December 12, 2017

Spiritual Leadership

Jim Oesterwind

One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren” (Matthew 23.9).

It is interesting that the Pharisees seemed to be quite accurate in their teaching. Jesus told His disciples that they should observe and do what the Pharisees told them (23.3). It’s just that the works of the Pharisees did not line up with the teaching of the Pharisees.

First, they had great expectations for others but not for themselves (23.4). Second, they did what they did in order to be seen by men not God – to be fawned over by these men (23.5-7). Third, they liked positions and titles along with places of preeminence and power.

So the problem was not so much the message or content of the Pharisees as much as it was the way they delivered and lived that message. Only One is the Teacher. Only One is the Christ. The rest of us are on a level playing field as brethren. The Lord Jesus communicates through the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures. He is our authority.

I may expect obedience from my boys because I have authority as their Father. My wife respects my authority in the home and lovingly submits to God’s plan. As a pastor, it’s my task to watch out for the souls of people in our local church as one who will be held accountable. But all of these roles must be carried out with great compassion, mercy, and love. What is demanded or expected of others must be demanded or expected in my own life first. The final sum of it is that all of us are brethren bought by the sacrificial blood of the Lamb.

Two Important Prohibitions for Spiritual Leadership

  1. Do not demand the respect the Lord Jesus deserves. To be called ‘Rabbi’ was to convey a very high form of respect. The Scribes and Pharisees relished the title and the attention that came along with it. The Rabbi was wise. He felt very free about vaunting himself up over others and telling them what to do. But from where does wisdom come? Who gives authority to the spiritual leader? Everyone must look to the Lord Jesus for that which relates to the doctrine we believe and the faith we practice.
  2. Do not usurp the authority the Lord Jesus has. He is the only One who will sit upon the throne of David forever. He is the only One who will rule with an iron scepter. We are simply fellow-servants and brethren. It is clear that the Lord Jesus taught that those with the most authority are those who serve and condescend to the needs of others. “The greatest among you shall be your servant” (23.11). Jesus illustrated this truth by washing the feet of His disciples on the evening of His arrest.

“One Is Your Teacher, the Christ”

We have many people pushing us in many directions during any given day. It’s amazing how we so freely accept the authority of others who hold temporal sway over our lives and neglect the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has given you a task, namely to go into the world and preach the Gospel …also to love God supremely and then love others as you love yourself.

If we would all do the will of our Master each day, we would sleep much better each evening. How important it is to reach the end of a day and say, “Heavenly Father, I’ve done what you’ve demanded of me today. Help me now to rest in order to build on what has been done today when and if I reach tomorrow.”

“You Are All Brethren”

All fellow-believers in the body are brethren. Some might be referred to as Pastor or Father or Mother or even Sir. Jesus is not forbidding such titles in this passage. But He does forbid that titles become marks of high distinction and great authority. The Lord prefers the broken and contrite heart. This is the mark of truly great leaders. Good fathers make great sacrifices. As do good pastors and spiritual leaders within a church congregation. You are all brothers and sisters.

Therefore, outward conduct cannot be so readily dispatched. But it must be governed by humility and love within. Our world must see a church filled with people who love and respect one another …who pay deference to one another … who are kind and tenderhearted toward one another. This happened in the early church to be sure:

“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:44–47)

Our salt has lost its savor. Our light has been greatly diminished in the world at large. Now is the time to lead by serving not expecting anything in return.


Jim Oesterwind is the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Antioch, CA. He blogs at Sun and Shield.


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