When did a Hierarchy in the Church start?
The hierarchy in the church is the most damaging thing that happened to the church. Of course, most so called Christians think it always existed. But that is not the case. Jesus made it always very clear that whoever wants to be the greatest in the kingdom of God needs to be the least. In Mark 9: 35 Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” In Matthew 20:25-28 Jesus becomes even more explicit. He tells them,“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus himself practiced servant-hood when he washed the feed of the disciples before the last supper and most of all when he died for human kind on the cross. He was always putting other people’s needs first. Jesus who was God in the flesh, did for a little while even become lower than the angels in order to save mankind. In Philippians 2:6-8 Paul writes “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross!”
Paul who wrote most of the letters of the New Testament continued to teach the principle of servant-hood. He clearly taught that in the body there is no hierarchy. In 1. Corinthians 12, Paul describes this by using a body as an example. He says all body parts are needed and not one is more important. He also writes that all gifts are equal not one gift is in charge of the other. Then in chapter 14 he lays out the way the assembly should be conducted. No hierarchy is mentioned. Paul never said that anybody is in charge. The gifts are given to serve the church.
Yes, he appointed overseers and deacons but they were to serve the body and not rule over it or to be in authority over the rest of the people. All members have the Holy Spirit. All members are equal participants of the assembly of believers, and all members are connected to the source or the head who is Jesus Christ.
Paul writes in Ephesians 5:21 submit to one another. But of course, most people ignore this verse and focus on the next verses were wives were reminded to submit to her husbands. However submission in the body is the norm and not an exception.
Paul speaks out against authority of one person over the other in 1. Timothy 2:12, but because he applied it to women, men think they are exempt from it and even believe Paul gives them the privilege to have authority over others. He is using a word that conveys absolute authority in this verse which of course only the Holy Spirit should have in the church.
Even Paul himself had no authority unless it was given to him by the members. Never did he demand it or manipulate others to give it to him. Leaders had there positions because they earned it and not demanded it.
Equality in the body of Christ is necessary in order to have accountability and to keep the body from becoming corrupt. Human beings have the tendency to take advantage of positions of authority and misuse them. Or most people have the tendency to just simply follow without taking responsibility. Both extremes are dangerous for the body of Christ. In the body everybody has a responsibility in order for the body to works as one unit with Christ at the head.
So why did Christians start to think that a hierarchy is needed and why did they start to think that some people are more privileged than others.
Of course, culture had a lot to do with it. Even though Paul taught transformation and none conformity to the world, Romans 12, the members still continued the worldly thinking in the church. They continued their fallen nature and brought the worldly ungodly practices into the church. Once the “sourdough” came into the church it started to fester until the church was corrupt. This happened very soon.
We know that in this world hierarchy is the rule. It started as soon as the first human beings sinned. God said in Genesis 3:16 the man will rule over the woman. However this ruling was not limited to the woman but we can see through out history that the strongest will rule and subdue the rest. This tendency is the result of sin not because of the creation. This fallen nature dominated human kind throughout history. The survival of the fittest in a “dog eat dog” world became the norm.
Even the Hebrews, during the Old Testament, functioned in this old nature. They did not understand the plan God had for them and it took Jesus and the Holy Spirit to make it know to humankind.
Paul was tasked to teach this new paradigm. But the Holy Spirit is needed to change the old, fallen nature and transform it in the likeness of Christ. Paul talks about a renewing of the mind in Romans 12. Unfortunately, most believers are not willing to allow this transformation and they would rather continue in the old nature. Thus it was easy to corrupt the body or the assembly of believers and to allow false teachers to take over the early church.
John already talked about false teachers coming into the church and misleading the believers because they were not grounded in the Holy Spirit. He not only talked about the Antichrist spirit, but also the Gnostic movement. His concerns can be found in his letters and his Gospel.
We know that by the second generation Christians, the hierarchy crept into the church and leading bishops talked about absolute obedience to the bishop, presbyters, and deacons. The letters of Ignatius to various churches makes this trend obvious.
Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch, friend of Polycarp and possibly a disciple of John. Reading his letters bring up some red flags. In his letters to Polycarp, he even requires couples to get permission from the bishop in order to marry. And in the letter to the Trallians he says the church would not exist without the bishops, presbyters, or deacons. Thus he deviates very much from the teaching of Paul and conditions the believers to abandon their the equal status of all believers and introducing a hierarchy preparing the church to open the doors for false teachers which will take advantage of the sleeping sheep.
By the time the Roman pagan emperor came a long to unite the churches under his leadership, most Christians were ready. Make not mistake, Satan did plan and orchestrate all this. He knew how to prepare and manipulate the dump sheep.
I have to mention that women did get badly effected by all this again. For thousands of years they were subjugated to the point of not being considered human beings. For a short time they gained some freedom and equality in the body of Christ, but this did not last long. With the push for a hierarchy they again ended up on the bottom of the hierarchy. Now scripture was even used, by taking verses out of context, to show that women are deceptive, less than human, even a
But make no mistake, this introduction of hierarchy into the church was her down fall or as Paul said the “Falling Away” 2. Thessalonians 2:3. The church not only left the instructions of Paul in how to conducted the assembly of believers, but also the instructions of the Holy Spirit by doing so they opened the door to the mixing of pagan practices under the cover of Christianity.
Unfortunately the Reformation did not totally disconnect from the Roman Catholic Church and did not go back to the instructions of Paul in 1. Corinthians 14. This again opened the door to false teachers or wolf’s in sheeps clothing and corrupted the protestant church again. Even today most churches have “fallen away” from Paul’s teachings and the instruction of the the Holy Spirit. most churches are corropt because they are followig false leaders.
The only way to get rid of the leafen is to go back to sound doctine. But people have been stuck in false teachings and tradition for such a long time, that they can not and do not want to hear the truth. The leaders do not want to give up control and the followers are not willing to take responsibility.
In closing let us look at 1. Corinthians 14:26 again. Paul writes, “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up”. This is not hierachy, but mutuality.