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Lesson 23 of 127
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Importance of Authority

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Importance of Authority

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

I think it is good if we try tonight to make explicit what God expects in the way of authority and subjection from us as his children. I think it’s important to state it for several reasons because first of all it will help us to see how gracious God has been to us because a lot of what I’ll share here tonight in the way of scriptural teaching we have entered into by his sheer grace. There is a lot of the beauty of God’s scriptural authority and subjection here in our body, but I think it’s good to share too, so that any of us who have been deceived in regard to authority and subjection may be undeceived by God’s word and may come into freedom in that area. It’s good to share it for another reason: most of us here tonight will probably become leaders in some way in Jesus’ body throughout the world and it’s very important for us to know what the normal pattern of the Holy Spirit is that leads us along in regard to authority and subjection in Jesus’ body.

I think it’s good for another reason; so that I will be sure that I come into a right relationship with the dear head of the body and so that I will be in a position of subjection and so that the elders will be in a right relationship with me and then that you will be in a right relationship to the elders and the leaders of the houses. I think also, God will begin to show you some things about your own mums and dads, and about the way God expects us to regard them. I think it’s all very necessary, because you’ll probably agree; the whole world is filled with lawlessness and an absolute contempt for authority. So I think it’s good that we, in Jesus’ body, come into his plan for us in regard to authority.

Maybe it would be good first of all to look at the importance of authority and you find one of the basic statements of the important of authority in Romans 13:1-7. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”

To answer the obvious question that we all have in regard to the draft [for the Viet Nam war which was active at the time of this message] that obviously the one time when this would not rule our lives would be if we were forced to disobey God through obeying the authorities. But a lot of us run to that too fast; you can go pretty far obeying the authorities before you’re forced to disobey God. Verse 3, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but too bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, and honor to whom honor is due.”

Jesus obeyed this to the letter himself. Where he was faced with Pilate, he could maintain silence but where he was faced with a religious authority he obeyed that religious authority and you see it in Matthew 26. So even though Jesus, of all people, could have argued that this high priest was but a shadow and a puppet of the man that God really wanted in that position, yet because of his religious authority, Jesus submitted himself to him. You see it in Matthew 26:62, “And the high priest stood up and said, ‘Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against

you?’ But Jesus was silent. And the high priest said to him, ‘I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’” And you see, in the light of that, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” Jesus was adjured [or requested] at that time and was under the authority of the high priest so “Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” So even Jesus submitted himself to that kind of authority.

The truth is that it’s the authority of God that holds everything together. And it’s the authority of Jesus in the body here that holds the body together. It’s not the power of God, it’s not the power of the Holy Spirit that holds things together; it’s the weight of God’s own authority and you find that in Hebrews 1:3 where it speaks of Jesus by whom all things were made. “He reflects glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.” And the word “power” used here is “exousia” which means authority, so he upholds the universe by the word of his authority. “When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

So Jesus holds the whole place together by his authority, and a [church] body like this is held together by the authority of Jesus and by our respect for the authority of Jesus. Once we begin to play around with that authority, the body begins to fall apart and begins to deteriorate. It was rebellion against authority that was the very heart of Satan and you see that in Isaiah 14. Isaiah is talking first of all of the king of Babylon and then he begins to telescope time, as all God’s prophets are able to do, and he sees that the king of Babylon is really just a “type” of this person who rebelled against God at the very beginning.

Isaiah 14:12 and it’s the story of Satan’s fall, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart,’” and this is rebellion, “’I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit.” Rebellion was the very heart of Satan’s sin against God. God can forgive many sins, but there is an attitude of rebellion that he can do nothing with while it exists there in the heart. So every time you act in rebellion, you’re really acting on a satanic principle. You can often do good things in rebellion against God. You can often do good things that are actually not submissive to God’s own will.

