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Spiritual Authority – A Firm Foundation

The minister who taught this class at my church has graciously allowed me to share our class notes on my blog.  I’m so thankful for his generosity!  Everything below is word for word the notes from the class, “The Preeminence of the Doctrine of Spiritual Authority”  (unfortunately, I don’t have access to his source materials and references). This is the framework and basis for EVERYTHING else in scripture – including God’s design for marriage.  It all hangs on God’s ultimate authority first and His right to lead, correct and guide us and to give us commands for our best interests. THIS is the stuff we must understand in order to have a proper foundation for accepting and respecting anyone in a position of God-given authority in our lives.

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INTRODUCTION:

We are in a life and death struggle for the heart, mind and soul of our nation and I believe that this struggle is primarily a spiritual struggle and must therefore be understood and dealt with on a spiritual basis.

The doctrine of spiritual authority is preeminent among all other doctrines because if that doctrine is compromised, all other doctrines are equally affected.

Our nation has progressively rejected the absolute truths of God’s Word as the basis of our moral, legal and spiritual lifestyle and has replaced them with the philosophy of political correctness.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY

Success in life will greatly depend upon how we understand, relate to, and respond to authorities in our lives because one of the significant ways in which God communicates His will and purpose is through the various authority structures in our lives.

With this understanding then, we realize that we actually are under the greatest freedom when we are living under God-delegated authority because as God’s Word says, all authority comes from Him.

Romans 13:1, “let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.  For there is no power but of God; the powers that be, are ordained of God”

THE NATURE OF ORIGINAL SIN

The original sin of rebellion was in essence a desire to live outside the control of God’s authority.  It was true of Adam and Eve, it was true of Lucifer, and it is true of any rebellious spirit today.

Adam was given authority over all of God’s creation in the garden except himself.  He was instructed to be under God’s authority and His command not to eat the fruit was the test of his obedience.  Adam chose disobedience.  Since the Garden, by man’s base unregenerate fallen nature, he has chosen to select reason as the decision making process of life and not obedience to God.  Obedience to the truth of God’s Word is the key to success in life, victory in Jesus, and growth in Christ.

Scripture says in Hebrews 5:8, “Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.”

If Jesus in His humanity needed to learn obedience through suffering, how much more should we see the value and purpose in those experiences and therefore be more willing to look for God’s purpose within them.  It would change our perspective.  We, like the Israelites in the Wilderness, need to learn obedience through our sufferings so that we, as intended for them, will be able to responsibly handle the blessings of freedom.

So what are some steps to take initially in order to live a life more attuned to being under God’s authority?

1. Develop a spirit or an attitude of obedience rather than just make a conscious decision on each particular issue as it arises.

2.  Practice obedience.

3. When you are placed in a position of delegated authority, understand that you are working for, and representing, God Himself, not yourself personally.

THE PURPOSE OF SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY

God uses authorities in our lives for several reasons.  Many times He uses them to give us guidance and direction and to communicate His will and purpose for our lives.  Therefore, the various levels of authority are placed in our lives for our good, not for our oppression even though some actions taken by those authorities can be corrective at certain times.

However, how can we tell if a human authority is speaking for the Lord or for himself?  The answer is to always test the instruction or message given by the authority against the absolute truth of God’s Word.

If one in authority over you speaks in specific violation of God’s Word, you are released from your obligation to obey those instructions.  But what about authorities who are not even saved?  The commands in Scripture to submit to those in authority over us are not dependent upon them being Christians because God can and does speak through them also.

It is important to understand the difference between two words relating to authority:

Submission and obedience.

  • Submission is absolute.
  • Obedience is relative.

Submission is a matter of attitude.  Obedience is a matter of conduct.  We should always have a submissive attitude toward all those in authority even when we might have to disobey their instructions if they clearly violate God’s Word.  Examples would be Peter and John in Acts 4 and 5 and Daniel and his friends.

There is another very important issue about choosing to disobey the instructions of an authority.  And that is, you must also be willing to accept the consequences for disobedience.  Consequences might not be avoided even when you are on Biblically solid grounds for disobeying.

THE STRUCTURE OF SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY

At all levels of spiritual authority there is form, order, and structure.  There is direct or divine authority as represented in the Trinity and delegated authority which God has assigned to mankind.

  • Direct, Divine Authority: The Trinity

We believe in a triune God; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  They are three in One.  They are equal in terms of merit, nature, character and value, but they are not equal in terms of authority.

Jesus said in John 10:30, “I and the Father are One,” meaning One in divine nature, character, value, and purpose.

But He also said in Matthew 28:18, “All authority has been given unto me in heaven and in earth.”  God the Father gave Him that authority.

Also Paul said in I Corinthians 11:3, “The head of every man is Christ and the head of the woman is the man and the head of Christ is God.”

  • Delegated Authority:

There are at least three requirements for an individual to properly operate as a delegated authority.

1. He must remember that all authority comes from God.  They are therefore only a representative of God.

2. As God’s representative, the person must deny himself.

3. The person must constantly keep in fellowship and communion with God.

We should always remember that since we are only representing God and not ourselves, that all individuals in authority will be held to a higher standard of accountability for the proper conduct of their responsibilities in leading others.

The most comprehensive statement defining the basis of the levels of authority is stated in the I Corinthians 11:3 passage quoted above.  This is a principle of Scripture that transcends time and culture.  This delegated authority by God is based on His sovereignty, His glory, and for our good.  It is not based on the value or merit of any individual over another individual or one gender over the other.

Romans 2:11, “For there is no respect of persons with God”

  • Delegated Authority in the Home

The instructions in Ephesians 5:22-31 for the husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church and for the wife to submit to her husband as unto the Lord are not conditional unto each other.  Also, one is not more important than the other but I do believe that the command to the husband is preeminent in order of compliance since he is the spiritual head of his family.

