The Purpose of Authority 1
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The Purpose of Authority 1 Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We’ve done perhaps fourteen studies on scriptural psychology; in other words, on the makeup of the personality in body, soul, and spirit. You’ll remember we covered the three great freedoms that we experienced in connection with Jesus; freedom from a guilty conscience, freedom from the selfish will, and then freedom from the independent personality.
Now, normally we would have gone on brothers and sisters, to close the study of the Spirit but God impressed upon me strongly last weekend that we should break for maybe two or three weeks and talk about authority and subjection. It was a subject that I had kept well clear of partly because God was blessing us so naturally in that area and partly because I don’t believe I saw it in the right light myself because I had been such a maverick and rebel in my own attitude to the authorities that were often above me. And I knew that most of us had come that way.
But God has impressed upon us the need to talk about authority and subjection and during our last time together we dealt with the importance of authority. I think it came home to me clearly that one of the reasons I shied away from the whole business of authority and subjection was I did not see that what we were concerned with was a maintaining of God’s authority, not of man’s authority. I think I always stayed away from exercising this authority over much because I couldn’t see that what we are really involved in, in authority and subjection in the body of Jesus, or in our relationships with each other in the family, is maintaining God’s authority. So it’s very important for a body of Christians to face authority plainly and openly and not to evade the issue as something old fashioned, or something that is strangely Republican, or strangely like a Supreme Court, or strangely Victorian, but it’s important for us to look away from all those extreme expressions of unbalanced authority and to look at God’s authority and to see that what we’re concerned with in authority and subjection is that we’re really maintaining God’s authority, not maintaining our own authority.
Understanding this has freed me a great deal in ministering to you about it, because I feel now it’s not me asking you or telling you to submit to me, it’s asking us all to unite together and learn what God’s authority is and what it means to us. Another reason I want to go on talking about it for several Sundays is the release that came to many of us last week and the release that came to me through many of you. A brother here pointed out that when you submit to the right authority, whether the son or the daughter to the father and mother, or the member of the body to the elder in the body, or the elders to the Pastor, or the Pastor to the head of the body, then as you submit you come under an umbrella of protection that saves you from many temptations that you would otherwise get into. And that many of us, when we don’t exist under the protective umbrella of authority, end up in temptations that aren’t God’s will at all for us to enter into.
You see, our temptations are carefully permitted by him to strengthen us and to enable us to grow in grace, but when we step out from under authority we come into many things that we’re not ready for. So we began to see last week that authority has been a protection for many of us. Then lastly, I have been realizing over the past months that you cannot build an army of Christ on enjoyment. Now, a lot of us came together because of the sheer joy that we have found in Jesus and because of the life that is in him, and the peace that is in him. But it’s obvious that we can’t build an army of Christ to go out into the world simply on enjoyment. It’s obvious that there will be times when we don’t seem to be enjoying it too much and the only thing that holds you there then is God’s authority. I think if we’re going to be any use to him at all, we need to come into an
understanding of this authority.
That’s why I think it is important to go on tonight to talk about the purpose of authority. It is very clear in God’s will, and God’s mind, and God’s plan and it might be good to read the verse that states clearly God’s teaching on authority in Romans. It’s a verse we read last Sunday and I suppose it’s the basis of all that we’re talking about in this series on authority and subjection. Romans 13:1-2, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” And then this strong statement, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” This was written by Paul under one of the strongest and most strict military dictatorships that the world has suffered. “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.” And the secondary teaching, that when you resist God’s delegated authority you’re resisting God’s authority itself and that is the real sin involved in resisting delegated authority.
Whether it is the right relationship of husband to wife, or the right relationship of children to parents, or the right relationship of citizens to the government, or the right relationship of members to elders, to heads of houses, to Pastors, to each other, there is a right authority and subjection in all of those situations. All those authorities are instituted by God to bring about order and harmony in his body.
Now brothers and sisters, we looked last time at some Old Testament examples of real rebellion against authority which helped, I think, to point out rebellion in some of our own hearts, so I think, therefore, they were useful. I’d like us to look at just two more of those and then go on to the purpose of God’s authority. Numbers 12 is one of those examples of people rebelling against God’s delegated authority. In my early days I never saw any purpose in this because I often thought it was just old fashioned teaching; old fashioned respect in the old country. But really, it’s God’s plan for us.
