Keep Track of your View History - Register / Login >>
Importance of Authority - AUTHORITY
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.
The Purpose of Authority 1 - AUTHORITY
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.
The Authority of The Body - AUTHORITY
The Authority of the Body Ephesians 6:1-5 Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill What I’d like to talk about this evening is the authority of the body, and last Sunday evening you remember, we dealt with – in the third of the series on authority and subjection we dealt with the purpose of authority. We established that the purpose of authority really is to establish the principle of obedience to God. That’s the purpose of God’s appointing any authorities in the world at all — to establish the principle of obedience to him. Many of us know the need for that through our own experience in the early days of the body here, because the body started in the midst of all the rebellion and protest of the 1960’s. Many of us came into the body true but we didn’t want anything to do with any authority at all, and you’d throw everything over. Many of us found that we came in with ways and minds that were utterly undisciplined. And many of us know for instance, old Bruce and the battle that he had. Bruce was just a free swinging Californian, and boy it was rough for Bruce to kind of begin to come under some kind of order or discipline, and many of us found that. That we had been used to this spirit of wild license that had gone through society. There was great justification for it, mind you, society itself is in a pretty poor state, and needs a great deal certainly, of protest and a great deal of correction. But you remember two or three years ago you could protest almost against anything in the world, and there was a general spirit of chaos and anarchy in our society. And many of us found that living in that situation, as a group it was quite a struggle to come into any kind of obedience at all. Now that’s why God has appointed authority here. He’s establishing the principle of authorities in the world to begin to establish the principle of obedience to himself, so that we would begin to come into obedience. Almost into obedience to anyone, just in order to come into obedience. Now that is the principle that you have right through the Old Testament. You can see it in Genesis 1:28, if you look at it. I won’t give you all references, but Genesis 1:28 right at the beginning of God’s creation there is that principle of authority and principle of obedience established. Genesis 1:28, “And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air.’” You see there was his command to be fruitful and multiply, and to fill the earth and then there was the authority that men and women had as the result of that, “Subdue it; and have dominion.” So you have that world dominion coming in right at the beginning of the Bible and that runs right through the Old Testament. God tried to establish the authority and obedience in the Garden of Eden, and they rebelled against him. He tried to do it again with Noah, his sons rebelled. He tried to do it again with Abraham, his people rebelled. He tried to do it again with Moses, the people rebelled in the wilderness. He tried to do it again in the land of Canaan through the kings, the people eventually rebelled or the kings were disobedient. He tried to do it again as the people wandered over through Persia, and through Assyria, and through various exiles continually God was trying to bring people into obedience to himself. That’s really the reason for authority, and you find it – it’s the purpose of the gospel. You find it in Romans 2:8, the purpose of the gospel is to bring men and women into obedience to God. God is just so wise and he knows that real trust is expressed in perfect obedience. And Romans 2:8, you see, “But for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.” It’s not, “Those who do not believe the truth,” but those who do not obey the truth. You find that constantly emphasized in the apostolic preaching, that you have not just to believe the gospel, you’ve not just to have faith in Jesus, but you’ve to obey him. Now that’s why we should respect delegated authorities. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Nixon. It doesn’t matter – I suppose a lot of us would hope that it won’t be, but it doesn’t matter if it’s Kennedy. It doesn’t matter who the fellow is as president. The reason for obeying delegated authority and respecting it is to establish the principle of obedience to God. That’s why God has delegated these authorities to us. You know that he has delegated authorities in the world, first of all, and we’re expected to obey those delegated authorities in the world. You can see it Romans 13:1. It is that verse that we have read before. Romans 13:1, “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.” Really what God is saying is that, “I have appointed these authorities.” It’s the authority that is important. Maybe Nixon is not a perfect man, maybe in fact, almost certainly Bob Holdeman [President Nixon’s chief of staff and involved in the Watergate scandal] is not a perfect man, or John Dean is not a perfect man. These men stand for authority. I’m not asking you to obey these men, I’m asking you to respect the principle of authority in your world. I think the Father would say to us this evening, because you brothers and sisters know what happens when we ignored the principle of authority two or three years ago. Brothers and sisters, I don’t say that the government is very much better than it was in Lyndon Johnson’s time, but at least there is a little more order. I don’t know that Nixon has brought it, but there is just a little more respect for authority than there was. Now I’m not a Nixon man, I’m not republican do or die. I’m probably if anything a wild socialist! Coming from England, when our own conservative government is even more tending towards a welfare state than you would be here. I don’t want to antagonize people but I want you to see that I’m not a Nixon man do or die, but I do think that there’s more order than there was maybe three or four years ago. Now what God is saying is, “Will you respect the authorities? I don’t ask you to agree with them, I gave it to you many times that they are not honorable men, but the authority is what I want you to respect, because if you keep respecting authority and law your continuing to respect something that I have appointed.” Now brothers and sisters, do you see that the principle of man ruling men is in the Bible away back at the beginning? If you look there Genesis 9:6 there’s the principle of men being entrusted with authority. Why? In order to hold the world back from chaos while Gods redeeming grace is working, you see. Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.” Now we believe that God is taking us deeper into an understanding of that verse, but certainly at the beginning God was saying, “Look I give you authority to destroy those who destroy your brothers and sisters.” Or, Exodus 22:28 is the same kind of responsibility that God gave to men to govern themselves. Exodus 22:28, “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of you people.” In other words, God appointed rulers over us to express his prevailing grace — to hold back sin from utterly destroying our world. Now brothers and sisters, the authorities may not be perfect people themselves, they may even as we can see in some of the Supreme Court judges, they may even disobey the laws themselves, but do you see it’s the principle of authority that God is trying to build? He’s saying, “Nothing will come about unless you build up a respect for law and authority, because all authority takes its power from my laws.” So, dear ones, when we’re respecting authority we’re respecting God’s principle of order, and really he asks us to do that. You may say, “What if the authority is wrong?” Dear ones, God doesn’t deal with that, he says, “Look I’ve entrusted the authority into these man’s hands, whatever they do I allow that to stand, now your place is to obey them.” Unless in that instance you remember, in Acts 5:29 I think it is, unless you come into that situation. That’s the one occasion when a son or daughter of God is justified in refusing to obey the authorities over them politically. Acts 5:29, you remember, verse 28 is the actual command of the authorities, “’We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’” And you see that’s the authority’s saying, “He strictly charged you not to teach,” and then the verse 29, “But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’” That’s the only instance, if the authority commands you to disobey God than your justified in saying unto them, “No we must obey God rather than men.” But in all other situations, unless they command you to do something that is immoral or illegal, or that is against God’s direct will for you, then we’re expected to respect that authority. I’m afraid, whatever they’re like because it’s not the man we’re respecting it’s the position. That’s, I suppose, what they’re trying to get at with Mr. President. That’s really what they’re trying to get at. That’s why they insist on calling him that, because it’s not him that we’re respecting it’s the principle of the presidency, or the principle of some kind of order in our civil world, and that’s why the Father commands us to respect authorities. That’s why then the speed limit is an issue that we have to deal with. I’ve just been forced to deal with it. We need to see the speed limit as not a frustrating nuisance to our freedom, but it’s something that has been set up by God through his delegated authority. In other words, there ought to be a real joy in this, and peace at being able to travel 30 miles an hour knowing that we’re glorifying God by doing that. Just an entirely different attitude to the one where we Christians feel, “Oh yeah, well the speed limit, it isn’t important. It isn’t really the law.” But it is, and if you say to me, “Oh nobody would notice.” Brothers and sisters, there’s a whole spiritual world that is shattered every time we break the speed limit. I’m preaching to myself too, but there is, there’s a whole spiritual world of order and peace that is shattered whenever we refuse to obey the authorities. Maybe some of us are so insensitive that we feel, “Oh no, that couldn’t be.” But really loved ones, it is. If we could see the spiritual world visibly tonight we would see that on countless occasions we violate God’s commands because we reject the authority of those who are put over us. If you don’t respect the delegated authorities, it’s probable that you half the time are violating God, and his commandments. It’s only about half the time that you obey God by obeying his direct commands through the Bible. Half the rest of the time you’re obeying him by obeying and respecting these delegated authorities. That’s why there so important because they’re set there by the Father. Now loved ones, I appeal to you again, I am against Watergate — I’m with you. I think that we have to change the thing, but we ought to get into politics ourselves and change them. We ought not to break down in order to try to build up. You can’t build anything in the world by disobeying God about respecting the authorities. In other words, vehement criticism of the government on the whole doesn’t do too much good. Unless you get the names on the petition and forward them in a legal way to the congressmen, really all you did was ranting, and raving, and creating an atmosphere of disorder. Half the reason why I would object to the marches of protest is, it’s just an inefficient system. It’s an inefficient way of doing it. You waste a lot of breath and a lot of energy, and all you do is create an atmosphere of disorder. I’m with you, I think we should pray for the people. We should pray that the Holy Spirit will convict them. We should pray that the Watergate thing will be out, utterly exposed, and put right, and rectified, and we should have oppose all attempts to whitewash Nixon or whitewash anyone else. But we ourselves should have an attitude of respect and love for government and for order, for police even. The poor souls they have a miserable time, haven’t they? They should love freedom and right to protest. I agree with you about the ones that are taking money, and taking bribes for protection in Chicago, and presumably in Minneapolis, and New York. I agree there are bad policemen but don’t you think our place is to respect, and love them, and pray for them, and build up the order in authority that they stand for? Now that’s the delegated authorities, dear ones, in the government. We should obey the delegated authorities in the home. You can see that in Ephesians 5:22-24. Why? Because it’s just the principle of obedience to the Father. When we obey these authorities whether they’re right or wrong we’re saying to God, “Alright we trust you, Lord, with the consequences. We simply are responsible for obeying. You’re responsible for changing consequences, or for convicting people.” Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” I think that God may be able to clarify that a little for us later when we talk about the authority of the body. But, would you look at Ephesians 6:1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.’” It’s interesting that that’s the only commandment that has a definite promise of a long life attached to it. Verse 4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Then you can see the limits to which God carried this obedience to delegated authority. “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ; not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” It’s amazing isn’t it, that God told them to even submit to a militaristic dictatorship, which no doubt was continuing to spread pain and cruelty throughout the world at that time. Yet God said, “Your place is to submit. My place is to deal with them.” As in fact he did as you know when the barbarians overran the Roman Empire. But do you see, dear ones, that the authority in the home is something that God has established? Now I’m sure we have to discuss among ourselves and ask Jesus to show us what the relationships of husbands and wives ought to be? But you can see that certainly God is not backing Dr. Benjamin Spock [American Pediatrician, May 2, 1903 – March 15, 1998] anyway. He’s not backing the idea that you let the child express himself, or let him do whatever he wants. Certainly God is saying, “There is an order in the chain of authority in the family, and you have to obey the delegated authority.” An alcoholic father, well a bit the same, I suppose, as a dishonest congressmen, God expects us to love that person, and give submission to them unless they command us to do something that is illegal or immoral, or against God’s will for us. But obviously God is saying, “My grace will work in them as you obey me, but if you disobey me you just increased the anarchy and the disorder.” But God expects us to obey those delegated authorities from the home. And then he expects us to obey the delegated authorities in the church, and you have that in 1 Thessalonians 5, if you will look at it. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, “But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.” And then in 1 Timothy 5:17, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” Then in 1 Corinthians 16:15-16, “Now, brethren, you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints; I urge you to be subject to such men and to every fellow worker and laborer.” God tells us that in the body of Christ the younger are to be subject to the older, both spiritually and in age. That’s why I think – now they’ll forgive me referring to them again, but I think brothers and sister like Mr. and Mrs. Halverson would feel comfortable among us. No, he’s not officially an elder here, but we all think of his as an elder, and there’s just an attitude to the older ones among us that is one of love, and respect, and submission. Now it seems to me wherever the Holy Spirit has freedom in a body, that kind of relationship comes about. I think that’s why some of the brothers and sisters who are older than college age do feel strangely at home, because in a real body of Christ there is that kind of love and respect for those who are older chronologically and those who are older spiritually. Now maybe, brothers and sisters, we could just look at that in a little more detail and then I’d really open it for questions. Do you see that the church is the perfect place for God to establish authority and obedience? There are two reasons for this. One is that often authority and obedience in the secular sphere, whether in politics, or in the home, authority there or submission is often just an appearance experience. It’s not a real heartfelt thing. In other words, often in politics, or in government, or in law you find the submission but it’s primarily an outward thing, it isn’t a heartfelt submission, and so there isn’t that perfect presentation of authority and subjection in the civil field. As well as that in the political field or in the family area, often the authority does in fact hurt those who are under it. There are often parents who are not wise about their children, and who in fact often hurt their children. There are many governments who though they don’t want apparently to hurt their citizens, will hurt them. Now in the church neither of those things occur. One of the big reasons is that in the body of Christ, authority and obedience are both found in Jesus. The authority of the body comes from the head of the body, Jesus, but the obedience of the body to that head, is Jesus in each member of the body. So in the church you get a perfect marriage of authority in subjection, because the only way of exercising the authority is the head, Jesus, and the spirit that is bringing about submission and subjection to that authority is the Spirit of Jesus in each member. In the church particularly, you can see that authority and subjection is a life situation. It’s not a command situation, it’s a real authority of the body. Now my eyes look and see the book, and they give the message to my head, and the head doesn’t really give a command to the hands, the hands just go out and lift the book. It’s all a beautiful unconscious action because of the life that flows through my body. The head doesn’t suddenly command the hands, “Hands lift the Bible.” No, the head just gently and naturally tells the hand to lift the Bible, and it lifts it, and it’s a life experience, it’s a flowing spontaneous thing. Now do you see that this works in the body of Jesus, and this works in the husband-wife thing, you see? In the husband wife thing, it’s something to argue about if there isn’t the life of Jesus in both of you. But if there’s the life in Jesus in both of you, it’s a loving relationship of both of you to the head. You see, it’s not the hand obeying the eyes. No, the eyes just give the information to the head, and the head moves out through the hands. So both of them act because their related to the head, and that’s the same in the body of Jesus. The body of Jesus is not concerned with just obeying God’s commands, but the body of Jesus is concerned with obeying the life of Jesus that is flowing on among us. That’s why in a body that is really filled with the Spirit of Jesus, authority and subjection is not a hard thing to experience. It’s not a shattering thing, it’s not a battle to get people to obey. It’s just a natural thing, it’s a natural flow. It’s the eyes seeing something to be done, giving the information to the head, and the head, Jesus, tells the hand what to do. And so suddenly the hands and the eyes find themselves being used miraculously in cooperation, and they’re amazed. They don’t know why it is because the hand has not been very conscious of obeying the eyes, it’s only been conscious of obeying the head, and receiving the life that flows from the head. So really, brothers and sisters, the body of Jesus is a beautiful, perfect example of authority and subjection working because of the same life and nature that flows through everybody. Now then do you see that if you’re having trouble with subjection, or I’m having trouble with subjection, it’s a problem of life? Do you see that? It’s a problem of life. It isn’t a problem of you not respecting me, or me not respecting you, it’s a problem of life. It’s something wrong about our relationship to the head, and therefore the life is not flowing through us as it should, and so we’re not experiencing that light spontaneous relationship. But in the body of Christ is not a matter of command. There are two ways in which you can receive – do God’s work, either by receiving a command from him or just by sensing his will, and the authority and subjection to the experience in the body is the second of those two. Sometimes some people have asked me how do you get guidance. Well honestly most of the time I’m not conscious of walking this way and then hearing God saying, “Turn right. Turn right okay, turn left.” It’s not that kind of deal. It’s just I’m walking and the life of Jesus is, you don’t know it, oh yeah you turn left. It’s the life of Jesus just moving through you, and guiding you to do the right thing spontaneously. There are times when you seek direct guidance, but most of the time it’s just a natural spontaneous flow. Now that’s the same in the body of Jesus. Authority in subjection is a loving spontaneous thing, when the life of Jesus is flowing through. Now I think we have to learn a lot about it ourselves. For instance, one of the things we brothers and sisters are learning is the whole business of fears of authority. It’s so important it seems to me, for you to be able to be to be an authority in your sphere, and yet when you come in relationship to me, or to the elders then okay, there’s an attitude of submission and love. It seems to me important when I go home not to run things at home as God guides me to run things here, otherwise my wife and my dog might have a hard time. It seems very important to be able to go into different spheres and have the relationship that is appropriate in that situation. One example of it that I can think of is, Scott Columb just knows the leather machines far better than I do. I don’t know what is the best edge cutter, or what is the best dye for it to cut out the bag, or what is the best clicker, he knows all that. So he is the eye, and if I refuse his ministry there then the body and I am poorer for it. If I tried to do what he can do then the body and I suffer, but then when he has placed all that information before me than he has to stand back and say, “Oh right, now the next move is yours. God is giving you the vision for the next move in the body, now you decide when to buy the machines or not.” And there’s a lovely relationship there. There’s a thing in which we administer authority in our sphere but then when we come into another sphere we know submission. So some of the older brothers and sisters here, I know will just go with my authority and they will submit and they will build me up, but I will know in my own heart that they know many things through experience and through years better than me. So I’ll go to them at times and will say, “Okay, what do you think of this?” And I’ll have that attitude of honoring them and respecting them. Brothers and sisters, it is something that it seems only the life of Jesus can teach us. Of course, one of the real problems I think with us all here, since we all are of this particular generation, is that we have come up in a society that has been chaotic. You’re going to find a few moments when we’re just stumbling on the thing before we find the right level. But it seems that if we let the life of Jesus, the head of the body, flow through us then will come into a loving relationship where authority and submission is just right. And I think I should stop there, there’s a lot more to say but, would anyone like to ask questions that might push us a bit deeper or give a different view point, or different insight? What happens in the situation that often comes up in the workplace where you’re commanded to do things almost in order to harass you and make life tough for you, and there not necessarily things at all and what is to be your attitude in that situation? I can only say what Jesus’ Spirit seems to be revealing to me, but I have to say I’ve never been in that situation and so every man in that situation has to get God’s mind on the thing there. But I would think that the Father’s will would be for us not to question, or to argue, but to submit and that there would be more a flow of life through us ourselves in our own experience. If we turned our back on any resentment, or any sense of a criticism and in fact, bless the person by our actual obedience trusting that the Father knew that we were spending our time doing something that would be undone an hour later. It would seem to me that the attitude would be submission unless the thing was certainly illegal or immoral. But brother I offer that, you know, lovingly and humbly because you’re the one in the situation, but I would imagine that God would pour more life through us if we took that attitude than if we took the attitude standing up on our hind legs and said, “Look at this stupid thing there’s no sense in it.” In a way few of the things have any sense, really, and what counts as obedience to the Father? Not the good sense of the thing itself. Yeah. Is there a place for quiet correction of authority? I can see that situation working often in the body in relationship to myself. I hope I don’t suggestion to brothers and sisters that they do stupid things, but I know that the Holy Spirit gets through to me a lot faster if they say, “Okay, I’m not sure that’s the best, and maybe do you not think maybe this is a possibility, and this a possibility?” But they do the thing and then I quietly get together with the Holy Spirit and he sorts me out. But it seems to be that the affect it has on authority, I think. Anyone in authority should avoid defending it for us. Now in the body authority should never defend its decisions. It should take the attitude of Moses, which was to express and act on faith before the Father, and I think that and that’s what I think I’m learning to do. Some people argue that they should not – they do not need to submit to the authorities of the government because the constitution states they are public servants. I think that’s a semantics fix, you know, I think it is, because I would think that in this case the servanthood has the same humility as Jesus’ servant hood when he kneeled down and washed the disciple’s feet and said, “You tell your master and lord, you see that I am here washing your feet.” So it would seem to me there that servanthood is meant to qualify them for authority.
