has now addressed this reality of private life is by changing the meaning of the male and female, or else husband and wife. This is not having the effect of making men better husbands or else mothers less frustrated with their children, it is ensuring that the church itself, extra domum, is changed and by that means so is the home being changed as well. Indeed some husbands are so keen to see this effect that they have abrogated any true leadership in the church, having assigned it to their wives, and thus their wives are leading all women to a new understanding and the church to the Man of Sin. 

As appalling as it may be to say such a thing – the evidence of it is everywhere. In a simple political narrative grounded in our lives, we could simply say that today we understand more easily just how abusive many husbands and fathers have been. Less easily understood, and less important in truth, is the abuse of mothers against their children, more in speech than in physical violence, and how that understanding has now passed into law to put an end to such things. From the law, its effect is into our homes and schools and finally from the home and the school into the churches. And whilst the law does not prescribe who is to be an Elder in the churches or else a Lead Pastor, the political ideology that framed the law, does. So the law in seeking to do a good thing has become the very instrument in preparation for the overthrow of churches and the applause of many men and women. 

If one were to speak to pastors and prophets and seek to discern the difference between the pastoral and prophetic ministry then the distinction is an easy one to make. Pastors concern themselves with body and soul, whereas prophets are concerned with spirit and soul. The Scriptures deal with spirit, soul and body. Any prophet could understand these points I am making with ease. Pastors may find it more difficult. That does not, of course, mean that the prophet ought to be indifferent to natural or else fleshy conduct of believers, neither the pastor, indifferent to spiritual realities. It simply means that all too often there is little cooperation between pastors and prophets and so the value of understanding why a dichotomous view is valid, pastorally, and why the trichotomous view is essential, prophetically, is lost. Simply knowing this, however, is utterly worthless if we do not establish Scriptural meanings properly and make sense of the balance that is necessary for the churches to effectually minister the Word of God. 

Nothing gives that likelihood a more certain emptiness than when men appoint their wives to eldership and thus to the governance of the Church, and by that means to change the order of creation. Or else if not that, then to make marriage in its physical meaning of the union of a male and a female the basis for church governance. It is utter deception to give a wife the same position as her husband in the church if by that means we are intentionally required to obey him, by submitting to his wife as an Elder. If that is the reality of ministry and eldership then we would necessarily have to be their children also. If we are by that means to become the children of other men and women, then of necessity, the churches would have to be held together by Patriarchy because the home is perceived to be a Patriarchal unit.

Moreover, if the churches are then Patriarchal, how can we explain that it is creation, and not family life that expressed Paul’s concerns that the man was made first and then the woman? Adam was equipped to determine by his mind that the creatures being brought before him in creation were not meet for him to have as a companion. Only then is the woman taken from his rib. In seeing the woman, his expression is the precise meaning of the term woman, and not some other expression. It is Flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. In short, it is a physical reality of a woman’s body taken from a man’s body. The soul, whilst being present in the physical body is not the defining reality of creation. It is the body itself. Or else how do we imagine that it is written, “there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus?”

And herein lies all of our problems. It is the term Patriarchy that is most despised in political and social theories and thus men, and all their abuses in life arising from it, are held accountable. If some men then say of their wives that she is also an elder as he may be an elder, then it is because eldership is becoming no more than a reflection of political and social theory. I have known many elderly sisters, and at times their wisdom and faith have been a real benefit both in the churches and in their homes. Yet never once in thirty-four years has such a sister ever sought to restrain me by a claim to either being my mother, or else an elder in the church.

Moreover, when one speaks in this way, I can already hear these sister elders who are appointed by permission of their husbands telling me that they are not seeking to constrain me but that their ministry is a ministry of grace and as such, they thus imply that I can learn from them. I can indeed learn from any sister, and even a child if that pleases God, that does not answer the issue of church governance, however. In hearing such a response, my spirit answers, that an elder is the only governmental authority in the churches and so they are either elders or else not elders. 