To maintain God’s authority means you have to submit to it with all your heart; there can’t be any holding back if you’re really submissive to God’s authority. It can’t be an unwilling thing, or a reluctant thing. If you’re really going to submit to God’s authority, it has to be a whole hearted submission; it can’t be something that is only partial. So it has to be something therefore that applies to the delegated authorities that God has set up. For instance, if a man or a woman here is utterly submissive to God’s authority you have no trouble with God’s delegated authorities even though they are people as unimportant to Paul as that little fellow called Ananias. Think of it; Paul was an important citizen of the Roman Empire. He was involved with Empire business; exterminating Christians, and suddenly he came up against this experience on the road to Damascus and when he submitted completely to that experience he was prepared to submit himself to a little man that he knew nothing about.

In other words, when a person submits wholeheartedly to God’s authority, they don’t question the littleness or the unimportance or the unworthiness of God’s delegated authorities. You find the

account of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9:3-6, “Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’” Then here was Saul’s submission to authority, “And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’” Paul called him Lord, “And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’” Then in verse 10, “Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ And he said, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying, and he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” Then verse 17, “So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And immediately something likes scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, and took food and was strengthened.”

So you see it’s true that whenever you submit wholeheartedly to God’s authority you don’t have trouble with the people who are delegated by God to exercise the power of authority. But if your submission to God’s authority in your own life, to God’s inherent authority in your own personal life is reluctant or halfhearted, then you’ll always be grumbling and complaining about the unwillingness of the people that God has delegated to have authority over you. Whether it’s your parents or your Pastor, or it’s the boss at work, you’ll always have trouble with their authority if you aren’t really fully submitted to God’s authority.

Of course Jesus’ plan is that his body here on earth should restore God’s order as far as authority is concerned, that’s God’s plan. His plan is that the world will see a perfectly coordinated body, a perfectly coordinated group of people who are absolutely at one in authority. It is Jesus’ will that the body of Christ should work together in complete cooperation and in absolute coordination and that’s why it’s important for us to love and respect each other for the positions Jesus has given us in the body, however unworthy we are.

In Ireland we knew nothing about this so we just made chaos of Jesus’ body. I remember a dear Pastor who did not sing so well and we used to, in our foolishness, make fun of his singing, not only to those in the body but to those outside the body. And gradually I began to see that we would often talk about this Pastor to people outside the body, but the first thing we would talk about was the singing which we in the body couldn’t distinguish from the spiritual position, we had no wisdom about it, so we would joke about him to the non-Christians outside the body who would then come into the body. We had no idea of spiritual authority and of course we had despised the Pastor because of the jokes that we would make. Harmless jokes, in a way and you would think “Really, they do no harm.” But it was sufficient to destroy the authority of that Pastor that God has put in the body.

Now, do you see what it means to love each other and to build each other up? Your place is to build me up in my position and my place is to build you up in your position, so that when the world begins to contact us they find a body of people that are at absolute ease with one another and where there’s a perfect, coordinated authority, throughout the whole body. So there are lots of ways in which the body heals because of the peace and harmony that exists within it.

Now maybe we should look at obedience and see how important it is in God’s word. A lot of us feel that God wants us to deny ourselves, to bear the cross, to make sacrifices while the truth is that

God wants more than all those things. To God, obedience is more important than bearing the cross. We will say, “Well, surely one is the same as the other” but to God obedience is more important than sacrifice.

I think you can often sacrifice in actual rebellion against God, as you’ll see in a moment Saul did. But for God the most precious thing is his will, and for his children the most precious thing is God’s will. The question we should always ask is not “What can we do to help God, or not “What can we do to bring other people to Jesus” but, “Father what do you want us to do at this moment?” God’s will is the most precious thing. It’s more important to do God’s will than to make tremendous sacrifices.

You remember this situation where God had told Saul to, “Kill all the Amalekites, destroy everything; cattle and property and everything among the Amalekites.” Saul didn’t do it. In 1 Samuel 15 Saul said to Samuel, “I’ve saved the good animals; the best of the sheep and the oxen in order to sacrifice to God.” Samuel replies in verse 22: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” God points out there that it’s better to obey him to the letter than to make great sacrifices for him.