Authority and Rebellion - AUTHORITY
Authority and Rebellion 2 Peter 2:10-12 Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill Last time, we began our study on authority and subjection and today, we’ll close what we’ve been talking about. God has been showing us the need for some understanding of authority and submission and subjection inside the body. One of the real difficulties for many of us has been that we’ve lived in such a licentious and permissive kind of society that it may seem strange to some of the older ones among us, but many of us have really surprisingly little understanding of what authority and subjection is all about. I think some of us find great difficulty in being able to tell whether we are in submission or whether we are in rebellion ourselves. What I’d like to share tonight is three of the ways in which rebellion shows itself. It will enable us, through the Holy Spirit, to at least look at our own actions and our own behavior and then tell whether we are in the right relationship to God’s authority. Because it is true that if you’re in the right relationship to the authority of God then you have no trouble with other delegated authorities, you see. Every one of us that is fighting our father or fighting our mother, every one of us that is fighting the government, every one of us that is fighting the elders in the body, we’re having trouble with Gods authority. That’s really our basic problem. So what are the signs that there is rebellion in our hearts? The first sign is our word. A lack of a spirit of submission, or a respect for authority, or for those whom God has put over us is seen in our words. You can see this 2 Peter 2:10-12, if you look at it. 2 Peter 2:10-12, and Peter is describing some of the disorderly people who will take over the world towards the end of times. 2 Peter 2:10, “And especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they are not afraid to revile the glorious ones,” and you reviling and criticizing, “Whereas angels though, greater in might and power, do not pronounce a reviling judgment upon them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and killed, reviling in matters of which they are ignorant, will be destroyed in the same destruction with them.” You can see those are strong words against those who despise authority and express the contempt in their words. And then in Ephesians 5:6, you get the same kind of emphasis that a rebellion or a spirit of rebellion is expressed in words. Ephesians 5:6, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Disobedience and rebellion is shown really in the empty words that people speak. And Matthew 12:34 is one last one that we should look at. Matthew 12:34, “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” And really brothers and sisters you can hold yourself in, in all kinds of ways, but if you have a real lack of a submissive spirit you know, and we’ll talk about the difference of submission and obedience in a moment, but if you have a lack of a submissive spirit towards professors at school, towards your own parents, towards the authorities, eventually out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. You may be able to hold it in, whether while you’re in their presence, but eventually when you get them away out of it you’ll revile them with words of criticism. So often you can tell what your own inner attitude is by the way you speak of people who have authority over you when they’re absent. I think that’s why many of us do not bless our teachers, or we do not bless our parents, we are not a blessing to authorities in the body because our obedience or submission to them is just out of the mouth and out of the eyes, but it really isn’t an inner thing. So when we get rid of them, the old mouth lets the expression of rebellion out. Now examples of rebellion expressed in words: we’ve looked at some of them before but maybe it would be good to look at them again because God always shows us some new things. Genesis 3:3 is one clear instance. Genesis 3:3 and you remember, it’s in the Garden of Eden and Eve is talking with Satan and she says, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden,” in 2b and then 3, “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.’” Now the rebellion in that is found in the last three words, or rather the four words before those final three, because look at God’s own words in 2:16. Genesis 2:16, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “’ You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’” But God never said, “Neither should you touch it.” Now it’s interesting that if a man or a woman really respects God’s authority every word of God is important, and he’s very slow to change God’s word. It sounds corny at first, “Oh just add another phrase,” but it’s interesting the more anxious you are to be submissive to God the more important his words are to you. I suppose we found that a lot I was brought up in a kind of liberal seminary atmosphere, and we were very easy going about God’s words. We would wipe off a scriptural difficulty just with, “Ah, it was Paul’s mistake. It wasn’t God’s revelation. It was Paul’s mistake.” We would be very casual about God’s words. But it’s interesting when we come under submission to Jesus, every word of God is precious and every word of God is important. It’s also interesting that then when you speak God’s word to others, whether you’re speaking in a house fellowship or whether you’re speaking a word of personal counsel to a friend, it’s important just to speak what God gives you to speak and not to add to it or subtract from it. That’s one way in which rebellion is shown, in taking a person’s words casually. Isn’t it true that a lot of us have got into difficulty in our relationship to authorities by misquoting them, and quoting them glibly and carelessly? How many problems come about because people misquote? I think I spend a lot of my time gathering up the mis-quotes that people use. They say, “Pastor said,” and I have to get right round back of it and say what I think I originally did say. But I think that when you’re anxious to submit to God then there’s a care over every word. Now there’s another instance, dear ones, Genesis 9:22. Genesis 9:22, and you remember that Noah had two sons and you remember Ham one of them Shem and Japheth were the others. And you remember that Noah got drunk and he laid there naked and of course, it was an attitude of disrespect for the sons to see him naked. Now Genesis 9:22, “And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.” It’s a good way to check your submissiveness to authority. If you find yourself telling things about the authority that take away from the dignity of the authority or take away from the other person’s trust in that authority, then there’s a rebellion hiding in your heart you know. Even though you have very good when you’re facing the authority, yet if you find yourself despising the authority or contentious of the authority when the authority isn’t present to others, then probably there is a rebellion in your heart. It’s interesting how used we have got to deception and hypocrisy — isn’t it really? I mean, we’ve almost – we’ve grown up in this atmosphere of deception and hypocrisy and so it’s become an easy thing to us to have two faces. We show this face to the authority, but behind the authorities back, we show another face completely. Yet, I think a lot of us have problems in our spiritual life because of that dishonesty, that schizophrenia. So, that’s one way in which you can detect a rebellion in your heart. More and more God is bringing it home to my heart that it doesn’t simply apply to my attitude to those in authority over me, but it applies in my attitude to you. If I say something about Gary to Sam when Gary is absent I’m not responsible to Gary. I’m having to be submissive to him. If anything, he is to be submissive to me, but yet I’m doing the same kind of thing has Ham did. I’m trying in some way to lower the dignity of Gary himself in Sam’s eyes. Now brothers and sisters I honestly do think that we are careless in our words and in our attitude to authorities. You can think, loved ones, think of your attitude to the teachers you know, those of you who are at college or at Bethel. We have all kinds of reasons for it, haven’t we? But really we’re undermining the dignity of the teacher, or the dignity of his position in regard to the other person. So it’s one way in which it shows itself. Would you look Numbers 12:2? Again, it’s one I think that we have looked at before. Numbers 12:2, “And they said,” you remember of course, that Moses married a Cushite woman and Miriam and Aaron were his older brother and sister, “And they said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?’ And the Lord heard it.” Contempt for authority is expressed in words and almost always comes out of words. It comes out in words. A respect for authority will close your mouth, and will seal your mouth, and will solve a lot of problems, really. A lot of us would talk far less if we really had respect for the authorities that God has placed over us. Mind you, a lot of us might have had really little to talk about then or be very poor on conversation, and it does take a real willingness to be thought a most uninteresting person in order to abstain from misusing words. But really dear ones, we always express a rebellion sooner or later in words, and it always comes out. Numbers 16:3 is the situation you remember, where Korah led a rebellion against Moses and is the same thing. Numbers 16:3, “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 then 16:31-32, “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.” And the reason seems to be that words, in some way, are even worse than thoughts. In some way words bring destruction to the whole order of authority and submission in a way that even thoughts don’t. That’s why you remember, Jesus said, “For you will give account of the last day for every careless word you utter.” It does seem when you utter words in criticism of an authority or in criticism of anybody you lose spiritual power dear ones, you do. I mean, you must admit it yourself — haven’t you experienced a kind of dissipation of spiritual life when you’ve talked about somebody else you know? I know I have, whether it’s an authority over me or not, there seems to be a loss of spiritual power when you revile anyone or you criticize anyone. Something my dad used to say comes back to me. For a long time, our house was just chaos before my mom or my brother dealt with God at all. We were fighting and squabbling all over the place, and I would always want to say to my dad, “No dad, you must explain to them what’s wrong. I mean, you must come back at them and explain it.” He would say, “No, no you love them, and you bless them, and you pray for them, and God will do more through that then through all your arguing and discussing.” And of course I was young and thought I knew all the answers and it took me a long time to learn that talking about people really does nothing. All you do is lose spiritual power yourself and it enables Satan to spread enmity, and disagreement, and lack of love, and paranoia among your brothers and sisters. So it is really important. I just have great respect for Watchman Nee — I suppose maybe some of you noticed that. He says this, “Difficulties in the church often derive from slanderous words. Speaking inadvertently is largely responsible for the breaking of the unity of the church and the losing of power.” When you think of the mess we’ve made of our churches right across the nation, by the careless way we’ve criticized pastor, elders, everybody. It’s just like a scythe; we’ve gone in with a scythe and just cut the feet from under them. “Probably most difficulties in the church are due primarily to slanderous words.” Here’s an interesting phrase. It’s one of his insights that are good, “Only a minor part of the difficulties are real problems.” That’s right. Really, only a minor part of the difficulties in any church are real problems. Only a minor part of the difficulties in the body are real problems. It’s always what we do with the problems. It’s the way we increase them and exaggerate them. And remember there was a good illustration that somebody shared about someone who had spread a rumor about someone else or had said something that wasn’t true about them. And the person said, “It’s really like bursting a feather pillow, in a high wind. It’s impossible to gather up all the feathers.” It really is. Once you say something about somebody else you can’t tell where it goes. You have no longer control of it and it’s just impossible ever to get that word back. So loved ones, our words are our ways of expressing our rebellion. Here’s a strange one. Our reasons are often a way of expressing rebellion. Could we read that difficult passage in Romans 9? I’m not going to explain the passage. I’m using it as an illustration. Maybe someday in 10 years time will come to it on Sunday morning. I hope it will be in that length of time till I have the answer. Romans 9:10-24, “And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call she was told, ‘The elder will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’ What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills. You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me thus?