Authority Properly Understood   Leave a comment

If you are not a Christian, you are welcome to read this, but understand that I am not talking to you. My remarks are addressed to Christians only.

God, through the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth, tells us that Christians have authority within the church. We are to judge ourselves and each other and leave the world to its own devices. The apostles set an example of humility in the world. They didn’t fight back. They preached the gospel and ministered without regard for their own safety and they took the consequences of that. In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul wished that the Corinthian believers would follow that example, though his tone suggests that he doubts they will.

He then told the Corinthian believers, in chapter 6, that the church is to judge itself. Christians must call each other to task and adjudicate legal disputes within the church, not outside of the church. Time and time again, Paul pointed to God as the authority in the church. In this, he echoed Jesus Who called for His disciples to pattern themselves after Himself.

Ultimately, God is the sole authority over the Christian. You stand before Him with no one around you. Sometimes, however, God places others in worldly authority over us and He does this either for our discipline or for our own good.

Read the Pastoral letters — Timothy 1 and 2 and Titus and you find that God has placed authorities in the church. We are supposed to submit to one another in the church and in our marriages and family because God speaks through other Christians. We are to listen to our pastors with respect and submit to their guidance.

This does not mean we get the option to deny our own responsibility. A pastor is a human who has been called of God to a certain task in the church, but he is still a human being and human beings may be mistaken in their behavior and attitudes. We sin when we follow the guidance of a sinful man (or woman) simply because they are in a position of authority within the church. If they are outside of the will of God, we must oppose them because we are under God’s authority first and foremost.

Similarly, Romans 13 indicates that human governments can be in authority over us, but again, we are responsible to God for our own behavior and attitudes. When government authorities act outside of God’s will, we must oppose them.

However, in both of these cases, we must be careful to obey God. Resistance of evil is never an excuse for sin.

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