Church Life

Spiritual Authority

We know that the Word of God is about SALVATION - that Jesus died for our sins as the Lamb of God. We think there can’t be any thing greater than this Work of Redemption. Yet God opens our eyes to see there is something greater into which salvation fits. For what Jesus did only had value because of his submission and obedience to the Father’s will and authority (Phil 2:5-11, Luke 22:42). There is a bigger picture and a larger issue: God’s KINGDOM, THRONE and AUTHORITY. He reigns as KING over all. Authority is a stronger, more fundamental thing than power, for power is to do with what God does but authority is to do with Who God is. Thus sin against authority (rebellion) is the most serious. Sin at its root is lawlessness, a rejection of God’s authority: 'All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way' (Isa 53:6). 'In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did what was right in his own eyes' (Judges 21:25). Therefore salvation from sin means us moving from independance to coming under authority. It is to TRUST and OBEY (trusting Jesus as our Saviour and obeying Him as our Lord).

God’s sovereign purpose is to establish His Kingdom over all (Psalm 10:16, 103:19). Part of this plan was for man to rule and reign over all things under God’s authority. In Genesis 1:26-28: God gives man AUTHORITY (which includes his free-will, his authority to choose his destiny): 'God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion... God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over ... every living thing that moves on the earth.' To have authority man must also be under authority, so He put man under authority (testing his loyalty) by a simple command: 'The LORD God commanded the man, saying, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 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 surely die' (2:15-17).

Then in Genesis 3 the Bible unveils for the first time the existance of a counter-kingdom rebellious to God’s authority. For satan had been cast down to the earth and began to work through the serpent: 'Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made' (v1). But we have to go elsewhere to discover how the original rebellion happened among the angels:

Ezekiel 28:12-16: 'Thus says GOD: 'You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom, perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the sardius, topaz, diamond, beryl, onyx, jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones (this reveals Lucifer as the highest-ranking, most musical, intelligent and beautiful of the angels before he fell). You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you (He believed that he should not have to submit to God’s authority but be alongside Him as an equal, to be free to do as he please, according to his own sense of good and evil, right and wrong) By the abundance of your traffic (gossip, speaking against God’s way of running things, going to and fro among the angels talking down God’s authority and exalting himself. He went around winning support for his cause - that’s always how rebellion starts: ‘Why should God always tell us what to do. He is holding us down. If I were in authority I would give you a more important job, you would fulfil your potential. I would not tell you what to do all the time, you could do whatever you wanted, you would all become free and independant - as gods.’) you became filled with violence within, and you sinned (finally satan determined to move openly against God’s throne at which point God judged him and cast him out of heaven).

Isaiah 14:12-15: 'How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: `I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.' Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit.'

Ezekiel 28:17-19: 'Therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God; and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendour; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, that they might gaze at you. You defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your traffic (evil-speech and plots against authority); therefore I brought fire from your midst; it devoured you, and I turned you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who saw you. All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; you have become a horror, and shall be no more forever.'

So, there was a rebellion against God with one third of the angels cast down with satan (Rev 12:4) and they formed a kingdom of darkness in opposition to God where the principle of submission to God was replaced by independance (everyone is their own god).  So, rebellion is the satanic principle which is why it always brings strict judgement. For example, when Saul did his own thing (that seemed good and right to him) rather than submit to God, he lost his place as king and Samuel explained why his sin was so serious: 'For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (satanic) and stubbornness (self-will, independance) is as iniquity and idolatry (you idolise your judgement of right and wrong above that of authority). Because you have rejected the word (authority) of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king (having authority)' (1Sam 15:23). To have authority we must first learn how to be under authority. The HUMBLE will be EXALTED. Those who exalt themselves above authority will be humbled. Pride comes before a fall.