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for the beauty and another for menial use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, in order to make know the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, in which he has prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” I will not answer a question on that, I cannot, but I’d like to share that one of the ways we can tell a lack of submission to God is in our always being preoccupied with our own reasons for doing something else. Often God will give us a command and will ask us to obey it, but we will filter it through the old tree of the knowledge of good and evil that we have gathered in our own mind, and we will examine it under our own reason. Now brothers and sisters, do you see that our minds are to be renewed according to the mind of Christ, to take in the values that Jesus himself had? Now if we begin to reason in a fleshly way, we’ll find ourselves often rebelling against God. Many of us can tell that we’re rebelling against God because of our tendency always to give our reasons for doing something different. If we go by reason alone, we’ll eventually end up in slanderous words and in rebellion against them. Now this comes out in a scripture again and again where you find old Miriam and Aaron. They had reason for criticizing Moses. He had married a Cushite woman. He ought not to have married outside the tribe and he was wrong to do it. They found the reason. They said, “We’re his older brother and sister. We have the right to rebuke him.” [Numbers 12:1] But according to God’s state of values he was the head of the people, the leader of God’s own people, so he was superior to his elder brother and sister. According to God’s reasoning, they had no right to criticize him. But you find that most of the cases of rebellion they always find reasons for criticizing. You remember old Korah said, “You’ve led us out here in the wilderness. There’s no promise land.” He had a good reason, you see. There was a good reason for criticizing God’s leader. Now brothers and sisters, I think Satan often gets us to rebel against God’s authorities on the basis of using our reasons and giving good reasons for rebelling — and you know how we do it. We’ll do it against the dad who is an alcoholic. The reason is plain and obvious. We’ll do it against a teacher who is a bit liberal in his theology. The reason is obvious. We have always good reasons for it. We’ll do it against an elder who doesn’t seem to be as mature as the other elders and we seem to have good reason for it. But do you see that if you go simply by reason you end up living your life by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? I don’t know how many of you have ended up complicating your life by not doing what God was telling you to do, but by reasoning about it. I think maybe two weeks ago, a brother told me what God seemed to want him to do, and I said, “Go and do it. Do it and be finished with it and obey him.” But the brother fiddled around and reasoned around it and argued around it. The next week he came and he wasn’t so clear on it: “Now I’m not sure which, not sure whether it’s Satan or whether it’s God who is telling me.” And the next week he didn’t do anything. He just left the whole thing. Now it seems to me brother and sisters that we can get into difficulty by not leading the simple life of faith. We try to walk by sight all the time and by our reasons and our arguments. Now loved ones, I’m not opposing the mind. The mind is there to gather information. But the mind is there to be controlled by the Holy Spirit after it’s got the information. We often try to use the mind to bring about the thing ourselves. You notice of course, from that piece in Romans 9, God just doesn’t argue. He says, “Look I am God. Some things I tell you, you won’t know why I’m telling you them. You have to obey me just because you trust me.” And that comes out I think in Leviticus 18. From Leviticus 18:22, God is telling the people what to do. And he doesn’t give them great reasons for obeying him. He must have bored them to tears. He keeps repeating this phrase, this clause, and you’ll see it if you read it a wee bit. Leviticus 18:1-5, and you’ll see the clause occurring several times. Leviticus 18:1, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to the people of Israel, I am the Lord your God.’” That’s his reason. “You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall do my ordinances and keep my statutes and walk in them.” Here’s the reason, “I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my ordinances, by doing which a man shall live.” Why? “I am the Lord.” And just keeps on and really gets to you. Verse 6, “None of you shall approach any one near of kin to him to uncover nakedness.” Why? Would it be physically bad, or …? “I am the Lord.” That’s the reason. And just keeps on through all those commands about sexual relationships and keeps on saying, “Why? Because I am the Lord.” In Verse 21, “You shall not give any of your children to devote them by fire to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.” Now God will often tell us to do things and he’ll expect us to obey him just because he is God. And brothers and sisters it is important to know when that happens. And it’s important, too, to see that Satan gets us to become rebellious on the basis of our reasons. I’m sure there isn’t one of you who would disobey mom or dad, or disobey an elder, or disobey authorities without excellent reasons for doing it. Except, that you see, there’s no reason that is sufficient for doing it, except that you’re obeying God, rather than man. So it’s important. REASONS are one way [to rebel against God] and THOUGHTS are the other. You find it in 2 Corinthians 10:4-6. You can detect rebellion in your own spirit just by your thoughts. 2 Corinthians 10:4-6, “For the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” And then what are the strongholds? “We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” It’s amazing that men and women protect themselves from God behind endless defense lines of thought. They have always good reasons for really not dealing with God and their thoughts run along those lines. The only way to deal with it, is to bring every thought into captivity of Jesus. But many of us are so opinionated that we cannot possibly submit to the Father. Old Saul was on his way from Tarsus to Jerusalem to arrest the Christians. Jesus confronted him and told him to go to Jerusalem. And he neither went back to Tarsus nor did he go on to go to Damascus, nor did he go on to go to Jerusalem. He went straight to Damascus where he was told. Now many of us, we’re on our way from Tarsus to Jerusalem and Jesus confronts us and tells us, “Go to Damascus,” but we either go back to Tarsus first or we go on to Jerusalem first. But we’re very full of our own opinions and our own thoughts and we think, “Well, now it might be better to go this way, or to go that way.” Now really brothers and sisters, your thoughts can show you whether you are really trusting in God’s authority and really submissive to him, or whether you have lots of ideas of your own. Now maybe it would be good just finally to look at the statement that we made some time ago: that submission is an attitude and is absolute, but obedience concerns action and is relative. It’s relative to God’s will for you. So could we look at a few verses? There is a place for obeying God rather than men. Hebrews 11:23 “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” Now by faith obviously they were guided, it says, to do this. They were not afraid of the king’s edict, in spite of the fact that God’s word tells you to respect those who are in authority over you. Now then, see Matthew 2:13 in connection with Jesus’ own birth. Remember, this is in the light of the fact that later on in the New Testament — there is that piece in Romans, “Respect those who are authority over you, because the authorities are placed there by God. And 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”. Matthew 2:13, “Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’” So there was a time there to disobey the governing authority. And then again in Acts 5:27-29, that’s the plain and obvious one — “And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’” Now dear ones, there are times it seems when obedience has to be relative to God’s own command to you, and though your submission must be absolute, yet your obedience in that case has to be first to God and only secondly to men. Now obviously, it is always concerned with preaching God’s word or with transmitting God’s life, or with a clear command of God to you. It brings up the whole area of what attitude you should take to parents who just will not let you go to the mission field. There’s the whole teaching that Bill Gothard has shared that, yes you go with it. You submit to those parents. They’re part of God’s chain of authority. Sooner or later, the Holy Spirit will work with them. Now all I suggest is that you must put alongside that, Acts 5:29. You must also see that there seems to be a time when you must obey God rather than man. Now only the Holy Spirit it seems, can show us the difference. The attitude must always be the same dear ones — I think that’s it. Acts 4:19 shows that the attitude always has to be the same. The attitude has to be one of submission and respect. So even if you make suggestions to your parents or creative alternatives, as even I think Bill Gothard would suggest you do, yet they must be made in a submissive attitude of respect. Acts 4:19, “But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge.” Peter and John’s attitude was, “Well look, we respect you but you have to judge which is right for us to do.” And so there was an attitude of submission to them. Now you probably have to work that out in your own relationships with parents and your own relationships with authorities. All I do submit to you is that while submission must be absolute, surely obedience must a relative kind of thing. Now I think too many of us are too anxious to rebel against the parents or authorities. That’s where we come into trouble. Too few of us are sure that we have a command from God. Too many of us lack a submissive attitude and submissive spirit to those in authority and so, were looking for an excuse to disobey them. But it seems brothers and sisters, where you really have an attitude of submission and respect for parents, or teachers, or elders, or those in authority over you, that comes over to the authority and it has a winsome way of breaking down their opposition to you so that you can actually share what you believe God is telling you to do. So it seems that God does work these things out if the attitude is correct and if it is an attitude of submission. It seems to me that those of us who have an obedient spirit have definite signs. I think for one thing, if you have an obedient spirit rather than a rebellious spirit, you will look for authority wherever you go. You will look for authority. Perfect authority and perfect obedience is found in Jesus’ body. There’s no perfect obedience found outside his body, certainly. Normally, a person who has a spirit of obedience will look for a body to belong to, and to come in, and to be under the authorities that God has set up in that body. Another mark of a person who has an obedient spirit will be a softness and a tenderness. A person who has respect for God’s authority has a tenderness about them and a softness. They’re always afraid to err and to go aside from what God is telling them. So, there’s a gentleness about them and they are easily reproved. They are easily turned in God’s hand. I think probably, submissive people who have an attitude or spirits of submissiveness are very reluctant to council, or to command, or to be in authority over other people. But like Plato’s old recommendation, you remember, that only the philosophers govern, and among them only the ones who didn’t want to, govern. It seems that that’s one of the marks of a person who is submissive to God’s authority. There’s a reluctance to be an authority over others, a reluctance to control them. I think there’s a great desire to keep their mouths closed, and to speak little, and just to speak when God tells them to speak. I think there’s also sensitivity to lawlessness or rebellion whenever it does occur. Now it seems brothers and sisters, that we might talk in some future Sundays about delegated authorities and who is able to be a delegated authority, yet this is probably the last time we’ll deal with our attitude to authorities. So maybe we should just have a few minutes if you want to ask questions. Q. If your dad or mom tells you to submit