Numbers 12:1, “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman.” That was an Ethiopian from the people who had been condemned to be a slave to his brothers because of his attitude to God. And of course Moses should not have married the Cushite woman; he was wrong. Miriam and Aaron were his older brother and sister and in the home they had the right to have authority over Moses but not over him outside the home. He was God’s anointed leader and so they had no authority over him there, “For he had married a Cushite woman; and they said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses?’” And you see — they weren’t tackling him there on the level of an older brother and sister; they were challenging his position as leader and prophet; and spokesman of God. “Has he not spoken through us also? And the Lord heard it.” Then this has been good for me and I think, all of you elders and all of you parents, that we need to see the next verse. “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth.” One of the reasons for that was that he trusted God for his authority; he didn’t feel he had to defend it because he trusted God. God had appointed him; it wasn’t because of his brilliance, but God had chosen him, so he was meek because he trusted God to defend what he had appointed and established. “And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, ‘Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.’ And the three of them came out. And the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the door of the tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward. And he said, ‘Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in dark
speech; and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?’ And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed; and when the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. And Aaron turned towards Miriam, and behold, she was leprous.”
Spiritual death is dealt by God to any of us who treat his delegated authority in that manner. Half of us have spiritual problems that come from our failure to respond to the delegated authorities. I think what many of us do is what Aaron and Miriam did; we approach the delegated authority on the ground of what is natural. They approached Moses on the basis of his being their younger brother, but he wasn’t; in the Spirit, he was an authority over them.
Now I can see it in our own relationships; an elder can act towards you as an older brother, a Pastor can act towards you as a dear brother or a father; but they are never a brother or a father; they are God’s appointed people. So they may often act towards us in a familiar way and we should love them and we should respond to them warmly, but they are always God’s anointed, you see. And there always comes a strain in a relationship when there isn’t that right relationship. Every dad here knows that you can be very, very close to your children and you can love your children, and they can love you with all their heart, and they can share the deepest things with you and the most interesting things, but you’re still their father; you still have a dignity. They still treat you in a certain way that they wouldn’t treat their friends whom they run around with.
Now loved ones, it’s the same in our body where it’s so much more important because we’re so young and our elders are so close to us in age, and many of us are older than our elders as far as chronology is concerned and maybe even spiritually; many of us find ourselves seeing things deeper than our elders. Many of you see things deeper than I do. But do you see loved ones; we can’t approach each other on the basis of natural ground; we respect each other as delegated authorities. In verse 11, “And Aaron said to Moses, ‘Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned.’” And then Aaron comes back into the relationship with Moses. He says, “Oh, my lord,” not because of Moses himself, it’s not because of the man, but it’s because he is God’s appointed.
“My lord” is a term of respect to God’s authority and Aaron respects Moses because he’s God’s authority. “We have done foolishly and have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother’s womb.’ And Moses cried to the Lord, ‘Heal her, O God, I beseech thee.’ But the Lord said to Moses, ‘If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut up outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.’” And the term “outside the camp” in the Bible has an extra dimension to it because it means alienation and exclusion. And you always find that when there’s a failure in submission to God’s appointed authority, you feel a sense of alienation; you feel a sense of exclusion from the fellowship; there’s not that warm intimacy.
“So Miriam was shut up outside the camp seven days.” And then you see what happened, “And the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again.” The tent didn’t move until Miriam’s case was settled, “After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and encamped in the wilderness of Paran.” But every time there’s a stumbling in the body over authority, the body stops moving, the tent stops moving. There can be no forward march by the people of God until all the members of the body are in the right relationship and you’ve noticed that yourself; there’s a hesitation and a stumbling.
It seems that it doesn’t matter where in the chain of authority that happens, whether it’s a, b, c, d, or e it doesn’t matter. If “d” is having trouble with the relationship to “c”, then “e” begins to have trouble with the relationship to “d”, and then that begins to affect “c” and it’s a domino theory. It goes up and down through the body until one member is just strong enough in Jesus to hold the thing. And it’s interesting, sometimes I have harder weeks than others and it’s often because I think things are coming up and they just hit and shatter. And really loved ones, John Donne was right, “no man is an island.” We are all bound up with each other. The whole body is knit together and where someone is having a little difficulty, it shudders right through. If one member suffers, the whole body suffers, and that’s why it’s so important.
