A True Scriptural hierarchy
In an article in the latest Christadelphian Tidings Magazine it is suggested by Jeremy Newth, (Livonia Ecclesia, MI) that there is:-
“A simple Scriptural hierarchy: first God, then family, then ecclesia”
The article is entitled “Balance” and yet it is hard to imagine a more unbalanced view of scriptural hierarchy, and the order of our priorities with regards to family. There are some hierarchies laid out in scripture but the above suggestion is not one of them. For example we have the now very unpopular hierarchy laid out in Corinthians.
“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ: Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:1-3)
God is the Head of Christ
Christ is the Head of the Man
The Man is the Head of the Woman
We have another example in Ephesians:
“ For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing” (Eph. 5:23-24).
Christ is the Head of the ecclesia
Husband is the Head of the wife
Another example is laid out in 1Corinthians 12:28 ie “first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers,” etc.. This hierarchy was ordained by God for the governing and orderly administration of the Ecclesias in the first century. There may be other examples of scriptural hierarchy but “first God, then family, then ecclesia.” is not one of them! The fact that God comes first is unquestionable but the following idea as further expounded in the article is not:
“God is our priority (1 Tim 1:17; Matt 22:37-38). Serving and caring for the needs of our nuclear family comes second, and serving and caring for our spiritual family comes next”
Jesus makes it very clear where the place of our fleshly family should lie in the list of our priorities.
“While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mat. 12:46-50)
Brother Roberts has some wise words on this passage:-
“…While Jesus was uttering these things, he was surrounded by a crowd….. A message came from the skirts of the crowd, and was passed over the heads of the people, and delivered to Christ by one close to him, “Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.” Jesus did not receive the intimation with any great manifestation of respect for his relations according to the flesh, thus conspicuously introduced to notice. He said (probably with an air of quiet dignity), “Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?” He did not own to the claim implied in the assertion of blood relationship. In the world, then as now, blood relation was everything: with Jesus, it was nothing outside the special relation he had come to create—the relation of men to God in reconciliation, love, and obedience. If mothers and brothers were inside the circle of this relation, well and good; if not, he was not theirs, nor they, his. He did not know any man after the flesh. His mothers and his brothers were to be found among those who did the will of God. To this doctrine, he gave emphatic enunciation at this time. “He stretched forth his hands towards his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren: for whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother and sister and mother.” Did Jesus mean then to ignore the command of God by Moses that father and mother should be honoured, and that near of kin were to be regarded? Nothing could be further from the purpose of him who came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfil …”
Nazareth Revisited page 133
This piece from brother Roberts is balanced, he is not denigrating the scriptural command to honour father and mother etc.. but making the point that Jesus taught that those that do the will of The Father should take priority. They were more important to Jesus than his “nuclear family” and so it should be with the saints. Jesus illustrated this principle again in:-
“And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lu. 9:59-62)
Again some wise comments on this from Brother Roberts:-
“… A young man whom he called to follow him, wished to go and first say farewell to those that were at home. Christ’s answer has appeared rough to those who cannot judge by any higher rule than the flesh: “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). To another, he said, “Follow me: but he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father”, Christ’s rejoinder was of the same character as in the other case: “Let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” Jesus would not have us unmindful of natural duties, but he asserts the superior claims of those that have to do with God. He affirms a stronger connection and a higher relation in the case of those who are related to God, than those who are connected in flesh. “Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother and sister, and mother.” This declaration had all the greater point from the circumstances that drew it forth, namely: the circumstance of his mother and his brothers, calling for him to take him home. One of the crowd said to him, “Thy mother and thy brothers without seek thee”. The words quoted were his rejoinder.
Roberts, R. The Law of Moses Chapter 30
So our brethren and sisters in Christ should be second only to God in our affections and priorities. Jesus warns us there is much danger in giving our natural relationships a higher priority than we should do:
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Mat. 10:34-39).
Another comment on this from Brother Roberts:-
“Christ demands unreserved fidelity. He is exacting: he will not accept partial discipleship. “If any man come after me, and hate not father and mother, and husband and wife, and houses and land, he cannot be my disciple.” Hard words, perhaps, and distasteful to half-hearted believers, but true; and to those who have given themselves to the Lord with full purpose of heart—glorious. It has before now happened that disciples have said “This is a hard saying: who can hear it?” If this happened in his presence, much more is it likely to happen in his absence. Let us beware, brethren—listen to his voice!”
1869 The Christadelphian, Page 366
The passages quoted from Robert Roberts illustrate clearly that he took the scriptural standard as his guide. Anyone who is familiar with the tireless work he did in his efforts to preach the truth and support his brethren and sister not just in the UK but all over the world will realise that he practiced what he preached. We would do well to follow his example and realise that we should “henceforth know we no man after the flesh” 2Cor 5:16. And that the true Scriptural Hierarchy is
Third those in Christ