"RESPONSIBILITY TO SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY"
(A Series on Hebrews)
Westgate Chapel 5/6/90 a.m. Hebrews 13:17
PROPOSITION: God has ordained earthly authority to which we are all accountable, as unto Him.
- All through God's creation He has established governments and authorities. This is true in the government of the family (Ephesians 5 & 6), the government of the state (I Peter 2), the government of the employer (I Peter 2) and the government of the church (Hebrews 13).
- This morning, we are stopping at Hebrews 13:17 to take a look at the subject of spiritual authority.
- The reason for all this "government" is to maintain order in God's world. Government is actually an extension of the character of God. The sin of pride and rebellion being what is in all of us, without government, anarchy would reign in the family, in the nations of the world, in the business world and in the church.
- Now, God's Word spells out several things about government that are crucial for our understanding of the subject:
* The MAIN PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT IS NOT THE GOVERNMENT ITSELF, EITHER IN STRUCTURE OR PRACTICE. THE PURPOSE IS IN THE JOB THAT HAS TO BE DONE. Government exists to efficiently get a job done. It is NOT and end in itself. In the setting of the church, government exists for the purpose of building the Kingdom with maximum efficiency (Acts 6:1-6; 11:30; 14:23; I Tim 5:17; I Peter 5:1-5).
* Being in a place of authority in any one of God's constituted governments DOES NOT GIVE YOU A PLACE OF SUPERIORITY, it gives you a PLACE OF SERVICE. It does not make you any "better" than the people you serve. It is simply a "leadership role" (I Peter 5:1-5).
* The exercising of scriptural authority CANNOT BE DONE, AS THE WORLD DOES IT, LORDING IT OVER OTHERS. It must be done in a spirit of mutual love, respect and submission. Leaders are to be submitted to the Body in a spirit of servanthood (I Peter 5:1-5; II Timothy 2:24-26).
* ALL AUTHORITY IS GIVE BY GOD and must, therefore, be respected by those under authority. ( I Peter 2:13-15) Rebellion against authority is rebellion against God. Submission to authority does NOT mean that there is no disagreement, however, and no freedom to express opposing views. IT IS LOYALTY TO AND SUPPORT OF LEADERSHIP, in spite of disagreement, that constitutes submission.
- While this may go contrary to the popular opinion of our day, submission to authority is required by God because there is no authority except that which God has established. Romans 13:1 says,
"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God."
- The popular belief of secular humanism is that each man is unique, special and a law unto himself. He may do whatever he pleases just as long as it does not infringe on the rights of his fellow man.
- God's will, however, stands in stark contrast to the heresy of secular humanism. He has established governing authorities to maintain order in each of His ordained institutions.
* It is God who Himself has established the authority of the husband to govern, in love, the affairs of the family. (Eph. 5:22-33)
* It is God who has established the authority of the employer in the work place to ensure its productivity. (I Peter 2:18; Eph. 6:5-8)
* It is God who has established the authority of church leadership to govern the ministries and people of that assembly for the purpose of building them up. (II Cor. 13:10; Titus 2:15; Hebrews 13:17)
* It is God who has established the authority of those who have political authority over our communities. (Romans 13:1; I Timothy 2:2)
- Whatever your station in life, you are called by scripture to "submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men..."(I Peter 2:13) Peter goes on, in that passage, to state that the purpose of this submission is to "silence the ignorant talk of foolish men, love the brotherhood of believers and fear God".
- So, it is obvious, that it is God alone who establishes the earthly authority of those in leadership over us. And it is also God who calls us to willingly and gladly submit to their leadership.....as if we were doing it to Him....not begrudgingly or reluctantly, but gladly.
- In fact, earthly authority is simply a reflection and miniature image of the authority that ultimately issues from the throne of God.
- Authority is at the very essence of who God is and how He acts.
- If God is indeed responsible for all of this authority, then rebellion against authority is the same as rebellion as God Himself. This conclusion is not just the result of logical deduction but is something stated explicitly in Romans 13:2.
- It is rebellion against authority that got Satan into trouble and caused his fall from the presence of God. (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezek. 28:13-17)
- Rebellion against authority is companionship with Satan himself in the very sin that caused his fall. It is something that every believer must shun in his pursuit of holiness.
- Watchman Nee, in his book Spiritual Authority, says that Satan's ultimate goal is anarchy in every institution established by God. Nee continues, "We cannot serve God and simultaneously go the way of rebellion by having a rebellious spirit. Satan laughs when a rebellious person preaches the Word, for in that person is dwelling the satanic principle. The principle of service must be authority. We who serve God must have this basic understanding of authority."
