Here is another typical example of one of those rabbit trails that the church goes off on, and makes it a ministry. Many pastors have become masters at taking scripture totally out of context, and making doctrine and ministry out of it. The theological term used for such a practice is called ‘eisegesis’. ‘Eisegesis’ is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that it introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text. It is commonly referred to as “reading into the text”, by biblical scholars. The church has moved far away from what is really needed when interpreting the Bible, which is proper ‘exegesis’. In contrast to ‘eisegesis’, ‘exegesis’ is a critical explanation or interpretation of the biblical text. It involves a wide range of critical disciplines and investigation into the history and origins of the text. ‘Exegesis’ also employs the study of the historical and cultural backgrounds for the author, the text, and the original audience before a conclusion can be determined.
With that in mind, the term armor-bearer happens to be found many times in the Old Testament but never one time in the New Testament. Before going to scripture to validate my point, let me define what exactly an armor-bearer is from a neutral source. According to Dicitionary.com, an armor-bearer is a male attendant bearing the arms or armor of a warrior or knight.” In the Old Testament, an armor-bearer was a servant who literally carried a shield and additional weapons for kings or commanders of armies. Armor bearers also provided protection for the one whose armor he carried. Since we can only find reference to its use in the Old Testament, let me layout the historical context for the use of an armor-bearer in the Old Testament. Like I said armor-bearers were used by several men in the Old Testament. Just to name a few:Abimelech in (Judges 9:54), Saul in (1 Samuel 16:12), Jonathan in (1 Samuel 14:6-17), and Joab in (2 Samuel 18:15), all used armor-bearers on the battlefield. Even David became Saul’s armor-bearer after killing Goliath in the valley of Elah. It is also interesting to note that Armor-bearers were also responsible for killing enemies wounded by their masters. After enemy soldiers were wounded with javelins or arrows, armor-bearers would gladly finish them off in cold blood with a sword or spear.
However after the time of King David there is absolutely not one mention of armor-bearers being used again. Careful study of the scripture would reveal that the use of armor-bearers was discontinued because they were no longer needed. After the time of David, kings and commanders began to fight from chariots. (1 Kings 12:18;20:33). Now that we have the history, the questions then arise, should there be a position of armor-bearer in the church? What exactly are the ministerial functions of an armor-bearer? Is the use of armor-bearers any relevant today? To answer those questions let’s ask another question. Is there any reference to the use of an armor-bearer in the New Testament period? Did Jesus, the apostles, or any other leader in the New Testament use an armor bearer? The answer is pretty obvious; it never existed. They never had armor-bearers because there was no need to. Nowhere in the New Testament the use of armor-bearers are referenced or even implied. As I clearly stated above, armor-bearers were used exclusively on the battlefield and nothing else.
However some churches today have managed to re-invent the term armor-bearer and it is now commonly used in many churches. Up to twenty years ago this was not the case, but in the last ten years there have been a myriad of churches practicing the use of armor-bearers. There are now a heap of books and training material on the subject of armor-bearing. Just on YouTube alone you can find a multiple videos on the subject. It is now a legitimate ministry in many church cultures across America. Luckily for me, all the churches I’ve been a part of, armor bearers did not exist. The duties range widely, but generally speaking, an armor-bearer carries the “armor” of a pastor or leader. The original justification was that the armor-bearer carried the pastor’s armor (Bible), which according to scripture is the “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12). In other words, just like the armor-bearer carried the king or commander’s sword, shield or such like, they carry the pastor’s sword. This was in fact the thought process and the original intent of the use of an armor-bearer in the church. However, that is simply not the case today. In many instances, a church armor-bearer now serves as a pastor’s bodyguard. I am not ignorant of the fact that we now live in very different times. I am fully aware that there are some servants of God who are constantly in the media and have had multiple death treats on their lives. If that is the case, then security personnel or a security team may be needed, depending on the size of the church or ministry. However, this isn’t generally the case.The use of armor-bearers are mostly practiced by insecure leaders who need to make themselves feel important, but have no legitimate need for security.
Furthermore, armor-bearers in the church today do anything from wiping off the pastor’s sweat from his face, to taking his suits to the dry cleaners. Some of them are even taught to follow the pastor anywhere he/she goes, even to stand outside the bathroom door while they use it. I have literally seen it to the point where armor-bearers would even put on their pastor’s glasses and wipe their hands after eating. The job spec of an armor-bearer varies from church to church, depending on what the individual pastor or leader desires. The use of armor-bearers today is nothing but a spiritualized term for slavery. The saddest thing about it is that most of them provide their pastor’s this service without being financially compensated. Therefore it is almost always on a voluntary basis, with a few exceptions. I have shared a link below to a video of a so-called pastor teaching a class on how to be an effective armor bearer. You would notice how he begins by clearly stating that it is less scriptural and more practical. This pastor even says that whoever he chooses to be his armor bearer must be willing to show up at his house early on Sunday mornings, and be willing to take days off from his job to be there whenever he needs them. He goes on to say that his armor bearer must also take care of his wife and kids. In fact, he indicated that he must be willing to tolerate the problems being his armor-bearer may cause in his own marriage. It is really sad and repulsive at the same time, that a pastor will teach his people to serve him, at the expense of their own marriage.
It is absurd and outrageous how leaders can get so full of themselves that they lose sight of what ministry is all about. Those who are called to the ministry must be reminded that the church must not be used as leverage to carry out their personal agenda. God’s word has given us clear guidelines as to what manner of people we ought to be. A true man or woman of God never desire to be served by others, but rather to serve others. Jesus said, “The son of man came to serve not to be served” (Matt. 20:28). Yet what you see today are pastors who are constantly seeking and demanding the service off others. Showing the pastor appreciation for his service in the kingdom of God has its proper place in the church, but there is a line that must be drawn. Anything more than what scripture allows is creating a culture of pastor-worship and borderlines idolatry. As preachers of the Gospel, there is a certain level of decorum that comes with the territory, and being a lord is not on the list.
So let me ask the questions again; is the idea of an armor-bearer biblically based? Most definitely not. It is nothing other than another way pastors and leaders have found to manipulate and exploit people who are naïve enough, and willing to give themselves in service to them. The fact that the New Testament never mentions armor-bearers, and nowhere describes any of the apostles, prophets, or elders having such a person, should be enough reason enough for the church to refrain from the practice. The only armor carried in the New Testament is the “Whole armor of God” of Ephesians 6, and is carried by every believer for his or her own benefit. Even so, Paul was using the armor of a Roman soldier as he laid out the spiritual armor of the believer. My encouragement to any pastor or leader considering having an armor-bearer is to take a second look at the Word of God before doing so.
Every man or woman of God must ask themselves, what is the theological foundation to provide context or support for what we do in ministry? Be reminded that every, and anything we do in the church must always find a biblical basis for its practice. Unfortunately, the use of armor-bearers does not make the cut. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see pastors’ going out to the battlefield to engage in physical war to where they need an armor-bearer. Therefore, it is completely irrelevant for this time and most of all it cannot be validated in the Biblical text. The battle we now fight is entirely spiritual. 2 Cor. 10:3-6 says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfarearenot carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”
In conclusion, please allow me to borrow some more words from the apostle; “finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,against spiritualhostsof wickedness in the heavenlyplaces. Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:10-19).