You can surrender and yet have an element of self will in your surrender. What if there’s a will to, “We’ll do great things for God, but we’ll do it our own way.” Many of us come into death in our own spiritual lives because we won’t do what God wants; we don’t really love his will, we just love the idea, or we love the principles that he stands for and we want to go out and be that kind of person but we don’t really love the Father’s will. That’s why I think a lot of us end up in the position of those people that Jesus talked about in Matthew 7 where people did many good works, but they were works that were not according to God’s will at that time for them. Matthew 7:21, “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many might works in your name? And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’” Jesus said that to those people and will say it to those like them, because they were doing things in his name and apparently for his glory, but it wasn’t the things he was telling them to do; they really didn’t love God’s will.

A child of God is one who hangs on God’s word, hangs on God’s will for them. A child of God is one who leans on the Holy Spirit, anxious to know what he wants him to do at each moment. A child of God is one who loves the individual obedience that God requires from all of us. A child of God knows that the children of God are not stereotype people who are all doing the same thing at the same time, but they’re involved in independent obedience to Jesus. That’s what makes them so individualistic and that is what pleases the Father. Doing his will will please him. You’ll please the Father far more by finding out what he wants you to do and doing it, even if it’s a little thing; even if all he wants you to do are little things for the rest of your lives. It doesn’t matter who knows, it doesn’t matter what it achieves for the kingdom; what is important is that it would be what God wants you to do. The Bible points out that the problem with obedience is not just the outward act, but it is the attitude inside it.

1 John 3:4 states clearly what disobedience really is and what sin really is. 1 John 3:4, “Every

one who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” So when you commit a sin, that’s an act, but the thing that makes you want to commit that sin is the spirit of lawlessness inside you. Obedience, authority and subjection in the body, or in the family, or in the home, or at work is a spirit isn’t it? I have often in the past obeyed a school teacher and though I obeyed him I didn’t respect him and I hadn’t the spirit of love or submission to him. But in the body of Jesus especially, a spirit of subjection is an attitude, isn’t it? It’s not just outwardly doing whatever the elder seems to say. It’s not outwardly giving a show of respect for the leader; it’s not outwardly appearing to agree with the Pastor, it’s an attitude of love and submission, isn’t it? There have been many sweet moments, but one of the sweetest moments for me in the body was regarding a a certain brother who is here tonight; he was moving back and forward between this body and another body and was really unsettled. And oh, it was a moment of the greatness of the presence of Jesus for me when he came to me and said, “Pastor, I want you to be my Pastor. I want you to treat me as a Pastor would and I want you to deal with me authoritatively in whatever way you want. But I want you to know that I’m going to regard you as my Pastor from this moment on.” And that brother is a benediction every time I meet him.

Now I know a lot of you feel the same way and you don’t all come up and say it, but there’s sweetness and a blessing that comes from a spirit of obedience and a spirit of subjection. And the result of that is as it is with any mum or dad here knows; you’re most reluctant to exercise authority unnecessarily with the son or the daughter when they have that spirit of obedience. It’s an up building thing, dear ones, and in the body it’s an up building thing.

Now maybe we could look at a couple of examples in the Old Testament when people rebelled. I think it’s important to see some of the elements in that rebellion and the first one is in Genesis 2:16-17. And even though many of us know the account of it by heart, I think it’s good to look at God’s word and let it speak again to us. Genesis 2:16-17, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’” And then going to 3:1, “Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.”

Of course there’s a lot in the rebellion there, but part of the rebellion was Eve’s decision to go out on her own. Adam was placed there in authority over the animals and over all the living creatures, but in order that he should be fit to exercise that authority, God put him under authority to God himself. And it’s important to see that first; that you can’t exercise authority unless you submit to another authority yourself.

