A Question About Honoring Pastors
Question: Why should I honor my pastor?
Answer: Thank you for your question. Rather than simply give you a “yes or no” answer, I want to take a little time to lay a foundation for my answer. The overall story of the Bible is one of creation, corruption, redemption, and consummation. Before the fall of mankind in Genesis 3, we see the creation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Based on the creation story and how other biblical writers speak of the creation story, from the very beginning, man was created to be the glory of God and woman was created to be the glory of man (see 1 Corinthians 11:2-7). Creation has within it authority and submission roles; these are “baked in the cake.” Man submits to God, the woman submits to her husband, and children submit to their parents.
After the fall, this is still the case, but because we are now living “east of Eden” in a sin-cursed world, we need other institutions besides the family to help bring order to society. In Genesis 9:1-7, we see in God’s establishing a covenant with Noah, a provision for civil government:
“Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man. And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; Bring forth abundantly in the earth And multiply in it.” (Genesis 9:6-7 NKJV)
To curb sin in the world as sinful man multiplied over the face of the earth, God institutes capital punishment. This would evolve over time to the institution of the state, or the civil magistrate. As the Apostle Paul will say in Romans 13, “For [the magistrate] is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Romans 13:4 NKJV).
So you have the institution of the family as the smallest social unit in society, the civil government as another institution to govern collections of family units in the common kingdom, and finally you have the institution of the church, which Jesus Christ establishes to govern affairs in the redemptive kingdom. With the coming of Jesus Christ, see the church established as the fulfillment of God’s redemptive work in the OT. The church is a multi-national institution made up of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Jesus Christ is the Head of His body, the church.
Now while Christ is the Head of the church, He has delegated authority in the church certain individuals who have been called and ordained to serve as officers within the local church. The NT establishes two ordained offices in the church: Elder and Deacon. The qualifications for elder and deacon can be found in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 (see also Titus 1:5-9). Generally speaking, elders serve by caring for and overseeing the spiritual matters within the church and deacons serve by caring for and overseeing the material matters within the church (under the oversight of the elders). A church is to be governed by a plurality of elders, there is no biblical warrant for a church being governed by a single pastor/elder, nor is there biblical warrant for a hierarchical structure such as you see in the Anglican Church or the Roman Catholic Church. Within the elders of the church, there is usually one who labors in the preaching and teaching of the word; this would be the pastor-teacher.
Now in Ephesians 4: 11-13, Paul speaks of spiritual gifts and says that Christ has gifted the church with gifted men to equip the saints and edify the body of Christ:
And [Christ] Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; (Ephesians 4:11-13 NKJV)
Pastors and teachers are Christ’s gift to the church. They are men who themselves are gifted to serve in the church and labor in the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, and along with other elders, serve in the governing of the church.
So, with that out of the way, why honor your pastor? First, pastors are God’s gift to the church. Second, pastors are called to serve the church in this capacity. Third, pastors serve as Christ’s “under-shepherds” in the church governing the church by His authority. Fourth, because the Bible commands us to honor our pastors:
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. (1 Timothy 5:17 NKJV)
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, (1 Peter 5:5-6 NKJV)
Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. (Hebrews 13:7 NKJV)
One final comment about this. While we are to honor and submit to the God-ordained leadership in the church, we don’t submit to them blindly. The pastors and elders are themselves to submit to the authority of the Word of God, and if they go astray, they are to be disciplined like any other believer in the church.
~ Pastor Carl