Authority in the Church: Concepts, Persuasions & Defenses

Introduction

The topics of authority, submission and obedience in the Bible are difficult.  The difficulties are multi-faceted including translation issues, fleshly understanding of a spiritual topic, overlapping realms of authority operating within much of church leadership and long held views held by many christian leaders and laity.

No one will ever be able to definitively win an argument on this subject (except God).  These writings are not an attempt to do so.  These writings are an appeal for the sake of the Body of Christ and the great need for it to coming fully into function in this generation.

The following set of articles are an attempt to

  • Establish a set of concepts for the topics of authority, submission, and obedience
  • Put forward a set persuasive materials against commonly held beliefs and potential deceptions
  • Provide a set of apologetic materials in defense of a modified view

The underlying purpose is to appeal in order to uncover any deception that is being used by the Enemy of God to improperly control the Body of Christ.

Preface

These articles are not an “attack” on those persons who are in christian leadership.  The Bible is clear that there is a need and a design for leadership in the church.  Having grown up in a christian group whose leadership was not healthy, I have experienced bad leadership.  However, I have been fortunate to have been shown a series of christian leaders who are of the utmost integrity and highly diligent to their calling and vocation in the Lord.  The views presented here may not agree with the concepts of some (or all) of the christian leaders I have known, but they are spoken in love and with a tremendous amount of respect for the willingness of leaders to commit themselves in service of the Lord and His work.

The impetus behind these writings is best portrayed by Paul

Ephesians 4:11-16 – And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

These verses might seem to support leadership.  They do.  They also show the role, purpose and end of leadership.  That is right, the goal of leadership in the church is to end leadership in the church.  The end I am referring to is the Body of Christ coming into it’s full function so that it builds itself in love.  The goal of leadership may not be attained before Christ returns, but it is still the goal.

Stated another way that matches the creation, each cell in the body needs to come into full cooperation fully connected to, interacting with and being directed by the head without passing through any other control system.  This is the way it is in our physical bodies (based on scientific research and understanding) and this is how God intends it in the Body of Christ.

Note:  I realize there are other interpretations of this passage that do not include the ending of leadership, but I put it forward to introduce a new thought which Paul may have been pointing at in this passage and which matches what the Lord has been showing me over a period of several decades.

Caveat Lector – “Let the Reader Beware”

This is also a very dangerous topic.  Skewing your understanding in the wrong direction for whatever reasons can have consequences in your life.  The consequences for each type of party (leader and/or layperson) may be different.

We are urged to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the Body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:1-3 – I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (ESV)

We are to learn appropriate submission and obedience as prescribed by the Word of God, including the kind of submission that Jesus exercised at a great personal cost.

These writings are not intended to be used as tools to cause division, although I must accept some responsibility for sharing this information publicly and the fact that there are many people who may act irresponsibly with this information.  No matter how much I attempt to convey my intent, I realize that the potential effects of certain kinds of information on those who are knowingly or unknowingly walking in the way of rebellion to God’s authority in their lives.

As a result, I can only pray that God will use this for His purposes and commit it into His hands.  This I do.

Sometimes to Understand Something, You Have to Know What Something is Not

The following articles are not presenting a complete new view.  They are intended to affect existing views by addressing commonly held views and pointing out assumptions and potential errors in these views.  Let me present a small example:

  1. Let’s say one believer presents a view that indicates a leader in the church is responsible to God for believers the Lord has put in his care.  This person can find support in the Word of God for their view.
  2. At the same time, another believer presents a view that indicates that each believer is responsible to God for themselves and that there is no need for an intermediary between this person and God.  This person can also find support in the Word of God for their view.

Who is right?  To some degree, they are both right.

However, if either person emphasizes their view too strongly to the complete exclusion of the other person’s view, then the person overemphasizing their view can enter into error in their view.

The difficulty with the subjects of leadership, authority and submission is that there are multiple layers of knowledge and wisdom required to properly interpret the Word of God on these subjects

2 Timothy 2:15 – Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (ESV)

Important Disclaimer & Notes

I am not a Greek scholar.  This means that my analysis on this site needs to be challenged and reviewed by those who do have this expertise.

At the same time, I believe that there needs to be some in depth engagement needed to ensure that existing presumptions held by various christian leaders are discussed before claims that my analysis is incorrect.  Sometimes new light from the Lord allows you to see the exact same Scripture in a new way.  If this new light is confirmed through a holistic review of Scripture and it agrees with the balance of the Word, then it needs to be incorporated into the review of the analysis on this site.

It is my preference to be wrong and correct my understanding than to be right.  At the same time, I have to be convinced because I do not believe I have lacked due diligence in my approach.

The remainder of this page summarizes the contents of this site broken into three categories (Supporting Concepts, Persuasions to a New View & Defenses Against Existing Views).  A graphical view of the topics of this site is shown in this Roadmap.

Supporting Concepts

  • Background on Church Models
  • Introduction to Church Leadership
  • Define Your Terms – The Necessity of Greek Word Studies to Pierce Deceptive Veils
    • Note:  I am not a Greek scholar, but use very good Bible software.  Even with good Bible software, I am not convince that I have addressed some of the Greek nuances that relevant.
  • Key Relationships with Authority
  • Defining Power & Authority
  • Delegation & Delegated Authority
  • Submission & Obedience – Same or Different?

Persuasions to a New View

  • Authority of Church Leadership – How Much is Delegated?
  • Punishment in the Bible – Evidence of Limitation on Delegation to Church Leaders
  • Not of Command, but out of Love – God’s Way is Helping, not Demanding
  • Ephesians 4:11-16 – Leadership that “Deletes” Itself
  • Balance: Commands Between Believers Do Exist

Defenses Against Existing Views

  • Appeals to Moses to Support Concepts of “Delegated Authority”
  • Hebrews 13:17 – Key Verse to Support Improper Leadership Concepts
  • Singular Leaders to Support Church Hierarchy in NT – Peter, James, etc.
  • Romans 13:1-3 – Submitting to Governing Authorities includes Church Leadership

Blog Categories