THE LORD’S CONCEPT OF LEADERSHIP
In this chapter we need to cut straight the word concerning leadership in the New Testament economy. The meaning of leadership in the Bible is completely different from our natural concept. What the Lord said about leadership in Matthew 20:20-28 and 23:8, 10, and 11 shatters the human thought of leadership. According to the natural, human concept, a leader is higher than others. But in these chapters the Lord said that whoever wants to be great among His people must be a slave. Thus, the Lord’s concept of leadership is the opposite of the natural concept. Yes, there is a need for leaders among the Lord’s children today. These leaders, however, need to realize that, in God’s New Testament economy, leadership means slavery. If you would be a leader among the Lord’s children, you must be a slave.
If we are genuine and honest, we will admit that we love leadership but not slavery. Such is the human heart. Even the young sisters like to be leaders. If they cannot be number one, or at least be number two, they are disappointed. Do not bring the natural concept of leadership into your reading of the Bible. In the Bible, I repeat, leadership means slavery. If you are truly a slave among the Lord’s people, you must be willing to clean the restroom, vacuum the floor, arrange the chairs, and serve as an usher. How different this is from the worldly view of leadership! In the Lord’s recovery we should not ask for the janitor when we see the need for cleaning. Rather, we should all serve as janitors. Let us drop our natural concept of leadership and return to the pure Word.
CHRIST, THE ONE LEADER
According to God’s economy, there is just one leader among His people—the Lord Jesus Christ: “Neither be called instructors, because One is your Instructor, the Christ” (Matt. 23:10). Anyone who considers me the leader in the Lord’s recovery is not practicing the truth. If anyone asks you who is the leader in the church, you need to say that the leader is Christ. To answer in this way indicates that we know the truth and practice the truth. If someone claims that Witness Lee is the leader, you need to tell him, “Witness Lee is our slave.”
The Catholic Church claims that Peter was appointed by Christ to be the unique leader. The New Testament, however, reveals otherwise. Yes, in the Gospels and the first part of Acts Peter is first, and his name is mentioned first. But Galatians 2:9 says, “Perceiving the grace given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars.” Here Peter (Cephas) is mentioned not first but second. When Peter stood up with the eleven on the day of Pentecost, he was as strong as a lion. However, in Galatians 2 he was cowardly, for when the brothers came from James, Peter refused to eat with the Gentiles. Prior to that time, he practiced the truth concerning eating with Gentile believers according to the vision he received in Acts 10. But when the brothers came from James, he no longer practiced the truth in this matter. When Paul saw that Peter and the others did not walk in a straightforward way in relation to the truth of the gospel, he rebuked Peter before them all (Gal. 2:14). Through his weakness Peter was damaging the truth of the gospel, the truth that both the Gentile believers and the Jewish believers are the same. This indicates that in Galatians 2 Peter’s spiritual capacity had diminished. Peter was not backslidden, but his spiritual capacity was less than that of James. For this reason, in Galatians 2:9 the name of James is mentioned before the name of Peter. Furthermore, the fact that brothers came “from James” indicates that James represented the church in Jerusalem.
Another indication that James, and not Peter, represented the church in Jerusalem is seen in Acts 21:17 and 18: “When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us gladly. And on the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.” Here we are told that Paul and his co-workers went not to Peter but to James, for all the elders, including Peter, were in James’s home. James was the one who represented the church in that city.
A further indication of this is seen in the conference held in Acts 15. In this conference of apostles and elders, Peter spoke first and then Paul. In a conference the leading one does not speak first but last. The final word in this conference was given by James, as indicated by these words: “When they finished speaking, James answered, saying, Men, brothers, listen to me” (v. 13). Then in verse 19 James gave his decision: “Therefore I judge that we do not harass those from the Gentiles who are turning to God.” When we put all these verses together, we see that Peter was not the unique leader in the New Testament. When Catholics claim that Peter was such a leader, we need to know how to cut straight the word regarding this so that we can present a clear picture to them.