So, going back to the garden, God wanted man to learn obedience by the tree, but satan saw a chance to extend his kingdom by inviting man to join in his rebellion: 'he (the serpent) said to the woman, 'Has God indeed said, `You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?' And the woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden, God said, `You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' Then the serpent said, 'You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil' (Gen 3:1-5). That is: 'Cast off authority, God is wrong, do your own thing, be free, act independantly and be like god, evolve to higher level.' 'So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate' (v6). So, they chose to live by a different principle: rather than submission to God’s authority, they chose the knowledge of good and evil in themselves (to be their own gods, to be their own final authority of right and wrong). In so doing, by submitting to satan’s words they became part of his kingdom and that has been the natural state of man since. The result was man’s seperation from God, fear, trouble, suffering and death (v7-19).

So, now God faced a double problem: Not only was there a rebellious kingdom opposing Him but His beloved mankind was part of this rebellion and needed saving from sin. Should He just destroy it all? No, He had a better plan. In His love for us, He planned to both SAVE MAN and RESTORE His KINGDOM over all. He announced He would do this through a special man who would be fully obedient, through whom God could establish His Kingdom(v15): 'I will put enmity between you (satan) and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed (the Messiah); He shall bruise (crush) your head (Jesus will destroy satan’s KINGDOM and establish God’s rule over all), and you (satan) shall bruise His heel” (Jesus obtained our SALVATION by receiving in himself on the cross the bite of satan, the poison of sin, and the resultant penalty of death). Thus through the Son bearing the penalty of death for our sin, God could offer a free-pardon to all rebels who would accept it, that we could come under God’s authority (kingdom) again, and rule and reign with Christ.

The purpose of our salvation is to come into the KINGDOM of God, to restore us under God’s authority - hence our confession is: JESUS IS LORD. Salvation delivers us from our past and opens our eyes to live under God’s authority. We are saved to be subjects of God’s Kingdom. We go from living under the knowledge of good and evil to submitting to God’s authority. Now our ultimate authority is not what we feel but what God says. Before we were full of opinions and certainties, now we are more careful. We realise: 'The fear of the Lord (reverence for His authority) is the beginning of wisdom' (Prov 9:10). We see authority as the deepest principle to follow. We know nothing on our own, we must seek God, for our own ability to discern good and evil is limited. This is the outworking of our salvation- discerning and submitting to God’s authority - the extent we do this is the extent we are delivered from the principle of satan. Thus pride is serious. Thinking we know best and overriding authority, we unwittingly head for a fall, for we are living by the wrong kingdom.

So, God’s original purpose in creation was for His Kingdom to rule over all, with man under His authority and exercising authority (Gen 1:26-28). Thus salvation is not just to redeem us from destruction but also to reestablish God’s Kingdom (authority) in our lives, so that we rule and reign in life (Rom 5:17). This means being delivered from pride and self-will, by discerning and submitting to God’s authority (2Cor 10:3-6). We saw how satan operates in rebellion. First, behind the scenes, He subtly draws hearts away by gossip, slander and insinuation against authority, which then leads to open defiance, which is the point that God judges. In describing Leviathan (a symbol of the devil) God concludes 'he (satan) is a king over all the children of pride'. So when someone yields to pride and rebellion they are under his spirit (1Sam15:23). To be delivered from the evil one (Matt 6:13) is to be fully delivered from all rebellion in our heart (James 4:6,7).

Thus the first key to living well in God’s Kingdom, is discerning and submiting to God’s authority. How does this work in practice?  

First of all we have the DIRECT authority of God’s Word. 

Secondly, there are God’s DELEGATED AUTHORITIES. We must see the valid realm of authority, He has placed on certain people as God’s own authority in our lives and that rebellion against these is as rebellion against God Himself. Seeing authority truly requires a great revelation, because we must see past the (fallible) person to the uniform (authority) they carry and submit to that: 'Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake' (Romans 13:1-5). Submitting to God is not just about our personal walk with God, it is submitting to His authorities in the earth. Those who override these authorities by sying they are just to obey God do not understand how He works. Our respect for visible delegated authority is the real proof of our submission to God, because at times we will disagree with their decisions. Do we then get offended and critical to others, or do we trust it to God?