I know what eldership means by the hand of God through elders who when I was in the spirit, could indeed of necessity require me to a course that was not in any part to my liking or else my benefit. And when as a mere babe in Christ the Lord said to me not to be afraid of their authority, it was that attitude of obedience on my part and the Lord’s comfort that gave me my confidence. How can one be afraid of the authority of an elder? It is because they have real authority in the churches and may for all that make mistakes. Today we cover the Patriarchy in the society of the past five thousand years by removing its meaning in all but a bland legal meaning of individuals and even then refuse it in the family if even the children should despise it. Then by some means of a deception husbands make their wives elders in the churches and thus make the churches as the world of necessary law that is finally holding men to account for all the misdeeds that men do, whilst refusing to address their treatment of their wives.

We are walking on broken glass in our bare feet and imagining that somehow or other our pain will be removed by placing our children into the harm of apostasy and thus lightening our load. A true father would rather bare the load of his children, with his wife as his helper in the same mind as her husband, than put them into harm’s way by making them so many individuals that he can ease his burden and refuse God. And if that speaks of husbands and wives, and we rush to the home to embrace its meaning, then we have missed that the home itself has become a fictional place wherein children are often prescribed a truly breathtaking humanistic philosophy of tolerance in schools, and mothers and fathers embrace that in the home as well. In that humanistic tolerance even the man who makes of himself a woman through his mind, and in his body remains a true man, is also received. 

It is elders who are taken from homes and that because it is a good thing for a man to desire to be an elder. To which desire the Spirit answers through the Scripture that he must be a husband of one wife, and a father of children. It is a proven attitude or else if you prefer it is faith proven by works, as James speaks, and yet it is a man proven by his labour in his own home. In short, it is proven authority and not the mere fact of his body. Neither can we remove his body and make of it a woman. So whilst many wives of believing men would not seek to become men in their bodies and embrace an unnatural relationship with other women, they have by now been given the power to require the husband to present her as though she were a male.

If I were to take the word of those places wherein are wives and sisters become elders, then I could show you with ease just how their words are a deception and a lie. Yet I say in plain speech that not only is this not my ambition but neither will I do it. Each local church must be accountable for their activities and it is to Christ that all its members will have to give an account. 

So why then do I write in this way? It is because the churches in many places have become so sick with the world that the world will in many places be more evident in the churches than Christ by the end of it. It is that certainty that informs my mind, and it is that certainty that informs my determination to be plain and honest and to refuse eldership myself in any church seeing that whilst I have taken on the mantle of a pastor, I am in truth a prophet by calling of God, and as such, I cannot hold the office of an elder. Neither will I do. 

Therefore my confidence is in Christ according to the burden which I have held for thirty-four years towards the churches, by which burden I have been endlessly seeking both wisdom and prophetic certainty, and thus by a certainty of Christ, I also see His response to those churches that are minded to be obedient to His order of creation and not an order that is no order at all, wherein men, women and children are mere individuals in a pretence of order.

If you are minded to examine these words then consider this. Marriage is the union of a male and a female, by which union are they become husband and wife. What then is a certificate of divorce? A certificate does not first produce unfaithfulness, and neither does a certificate of divorce produce a male and a female. It is adultery that breaks the union of a man and a woman, and a certificate that reflects that meaning. Otherwise, the certificate does indeed produce infidelity.

“The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning, it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

If we then say my wife has become an elder as I am an elder, what we are saying is that eldership in the churches is not that one man and one woman are joint elders, as the husband and the wife are joint heirs of grace together, and one flesh together, but that all the wives of elders being one flesh with their husbands are necessarily elders as he is an elder. Yet that is not what the Apostle Paul says when he sets the order of creation as the issue of authority in the churches. 

Despite the cleverness of some, in setting their devices that are taken from the world, that has to do with the protection of children in those places, and not husbands and wives, it is not possible to change the order in creation. Neither is it by that means possible to explain how it was that Adam was not deceived and that Eve was. “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” Moreover, if we then say that my wife who is an elder does not teach, then we also refuse the Scriptures that speak that an elder must be able to teach. 

In truth, it would be far better for men and women if when we use the term Patriarchy to mean heads of households, we understood that Abraham was not the father of his wife, but many nations. We would also be better served if we also understood that our wives are joint heirs of grace together with us, as husbands, and that this grace does not change the order of creation. So that as long as we are in this body, which is to say in local churches, we have no authority to rewrite the Scripture to accomplish a well-meaning ambition to see our churches flourish. If we do that, then we will have changed the local church altogether. 

Pastor Robert Chisholm

NBLC (Study)