Also in the home we see that God uses the authoritative structure of the relationship between parents and children to teach the child the importance of obedience and how they should relate to authorities in their lives when they are adults.  Proverbs 6:20-23.

I believe there are two types of delegated authority:

1. positional authority

2. influence authority

The home is a good place to illustrate these dual roles but they exist in all areas of delegated authority and are fulfilled by both men and women.  Without an understanding of both roles, an imbalanced perception of authority can result.  Influence authority, like positional authority, can be used for good such as Esther did, or for evil as Eve did.

– Scripture teaches that we have freedom when we are under authority.

– Satan says that being under authority is oppressive.

The difference is explained by the Biblical definition of freedom.

– Satan says that freedom is the RIGHT to do what  you want to do.

– God says that freedom is the POWER to do what you ought to do.

If one in authority over you makes a decision with which you disagree, rather than resist the person’s decision or their right to make such a decision, learn how to make an appeal.  This is a process which can be used with men and women and in all authoritative environments.  Unfortunately, this process has essentially become a lost art in today’s world, even for Christians.

THE STEPS OF MAKING AN APPEAL TO SOMEONE IN AUTHORITY OVER YOU:

1. Be sure that you are in right standing with God and man.

2. You must have the right motives and attitudes.  That is, be more concerned about the reputation of the person in authority to whom you are appealing than your own because you realize how God desires to use them for good in your life.

3. You must appeal at the right time.  Timing is critical for success.

4. You must give accurate information and use the proper words.  Don’t withhold necessary information to try to influence them in deciding your way.

5. Very importantly, you must demonstrate the right response if your appeal is rejected.

6. If your appeal is not accepted, you must be willing to accept the consequences of disobedience even when your basis for disobedience is Biblical.

  • Delegated Authority in the Church

Some of the important passages of Scripture that relate to authority in the church would be

Hebrews 13:17

I Thessalonians 5:12-13

I Timothy 5:17

I Peter 5:2-3

Some of the important lessons stated in these verses are that

1. We should obey (those in authority) because they serve with a purpose of watching over our souls.

2. We are told that they will be accountable for their leadership.

3. We should honor them because of the labor they offer on our behalf, especially those who labor in the Word and in teaching.

4. Those in authority should (be there) willingly, not to profit financially, not to lord over God’s heritage but to lead by example.  Humility should characterize a spiritual leader.  Proverbs 15:33b

  • Delegated Authority in the Workplace

God uses the authoritative structure of the workplace to give us direction in our lives.  Many times career choices can be determined by decisions those in authority over us make.

Colossians 3:22-24 teaches us that

1. We should not obey our supervisors just to make an impression on them.

2. We should fear God, not the supervisor, knowing that it was He who placed them in that position.

3. We should fulfill our work realizing that it is the Lord for whom we labor and that it is from Him that we will receive our reward.

Ephesians 6:9 teaches us that supervisors should also realize that they will be accountable to the Lord who placed them there, whether they realize it or not.

  • Delegated Authority in the Government

Romans 13 deals directly with delegated authority in governments.

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.  For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God.”

God will use even unrighteous government leaders to glorify Himself and to carry out His plan for the ages and His will for our lives.  A good example of this is the story of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, as recorded in Daniel 4.

CONCLUSIONS:

Rebellion is the underlying basis of sin because it rejects God’s right to define truth and expresses an individual’s desire to live outside of God’s authority.  Therefore, rebellion is more significant than any individual sin because it comes from a spirit that rejects God Himself and His right to rule over His own creation.

I Samuel 15:23a  “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”  One of the attributes of witchcraft is that it represents an attempt to create a supernatural experience like that of God.  And stubbornness or the insistence of self-will, is sin and it represents the worshiping of an idol; in this case SELF.

In I Samuel 15:22, Saul felt that the importance of the prevailing circumstances overrode the principle that God had established through the position of priest as His delegated authority.  But Samuel told him that to obey is better than to sacrifice.

Obedience is the highest expression of God’s will for our lives.

When an individual has a comprehensive understanding of the nature, purpose, structure and importance of spiritual authority in their lives, then they are in a position to be able to look beyond an individual decision or ruling made by a delegated authority themselves, and look for a deeper message that God might intend by seeking the underlying intent on which that decision was made.  Then in the cases where the decision might violate God’s Word, the individual is free to offer an alternative suggestion that might accomplish the intent of the authority without violating God’s Word as Daniel did in regard to eating the king’s food.

One of the benefits and blessings from being obedient to God through a delegated authority is that it helps make them successful in carrying out their responsibilities of leadership.  In addition to helping them, it also strengthens you in your relationship to the Lord and to the authority.

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PS (From Peacefulwife) – in situations where there are SERIOUS issues – physical abuse, a husband is actively addicted to drugs/alcohol or has an uncontrolled mental condition and is not in his right mind – I asked this minister what a wife is to do in such a case…

He said that if a husband is clearly not in his right mind due to substance abuse, is physically violent or is extremely controlling (and the wife is not safe) – that a wife may have a responsibility and duty to leave and not obey her husband.  She can have a spirit of submissiveness and wanting to honor his position as leader – but she may have to disobey his orders in such situations and get help.  He said that he believes a wife is released from obeying her husband in a truly abusive situation.

He and I do not take a wife respectfully going against a husband’s leadership lightly.  This is something a wife must be VERY sure about before taking action.  I would want to seek God with much prayer and fasting if at all possible and seek godly counsel.

RELATED:
A Husband’s and a Wife’s Authority in Marriage – the husband has positional authority the wife has influence authority
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