It’s been good for me because I’ve seen that whenever there was any difficulty with authority, it was often not only the problem of the brother or sister in respect of me but it was also in respect to me and Jesus. And it’s very important for those of us who exercise authority to be under authority ourselves. In fact, none of us are capable of exercising delegated authority at all

unless, like Adam, we are put under God’s authority and learn to submit to him. That’s why obedience is so important in our personal lives; because you can’t exercise authority over even your own children unless you’re submissive to God’s authority.

Then maybe it’s good to see too that Eve was really rebelling against delegated authority. She was deciding to move out on her own without ever asking a question of Adam, never any submission to him at all, but she just decided to do what she wanted to do. And haven’t you seen that in bodies of Christ? I’ve seen brothers and sisters move from one body to another and they never deal with the Pastor of either body; they’re just like ghosts who fly by in the wind. They go through to this body and then they drift off to another one, and they drift off to another one and they’re under no authority whatsoever. Indeed, if they only knew it, they’re not even in the body of Jesus, because they don’t live scriptural lives in the body of Christ.

I’d encourage you loved ones; don’t drift from one body to another. Don’t drift in and out of a body without any reference to the Pastor or any reference to the elders because as far as Jesus is concerned, you have no protection from that body at all. And yet isn’t it true, a lot of brothers and sisters especially with this “Jesus Movement” being so prevalent, a lot have just drifted from one place to another in and out, and one day they’re here and the next day they’re gone.

Do you see loved ones that really is rebellion, however nicely it’s done and however quietly, it’s really rebellion against God’s delegated authority, so of course you’re not coming under the protection that that authority brings. It’s good to see too, that as far as the rebellion in the Garden of Eden was concerned, it wasn’t a question of right and wrong. I think this is quite important for the Mom and Dad issue and for the issue of the elders here, or my position, or the leaders of the houses: it isn’t a question of right and wrong. They were eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They were learning what was right and wrong, but the fact was when they depended on God alone, then they knew what his will was. Now they could decide what was right or wrong for themselves without any reference to God.

So the heart of it all was rebellion against God’s authority. It isn’t really a question of whether the Mom is right or whether she’s wrong. It isn’t a question of whether I, in my stupidity, am right or wrong. It isn’t really a question of whether the leader of the house is right or wrong. That isn’t the issue brothers and sisters; the issue is one of authority — that when God delegates authority to certain men or woman, then our place is to respect that authority and to trust the Holy Spirit to correct that authority when he needs to.

The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord and the heart of even that non-Christian employer is in the hand of the Lord. And the heart of even that – yes, I think you have to press it this far probably, the heart of even that alcoholic father is in the hand of the Lord, isn’t that true? There seems to be a chain of authority that God has established and that he asks us to love and as long as we obey that authority and do not get mixed up with our subtle questions of right and wrong, then I think God will bless us and will deal with us.

Watchman Nee puts it like this, “There is no authority except from God. All authorities have been instituted by him. By tracing all authorities back to their source we unerringly end up with God. God is above all authorities and all authorities are under him. In touching God’s authority we touch God himself.” And then he talks about the Christian worker, “A Christian worker ought to know who is above him. Some do not know who the authorities above them hence are, they do not obey. We should not be occupied with right or wrong, good or evil, rather we should know who the authority

above us is. Once we learn to whom we must be subjected, we naturally find our place in the body. How many Christians today have not the faintest idea concerning subjection? No wonder there was so much confusion and disorder. For this reason, obedience to authority is the first lesson a worker ought to learn and it also occupies a large place in the work itself.”

I was a maverick! My wife and I called our first dog, it was a boxer, a boxer is an ugly little animal (I apologize to any owners of boxers) but I remember we were so so rebellious against the impotent church to which we had committed our lives that we called this dog “Rebel.” We in every way were rebelling against the impotent stuff of the Methodist church in Ireland and we felt we were wasting our lives, and the people in it were wasting their lives and mocking God.