If “b” has trouble then “c” will begin to have trouble too. If “a” has trouble with the responsibility to the head, then “b” has trouble in the relationship to “a”. I thank God for those of you who love me and have prayed for me, especially over the past weeks. I thank you for your kindness in keeping me in my position and loving me and praying for me in it and that’s what we need to do; we need to keep holding each other in our right position in love. Whether the person is worthy of it or not, you hold them there and you treat people as you want them to be, in the same way as Jesus does with us. Love is always eager to believe the best, and they’ll have an easier time coming back into the position, so it is a loving relationship.
Brothers and sisters do you see that Moses’ authority was not built on knowledge though the world builds its authority system on knowledge. You know more so you’re boss; you understand the system more so you’re in charge of the others who work on the production line. Now, it’s not so in God’s body; we’re in authority because God has appointed us. Of course, that’s a beautiful thing too because in the world, if you’ve gained your position because of your knowledge then you’re always in strain because you’re always trying to keep one step ahead of the rest and it’s a strain keeping in that position. We know it when we look at the poor executives who get the ulcers because they’re trying to hold their position. We see it even at university where there’s a whole scale of positions in the faculty and you have to hold yours against the others underneath you; you have to keep that one little bit of knowledge extra.
Now loved ones, in spiritual authority it’s not the knowledge that puts you there and of course, that’s beautiful. Because John, who shared with us this morning, is an expert on geodesic domes — they’re the latest things in cheap buildings where the whole thing is worked out very carefully geometrically and you just build a whole dome up with no structural supports at all.
Well no doubt John will begin to move out in Fish Geodesic Domes and God will lead us out in the whole area of cheap housing through these domes, but do you see it’s vital that my authority over John is not built on my knowledge? Otherwise he’d eventually come into a position where he’d be out there and just wouldn’t explain things, and wouldn’t minister things to me and so I’d have no authority over him. You see, that it’s a loving situation where, “Okay, I understand Hebrew so I’ll try to explain it to you as simply as possible so that you understand it. You understand geodesic domes; okay you explain them to me.” But it’s a loving relationship in authority; not built on knowledge. Your position in the body doesn’t come because you know more, but because God has appointed you, so there’s a great freedom from strain in it. You’re there because God has put you there.
Now maybe you’d look just at one other instance in Numbers 16 because it teaches another important principle. It’s the principle of contagion and you’ll see it in Numbers 16:3. It’s about the rebellion of Korah, “And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and
said to them, ‘You have gone too far! For all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them; why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?’” And of course it wasn’t Moses exalting himself, it was God.
Now this is good for those of us who have authority anywhere, and I think all of us have some authority in our situation, “When Moses heard it, he fell on his face.” He didn’t get up and fight them back and beat them down with a staff and tell them to go home. But Moses heard it and he fell on his face and it’s good you fall on your face before the authority to which you’re responsible; towards God. “And he said to Korah and all his company, ‘In the morning the Lord will show who is his,” and he left it to God, “and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to him; him whom he will choose he will cause to come near to him.” And Moses left the decision up to God and it’s good to see that that needs to be our attitude.
You see then in verses 12-14 that Dathan and Abiram who were with Korah in spirit, intensified the whole rebellion, “And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab; and they said, ‘We will not come up. Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness that you must also make yourself a prince over us? Moreover you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up.’” They were right, they weren’t in a land of milk and honey and yet God regarded them as wrong in rebellion against Moses’ leadership.
Brothers and sisters, submission to authority is a matter of faith not of reason. They were in rebellion because they wouldn’t go on the vision that God had given their leader. They came down to reason and argued against it. And loved ones, that’s true; every time you try to reason the thing through you’ll end up in their position, because often a body goes forward by the vision that the Father gives to its leader, or its leaders and he requires that the brothers and sisters trust the leader to move forward.
Now by all means you have to pray for the poor soul so that he doesn’t go too far out in left field, and you have to share as you see, but it’s always sharing in an attitude of love and of trust. They went astray because they would not walk by faith. They said, “Here we are; you said we were coming to this land and we’re not here yet.” Then you see God’s judgment on that kind of outright rebellion in Numbers 16:31, “And as he finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split asunder; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men that belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. And all Israel that were round about them fled at their cry; for they said, ‘Lest the earth swallow us up!’ And fire came forth from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men offering the incense.” That happens in every body of God’s people where there is this kind of rebellion; the earth does really swallow them up.
