January 17, 2018

Authority: Right or Wrong?

Reynold Lemp

FrontLine • September/October 2007

Authority and chain of command are terms we use when we are referring to “who is in charge.” It may be a grocery store owner, a Little League ball team manager, or a big manufacturing executive. God Himself, and only God, established authority. Even in the heavens the law of authority exists. Our own earth is in submission to the law of gravity of the sun. The moon is in submission to the earth.

Looking at the subject of authority, one must go back before the creation of the world. An interesting event is recorded in Ezekiel 28:11–16. Satan, a leading cherub, became proud of his position and glory, and he lost the significance of his God-given position. In his pride Satan thought he should become the authority god. In so thinking, Satan lost his position eternally. The tragedy was his influence. Satan, sure that he could actually overrule God, convinced one-third of the angels of Heaven to follow him!

We are also familiar with the sad consequences of Adam and Eve’s attempt to ignore God’s authority. God had given Paradise to His creation, but Satan convinced Adam and Eve that they did not have to follow God’s authority. Because of this deceit and lack of submission, the whole human race and creation itself suffer to this day!

The Flood is another example of a consequence of thinking that “what God says is really unimportant.” Man, as it were, shook his fist in God’s face and “did that which was right in his own sight.” However, Noah, a just, humble man, obeyed God, and he and his family were saved. A person who is not submissive to God will never fit into God’s plan and blessings.

A touching example of submission to authority was that of Joshua to Moses. Joshua saw that Moses was God’s man for the day, and he was faithful to Moses for forty years! Joshua’s submission and loyalty paid off, for God rewarded him with the leadership of the children of Israel. Without a doubt, the children of Israel saw Joshua’s faithfulness, and they were willing to have this kind of “God-appointed man” over them, even though many times they were rebellious against God and followed their own ways instead of God’s (Deut. 32:5, 6, 28).

When God established authority, He included that of the home. God made man and woman for specific functions. The Biblical home has God’s order, which is discussed quite fully in Ephesians 5:21–6:4. We see that God made the husband the head of the home. This godly position seems to be offensive to our world today. Unfortunately, many homes in our churches are a trash heap because they have listened to the “counsel of the ungodly” instead of the “law of the Lord.” The husband is the head of the home! It has been said that the husband is the gatepost upon which the marriage swings. Take away the function and position of the gatepost and the gate falls. Both the husband and wife are essential to the success of the marriage! Ephesians 5:22, 23 states, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.” The husband is to love his wife “even as Christ also loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). The husband must love his wife as his own body, and the wife must give reverence to her husband. This is God’s order for the husband-wife relationship.

This order deals with authority, and it is essential for a godly home. God does not desire for the husband to exert a dictatorship! In Ephesians 5:21 the Holy Spirit tells us that we must submit ourselves (plural) one to another. God made men and women so different; then He expected us to live together in peace! We can accomplish this only when we follow the rules and directions of the Commander-in- Chief of all mankind, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

The counsel of the ungodly is everywhere! We have a rash of lawlessness in our country. Employers are complaining about the uselessness of many young employees wanting to be served and paid but failing to produce the work they agreed to. This kind of behavior begins with a violation of Ephesians 6:1, 2. “Obedience” and “honour” are two important words that apply not only to family but to every area of life! When young people are allowed to be disobedient and disrespectful in childhood and youth, they will become an adult generation of the same. The church, home, and workplace are filled with the sowing and reaping process. Consider Proverbs 11:18, 19: “The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward. As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.” Furthermore, Galatians 6:7, 8 instructs us, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

Finally, contemplate authority in the church. Who gave to the church the organizational program? Obviously, God did. As we look at the leadership of the church, certain principles must be established. The pastor must have leadership authority! As a rule, an organization can have only one human head. Anything with two or more heads is considered an oddity. Once again it is important to recognize that there is a difference between leadership and dictatorship. A pastor must be willing to listen and learn. No one person has all the answers. Some years ago a young man who had just completed college was immediately made a lieutenant in the army, thus putting him over sergeants and corporals who had many years of experience in war and maneuvers. On several first maneuvers the new lieutenant felt he had to ask the men under him for their opinion. In the end, the lieutenant was given the highest award for leadership of all the new officers. Listening to the advice of others strengthened his leadership.

In my fifty years as pastor I have seen the need for the same thing in the ministry. Men who thought they were the only one with truth or a good idea refused to listen, forced their way, and eventually failed!

A word of counsel to men working with a pastor: No pastor can work with disloyalty; he must release the disloyal person on his staff! The pastor must be careful how he does this so as not to discourage believers, hurt the cause of Christ, or split the church. The disloyal worker very likely has his own loyalty group in the church, which is an evil tool of Satan to cause a church split. Many churches are started for the wrong reasons, such as splits and personality, rather than principles. It is serious when church members join with a staff member to divide the leadership of a church. They are used of Satan to destroy the work of God! Unfortunately, this happens all too often.

I believe it is safe to say that a person who is out of cooperation with his God-given authority, whether it is in the home, society, or church, is in all probability out of the will of God. God has not excused us from our God-given authority!

(Bio from the original publication) Dr. Reynold Lemp is pastor emeritus of Calvary Baptist Church in Winter Garden Florida, where he and his wife, Mary Ann, continue to reside. Dr. Lemp founded the church shortly after graduating from Bob Jones University and retired after fifty years of ministry.

(Originally published in FrontLine • September/October 2007. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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