Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Question of Authority

Recently it was suggested to me rhetorically that I don't think we should submit to church leadership, based on a point I was trying to make about the church.  This raises a question.  What is the extent to which a church leader can exercise authority and I be expected to "submit"?

It comes down to a question of authority.  Really it does.  What authority do church leaders have?  Do they have the authority to tell me what I can eat and drink?  Do they have authority to dictate to me what movies I can and cannot watch, or even if I am allowed to watch movies at all?  Do they have the authority to dictate to me which translation(s) of the bible I may read?  Do they have the authority to tell me just how much I need to give, and how much I need to give to the church - their church?  And do they have the authority to demand to see my paycheck to make sure I'm giving the correct amount?  Do they have the authority to demand that I believe every jot and tittle of their church constitution, confessions, creeds and by-laws before I am allowed to attend?  Do they have the right to have control over the who, what, when, where, why and how of using my spiritual gifts in the edification of others?  Do they have the authority to tell me I cannot blog about theology?  Do they have the authority to determine whether blogging about theology is biblical in the first place?  Do they have the authority to tell me what kinds of cars I'm allowed to drive?  And, do they have the right to not be questioned about such things?

If they demand certain of these things, and their demands are beyond the authority given to them by scripture, may I act contrary to them?  Is there a higher authority over my life in these areas than church leaders?

No matter how absurd any one of these questions may seem - or all of them together - they are real questions that a great many people have to deal with on a daily basis.  Sometimes discernment on these issues may take a great deal of time.  Sometimes people notice over time that "submitting" to these things as put forth by church leadership results in bruises, aches and pains in life.  Then they start to question.  They may actually search matters out for themselves and come to the conclusion that they have been led astray all along.  Did Jesus or the disciples submit to all the teachings of the religious leaders of their day?  No?  Then why expect it from the rest of us?


  1. Steve,

    I believe Mark 10:35-45 addresses what you are talking about. Leaders, like everyone else, are considered great through servanthood not authority. As for what they can tell people to do, it's the same as all other brothers and sisters in Christ: they can tell others to obey what scripture says. Any commands given outside of scripture can simply be ignored.

    1. Eric, I agree. Even Jesus told his disciples to listen to the Pharisees when they were bringing Moses' teaching, but to beware of their leaven, and not do as they do.

    2. amen!

      i believe one overlooked dimension to this issue of Christian authority is the authority every Spirit-filled believer has to crush serpents and scorpions. our “authority” here is “over the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:17-20). .

    3. i meant to write: "i believe one often overlooked dimension. ."

      Thank You Steve, for asking the question. it's something i've been wanting to define for myself---what true spiritual authority looks like; and the true nature and scope of an overseers authority.

  2. Fwiw, here’s my reply to something BlueBird wrote to me over on bgbcsurvivors. Btw, BlueBird is a Chuck O’Neal, Dale Weaver, BGB true believer. This touches on our issue of spiritual authority, and who can wield it.

    Context: monax @ ja’blog December 23, 2012 11:39 PM

    You write: Calling Julie Anne a “shepherdess” is so unbiblical I am squirming for you. I would hate to explain that on judgment day. God makes it perfectly clear in the Bible the way His church is to be run, and having a woman in a place of authority is not it. “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (1 Timothy 2:12)

    What I appreciate in your comment here is your passionate embracing of Scripture as our final authority for faith and practice. I also agree that God has made it perfectly clear that women are not permitted to teach or to have authority over men. Yes, dear, I believe Scripture is quite clear on this.

    But where does it say that a woman is not to be a teacher or a pastor? In the church there are many highly gifted women who God has called to pastor and to teach. They serve in the body in positions that no men can fill. A woman who is a pastor or teacher to other women or children is not disobeying any Scriptural directives.

    Please know, BlueBird, even you, as you are in Christ—you are a woman called to great spiritual authority. What grants us this authority? For one, we’re seated with Christ at the right hand of our heavenly Father. Obedience grants authority. Love grants authority. Knowing whose you are and how to wield the Sword of Truth grants great authority. With the authority you have in Christ you can crush serpents and scorpions.

    It's true.

    Bless you, BlueBird, Bless you!

  3. Just stopped by but I'll be back to read more later.

    You seem like a kindred spirit.

    "Pull the other one!" ;-)