You know the pitiful situation in the great majority of our churches, isn’t it true — and I’m anxious not to say anything wrong about churches — but it’s true that most of us have suffered in this kind of situation: there has been no basis of authority. There has been little respect for the poor Pastors that have worked among us. In fact, there has been no doubt in our own minds about their authority, we knew who the authority was; we paid their salary and the pastoral relations board appointed the man. So they whipped him in and they suffered him for three years and then the honeymoon is over; and the fourth and fifth years are sticky, and then they decide to get rid of him
and so they bring another man in.
It’s no wonder that the earth has begun to open and swallow so many of our churches. The New York Times has another record of the numerical losses in the churches; the earth will always swallow up bodies of Christ that do not respect and build up God’s appointed authority and we’ve been utterly out of God’s plan and God’s order in most of our churches because in most of them there’s been little respect. I thank God that he has created a miracle here, because our whole relationship with each other is utterly different. But do you see; the earth swallows up a body that does not respect that delegated authority?
Now here’s the real principle that I wanted you to see in this and it’s found in Numbers 16:41-50. The leaders rebelled and then you get the next step in Numbers 16:41, “But on the morrow all the congregation of the people of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron” so it’s contagious resistance, “saying, ‘You have killed the people of the Lord.’ And when the congregation had assembled against Moses and against Aaron, they turned toward the tent of meeting; and behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared. And Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, and the Lord said to Moses, ‘Get away from the midst of this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.’ And they fell on their faces. And Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take your censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and lay incense on it, and carry it quickly to the congregation, and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone forth from the Lord, the plague has begun.’” Moses realized that he himself could not hold God back from defending his authority.
“So Aaron took it as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and behold, the plague had already begun among the people; and he put on the incense, and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stopped. Now those who died by the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the affair of Korah. And Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting, when the plague was stopped.”
We need to seek God carefully before we engage in rebellion or resistance to his authority, because we can work spiritual agony for others that we don’t know about at all and that’s really what happened there. The leaders of that rebellion had no idea that they were going to cause the deaths of 14,000 people and yet that’s what resulted. So it’s that principle of contagion and resistance. It’s good to see that all authority and submission to authority is a matter of revelation, so we need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show us where we are to be submissive in authority to others. We need to ask him to show us, “Lord, what attitude should we have to each other?”
Maybe we could look at a little of the purpose of authority. I don’t know how far we’ll get, but let’s look at David and the example that he sets, and I’ll describe the situation to you first. You remember that Saul had disobeyed God in not destroying all of the Amalekites. He had in fact kept the best of the cattle and the goods and because of that God had disqualified him from the kingship. Saul did not obey God, he thought sacrifice was better than obedience, so God determined to take the kingship from Saul and he already let David know that he, David, was to be king.
Now David was running from Saul because Saul was after him to destroy him. On one occasion, in the wilderness of Engedi, David came upon Saul in a cave. Saul did not know that David was there at all, and so David was in the position where he could kill Saul at that very moment. Now do you see that he might well have felt justified in doing that? He might well have felt, “Well, I’m going to be king and this is a way to forward God’s cause. I can kill Saul and I can ascend the throne.” And yet that is not what he did at all as you’ll see in 1 Samuel 24. And even though the delegated
authority had disobeyed God and had actually already been disqualified from authority, yet he was still king over David and David still respected his authority. 1 Samuel 24:1, “When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, ‘Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.’ Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats’ Rocks. And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. And the men of David said to him, ‘Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’’” And so some people suggested that maybe this is God’s day for David to take the throne.
“Then David arose and stealthily cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe. And afterward David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt. He said to his men, ‘The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put forth my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.’” He knew that although Saul was disqualified from the kingship, he was still king. God had not yet raised David to the throne even though he had told him he was going to be king and so David was still under Saul’s authority. And David called him “my lord” not because of the man himself, the man himself had been disobedient to the authority above him, but David respected him because he was still in charge of him. He was still in control of him.