So I, like many of you, have been a rebel and we are a bunch of mavericks in a way, in Campus Church, just a bunch of wild individualists. But do you see that God can actually do nothing with us until we come into a real coordinated relationship of authority and love? God will not do anything with us loved ones, except as a body of Jesus because the thing that he is trying to restore in this chaotic world of ours is order. The whole world is in disorder. Nobody obeys anybody, everybody knows best. Everybody knows better than our poor President. The fellow hardly makes a speech before commentators are on telling us what he really said, or what he should have said had he been as wise as they were. But throughout the whole society everybody has contempt and despises authority.

Now do you see that that’s what has resulted from the fall and what Jesus is after is to restore the beauty and the harmony of order; the beauty and harmony of people who trust each other. One of the things that surprised me when I came to the states is I found nobody trusted anybody. We didn’t trust Nixon to do his job because of course we knew better than him how to do it. Now, I’m not saying he did it perfectly but it seems that everybody knows better than the expert how to do it. And it’s so wrong; Jesus wants to restore the beauty and the harmony of that order of submission.

Now what does God want us to do? Well, I think to come into a spirit of obedience; to come into a place where we trust God with our circumstances and the people who are in authority over us. That was my problem in the Methodist church; they moved us around, they just put us anywhere. I felt sure the fellows weren’t praying and I’m afraid they weren’t praying much about it, but my problem was that I couldn’t trust that God would govern my life through their mistakes. So I literally was not trusting God; it was a problem of trust. I would trust God if he had good obedient men to work under him, but if I suspected the caliber of the men then I could not trust God to govern my life.

Now loved ones, it seems to me the first thing is to have a spirit of obedience by really trusting the Father with the people that God has put in authority over us; believing that God will overrule their mistakes and will work through their shortsightedness. But I think that’s first, a spirit of obedience, a real spirit of obedience in the body. I think the second step is to practice submission and to practice submission means to submit to the individuals that exercise authority over you in a downright down-to-earth way.

It certainly doesn’t mean refusing to receive God’s guidance for your own life through the intuition of your spirit — that would be silly. It doesn’t mean we all start depending on everybody else. It’s surprising how relatively few matters there are that will connect you with somebody else’s authority; for the greater part of your life, Jesus’ Spirit will guide you directly as to what you have to do in your life. But at those times when you are related to someone else in authority over you, then God expects you to practice that submission. And whenever you have trouble with God’s

delegated authority, it’s usually because you’re having trouble with God’s own authority in your life.

You find that if there’s somebody who is rebelling or resisting, even spiritually opposing — you know it; you understand when that is. I was a school teacher for more years than I like to remember, but you can tell just by looking at the fella whether he’s submissive or not. It’s so in the body; the Holy Spirits gives you the sermon and maybe they’re pretending to be submissive, but you can discern and it’s that discernment of the lack of the spirit of obedience that spoils the harmony of the body. So God wants us to practice that spirit of obedience in reality towards delegated authority. And then those of us who have authority in the body, and as I look around and see mums and dads here too, as well as the elders and the leaders of the houses, and leaders of seminars, and leaders of different businesses, it seems to me we are to learn to exercise authority without pride, to see that we are nothing. That it is not us that people respect, it is Jesus they respect. It is not us. It is not because we’re worthy to exercise authority or we’ve been put in this place, it’s because God has decided to put us here.

So the church suffers from a great lack of submission to authority and that’s why it’s in tatters loved ones. It’s not because they’re Methodist, and Presbyterians and Lutherans. Probably that’s good to say because we’re all different kinds of individuals, but the reason the church overall appears to be in tatters before the world is because local churches are in tatters. And local churches are in tatters and division because of a lack of submission to delegated authority and also because of delegated authorities who are refusing to exercise authority.