- Rebellion against authority is not as much an act against the man or woman in the position of authority as much as it is an act against God Himself, since it is God who established the authority.
- King Saul learned too late that neither sacrifice nor worship can substitute for submission to the authority of God . . . in his case, this observation was spoken through the prophet Samuel. (I Sam. 15)
- It is easy to see the immeasurable value to each of us in learning the lessons of submission to authority.
II. REBELLION AGAINST AUTHORITY
- Submission to authority, in our day, depends largely on our evaluation of the worth of the individual in authority and the "correctness" of his life and what he/she is asking us to do. In other words, as long as we agree with those in authority, we willingly submit. I question whether this is submission at all.
- Many of the instances of rebellion in the Old Testament occurred when those in rebellion felt that they had a valid grievance against their leader.
1. The rebellion of Ham (Genesis 9)
* Following the event of the flood, Noah became a farmer and planted a vineyard. He got drunk one day on the fruit of the vineyard and, in his drunken state, took his clothes off.
* As far as Noah's conduct was concerned, he was clearly in the wrong. He should not have been drunk. There was no justification for his behavior.
* Two sons were submitted enough to the authority of their father that, in spite of his drunkenness, they respectfully covered him without looking.
* On the other hand, Ham, taking advantage of his father's momentary weakness, threw off all restraint and ridiculed him, calling his brothers to come and see Noah's shame.
* Rebellion loves to find any defect in authority as an excuse to rise up in fleshly anarchy.
* Watchman Nee says that, "The failure of Noah became a test to Shem, Ham and Japheth. It revealed who was obedient and who was rebellious. Noah's fall unveiled Ham's rebellion."
* The result of this rebellion was a curse on the descendents of Ham that they would become the slaves of their brethren.
2. The Rebellion of Aaron and Miriam (Numbers 12)
* Moses disobeyed God. Disregarding God's command to not intermarry with Gentile nations, he married a Cushite woman.
* Aaron and Miriam took advantage of this failure in the life of Moses, to speak out against him and challenge his authority. Once again the test drew the rebellious intent of their hearts to the surface.
* The rebellion was not the fact that they questioned Moses' selection of a wife, but that they challenged the revelation of God through him. In verse 2 Miriam asks, "Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn't He also spoken through us?"
* What had been lingering in Aaron's and Miriam's hearts all along was a resentment against Moses' position of authority and privilege of revelation. Moses' time of weakness provided the occasion for Aaron and Miriam to challenge Moses' authority and promote their position as a channel for the revelation of God.
* God heard and moved swiftly in judgment against this rebellion. Verse 9 says that His anger burned against them and when His presence lifted, Miriam was left with leprosy. Only after Moses' intercession did God agree to spare Miriam and eventually heal her.
* The problem that was that neither Aaron nor Miriam recognized God's authority. They did not realize that sinning against God's delegated authority is sinning against God Himself.
* God Himself found it hard to believe that Aaron and Miriam were not afraid to speak out in rebellion against Moses. (verse 8)
* One very interesting point in this story is that Moses never did reply in self defense. He knew that his authority had been given by God and he did not need to defend himself.
3. The Rebellion of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10)
* In the Levitical law, Aaron was designated by God as the chief priest, responsible to offer sacrifices before the Lord.
* This authority was given to Aaron by God, sealed by the anointing oil that was poured upon his head.
* The sons of Aaron were to be assistants to him and were never to serve before the Lord independently. They were under Aaron's authority.
* Aaron's sons were priests and watched their father offer sacrifices to the Lord.
* They assumed that they had the authority to do the same thing and failed to recognize that Aaron was God's represented authority. In their own zeal and with an independent spirit, they bypassed Aaron and offered their own sacrifice by fire to the Lord.
* Watchman Nee says that when they ministered independently from Aaron, they were ministering independently from God. The result was death to themselves and many that followed their rebellion.
- Rebellion is rebellion in God's eyes. Failure in the life of those that God has established in authority provides no excuse for rebellion.
- We do not believe that submission to authority includes those matters that clearly contradict scripture. But we must be very careful, when we choose to disregard God's delegated authority, that it is scripture that constrains us and not a hidden spirit of rebellion.
III. KNOWING GOD'S AUTHORITY
- One of the finest examples of submission to authority is found in the life of King David as recorded in I and II Samuel.
- David had clearly been chosen and anointed by God to replace Saul as the King of Israel. (I Samuel 16:12,13) At that time the Spirit of the Lord came upon David to equip him for his reign.
- There was one problem. Saul was still on the throne of Israel. Saul was still the king.