In other words brothers and sisters, it’s dangerous to say, “My father is not in God’s will, so I do not need to submit to him. He is disqualified because of his disobedience to God.” You can see that the principle taught here in David’s experience is that you keep on respecting the Lord’s anointed whatever he is like, or however he behaves. We often felt it was a dangerous principle in the Catholic Church where they would suggest that even a drunk priest could celebrate the mass and he should be respected. Many of us Protestants rebelled against that and said, “Now, that’s just typical of the immorality that so often operates in the institutional church.” But do you see that there was a principle behind that that was good? It was the principle that if a man or a woman is appointed into an authority by God, you respect them because of their appointment, not because they are always submissive to God, not because they are always right.
Now I think there’s another principle that is important that probably most of us have sensed at one time or another in our own lives. Let’s begin at I Samuel 24:4b. After the men speak to David then it says, “Then David arose and stealthily cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe. And afterward David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.” It seems such a little thing, doesn’t it? And yet David saw that it was actually a failure to respect Saul’s authority; it was really contempt for Saul. And oh, I saw it in my own life; often I wouldn’t be in outright rebellion against the authority, but I would have an inward resistance to the authority. I would have that kind of back biting attitude to the authority. “Alright, I’ll obey you, I’ll submit to you,” then I’d criticize them behind their back.
But it’s true with all of us, isn’t it? Often we don’t disobey the authority; we evade the issue by rank bad manners. We appear to submit to the authority but really inside we’re laughing at the authority and we’re really cutting them down inside even if we don’t tell anybody. We display that by bad manners, or abruptness, or a throwaway line we use to destroy the authority that God wants you to submit to. It’s so different from the submission that blesses and that is, actually, love, isn’t it?
Don’t you think there can be a real expressing of love through submission to authority? Don’t you think there can be a beautiful expression of love in good manners? I know it’s getting less and
less popular, but I think Jesus wants us to reclaim it for him; it seems to me there’s a beauty in a brother opening a door for a sister. There’s a beauty and there’s love expressed in it. Don’t you think that I’ve often felt it from brothers and sisters in the body; there’s a love and a delight that can come forth in submission? I suppose we were taught it, not in a spiritual context at all, but I suppose in the old country attitude back home we were taught you could actually bless a teacher by a certain attitude to them. You could actually bless a father or a mother by a certain attitude to them, though we didn’t understand it all at the time.
That is totally different from “Well, I’ll just cut off the skirt of his gown if I can.” There’s an absolute difference between a wholehearted love and a wholehearted submissiveness and a delight in expressing your love to the person that way, and a kind of reluctant backbiting, bad mannered kind of submission that isn’t submission at all and it seems an important principle, doesn’t it? Submission to authority is a heart attitude. Of course you know the effect it has on the authority, we all know that fine well; it puts the one in authority in a place of security. Suddenly they feel a release, they feel a sense of being at ease with us and they can kind of back off. I’ve found it often with Pastors of other churches who maybe hear of Campus Church. It’s vital for me, if I go to do a wedding in their church to acknowledge that they are the Pastor, they are in control, and they are the spiritual authorities. And of course, as you don’t go as somebody who knows everything, but as a loving brother who trusts them and respects them and obeys what they suggest you should do in the church, then there’s an ease that comes about in them. And I think you’ve found the same thing; there’s just an ease comes in the authority when you love it and respect it.
Now loved ones, this kept coming to David, as you see in 1 Samuel 26, and God often does this with us; he often gives us opportunities such as he gave David in order to really test him. In this next instance almost the same situation occurred; David again found Saul in a defenseless position. 1 Samuel 26:8, “Then said Abishai to David, ‘God has given your enemy into your hand this day; now therefore let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice.’ But David said to Abishai, ‘Do not destroy him; for who can put forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?’”
That kind of submission and respect for God’s appointment is incredible isn’t it? “And David said, ‘As the Lord lives, the Lord will smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall go down into battle and perish. The Lord forbid that I should put forth my hand against the Lord’s anointed; but take now the spear that is at his head, and the jar of water, and let us go.’” And it does seem brothers and sisters, that in whatever situation we are, we need to trust God to change the authority or remove it. David constantly had this attitude to Saul; that he was God’s appointed person whether he was worthy of respect or not. It was God’s authority that David was maintaining and that comes out very clearly in his attitude to the man who eventually kills Saul.
Now you would think that surely David would accept it when someone else got rid of Saul? But it wasn’t so; what David cared about was maintaining God’s authority. 2 Samuel 1:13, “And David said to the young man who told him [he had killed Saul], ‘Where do you come from?’ And he answered, ‘I am the son of a sojourner, an Amalekite.’ David said to him, ‘How is it you were not afraid to put forth your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?’”