in something, do they not need to give you a reason? A. It seems to me that’s right. I think any sensible dad or mom will see that it’s important to try to give a reason if you possibly can because, for instance, it helps the son or daughter to mature and to understand as well as to obey. Paul, it would be true, that they really should not be required to give a reason to us, that we ought to submit to them until their commands cross God’s will for us, and there of course, our own hearts have to be very clear before God. They have to be very sure that we are totally submissive to them in spirit and therefore, that we can know when their commands contradict God’s. Q. [Question from audience is inaudible.] A. I think it is true, that yes, that a real attitude of submissiveness to authority does not demand reasons from that authority. Now I, on my part, would say any authority that knows anything about authority would be certainly very wise to give reasons wherever he or she can. But we, in our attitude of submission to them, should have no right to require reasons. That’s the basis of command and obedience. Obedience is really obedience when you don’t maybe see it the way they do. That’s why I think our obedience is only tested often with God when he disagrees with us. That’s the test of our obedience, whether we go his way on that occasion. Come back at me again if you want. Q. Is there any place for us telling a person where they’re wrong? A. Yes, but it has to be done very wisely, it seems. If you do it in a way that is commanding, or that does not have an attitude or a spirit of submission in it, then I think you begin to undermine that person’s position and in fact, you disobeyed by coming out of position yourself. So as a general rule, I would say it’s very difficult to do, even with one who is an equal with you, let alone one who is an authority over you. But certainly it must be possible if you have a real attitude of submission yourself. I would recommend to us all to try prayer first and see if they are still in touch with the Holy Spirit, in which case, if they are, he will transmit to them what we have prayed. So I strongly recommend that we depend a lot in prayer on that whole subject of putting each other right. Especially, it would seem to me if they are in authority. I think many of us have done irrefutable damage in our homes, by explaining to our father just where his theology was, a little old fashioned, perhaps. And I think we’ve done irrefutable damage by pulling him out of his position. He has maybe been prepared to agree with what we said, but he felt there was something wrong. And dear love him, he was right. He sensed there was something not right in the relationship. So it is that I really praise God for brothers and sisters here, who pray for me a lot, and trust that I am still close enough to the Holy Spirit to hear what he’s saying. So I don’t have a lot of brothers and sisters who are putting me right in my theology, or even putting me right where I am making mistakes in administration. It seems that to me to be more an up-building thing then going around putting me right. So I say, yes, in a very rare case where you be very sure there’s an attitude of submission inside yourself. Q. [Question from audience is inaudible.] So you’re dealing with an employer or with someone who is over you in a job situation, or with someone in your family situation? It seems to me you have almost no grounds for speaking to them at all in that case. I can see a person who is sensitive spiritually, perhaps being anxious. I trust God that I would be anxious to see where God was putting me right, wherever it was coming from. In other words, it seems to me if you’re sensitive to the Spirit, you’re anxious to find out where you’re wrong, wherever the information comes from. I don’t see why a person who is not sensitive to the Spirit would have any of that attitude. I think they would just crush you with their heel. I think on a purely worldly a basis, they presumably have every right to. I don’t think it’s particularly open minded of them, but I think most of them would take that attitude. I think it’s really difficult with an employer, or with a boss, or with parents who don’t see it your way. I think it’s intercessory prayer. And brothers and sisters, why I fight against this business of putting the other person right by word is I think we’re babies in intercessory prayer. If I felt all of you were on your knees two hours every day in intercessory prayer, then I would think, ‘Well maybe if that didn’t work, maybe you should speak to them.” But I feel that many of us aren’t praying strongly for the people in authority over us. I think prayer is the first thing you try — and after you’ve done two hours a day and it doesn’t work, then maybe you can think of trying words. Q. How do you interpret the verses, “Rebuke your brother”? A. Brother that’s part of the problem — that we have quoted these verses glibly. In fact, there isn’t a verse that says that. There are verses in James that says that if you convert another man and turn him from his sins, you will cover a multitude of sins — but you could obviously convert them by prayer, and not simply by speaking words. There’s another verse that says, if your brother sins against you then you ought to go to him and tell him. Now it that case, it’s a definite thing that he has done against you. I believe that God’s Spirit is showing us that we first have to pray over whatever we feel that our brother has done against us and come into real victory over it ourselves. And then, go to brother and confess whatever resentment we had to him, and trust the Holy Spirit to make it clear to him what was wrong in his case. Now I know that Matthew goes further at times if the brother won’t listen. It seems to me, Steve, in an issue like a finance situation, if Sam had been in business with Hank, and Hank had taken $2,000 or $3,000 of the business money and left Sam just in trouble, it is obviously just not the work of a man of God. And so, Sam has to go to Hank first and tell him. Then if Hank won’t listen, they both have to come to me and explain the situation. But it seems to me it’s that kind of situation that the Father is talking about rather than situations where somebody has offended me by saying something hard against me. It seems to me I ought to intercede for that person, win victory over it myself and go and share with them that I love them. Q. How would you define the distinction between placidity and submission? A. It would seem to me, brother, that submission for one thing, would be a loving, positive attitude of affection and eagerness to obey towards a person. Whereas passivity would be just an attitude, “Well I’m here, and I’m in this position and I just have to suffer whatever comes,” — a kind a fatalism, kind of, “I don’t have a positive attitude of a love or affection to a person. I’m here and I better grin and bear it.” It’s an attitude of stoical endurance. It would seem to me that would be passivity. Submission is a loving active thing, and I once shared one evening that I think you can really bless another person. However, I think there can be a “Uriah Heep-ish” quality. Do you know Uriah Heep in Dickens? He was always saying, “Your humble servant, sir.” Now I think there can be that kind of attitude that is just miserable. You just don’t want anything to do with it. It just seems you can almost feel it in the wringing of his hands. Now there’s no place for that, but it seems to me there’s a place for a healthy, loving submission to another person that blesses the other person. It seems to me that kind of healthy atmosphere then leaves a lot of room for all kinds of humor and all kinds of easiness in the relationship. I know just as a school teacher, I would always be much more confident with a student that I knew, and that I could joke a lot with him. But it was the other fellow that was always looking to get under the guard that you had to watch for. I think that’s the same situation. Q. Inaudible question: [What about] fornicators and adulators? A. Brother is bringing up a quotation that it seems to me could maybe be expressed even more bluntly. Paul says, “I excluded a certain person. I gave a certain person over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh,” and I think what he did was exclude the person from the church fellowship so that the person in question would know the seriousness of his relationship with God and would begin to seek God. The Holy Spirit would begin to deal with it so that the person would not be able to do what many people unfortunately can do today. They can be kept in the church either because of the money they give or for some other reason. They can continue to be bluffed into thinking they’re still a child of God. Now obviously brother, there is a place for the apostle or the successors to the apostles — and I would imagine it would be pastors and elders in our present body — to discipline a person. It would be important to do that. I think for instance — and I don’t want to offend the dear ones who may be here. I don’t know that there are any Mormons here tonight, but I know there are a couple of dear brothers who went into the Mormon Church some years ago and then come back. You’re not too sure whether they’re seeking to love Jesus and seeking to be a blessing, or whether maybe there’s a wee bit of interest in other sheep. And so in that situation there is a place for the leader, for the elder, for the leader in a house or for the pastor to exclude them from the body. So it seems to me, yes brother, there’s a place for discipline in the body, but it would seem to me it’s the responsibility of the pastor and the elders. God has in some way placed you older brothers and sisters in a position of eldership, whether you’re officially elders or not. It would seem to me the same thing would apply to you. It seems God just will give wisdom at times to you. So it would seem to me, that’s it, brother. Dear ones, do you see what I’m protesting against? Old Oswald Chambers was very wise and he said, “The undergraduate sin is criticism,” and that’s what I’m fighting. We are just so open, aren’t we, as we’re discovering lots of new things to want to put everybody right — as long as we don’t have to get right ourselves. It’s so easy to be pointing the finger at each other. I think a lot of love is required and a lot of praying for each other, and just a great deal of tolerance of each other. Jesus will put us all right if we do that. It seems important, nevertheless, to have at least the degree of honesty that we would have in a sensitivity group and that to at least be able to be as honest with each other as that? Surely the important thing is the spirit with which we say things? I think that’s true. I think the problem about a sensitivity group is it’s not gathered by the Holy Spirit at all. It’s just, let me throw everything at you whether it does you good or does you harm. But it seems under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, there is a time for real honesty with each other. So, Marlene, the heart of that is if we’re going to minister up building to a person, we need to be very sure that they are able to receive it — and indeed, maybe even suspecting it themselves. It seems real administering a thing to a person rather than just saying it to them is having the discernment to see that they already even are suspecting it themselves — and will be willing to receive it. I would like to say that this is all consistent with real honesty, dear ones. I use a phrase that is sometimes I think brothers and sisters may misunderstand it. We’re having a meeting and we’re trying to decide whether we should buy bread for the bizarre from the supermarket across the way, or whether we should buy it from a wholesaler. I think it’s fairly obvious what we should do, but we’re discussing the thing — and I’ll say, “Okay, fight me on it. Here are my reasons for it. Fight me on it.” And they’ll think, “Well we’ll pull out the guns.” But I really mean that we should have such a healthy relationship with each other, such a healthy attitude of love and submissiveness that we should be able to offer strong reasons to each other. If you have better reasons, and God does not check me on it or check another brother on it, let’s go. But yeah, Marlene, I think there should be greater honesty among brothers and sisters in Jesus than anywhere else. And it has no place for, “Yes ma’am” – as John brought it up last Sunday. There’s no place for just agreeing because you’re supposed to obey authority. But again Marlene, it seems to me it’s always the spirit of the thing. I know in the elders meetings on Tuesday night, it just can be very straight because I have no question of the brothers’ attitude to me. It’s just I know they would die for me and I would die for them. They would die to maintain my position and I for them. So there’s a possibility of great honesty — but if Satan gets in there and seems to deceive that spirit, then boy, the whole