I think that was a problem with many of the brothers and sisters here. We felt we were very young, so who were we to exercise authority? And you’re dead right — you are nobody and you don’t deserve to exercise authority on the basis of what you are — we are nothings. But Jesus has appointed us to a place and he expects us to exercise that authority in love and in humility. And brothers and sisters, that’s where the firmness of the body comes you see, and what you and I have sensed is an increasing strength in the body, haven’t we? We’ve felt an increasing solidity and that comes from some of us beginning to exercise authority quietly, confidently, and humbly, and from some of the rest of us submitting to that authority. And that’s a loving and a beautiful picture for God to present to the world.

Now there are many references but I’ll ask you to look at two instances of delegated authority before we conclude. One is in Genesis 9 and it will teach us something about our attitude to delegated authority. Genesis 9:20-27, “Noah was the first tiller of the soil. He planted a vineyard; and he drank of the wine, and became drunk, and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it upon both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan; a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers.’”

Now do you see that Noah was the head of his family first? That was the delegated authority that God had given to him. Then at that time he was head of the whole world. He had been put by God in that position of authority over the whole world. Now, did he do wrong in verse 21? Yes, he did. God did not want Noah to become drunk; Noah had done wrong in that situation. But do you see after he had done wrong, Ham’s attitude was, “I’ll take advantage of this mistake or this disobedience of my father in order to throw off the restraint of his authority over me. I’ll take advantage of this

to spoil his position of authority.” And that’s why God condemned Ham.

Noah was wrong, there’s no question of it, and yet God still felt that Ham should have respected his father and when he found him naked he should not have shown his nakedness to his brothers, but should have done what they did; he should have walked without looking at the father and covered him in order to respect him; in order to maintain the position of respect and dignity that he’d been given him. But instead of Ham protecting the delegated authority of God, he took advantage of it for his own sake.

Now brothers and sisters do you see the lesson in there? Our place is to respect the delegated authorities; to love them and protect them. So what happens if the dad is wrong, or the mum is wrong, or the house leader makes a mistake, or the elder is foolish about something, that’s no excuse for us. Our position is still one of protecting them and protecting their dignity. God showed me this morning that all of us in the body should be covering up for each other, shouldn’t we? We should not be eager to expose the ugliness of another brother or sister. After all, you do it with your body — if you cut this finger, you bandage it up, and you put stuff on it and cover it and protect it when you’re working so that it won’t be hurt in any way. You want to do that because you want your body to be strong.

Now, do you see that it applies to brothers and sisters in the body of Jesus? When you know a fault in a brother or sister, or see something wrong in them, it should be your desire and mind to cover up for them; we should not be the first to expose it, we should not be the first to talk about it. God has just shown me my stupidity and your stupidity, and our disobedience in this regard; that we should never say anything negative about a brother or a sister in the body. Our place is to cover up for each other and then the Holy Spirit will get to work and convict the rest of us of our sins. But it’s never to expose, it’s always to cover up. So Ham in fact, because of his actions, became the slave of the people who respected God’s delegated authority. That was part of the curse, he became the slave to the people who did obey God’s authority and respect it.

Now, would you look at Leviticus 10:1-2, “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer, and put fire in it, and laid incense on it, and offered unholy fire” or as the King James says, “strange fire” “and offered unholy fire before the Lord, such as he had not commanded them.” Now what’s the meaning of that, because you see the result, “And fire came forth from the presence of the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.” Now it helps a little if you look back to Leviticus 8:14, “Then he brought the bull of the sin offering; and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the bull of the sin offering.”

Aaron was the one anointed by God. He was the one who was God’s delegated authority; when he acted, his sons acted. When Aaron did something, his sons did it with him, but they worked in continual coordination. The sons were only doing it because they were part of the family that God had chosen but it was the head of the family that had been anointed and you find that right through verse 18, “Then he presented the ram of the burnt offering; and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram.” When Aaron did it, his sons did it. Verse 22, “Then he presented the other ram, the ram of ordination; and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram.” When Aaron acted the sons acted. Aaron received the direction from the Father and the sons acted with it. Now what did the two sons do? Well, you see in 10:1, they offered “unholy fire” that was fire, “Such as he had not commanded them.” The sons decided to offer some sacrifice on their own apart from Aaron their father, and God regarded that as strange fire and he sent fire out against them.