It’s just amazing isn’t it? You feel the needle is caught on the one track of the record but David just sticks at it; “You killed the Lord’s anointed.” “Then David called one of the young men and said, ‘Go, fall upon him.’ And he smote him so that he died. And David said to him, ‘Your blood be upon your head; for your own mouth has testified against you saying, ‘I have slain the Lord’s
anointed.’” Brothers and sisters do you see: it’s maintaining God’s authority?
I don’t think we can go as far as I had hoped tonight, but it’s about maintaining God’s authority; that’s what we’re doing here. When we’re building each other up and preferring one another before ourselves, when we’re respecting our elders and respecting the leaders of the houses, when we’re respecting the Pastor, we’re really respecting the head of the body and we’re building up the authority of Jesus. When the day comes that the whole world will break into anarchy and chaos and may be saved only by the totalitarian government of an antichrist that will preserve many of us in a state of order and harmony. And what God is after is to build up that authority among a people who are after his own heart. And those people, when the whole world is writhing in anarchy and is seeking the antichrist to bring them into some order and preserve them from destruction — that will keep the church of Jesus and will keep it in order and harmony. So it is really a precious thing.
I’d like to talk in a little more detail about it next time, in connection with the authority of the body, but at least this introduces us to the whole purpose of authority. It is really to preserve us on that final day when the whole world will break into disharmony and chaos and that’s why we defend the authority of God, you see.
Now, would you like to ask questions?
Question: “What did Jesus mean when he said, “I came not to bring peace but a sword and I will divide father from mother and son and daughter and he who does not leave his father and mother is not worthy of me?”
Response: Let’s tackle the first one. It seems to me that Jesus was saying that the sword of the Spirit had indeed a physical sword as we have seen in communist countries where children have been taught to betray their parents. Certainly a spiritual sword of the Spirit and at times a physical sword will mean that those who believe in Jesus will be betrayed by those who do not believe in Jesus and will be handed over to authorities, so there will be a real division at times, spiritually, in a family. That still does not say that the son or the daughter should not submit to the unbelieving parent as long as they possibly can.
It seems to me the other teaching where Jesus says, “If you will not leave father, and mother, and children for the gospel’s sake then you are not worthy of me,” Jesus was teaching, “If it comes to a place where you have to choose; where I make it clear to you that you have to choose even as it came to that place where the preachers in Acts, when they were forbidden to preach the gospel, replied, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’” So when it comes to that moment then you must be willing to go with God rather than stay with the parents and the family.
So it seems the first one is simply a dividing of people spiritually and the second one is a readiness to forsake self-love because most of us really love ourselves when we think we love our parents or our homes before Jesus. So it seems to me they’re both in connection with putting God before anybody. But after you’ve got God in the right position then you have to put your delegated authorities in the right position.
Could you comment on Bonhoeffer and Hitler?
I thought of that tonight as I was praying and getting ready. You remember that Bonhoeffer was involved in the plot, I believe, that was made on Hitler’s life. It would seem to me that Bonhoeffer would say that he had come into the position of the preachers in the Acts of the apostles that we must obey God rather than man. It would seem to me that a man like Bonhoeffer had come into a position where he felt that he had to act or submit to being forced to disobey God; that he would feel if he allowed Hitler and the regime to continue he was in fact part of that.
Now brother, it is important to see that many other men felt differently and many submitted to Hitler presumably on the basis of the principle of authority and I think it’s very presumptuous of us all these years later to try to pronounce what we think is right. But it would seem to me very dependent on a man’s own conscience in regard to the government.
However, brothers and sisters, we are ridiculous in our attitude here. We have not a government that is in anyway a terror to good conduct and even the provision for conscientious objection means that we’re in a legal position to submit to the government and yet do what our conscience dictates. So I think in our position it’s very hard to see a justification for resisting authority.
I think we should work for better politicians; I’m with you on that. I think we should get into politics, and we should pray that Watergate incidents will not only not occur, but will be exposed clearly. We should pray that the ridiculous artificial oil shortage will be cleared up by strong political leaders who will move against the greed and the avarice. But having said all that, I think we have to submit and respect our leaders.
Love ones, I think we should stop here and carry on next time.
Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us now and evermore. Amen.