Smash the Guilds!

From the chapter “Smash the Guilds!” in Disciple the Nations by Stephen Perks

(Also see: Is Licensure Biblical? Ep. 176 (guest Jerri Lynn Ward) from
“This episode of the Out of the Question Podcast features attorney Jerri Lynn Ward discussing how licensing contributed to the rise of the administrative state.”)

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Guild: “an association of artisans or merchants who oversee the practice of their craft/trade in a particular area. The earliest types of guild formed as confraternities of tradesmen. They were organized in a manner something between a professional association, a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society” (Wikipedia). The Oxford English Dictionary adds “often having considerable power.”

The rules for apostleship as set out by Peter in the first chapter of The Acts of the Apostles are that they must have been with the other apostles and Jesus from the beginning. Notice that they were told to go back to Jerusalem and wait, not go back to Jerusalem and set up the first school of ecclesiastical law-making. In the first chapter of Acts there is no mention of Peter or anyone else being instructed by the Holy Spirit to select a new apostle.

Here is Paul’s qualification for apostleship: “Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead” (Gal. 1:1). And here is Paul’s rejection of Peter’s rule for apostleship, and it is a strongly implied rebuke of the man-made rule: “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more” (2 Cor. 5:16).

Peter’s qualification for apostleship was man-made and it is here rejected by Scripture. God thumbed his nose at Peter’s rule very quickly by choosing Paul as an apostle, who did not fit any of the criteria Peter insisted on. But the fact that Paul’s calling did not conform to the man-made rules set out by Peter dogged him throughout his ministry, as his frequent resort to defending his apostleship among those who questioned it shows, for example among the Galatians, who had been warned off him by the Judaisers, and also among the Corinthians. There seems to have been some kind of whispering or backbiting campaign going on with regard to Paul’s apostleship emanating from Jerusalem.

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When Acts was being written, God was already laying down the process to destroy the utterly corrupt priestly guilds that dominated Jewish religious and temple life.

There may be churches — I speak of congregations and assemblies, not priesthoods and religious buildings — that arise with His approval : but when they go bad, He has decided to toss them aside rather than restore them.

Busted wineskins only exist to be trampled under the feet of men.

As the Protestant & Catholic denominations of the West give clear testimony of, right before our eyes.

As the Apostle Peter learnt: no guilds.

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Clearly there is a strong tendency for mankind to form guilds, regardless of what they are actually called. Guilds were a means of controlling a trade or form of livelihood by restricting access to work in a particular field to guild members and demanding conformity to the rules of the guild. By their very nature they are self-serving, abusive and exist to oppress anyone who does not belong to the guild but who works in the same field as the guild members. They exist to suppress individual freedom and as a result they impede economic progress and social amelioration.

The clergy is one of the last remaining mediaeval guilds in Western society, and it is a serious cancer on the body of Christ. It is negative and destructive, and if you doubt this what more proof could you possibly need than the state of the Church today, which in the main is controlled by clergy guilds, which restrict access to ministry to guild members and therefore impede the work of the Kingdom, since God does not accept this guild membership game and does not play by its rules, and, moreover, never has. It is a game of ecclesial power politics invented by men for the benefit of men and has nothing whatsoever to do with God’s criteria for ministry, which is calling. If you doubt this read the prophets. When you read prophetic books in the Bible what is the first thing that the prophets usually say? Not always but usually? That they were ordained by such and such presbytery or bishop? That they are genuine guild members? No! They say something like “this was not my idea. I was minding my own business when God called me.” In other words the first thing they usually say is to explain their calling. Indeed the word prophet means one who is called. The definition of a false prophet is someone who has no calling from God,—but they are well called by men. That is to say, their calling is from men not God. The court prophets were those who were in favour with the establishment, the politicians and priests. They were members of the guild. The prophets called by God did not fit this pattern. They were outsiders. They were not guild members.

Of course the people did not want to hear from the prophets God had called either. They also preferred the false prophets, those who were vetted and accepted by the authorities, the court prophets, who would tell them what they wanted to hear. And so it is today on the whole. People prefer the carefully vetted clergymen who will conform to their expectations by justifying their apathy and not rocking the boat, who will keep the status quo. But the Bible gives us a stark warning about this situation: “the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?” (Jer. 5:31).

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The Experts, the Priests, the Professionals — those are not the only target of the One who smashes the guilds.

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One of the interesting things about guilds historically is that the Industrial Revolution probably would not have happened if the guilds had been as strong at that time as they were in mediaeval times. It was Cromwell that smashed the power of the guilds in England. He would not tolerate that men who had been in the army fighting tyranny would have to leave the army to find their opportunities to work and earn a living restricted because they were not members of guilds. They were allowed to work regardless of guild membership and rules and the power of the guilds was broken.

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Here, Cromwell was right.

Just as he was right to let the Jews return to England, if they so wished.

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It is time to smash the power of the clerical guilds. The growth of the Kingdom of God requires it. The clerical guilds are like a cork in a bottle. They stop anything from going in or coming out of it, as Jesus said of the scribes and Pharisees: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Mt. 23:13). The clerical guilds suppress the real ministries needed to facilitate the equipment of the body of Christ for the work of the Kingdom, and therefore the growth of the Kingdom, which is a counter-revolutionary prophetic social order that exists by God’s grace to convert and disciple the nations, not a clerical guild that exists to facilitate the growth of self-serving guild support associations, i.e. Church planting. We must seek first the Kingdom of God. Smash the guilds!

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Smash the guilds!

In Christ’s Name,
Amen, and Amen.

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