Delegated authorities that govern areas of our lives:

1. FREE-WILL (Genesis 1:26). We all have authority to choose in ones personal life and destiny. Seeing this will stop us moving in control, manipulation and intimidation.

2. HUSBANDS and WIVES (Gen 2:20-25). There is authority within the marriage-union.

3. PARENTS and CHILDREN. Parents have the right to direct a child’s will and as the child matures they should give them more freedom of choice: 'Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honour your father and mother' which is the first commandment with promise: 'that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth' (Ephesians 6:1-3). This shows that our life is greatly determined by our attitude to our parents authority.

4. NATIONAL AUTHORITIES (Queen, Ministers, Police, Judges, Army) are to maintain law and order and protect of the nation (Genesis 9:5,6). We are to support them.

5. SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY in the Church is to bring forth God’s Word and to govern the running of the church in an orderly way, providing feeding and spiritual protection.

Watchman Nee says: ‘In serving God we must not violate authorities, because to do so is a principle of satan. To truly serve God we must be completely purified from the principle of satan’. We will be judged for rejecting and resisting authority but authorities must also realise they will be judged strictly if they misrepresent God (James 3:1), or if they exceed the limits of their authority, or if they command something that clearly violates higher authority. In this case (like being forbidden to witness) we don’t obey but still stay submissive in attitude to authority (Acts 5:29).

More Biblical examples of rebellion (1Corinthians 10:6,11).

(1) HAM and CANAAN (Genesis 9:20-27). Failure or perceived failure of delegated authority is a test for us and reveals rebellion in the heart: 'Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father's nakedness. So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said: 'Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants He shall be to his brethren.' And he said: 'Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant.'  What if I think authority is wrong or fails? It will reveal any rebellious spirit in me because a rebel will use such an occassion to try and pull down authority. God took this sin more seriously than Noah’s and judged it quickly and strictly. This event affected the destiny of nations. Canaan was disqualified from blessing, ministry and position in God’s future purposes.

2. The strange fire of NADAB and ABIHU (Leviticus 10:1,2). 'Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.' These were priests, helpers of Aaron, the High-Priest. They were not meant to serve independantly, but under Aaron’s authority. When they thought they could do Aaron’s job and ministered without obedience they offered profane fire. Their offering looked similar to Aaron’s but since it did not come from the will of God, it was profane.  Being out of coordination with Aaron they were also out of order with God, and were judged by fire.

3. The reviling of Aaron and Miriam (Numbers 12). A failing of Moses caused his elder sister Miriam to speak against his authority to make herself equal but her words ascended to God as sin against God. So He disciplined her pointing out that delegated authority is given by God to whom He chooses, not something attained by effort. How dare she speak against God’s servant? She was put out of the camp with leprosy, which was the outward sign of her inner rebellion. She was thus isolated until fully repentant because leprosy (rebellion) is very infectious.

4. The rebellion of Korah (Numbers 16). This was a collective rebellion, showing disrespect and disregard for authority, not realising they opposed God. God hates rebellion so much He threatened to consume the congregation which had been infected (rebellion is contagious), but through Moses’ intercession only the instigators were judged. The earth opened and they went down into Hell (v32,33).

THE CHURCH  The Father is establishing His Kingdom through the perfect humility and obedience of His Son (Phil 2:5-11) which He wants to see reproduced in us. In Revelation 5, we see the Lion of Judah is worthy to take His authority, only because first He was the obedient Lamb of God. Now God wants this fundamental principle of humility and obedience to be demonstrated in the life of the Church, so that it is a true witness of the Kingdom to the world. Hence rebellion in the Church is very serious to God: 'I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites (desires and ambitions). By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people' (Romans 16:17,18). 

'Do you not know that you (corporately as a church) are the Temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the Temple of God (by rebellion, strife and division), God will destroy him. For the Temple of God is holy, which you are' (1Cor3:16,17).

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