thing can change. Q. How do you see the Old Testament prophets? In the position of a preacher brother, I think it’s a unique position, and I mean I thank God for it, but it’s one that I think one has to use very humbly, and carefully, and wisely and I know that God gives us a real freedom in a preaching situation. Except brother, for instance, that one of the things I have to die to when I go into the pulpit is anything I know about Dave, or Mike, or anything I know about Sam. I have to die to that and ask the Holy Spirit what he wants to feed his body today. And so brother, a prophet or a preacher who is under the anointing of the Holy Spirit is not really speaking his own words. He’s speaking what God wants spoken to the body and the Holy Spirit applies it individually. And so brother, even in preaching it seems me, there’s no place for me speaking to John directly and rebuking him. But I agree with you, the prophet and the preachers seem to have a unique position where he speaks generally to a situation. It’s the Holy Spirit I think that applies it individually. I think a sister was going out last day and she said, “How did he know we were coming today?” Well I didn’t know they were coming — but the Holy Spirit did and he applied the word directly to her heart. So I think that’s a miracle brother. I think it’s a unique position. I think you have to pray for me and I have to pray for every one of you that ever preaches or speaks, because it’s a dangerous position and a gracious one for Jesus to give to men. Q. [Question is inaudible.] A. This is an old problem. A lot of us have been in a sensitivity group being organized in the nursing school in the University by someone who is an authority over her. Some of the older brothers and sisters may not know, but the sensitivity group approach is that you’ve to get up and say all your good points. You tell what you think is good in you and then tell the things that are bad in you. I mean, it’s wild. Anybody who can lie any way at all will get clear of that one, I’m sure. It just proves nothing. But sis, no. I think it’s wrong. I think we witness, however difficult it is. I’m not for sticking out as sore fingers if we can avoid it, but in that situation, I think you witness. I think you say, “No, I don’t really know what is good. If I were really honest with you, in regard to God, I don’t think I’m good at all.” I’d turn it into a testimony. But sis, I know it’s too easy to quickly say that, but I would be honest with my Lord in the thing. I wouldn’t play their game. Push me. [Question/comment from same person is inaudible.] A. Yes, alright I would do it. I don’t think she can force you to say what you don’t believe. You probably don’t really – or, do you? Ah, you do look a little proud. No, I know, but you see, she presumably wants you to say things like, “Well I’m really very good with people, and I get on very well with people. I don’t get on very well with nursing instructors, but with people.” And it seems to me you really have to be honest. You have to say what you’ve found in relationship to Jesus. You have to say, “Well I’m sure many people might say that I’m a sociable type, but I know in my own heart, that boy, I lack a lot real love for people, real unselfish love.” I think why that is, is a lot of us have good times in our classes when we’ve taken the opportunities. It’s one thing to not say anything and another thing to make up an opportunity. For example, when the electric light bulb goes out you say, “Yes, but I have the real light.” No, that’s terrible. That just makes fun of Jesus and that isn’t blessing. But this other kind of situation is very real, and I think can be a blessing. Lots of us in speech classes have really been used by Jesus to transmit his life to others because they’ve just given us an opportunity to speak about things that we were concerned about. Q. Could you speak about reluctance to be over other people? It seems to me sis, that that would be a very safe attitude to have. And I know I have kind of felt that, “Lord, I’ll try to keep myself under you. I don’t really want the job of trying to keep a lot of other people under you.” I think it’s a good attitude to have, sis, that it’s a terrible responsibility to exercise authority. I’m sure it’s good – at least I can say this positively — I’m sure that those of us who are in authority should be reluctant to exercise authority. We should exercise it when Jesus tells us. Now I don’t think we should stand back for a moment when he tells us to exercise it — that’s important. But I think we should be suspicious of any readiness and eagerness to exercise authority. I think the only things that enable a man or woman to exercise authority in the Spirit is God’s Holy Spirit and God’s grace. So you’ll only want to do it when God tells you to do it and gives you the grace to do it. Well maybe we should pray dear ones.
Delegated Authority - AUTHORITY
Delegated Authority Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill Perhaps just for the last night tonight, dear ones, let’s talk about authority and from a slightly different angle. You know that we’ve been talking over the past three or four Sundays about authority and subjection primarily from the point of view of subjection. We’ve been talking about our position and our responsibility to submit to those in authority over us, and to treat especially delegated authority’s as the authority of God himself. Do you remember what we found out from Jesus’ own attitude which is kind of appropriate even in the face of Watergate? Matthew 22:21, and you remember he was speaking of at least as corrupt a government certainly as we’re finding we have had. And Matthew 22:21, and verse 17 would start the question, “’Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the money for the tax.’ And they brought him a coin. And Jesus said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ They said, ‘Caesar’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’” And it’s from Jesus’ own example, and from especially the passage in Romans 13, where Paul advises us to be subject to those in authority over us because they have been appointed by God. It’s because of that that we have shared our responsibility as Christians to submit to the authority’s and trust God to deal with them. That’s even in the face of Watergate, brothers and sisters. I think some of us can see how in a sense we made it all the more difficult probably. Now I don’t want to go out and argue this one but it’s a possibility that we made it more difficult for the press to get hold of the new approach, because of a great deal of the rebellion and the revolution among us. In a sense, probably, the system has enough of God’s grace working within the society to make it work. So we can see how at least up to the present time we thank God, our system seems to be working. As long as there is an aware and live alert populous with a conscience of their own. So it kind of brings out the fact that our place is to submit to those in authority, and God will deal with the authorities. Nevertheless, I think all of us can see that the authorities that we have had over us have certainly not forwarded the cause of God or the cause of truth in our society or in the world. And what I’d like to talk about tonight is the qualifications for delegated authorities that are going to be used by God. Now brothers and sisters, do you see we are committed to submit to those delegated authorities? I suppose Holderman was not an authority really. But we’re to submit to the authorities of Nixon and presumably Agnew, and presumably Mitchell whatever they’re like, and we’re to trust God to turn back the mistakes that they make, and to save us from the mistakes that they make. But we can see that God wants delegated authorities who do his will, that’s really what he wants. That’s what you and I are to be. Why I’d like to deal therefore with the qualifications of delegated authorities is, the delegated authorities will forward actually God’s will. They will not thwart it, they will not frustrate his will, and they will make a way for his will. I say this because all of us are going to be delegated authorities. If you’re not going to be a dad and mum, at least you’re going to be a friend and a counselor to someone who is younger or more junior than yourself in spiritual things, and eventually all of us are going at least in that human personal way to be delegated authorities. But in the bigger sense of the body, do you see that if we’re going to get 10,000 of us out in the world for Jesus to deal with the 2.5 billion people who don’t know him, then everybody really who is in the body at this time is going to be a leader, whether you want to or not. We’re all going to have to be leaders in some sense. So, loved ones, I share this with you as applicable to you. Not just to the elders and to myself to whom Jesus is speaking, but to all of us who are going to come into a position of being delegated authorities. One of the qualifications for delegated authorities is in Romans 13:1, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” Here is the irrelevant clause, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” So a delegated authority has to be absolutely convinced that the authority comes from God, not from himself. It is not your opinions or my ideas, it is not your insight or my cleverness that originates the authority. It is the Father who owns the authority, and it is his authority alone that we exercise. In other words, if you think of a policeman and a judge, they do not write the law. The authority does not come from then — they are only representing the law that already exists. Now so in delegated authority we don’t have the authority from ourselves — we have it from God. So, brothers and sisters, do you see it’s important that we do not exercise authority on the basis of our own opinions or our own ideas, or our own plans? It’s vital that we see that is comes from God, and that it is a knowledge of God’s will that gives us the authority. And unless a man or a woman knows Gods will in a particular instance they cannot exercise authority. So if you come to me and share some of your life and some of the difficulties with me, I cannot think that my brilliant little mind has met these difficulties before, and so out of the wealth and my wisdom I will share what you want to do. I cannot do that, nor can you do it if you’re a delegated authority. The only justification for giving you any kind of advice as a delegated authority of God is that I know Gods will in that particular instance, and loved ones, that’s the basis for delegated authority. It is not because my ideas are better than your ideas. Brothers and sisters, it isn’t even because I might be older spiritually than you, and it isn’t because some of the older brothers and sisters here might be older chronologically than us, or even older spiritually. It is because you know God’s will in a certain instance, and therefore our job really is to seek God’s will. Now obviously this is why God puts younger brothers and sisters under older brothers and sisters. Because at the beginning it’s very hard to know what is God’s will in certain situations, and is very hard to know even in general attitudes that you have in your own life whether they are God’s will or not. That’s why the Father graciously puts us, when we’re younger under older brothers and sisters. Nevertheless the older ones who are the delegated authorities are under the same limitation. They can only give an opinion, or give advice, or direct a younger brother and sister on the basis of then knowing God’s will themselves. Brothers and sisters, it’s from learning, it’s from the things you learn from God in secret then your authority issues. And if you do not learn things from God then you have no authority. Now do you see that put paid to all the worldly wisdom that we want to pass on to each other, or all the good general advice that we have for each other? That’s just a knowledge of good and evil that is no basis for our authority, the only basis we have is knowing God’s will. Now if you say to me, “All right brother, does it mean every time I come to you, yet that you have to first have a long prayer session to know Gods will?” No, it is very possible that God gives before hand to a delegated authority the answer to a certain question before it comes to him. Now it’s not that I sit in my office and think, “Ah yeah now Jim is going to come with this question and I have got the answer.” No, but it’s when the question comes a delegated authority knows whether God has given it to him or not. Now here’s the important thing, if you don’t know, shut up. Really, and that’s a hard thing. It’s a really hard thing for us to do, but it’s really the second qualification of delegated authorities. You must deny yourself speaking in your own natural wisdom. You must just keep your mouth closed if you don’t know what God is saying. It is possible that you’re the only one in the world that thinks your ideas are best. It is, it’s