- At the time that Saul was still king of Israel, he was demonstrating all the attributes of a demon possessed man. In his demented state he sought out David to kill him . . . clearly disregarding the law of God.
- With David in hiding and Saul in pursuit, it would seem that David had every reason to kill the king, if for no other reason than self-defense. His reasoning could have gone as follows;
* God had removed Saul's kingdom from him....it was already spoken through Samuel.
* God had, through his prophet Samuel, already anointed David as king to replace Saul.
* Saul was experiencing times of mental derangement . . . and was clearly losing control of Israel.
* A good defense is offense . . . and the best way to protect his own life would be to kill Saul if given the opportunity.
- In the natural we have to agree that, in self defense, David would be justified in removing the hindrance . . . Saul.
- On two occasions, when Saul was seeking David's life, David had opportunity to rid himself of the nuisance and take his rightful place as king of Israel. (I Samuel 24 & 26)
- On both occasions David spared Saul's life. In fact, when a gleeful courier brought word of Saul's demise in II Samuel 1:14, claiming to have done the job himself, David could not understand that man's disdain for Saul's authority and had him executed.
- In spite of many of David's weaknesses these instances show us that David, at all times, was willing to be a man under authority. He recognized Saul's kingly anointing and would not lift his hand against that anointing (I Samuel 24:6; 26:23).
- David was willing to deny himself rather than to rebel against God's delegated authority.
- Our highest example of submission to authority is found in the life of Jesus Christ.
- He was the Son of God. He was with God. He was God. (John 1) Yet He emptied Himself and came and took upon Himself the form of a servant in submission to the authority of His Father.
- Under the most adverse conditions, and under an unjustified attack from those in the world, and even the unseen world of darkness, He refused to do anything but obey the command and authority of His Father.
- Watchman Nee says of Christ, "Though suffering was added upon suffering, He displayed absolute obedience, without ever the slightest tinge of resistance or rebellion."
- In obeying the Father this way, Christ taught us the principle of submission to authority.
- How then is the Kingdom of God established in our hearts, in our lives and in our community? The answer is: through obedience to the authority of God, both direct and delegated.
- Once again it important to note that it is not submission to the man that is important here, but rather to recognize and submit to the authority of God . . . as unto God Himself.
- How can the Kingdom of God be blessed and expanded among us if we always have to reason and argue among ourselves? Much time is wasted in the affairs of the Kingdom by needless wrangling, disputes and divisions. God is mocked and His Kingdom stalemated.
- Ask God to show you His authority, your own tendencies towards selfish rebellion, and the ability to identify and submit to His authority wherever it is found. Only joy awaits the individual who makes this his pursuit.
- Your family, your work place, your church will be blessed as a result of your submission.
- The lesson of submission to authority is crucial to your future spiritual development.
- Submission is not mindless surrender to the dominating control of a dictator. It is the recognition of God in the position of authority . . . and a deep desire to be pleasing to Him.
- This does not mean that there cannot be healthy dialogue and disagreement in the family of God, your earthly family, or your work place.
- But when you find yourself in opposition to delegated authority, ask yourself these questions:
* Are you bristling on the inside over perceived injustice that puts you on the "short end of the stick"?
* Do you find yourself defending your "rights"?
* Are you demanding that things be done your way?
* Are you absolutely convinced that your perspective is the only one that could possibly be correct?
* Do you find yourself going on the attack?
* Do you get some delight from gathering friends around you who share your point of view and are willing to join in the battle?
* Do you find disrespect coming from your heart and out of your mouth towards those in authority?
* Do you feel that your opinions are every bit as valuable as those represented in leadership?
* Do you find yourself frequently at odds with those in authority over you . . . regardless of whether it is at home, at work, in the community or at church? Have you opposed leadership at several different churches where you might have attended . . . with issues and faces changing but your resistance to authority staying consistent?
- If you find yourself answering any of these question affirmatively with regards to your boss, the local policeman, the mayor, your parents, your husband, your elders, deacons or pastors . . . chances are that rebellion has surfaced in your heart and will corrupt your life unless dealt with at the cross of Calvary.
- Most of us are unfortunately blind to rebellion in our own lives, but as we ask the Holy Spirit to shine His light on us . . . and are willing to surrender to His authority, He will lead us and fulfill His work in our lives.
- Rebellion will cripple the family, the nation and the church.
- In these last days may God break us of our prideful spirits and make us like Jesus.
- As you consider membership at Westgate Chapel, may the Spirit of Christ be at work amongst us all that we will willingly "submit to one another", and to those in leadership over us . . . that His name be glorified and His work advanced in power and unity at Westgate.
JESUS BE THE LORD OF ALL