You are not King David. You are not Saul. You are not “God’s Anointed.”
Here’s a story I’ve heard more than once.
Somebody challenges the church pastor. Maybe it was because of sin. Maybe it was because of a controversial decision. Maybe it was because of a hard line on some theological issue. Whatever the reason, some courageous soul challenges the pastor and the pastor comes back with this brilliant line: “You can’t oppose me, I am God’s anointed.” Better yet, he pits it as a struggle between man-made system and the call of God. Here’s another line: “God called and appointed me to this position, no man can remove me from it.”
I’ve seen this most often with people who have come out of an Apostolic tradition. The pastor, it is viewed, carries the authority of an Apostle through some kind of system of succession (i.e., laying on of hands). But, I’ve seen this kind of thinking in other contexts as well. After all, do you really need some arbitrary system of succession if you want to say that God has given you extra authority?
These “super apostles” are above rebuke. To oppose them is to oppose God. They put themselves on par with David or Saul (or maybe Moses). Their particular theological system is flawless. Their leadership decisions cannot be questioned. If they sin, they are immune from church discipline.
Let’s take that last one – our Anointed Pastor for whom church discipline doesn’t apply, the one who can’t be removed from ministry because of sin.
Wait, you might say, that’s not biblical. God dictated qualifications for elders and deacons. Presumably failing to meet one of those qualifications disqualifies a pastor from ministry (1 Timothy 3:1-12, Titus 1:5-9).
This apparently doesn’t apply to the Anointed pastor. He’s not a run-of-the-mill elder/pastor. He’s much more like David. He’s God’s Anointed. David wasn’t removed from office when he sinned. Neither should our Anointed Pastor.
There are numerous problems with this logic. First, though David wasn’t removed from office, he sure did experience judgment, and he was not above rebuke (see Nathan the prophet). Second, Israel isn’t the church and what applies to Israel doesn’t necessarily apply to the church. Third, being a king isn’t like being a pastor. In fact, there is hardly any correlation. Fourth, there is an interpretive problem in trying to draw an application from descriptive text in opposition to clear commands elsewhere in Scripture (qualifications for leadership).
Fifth, it seems just a wee bit conceited to compare yourself to King David.
Speaking of David, here’s another line I’ve heard on more than one occasion. “Even King David refused to usurp Saul because Saul was God’s anointed (1 Sam 24:6)” Or, they could share the scary story of the young man who killed Saul (2 Sam 1:1-16). Even though Saul was a bad dude and he was already dying, David still had the young man killed because he had killed the “Lord’s anointed.” This is a good story for our Anointed pastor to share because (1) he acknowledges he’s not so great, while comparing himself to a king and (2) it strikes the fear of death into the hearts of those who oppose him.
Here’s the problem: He’s not Saul and nobody is trying to kill him (I hope). The fact that he’s not Saul is important because what we have in 1 and 2 Samuel is a description of what happened, not a prescription for what we should do today. Making interpretive leaps take time and careful study. The fact that nobody is trying to kill him is important too, because that’s the issue 1 and 2 Samuel are dealing with. This isn’t a story about church leadership, qualifications for ministry, decision making, church discipline, or doctrinal disagreements. In short: This story does not apply to pastoral ministry.
Here’s where the problem lies:
If you believe, as a pastor, that your authority comes unmediated from God Himself, apart from a local church, apart from your giftedness, apart from your sin or holiness, even apart from the commands of Scripture, then what you say goes. Period. You have been called, appointed, and anointed. Once that’s done, it cannot be revoked.
But that’s not how it works.
If you’ve been called:
You have been called according to Scripture. You meet the qualifications of an elder. You have demonstrated the gifts of pastoral ministry. You have sound doctrine. You practice personal holiness. If you fail to meet those qualifications, you are disqualified from ministry.
You have been called to a church, as part of a church, to serve the church. Everything you do you do with the church and the quality of your giftedness is directly related to its role in building up that church. If you intentionally hurt the church to which you were called then you are disqualified from ministry.
You have been called to a provisional role. You don’t serve your church, you serve God’s church and God’s the boss. If he wants to replace you, he will.
You have been called to serve as an under shepherd. There is one head of the church, Christ. He is God’s Anointed. You are not.
P.S. Dear church member: If your pastor starts comparing himself to David, Saul, or Moses, you need to take a hard look at getting out of that church. I’ve never seen this end well.