There is a lot of debate right now over the idea of submitting ourselves to those in authority, especially human authority within the local church. One crowd says that God’s approval and His authority is all we should seek and human authority is too corrupt to trust. Another group says no major decisions can be made unless approval is given from someone or some group of people here on the earth.
I understand the risk of submitting my life to others. What if they have hidden or impure motives attached to their counsel? What if their real goal is to manipulate me or control me somehow? What if they really don’t care about my personal welfare and actually desire my harm?
When I am faced with these types of choices, I ultimately yield to scripture because it is my guide for life. Here are some passages for all of us to consider:
Romans 13:1-2 NIV – “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
This is talking primarily about government rulers, but the command is still clear. We should submit ourselves to them and ultimately trust God. Obviously, we should never do evil things or commit sin even if a ruler tells us to do so. This scripture is not telling us to be robots or to throw away our moral compass. The real issue is a heart issue. Are we rebellious at our core? Can we be lead by anyone? Can anyone tell us what to do?
Here is another passage to meditate upon this week:
Hebrews 13:17 NIV – “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
I believe we only have as much authority from God as we are willing to submit to. I have willingly submitted myself to human authority and God has entrusted me with authority to lead in the local church. With this authority, I am supposed to serve, lead and protect those entrusted to my care. Notice, this scripture says those who have been given authority must one day give an account of how they used it. Therefore, if I use my authority incorrectly, God will judge those motives when I stand before Him in heaven.
It also says that we, as followers, can make this assignment a joy or a burden for our leaders. I hope I have added joy to the lives of Robert Morris, Tom Lane, Jimmy Evans, Jack Hayford and Larry Stockstill. These men, along with the elders of New Life, are all leaders who can correct and challenge me. I have given all of them permission to tell me “no”.
Do you have trusted leaders in your life? Do you have someone who can tell you “no” or even challenge you when you believe you have a command from God? If so, you are a person that God ultimately will trust with authority. If not, you may one day find yourself in a place of authority, but will be ill prepared to exercise that authority for the good of God’s Kingdom.