just possible that you are the only one in the world that thinks your ideas are best. Maybe nobody else thinks your ideas are best. In fact, your ideas are not worth sharing. There’s a real need brothers and sisters, to deny ourselves sharing our own ideas, and to keep quiet when we haven’t a word from the Lord, and to be humble enough before Jesus, and trusting enough of the Father, and of his ability to provide for those who come to us for help. It’s necessary for us to trust God enough to keep quiet, and not to speak something that is only of man, their death for one thing, their wasting breath for another. If Satan really gets to use them they can really lead a person off on the wrong track. So it’s very important for delegated authorities to know that their authority comes from God and to be prepared to seek God until they really understand his will in a certain issue. That means delegated authorities really have to spend a lot of time in prayer. Matthew 8:9 I think says something about that. It’s the centurion who says he can say to a servant, “Go,” and he goes, but then in verse 9, Matthew 8:9, “For I am a man under authority,” for I am a man under authority, “with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” But I am a man under authority, he doesn’t say, “In authority.” I am the man under authority, I am a centurion who is under the authority of the Roman Empire, and therefore I can say to people under me, “Go,” and they go. Now, do you see, dear ones, that delegated authorities have no right to exercise authority unless they themselves are under the authority of God, and unless they keep their mouth closed until Jesus speaks to them, or the Holy Spirit reveals to them? It’s necessary for them to do that otherwise they no longer are exercising delegated authority. This is why delegated authorities cannot be subjective persons. They cannot be talkative opinionated people, who have lots of ideas to dish out to everybody, and lots of good advice for anyone who wants to come along. A delegated authority has to be a man or a woman under the restraint of the Holy Spirit knowing when to speak, and when to be silent. Loved ones, that’s why God believes we can trust ourselves so much to delegated authorities who are in the body, because if they’re really delegated authorities set up by the Father they will be safe people to listen to. If they have nothing to say from God, then they won’t say anything. So delegated authority must know that authority comes from God and he must deny himself the right just to speak when he wants to. Numbers 22:25 has a lesson in it that most of us have to pass through of this experience before we are really safe as delegated authorities. Numbers 22:25, and you remember ‘was used by God to speak because Balaam himself really was not under the control of God’s Spirit in the way that a delegated authority has to be, and verse 25 of Numbers 22, “And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she pushed against the wall, and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck her again.” Really God pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall, and he has to do that with many of us before we can be delegated authorities. He has to lame us and bring us into a place where we really distrust our own ideas and our opinions. A place where we distrust them so much that we walk carefully and will not speak unless God speaks. Probably that’s what’s most necessary for us. We live in a society where everybody is giving opinions and advice all around the place, and God wants a group of men and women who will be restrained and will be afraid to speak unless they’re sure their speaking from God. You remember the old Prophets would say that, “The word of the Lord came to me…” and they would say, “Yes this is the word of the Lord.” Even Paul would say, “Now this I say but it’s not a command from the Lord.” And it seems to me that when we come into authority we need to be very clear that we’re always speaking as a command from the Lord. Now the third characteristic of delegated authorities is that they keep in constant communion with God. Now that’s not in constant communication, but it’s in constant communion. It’s a closeness with the Father that enables us to know what his mind is at any given moment. Now really that requires a close understanding of God and a closeness to, and a great distance from other people. Brothers and sisters, it’s good for us to love each other and it’s good for us to be close to each other, but you can’t afford to be closer to anyone than you are to the Father, himself. Communion means a closeness to God that is closer than anything you have for anybody else. And that’s the kind of thing that you see in Jesus’ own life if you look at John 5:19 and 30. It’s incredible the dependency that Jesus expresses that he has for the Father. John 5:19, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise.’” That’s pretty good, you know, isn’t it? When you think that he wouldn’t do anything that the Father doesn’t do, and only what he sees the Father doing that he does. You might compare it with some of our generosity with our great opinions and our great ideas, and it really humbles you, doesn’t it? That Jesus said this that, “I can’t do anything unless I see the Father do it, and I don’t do anything apart from the Father.” Then, brothers and sisters, you think really how we just run off at the mouth — we really do. We just run off like a rip cord that you can’t control. And the Father wants us to stop all that babbling and begin to get close to him, and begin to get his opinions and his ideas. And back to Matthew 5:30 is the same. “’I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.’” And it’s really good, isn’t it? It’s as if Jesus has an ear up to the Father and he’s listening, and hears, Okay, then he speaks. Then he hears then he speaks, and it’s such a dependency compared with what you and I often think is necessary. Brothers and sisters, we are wild people we get a whole lot of knowledge, for instance on Sunday evenings, or from reading books and we just feel that we’re absolutely full of knowledge. We’re absolutely full of life the world should be making a track to our door to receive all the good things that we can dispense to it, and some poor soul makes the mistake of coming to us and we just swamp them. And they get everything, what they’ll need in 20 years time and what they needed five years back, as well as a little of what they’ll need today. But really not the simplicity, not the clear gentle life that God wants them to have, and it all comes from this refusal really to hang upon God. Really it’s to hang upon him. And when you’re hanging upon him then you can trust him to defend the authority. That’s a beautiful thing. When you’re really depending on God and hearing him, and refusing to speak unless you get from communion what he wants you to see then if people oppose your authority or reject it, then you can leave it to him. That’s it, brothers and sisters. If others refuse your authority or reject it than you let them err, but you do not go out and try to defend your own authority. I think a lot of us, and I certainly have made mistakes in this way, we felt we needed to defend out authority. No, if your authority is given by God then he will defend it. Think what we often do, we don’t want people to go astray so far as God is willing for them to go astray. I think some of us think we’re wiser and kinder than God, and we want to hold people back from making mistakes. Whereas God will let them go and make as many mistakes as he allowed us to make so that we really do come back to him by conviction. But when people reject your authority and it’s to delegated authority then you don’t fight it, you just trust God. Watchman Nee has a good thing to say to all of us and suppose I like reading them because it’s more of him preaching to me as well as to you, and the poor husbands and wives too. “I do not like to hear some husbands say to their wives, ‘I am God’s established authority, therefore you must listen to me.’ Nor do take any pleasure in hearing the elders of the church say to brothers and sisters, ‘I am God’s appointed authority.’ Never try to set up your own authority. If God chooses, you receive it with humility. If God does not call you, why should you strive? And it’s just good and I remember I’ve shared with some of you before, that my wife and I never had trouble with authority and submission in our marriage until we went to a spirit filled meeting. That’s what it was called, and I’m not sure that it was. But it was a spirit filled meeting and one brother began to minister the authority of husbands over wives, and he ministered it in a way no one certain terms, probably the problem was he didn’t minister it. He just taught it and preached it, and that was the first time we had any difficulty in our relationship. Now it seems to me that when you make the thing an object of conscience statement, then it can’t come about naturally, and spiritually. It seems, brothers and sisters, that authorities and delegated authorities, and those who are subject to them is a beautiful miraculous creation of the Father that comes about beautifully, and naturally, and easily, and gently. The moment you have to hammer it home to each other, it’s all lost anyway. So it seems there’s never a place for trying to defend your own authority, there is a place as we’ll see in Moses life for exhorting people to respond to God, but there’s never a place for defending your own. Now that comes out really in Moses own life several times. Maybe you’d like to look at just one of them where he really just shows the old graciousness. You get it in Numbers 16, and you remember there was just an outright rebellion there of Korah and the others against Moses authority. And it’s Numbers 16:4 and 5, and maybe you could see in verse 3 the approach, “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?’” It’s just an outright challenge to Moses authority, “When Moses heard it, he fell on his face.” That’s the graciousness of a delegated authority. You fall on your face before the Father, “And he said to Korah and all his company, ‘In the morning the Lord will show who is his, 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 then in verse 6 and 7, “Do this: take censers, Korah and all his company; put fire in them and put incense upon them before the Lord tomorrow, and the man whom the Lord chooses shall be the holy one.” And then he says, “You have gone too far, sons of Levi!” And you know, you think of the old man just saying, “You have gone too far,” but he didn’t rebuke them himself. He said, “No, you seek God.” Now it seems, brothers and sisters, whether it’s dad’s and mum’s, or whether it’s you and your responsibility towards a younger Christian, or whether it’s me and responsibility for you or the elders or the house leaders, it seems that always the delegated authority trusts the Father to defend the authority that he’s set up. What’s the basis for delegated authorities? Well, you’ll find it in what has always been to me a rather baffling passage but now it just makes sense. Numbers 17:1-11, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the people of Israel, and get from them rods, one for each father’s house, from all their leaders according to their fathers’ houses, twelve rods. Write each man’s name upon his rod, and write Aaron’s name upon the rod of Levi. For there shall be one rod for the head of each father’s house. Then you shall deposit them in the tent of meeting before the testimony, where I meet with you. And the rod of the man whom I choose shall sprout; thus I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the people of Israel, which they murmur against you. Moses spoke to the people of Israel; and all their leaders gave him rods, one for each leader, according to their father’s houses, twelve rods; and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. And Moses deposited the rods before the Lord in the tent of the testimony. And on the morrow Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds, and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. Then Moses brought out all the rods from before the Lord to all the people of Israel; and they looked, and each man took his rod. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Put back the rod of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels. That you may make an end of their murmurings against me, lest they die.’ Thus did Moses; as the Lord commanded him, so he did.” It’s really good, dear ones, because the rod when it was cut from the tree was dead, and it died first, and then it was the Father that made it come to life again. Probably that’s the basic qualification for delegated authorities. That we really die to our own need to be an authority, and we die to our own right to be anything at all, and to be anybody in anybody’s eyes, and we are really ready to be nothing before the Father. Really ready to be a failure, really ready for everybody to tell us what to do, and when we really come into that Baptism of Jesus’ death then God makes life blossom from us. I’ve shared it with some of the brothers and sisters here before who have come to the body with many great talents, and with many great ideas for doing things for the Father. It’s so hard for God to dry up all our own ideas, and to dry up all our own abilities, and our own talent, and then for him to make our rod blossom in his own way. Really that’s what’s to happen, brothers and sisters. You know, you are all great people, you really are, and you have lots of ability, and lots of talents but do you see that the subtle arrangement of authority and submission that the Holy Spirit wants to set up among us must be on the basis of what he gives to each of us? It cannot be because Dave has artistic ability, or Kim has real ability with television. It cannot be because Mark knows books, or because Scott understands leather, or because John can sell, or because Lanny can design. It can’t be on the basis of the things that we can do. It has to be a setting up of God’s own authority by bringing about a life of authority from us after we’ve allowed our own to die. Really that death and resurrection is the basis of God’s authority. That kind of authority then is a beautiful and harmonies thing that people don’t fight against, and probably the deepest truth is this, brothers and sisters, wait until God sets up your authority. Wait and be patient until he sets up his delegated authorities to you, and don’t rush it, and don’t be in hast to get into a position of responsibility fast, but let God do it. Then those of us who are in delegated authority positions, dear ones, I think we have to stay close to the Father. We have to be suspicious of our own ideas and our own opinions and really allow him to bring his authority on us. I think I should stop, I don’t know whether you have questions for this. I think I heard you that you were asking is delegated authority or setting up authority something that, is once and for all or can come and go? Yes, that’s why it’s important that you are able to question — it’s as long as we remain in communion of the Father. It’s only as long as we remain in communion with the Father. It seems to that it can go, it can go once we get out of the position with God, the tragedy probably is that many of us who lose our position with God keep trying to build it, keep trying to justify that authority. That’s why it’s vital for delegated authority to know when they’re out of touch with the Father, knowing it is hard. It seems to me it’s set up by God as long as we are in communion with him. Can you stop being a delegated authority? That’s good. A few probably heard just a little better than I did. If you’re ministering to a person, and if God gives you something to say to them, then if he doesn’t give you something to say for a couple of months, does that mean you’re no longer a delegated authority to that person? Yes, it’s better to think of it that way, than to think of it otherwise. It’s better to see that you’re an authority while you’re being used by God, and while his Spirit anoints you. It’s a wee bit like the principle, you kind of attend here at church, how do you become a member of campus church? You see, you’re a member by participating, if you don’t participate there’s no point in having your name on some roll on somebody’s list, and it seems that it’s exactly like the Father’s authority. Then I don’t mean I don’t have the authority anymore but I would feel that the delegated authority would always be in the position when there counseling with another person where their listening for Jesus voice. I [Inaudible 0:30:24.1], and so it seems to me there’s nothing a delegated authority of an attitude, “Well I can’t give anything to this person.” Because that’s based on a total misconception of the person forgetting that Jesus is the one who wants to speak to the counseled not me. The basis of delegated authority would seem to be a very humble dependant on Jesus. Is there people with good authority and others with bad authority? Brother says, “If you’re under authority, if you’re under someone’s authority and they are not in close communion with God then does that mean that it’s not a good authority to be under. It seems obviously, brother, that we cannot choose too much our authorities as far as the president is concerned or the police are concerned, but you’re right, we can choose our authority spiritually. It seems to me we ought to listen to the Holy Spirit to guide us. I think many of us need to make sure we are under the spiritual authority of the Holy Spirit. He wants to speak to us spiritually. Another, it seems to me, we have no choice about our, well we have a choice, we actually vote but we have little choice about the government and God says in that case the heart of the king is in the hands of Lord. And God will overrule so that we are never forced into a position where we cannot obey him. If we ever are forced into that position then we ought to disobey the authority. Brother brings up the point, what about the submission to the government authorities for the people who are smuggling Bibles into Russia? I know no answer. I think it’s a strict one. I don’t want to go to town on it, but I’m unhappy, I think I’m unhappy myself, but can anyone give a pro? Don. What about the authority of the Word of God? Could you use that? I see, so unless they’re going in on Acts 5:29, where the high priest ordered them not to speak about Jesus but the disciples said, “We must obey God rather than men.” Brothers and sisters, you know the smuggling of Bibles is made necessary because of our prayers to our brothers and sisters in Russia. There are few of us upon our knees praying for them each day. That’s what makes you feel difficult brother, because for you to say anything about brother Andrew or about the other brothers who are smuggling the Bibles because we have been so pitiful ourselves. Undoubtedly that is what the Father wants, the Father wants us to be interceding to Russia and China so that the hearts will open and receive the light through the Word of God. That’s the way we tell God about mission needs, we intercede it. God has miraculously opened the way, and I think it’s because of our lack of time in prayer, brothers and sisters. Brother, that’s why I feel God wants us to be a deeper body than maybe we have seen, perhaps before him in missions. It is a question of breaking down the barriers by the power of prayer, and that means obedience, pure obedience . It seems that God is driving us towards China and Russia and we’re only going to get in there by the power of prayer. And it seems, brother, that that’s needed. In other words, the smuggling of Bibles seems to be purely a reliance on God with prayer. Brothers and sisters, though maybe it’s important to see here. That’s where the difference between submission and subjection comes in, probably it would best answer this to say that that is where submission is absolute and obedience is relative. So we would be saying that that counts as obedience is relative, it’s relative to God’s commands. Brother. the problem is how many of us have been directly commanded by God to smuggle Bibles. That’s the crux of the matter. It’s dangerous where a thing like that becomes a popular thing to do. What are you going to do this summer? Oh, smuggle Bibles into Russia. Well that’s not a popular thing. It seems to me brother Andrew was on his knees in nights of prayer before he received that command from God. Unfortunately, brother, there may be many who are doing it not from authority. Our sister asks is there any way in which an authority could forfeit their right to exercise authority over you? You know that from what we’ve studied in the Bible, that’s a dangerous trend to take. It seems that God has put men under authorities that were very disobedient to him. In the case of David, he was submissive to Saul and called him the Lord’s anointed even though Saul was out to kill him, and was really disobeying God. He had already virtually lost the throne because he was disobedient to God. So it seems that it is always right to submit to authority whatever they’re like until it comes to the point where they tell you to do something against God’s will of course. Especially if it is illegal. Then we read in Acts 5:29 about obeying God rather than man. But I’m sure it’s always dangerous with our mums and dads to say, “Well my father is an alcoholic so he has no right to have authority over me.” Now it seems I have trickier things to see when it comes to the point of God telling you to go to the mission field, or go to a school get a university degree. Especially when your mom and dad didn’t want to agree. You know that you should submit anyway. There must come a time in your life when you again have to obey God unconditionally. Dear ones, I’m not comfortable trying to speak this way. Finally the Holy Spirit must speak to each one of individually. Because what I found is, if a brother or sister participates in authority, many others come under bondage to his opinions. And so these are only directions and guides you have to take to God in prayer. Marlene just push me again. We do not belong to this world. What does it mean then to not be conformed to this world? How can we submit to those ‘bad’ authorities over us? So Marlene is just purposing do not be conformed to this world but submit to those in authority under you. I would suggest that they aren’t in absolute contradiction. You refuse to be conformed to the image of this world whenever you have to obey God rather than men. That’s how you transform any situation. Now if ever you fail to do that, Marlene, it seems to me then you would begin to be conformed to the image of this world. I suppose, brothers and sisters, that I am in great difficulty with many of you who really think there are miserable things in the laws. I have great difficulty seeing that any of us are forced to disobey God in our country. Now there are many friends and governments that we can see are hideous. We can see in many ways in which the government is only bad, and the men are hypocrites, and dishonest. But the system itself and a system of law and regarding law as what Luther says, “It was the power of the source to hold back sin and hold back the power of the sword while you, receiving the grace of God, get working. Then we should respect that law and those who would the dispensers of it – not causing them to defend it but to pray for them realizing that God can move in their hearts as he sees fit. And that’s why I think Luther’s attention is so good, because he makes a clear decision between the power of the sword and the power of the spirit. He points out that the power of the sword is the power of law and it’s an expression of the preserving grace of God. And the power of the spirit is through the church and through love, and it is the redeeming grace of God. So you can see how that’s important for a Christian leader, at one time, in the body exercising spiritual stuff and therefore should never defend his power. Then, in another place, he is exercising the authority of law and order and it is his responsibility to defend law and order. I’m sure that’s important — should you point out God truth? I had a few times even referred to it but the problem is Moses did see that there was a place for exhorting people, not for defending his own authority but for exhorting them to find out what God wanted him to do. Is there no place for using Scripture to help the leader to see the light? No, it seems to me if your spirit is right and your spirit is not one of defending your own authority, you can in love and humility point to your verse. Brothers and sisters, the whole thing is the spirit. It is all the spirit in which we exercise authority and submission to each other. If we’re right with Jesus then all the rest falls right. If we’re wrong with Jesus, it doesn’t matter how it has happened but we’re always going to be in the wrong. But I would suggest to you that I’d wear most things out in the world now we have no one to it seems to me in the year 2000, and we have 20, 25 years and we should all be out in the world every moment and you see that for a kick start you make a very close relationship amongst us all, and a very real sense of what is God’s authority and that it isn’t the man’s authority or woman’s authority. But, dear ones, there needs to be a great sense of understanding. Jim and I must think of some of our transatlantic telephone conversations and he asks me a question and you haven’t a long time speech of sermons because it’s possible and you give an answer and it goes, “And I know he’ll act on it whatever,” and then if there is a mistake it comes back to me. But there needs to be that kind of relationship because we’ll be making many decisions and find ourselves in tight situations. It won’t just be another finding out how to get somebody back from Africa but we are going to have work together in a spirit of love and trust.