Jesus approached and, breaking the silence, said to them,
All authority (all power of rule) in heaven and on earth
has been given to Me.
To be honest, I'm not quite sure where this post is going to take me. I have this kernel of thought that keeps resurfacing in my spirit and I have determined that I'm supposed to write about it. I just now got a physical manifestation from the Holy Spirit to continue, but for the life of me, I have no clear direction in mind. And the Enemy is telling me that I am only going to offend and insult some of my fellow Christians, therefore I should just be quiet. But that's not who God made me to be. So I am just going to begin and trust that the Spirit will guide my words.
Since we are in the midst of an election season, and most of us are concerned about those will rule over us, the word AUTHORITY keeps pricking at the edges of my consciousness. Who is, rightfully, to have authority over us? To Whom, are we to submit our actions and thoughts to? The Bible tells us to "Obey our leaders", and we understand that to mean not only our civil leaders (as Romans 13 instructs), but also our Church leaders. In fact, the Bible gives us plenty of descriptions of how a church body is to be run. Just check out 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and Philippians 1:1. Lots of good references for the structure of church authority. And, we can all see how necessary this system is in order for the Body of Christ to be effective in its commission. Otherwise it would be sheer chaos.
But I also want to point out some verses that speak volumes to me. Ephesians 4:11-14 says, And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 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.
When I consider this passage with today's selected Scripture in which Christ proclaims that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him, I am troubled by the following thought ... Have we, as the Body of Christ, surrendered the Authority that is Christ's to men ... not only in civil and secular government, but in the Church? If all Authority belongs to Christ, should His Word not be the standard by which we measure the acting out of our lives and faith? I am thinking of the wedding photographers and the bakers who find themselves on the wrong side of the law for attempting to "measure to the stature of the fullness of Christ."
I am also reminded of far too many pastors who have determined that it is their interpretation of Scripture, or their personal biases (for or against a ministry) that their flock must follow. Scripture clearly says that Christ established apostles, prophets, evangelists shepherds (pastors) and teachers TO EQUIP the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SON OF GOD, to mature manhood, to the measure of the statue 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.
I have highlighted those terms that just jumped out so strongly to me. I have sat in any number of churches in which pastors and teachers have seemed to forget that Jesus wants them to EQUIP the saints -- which means to prepare someone for a particular assignment or task. Doesn't that indicate that perhaps that particular person might receive a Divine appointment or task in a particular area that needs filled in order to build up the Body? That it might not be what the pastor has been gifted with or has been given knowledge of? But if the pastor has truly received his own Divine calling, he should recognize that we can't all be the feet or hands or head of Christ's Body, but in His sovereignty, God just might have given a particular revelation to a member of his church. As long as the Divine appointment is consistent with the Word of God, then does the pastor have the authority to deny its pursuit? Isn't that putting his authority above God's?
PLEASE! I do not want to be perceived as trying to diminish the authority of pastors or teachers. Scripture is quite clear that they have been placed to shepherd God's flock. But I am somewhat concerned when I hear people say that they sit under the authority of their pastor, or they must submit to their pastor or church council's authority... especially when there is a difference in opinion of Scriptural revelation. ALL authority has been given to Christ, and it is His to ultimately grant or deny our mission for His kingdom. That passage in Ephesians goes on to say that we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ. I find it sad to think of how many of Christ's followers have been hindered from doing His work in the world because a pastor could not, or would not, submit to Christ's authority in the matter.
If we are truly honest with ourselves, how many of our pastors are Biblically illiterate? How many ask, “What does this text mean to you?” as opposed to, “What does this text mean?” How many pastors exercise heavy-handed authority (albeit cloaked in a velvet glove) by cautioning their congregants to stay away from any teaching that doesn't fit their personal religious philosophy? Wouldn't it be better to encourage Believers to test these teachings against Scripture and then to edify the Body if it is something that illuminates the Word, or discard it if it is un-Biblical? Are we in danger of limiting our growth in Christ by remaining as children, afraid to venture outside the boundaries of the accepted doctrinal beliefs that exist within the church walls? Christ is so much bigger than that!
I want to end by saying that there are many pastors who lovingly and Scripturally shepherd their flocks; who know that Christ's revelation has not been limited to a denomination's doctrine -- or to their limited understanding. They know that there is diversity in the Body of Christ and in the giving of the gifts of the Holy Spirit ... and it is all for the Glory of God! Those are the pastors who give their flock the freedom to receive their Divine appointments and their unique callings. They will remind their flock that the only person we are to bow down to, and who is to reign over us, is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know this will make many uncomfortable, and I would be labeled a dissenter and accused of causing division in the Church, but I would deny that. Those of us who are Saved by Jesus Christ should be of one heart and one mind; we should be following the Holy Spirit. The Spirit-filled Church is shepherded by a pastor whose role is to help train and counsel Christians in the [whole] doctrine of the Bible, focusing on strengthening and developing [all] those in the church to go out in the world and do God's work. That authority comes from Jesus, and it is a holy and awesome calling. Let us pray for the strengthening and wisdom of our pastors. We are living in Times in which I strongly believe Jesus, in the Authority given to Him by the Father, will call His chosen out of their safe positions within the Church to minister in what may seem new and strange and powerful ways. And we need the pastors and Body of Christ to see with unblinded eyes that this is necessary to save the Lost. The battle lines are being drawn and the Enemy is pulling out all the stops. Let us not hinder the Authority and Power of Christ to use us to defeat the devil!!