& "Mandatism" Philosophy
The Mandatist Concept of "Ecclesia"
In the early 2010's another new twist on the meaning of the church made conformable to human political structure has come forth over the root meaning of the Greek word ecclesia. This is the word the Bible translates as church or more properly, assembly. This teaching promoted by Dutch Sheets and others notes that the original use of the term ecclesia in Greek society was specifically applied to a governmental assembly, similar to our use of the word in a governmental context (state assembly, provincial assembly, legislative assembly, MLA, etc.)
Based on this original use, mandatists assert that the function of the church is to act directly upon or even become the governing political body in human society and that this function has been "hidden" from us by intentional mistranslation of ecclesia and the like.
Although ecclesia is indeed properly translated by the word "assembly" (not "church") as also contended by non-denominational denominations such as the Plymouth Brethren, the etymological leap that seeks to reframe Christ's intention for the spiritual assembly of believers as a political power like unto the Greek democratic assembly is entirely fanciful and invalid. Let's look at this more precisely.
Again, there is a valid germ in the mandatist argument. The church is supposed to be a governmental assembly. But the basis of that government has nothing in common with a human democratic assembly; and the etymological origin cannot be used to make such a connection. This is again because apples cannot be compared with oranges. We are talking about spiritual things, and as Paul says, we compare spiritual things with spiritual things (I Cor. 2:13 KJV). The church is a body of spiritual government, not human government. It functions on spiritual principles, not natural principles. The two are not the same and therefore cannot be connected.
That the church is supposed to be spiritually governmental in nature is clear from Matthew 18 where Jesus outlines the process in the church for resolving relational offenses between spiritual brethren. After all, the church is about relationship and relationship requires government. Where agreement cannot be reached and offenses resolved between two believers using witnesses, the church is supposed to hear the matter and make a ruling. And if the ruling is not accepted, the church is to shun the brother that refuses its ruling. This is the same spiritual government Paul advocates in I Corinthians 5-6 where he chides the Corinthians for taking one another before secular democratic courts rather than exercising their God-ordained function to resolve matters between brethren.
At the same time however, that the church is not governmental in nature like the Greek assembly--and therefore to be neither fashioned like them with "by-laws" nor imposed on them as if to convert them to the church's likeness--is also made clear by Jesus and by Paul. Jesus says that his assembly is not to be modeled on Gentile principles of governance:
Mt. 20:25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 "It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave ; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
The original ideal of the Greek ecclesia is human, not divine. God did not inspire the Greeks with the concept. As a human ideal, it functions specifically to serve the gentile spirit Jesus said His ecclesia is not designed to serve. Thus there is no spiritual (read "prophetic") connection between the Greek term and the Lord's choice of it to describe His collective following.
For his part, Paul the apostle simply maintains a clear line of separation between the natures of "church and state" governing bodies by distinguishing them relative to faith:
I Cor. 5:12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges.. 6:1 Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? 4 So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, 6 but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?
In this definitive passage, Paul outlines what does and what does not constitute the governing nature of the spiritual ecclesia relative to the secular ecclesia. As noted already, the church is indeed a governmental body, charged with the responsibility to judge natural matters between spiritual brethren based in spiritual wisdom. To this end, believers ought not to be taking one another before the secular ecclesia.
But in so saying, Paul is simultaneously distancing the concept of the spiritual ecclesia from the natural one. Paul creates a clear line between human and spiritual law courts. The church is to judge the church only. The outsiders are to judge the outsiders only. There is no idea here of the church taking on the nature of or imposing its nature on the secular ecclesia.
At the same time, Paul is not silent on the matter of one taking over the other. He pointedly says a day will come when the church will judge the world--meaning that in a future day beyond Paul the spiritual ecclesia will become the dominant governing body in the earth. He also notes that the ecclesia will judge angels as well. When will that time be? Is it now? Is it the decade of 2010? Have Dutch Sheets and others uncovered a "lost truth" about the church's role in governing the world now that was "covered up" by the King James translation??
Obviously it is not now! If the mandatists want to prosecute the church for failing in its governmental role within the ecclesia based on spiritual principles, well and good. Church discipline and the lack of accountable community within the church for deciding natural matters has always been a flagrant weakness of the church. But to extrapolate out of nothing more than etymological similarity (and intimate it to be "prophetic insight") that the church is to exercise Greek-style authority in the earth now is illegitimate.
Why? It is illegitimate because if that is what Jesus meant to convey when choosing the word ecclesia to identify His corporate followership , then the apostle Paul would have spelled it out right here in plain sight! I emphasize the word apostle because that is exactly the office that mandatists are charging with this responsibility for extending the church's government over human government. Dutch Sheets notes that it is the neglected role of the apostle in the church that is responsible for the church's failure to carry out its mission to exercise authority in human government.
But hello? The apostle Paul, the lead founding apostle among the Greek churches has already laid out the clear relationship between the two ecclesias. He offers no idea that the church is supposed to take over human government in this age. And there is nothing between Paul's time and now to demonstrate that ages have changed--as the empty philosophy of preterism ("all Bible prophecy has already been fulfilled") contends and to which many mandatists hold. What is happening now is that the current mandatist "apostles of ecclesia" ensconced in human philosophy are ignoring Paul to write their own script based in a simple word association. And again, we are supposed to accept this as the "now word of the Lord" because it is "clever" and "novel."
Current mandatist ecclesia teaching is nothing more than a prophetically shepherded return to the villainous Dark Age beliefs of the papacy and the
Holy Roman Empire. It is an antichrist concept that contributes to the development and acceptance of antichrist government in the earth. But modern prophetic mandatists are blind to this because they are under the spell of the belief that somehow prophetic anointing changes all this. It doesn't. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit." The anointing acts upon the flesh, but it does not convert the flesh into spirit.
If one wants to derive a genuine superior prophetic meaning from the etymology of ecclesia that is harmonious with apostolic scripture, then he should consider that the word at its most basic means to "call out from." The church is genuinely the assembly of those not merely gathered together but specifically called out from the world in harmony with the prayer of our Lord Jesus in John 17. That is the first thing we should think of whenever we think of ourselves as the church. We should be thinking about our identity as the assembly of the firstborn (Heb. 12:23), not our supposed charge to wield Greek-like political power in a culture.
New Meadow Neck, Rhode Island
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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Page created May 26, 2012