Now that’s coordinated authority; there’s a sense in which here in the body, God has given a vision and given a promise and it’s vitally important that we work together to fulfill that vision. As soon as some of us say, “I want to see a vision too — he’s not the only one who can see a vision, I’ve got a vision too.” As soon as we begin to do that, we’re beginning to offer “strange fire.” I suppose I can see great importance to it in our particular situation because in our business we’re touching the world, aren’t we? Watchman Nee is good in “Love Not The World” where he says, “When you touch money or business, you touch the world.” And there’s no question you do. I can see how it’s vitally important for us to go forward in our business with God’s guidance every moment. I suppose that’s why I appreciate so much when you hold on a thing and you ask “Okay, is this the way we should go?” And, “Oh yes, that’s the way God wants us to move forward.”

But as soon as we start moving forward in all directions ourselves without that spirit of love, and that spirit of submission, and that spirit of subjection, then we begin to get ourselves into trouble. How many Christian businesses have gone down the drain because they’ve lost their direction? And it’s that same way in all of the activities in the body loved ones. You can destroy the whole loving unity of the house if you don’t work with the “Aaron” in that house. There’s a love and submission to the “Aaron” that enables you all to go forward together. But there’s a kind of independent wildcatting that means an offering of “strange fire” and God just will not accept “strange fire.”

You find it right through the New Testament; you find Barnabus and Paul working together, Paul and Timothy working together, Peter and Mark working together. You find that the principle of coordinated authority runs right through the New Testament, and that’s the way the Father wants us to work. And if we’re in doubt at all, let’s check with each other; let’s have that spirit of obedience and that spirit of submission that means that we walk together as a body and walk together according to God’s will.

I’ll read the last piece [from Watchman Nee] because he always says the thing better than I do, “Just as the delegated authority follows God, so those who are subject to authority should follow God’s delegated authority. There is no place,” and my heart used to rebel against this until God really taught me that I had to do this before he would give me any authority. I did it for a miserable two years, but it was good, “There is no place for isolated individual service.” And I’ve been like many of you; “don’t wait for it, let’s get on and do the thing.” I think its right loved ones, that there is no place for isolated individual service. “In spiritual work, all must serve in coordination. Coordination is the rule; the individual is not the unit. The sons of Aaron were out of coordination with Aaron hence, they were out of coordination with God. They should not have left Aaron and served independently. Those who violated authority will be consumed by fire from before God.”

I think it’s good to see God’s plan for our own body here, and to see it in regard to things like your work where you have, presumably, non-Christian bosses, and in your families where we maybe have dads and mums who don’t agree with everything we’re doing. Yet it seems there is a principle that God has built in and of course it brings great harmony; you find that every time you bend over to someone to build up their authority, Jesus comes back in love from their hearts. But if there’s a chomping at the bit then there’s a pulling in the other direction and that’s where you get the strain. And the heart of it is that obedience is a spirit, isn’t that right? Obedience, and subjection, and submission is a spirit.

Your dad or your mom know whether you love them and submit to them or not, even if you don’t say a

thing or do a thing, and I think it’s so in the body. I know that one sister has just been dealt with by God over this during the past week and God impressed upon me that I should share it tonight, so if there are areas there where you have been touched I think all you need do is settle it tonight. You don’t need to make a whole show about it, just repent to Jesus. And again, I don’t know that it’s outward disobedience that is the problem, I think with many of us it’s just a spirit of resistance, it’s a spirit of rebellion that puts us out of touch with those who are in authority over us. And I think if we’ll submit to God’s authority and his delegated authorities, we’ll find that it’s true, the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord.

Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us now and evermore. Amen.