Under God's Authority (no updates made to original article; original article found in ARISE Journal - 10/1996)
Under God's Authority
From nearly the beginning of time man has strived to govern himself, yet to no avail. Man forfeited his dependence upon God back in Eden as he sought to serve himself, departing from any divine guidance and rule. He was overtaken by the spirit of pride and rebellion, desiring to exalt his position of authority above the stars of His Creator. He was overmastered by the spirit of independence wishing himself to be like the most High of the universe. Since that time, the effect of Adam's sin has crippled humanity. Rather than having a spirit which is God-oriented or concerned with God, man's spirit has ceased to dominate and exercise control over his conduct and behaviour. He has been totally influenced by the soul which is basically taken up with self.
Down through the ages, God has dealt with the lawless nature of man, showing him what happens when he is left to govern himself and do as he pleases. "And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.... And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly.... And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." Here we see wandering man coming together, united in purpose to accomplish the same goal. To produce with his hands, to build a city and tower and to make himself a name. Nowhere in the text do we read that they had been summoned by God. We do read, however, an old familiar theme of man, "let us make.... let us build.... let us...". Not to our surprise, we see this same vein today as many religious build their institutions, organizations, programs and activities while striving to make a name for themselves. This does not suggest that we become idle, complacent or at ease, but it does mean that we cease doing what we want to do out of our own desires!
Permit us to explore the subject of God's divine rule and examine just exactly what it means to be under His authority. First, we will develop a baseline by reviewing several examples under the Old Covenant, thus providing us with a pattern of thought in how God ordered His affairs when dealing with His people. Then we shall proceed with the New Covenant and continue to look at the arrangement in which God guided His people. Last, we shall look at the government of the Church and how it ought to operate or function today.
The Old Testament is filled with numerous examples of God's
authority ruling the hearts and affairs of men, some of whom we shall make mention.
At age seventy-five, Abram left his homeland upon the command of the Lord. Whether
this was the very first time the Lord had spoken to Abram is not provided in
the text and is left to the reader. Nevertheless, Abram was obedient to the
voice of the Lord to leave country, kindred and his father Terah's household.
This servant of God was a wealthy man, yet he never let his natural possessions
take priority over his vision, which was God-ward. He was a man of worship,
erecting an altar for personal worship in every new city he entered, with one
exception which was Egypt, a land which would hold his children captive for
four hundred years. God spoke to Abram that He would make of him a great nation
and bless all the families of the earth. At age eighty-six, the handmaid of
his wife Sarai had given him a son named Ishmael. Then at age ninety-nine God
named him Abraham, since he was to become a father to many nations, as well
as changing the name of his ninety year old wife to the name of Sarah as she
was to be a mother of many nations. One year later the Lord opened the womb
of Sarah to give birth to Isaac. Great blessing would be upon Ishmael, yet the
covenant between Abraham and the Lord would be established with Isaac. In everything
that Abraham would do, God was always with him, he had been blessed in all things.
And so it is said of those who love God - "If God be for us, who can be
against us" (Rom 8:31). Abraham was a servant of God, a man who withheld
nothing from God, including his own son. He believed what God had said to him
and it was counted to him for righteousness. He obeyed the voice of the Lord.
He was in submission to his Lord, who exercised complete dominion over his life.
ABRAHAM WAS A MAN GOVERNED BY GOD'S AUTHORITY.
As his father Isaac, so also Jacob was a man subject to God. From his mother Rebekah's womb, he coveted the blessing of God. Although he tricked his father in pronouncing upon him the blessing owed his brother Esau, Jacob was still a man of whom the Lord had said "And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest..." (Gen. 28:15). He was a man who had wrestled with the Lord from heaven, or as another has stated, "The struggle was more than a physical contest: it was a spiritual bout between two diametrically opposed wills, the human and the divine". At the end of this struggle, Jacob sought this man for a blessing who asked Jacob, "What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men...." (Gen 32:27-28). The name Israel means: prince of God, or upright with a subjector. Another had said it means 'him whom God rules'. Indeed, Jacob had received a new nature, he no longer was to walk according to his old ways and habits. JACOB WAS A MAN SUBJECTED TO THE ONE WHO RULES, HE WAS A MAN UNDER THE GOVERNMENT AND AUTHORITY OF GOD.
Likewise, Jacob's son Joseph serves as another under the authority of God. The story of Joseph was that he dreamt that he would reign and have dominion over his brethren. His brothers envied him and had conspired to slay him. Instead, he was cast into a pit and sold to a company of merchants. In turn, he was sold to an officer of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Yet, the Lord was with Joseph and made all that he did to prosper in his hand. This young man was favored both by God and man. However, he refused to be enticed by the officer's wife and was innocently cast into prison. While in the king's dungeon, the Lord continued to be with Joseph, showing him mercy, giving him favor and causing him to prosper in whatever he did. Yet, he desired to be released from this horrible place, as apparent by his words to the chief butler. Yet it wasn't to be his time of release. Scripture states, "whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him" (Ps. 105:19-20).
Two years had transpired and now the time had finally come. Pharaoh, troubled by a dream, was informed that a Hebrew man in his prison could interpret it for him. Joseph did, and at age thirty was released and given charge over Pharaoh's entire house and land of Egypt. (Interesting that it was the same age as that of qualification for the Levitical priesthood, a number which today represents maturity and the fulfillment of time. A person must first be tried by the word of God before being placed in and walk by the governing authority of God). Joseph was a man of discretion and wisdom. In fact, Pharaoh acknowledged that this man was one having the Spirit of God. After seven years of plenty, then seven years of famine began to cross the land. Joseph began to open all the storehouses to meet the needs of the people. His father Jacob learned that corn was in Egypt and sent his sons there to obtain food. At first they did not recognize their brother Joseph (named Zaphnathpaaneah), nor did he disclose his identity to them. After several events, he revealed himself to all eleven of his brethren, stating "Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life....... So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God..." (Gen 45:5-8). Joseph was a man of great authority and power over Egypt. Yet, JOSEPH WAS A MAN GOVERNED BY ANOTHER, A MAN UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF ALMIGHTY GOD.
After Joseph died, the children of Israel were fruitful and increased in the land. The new king of Egypt became concerned and reduced them to a race of slaves. In due time, God raised up Moses of the house of Levi, who was brought up by Pharaoh's daughter. Moses led them out of the land of Egypt to serve their God. Thus Moses serves as a prefigure of Jesus Christ our Lord, leading people out of their bondage and enslavement to sin, corruption and death. At this time, we begin to see that God was no longer only dealing with an individual but with an entire nation, "Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me" (Ex. 4:22-23). An entire family of people, the offspring of Jacob, were to be set apart for God's own purpose and pleasure. They were to be under His authority and divine rule. Over time, Israel began to serve strange gods and refused to submit to the God who had demonstrated mighty wonders and had delivered them from their former bondage. Only those who would serve and be under the Lord's rule would be considered His people. Moses put forth the mandate, "Who is on the Lord's side? unto me" (Ex. 32:26). Likewise, we today are charged with the words of Jesus, "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad" (Matt. 12:30). MOSES WAS A MAN THAT WAS WITH GOD, A MAN WHO GATHERED OTHERS TO THE LORD'S SIDE, HE WAS A MAN GOVERNED BY GOD.
Joshua, who succeeded Moses, led the children of Israel into the land of Canaan. The children of Israel at that time remained faithful to the Lord and was governed by Him. However, the generations after Joshua's death sought to govern themselves, but without success. They desired to be like the tribes surrounding them, serving other gods. They departed from the only true and living God. Having left the rulership of divine authority and lordship, they became slaves to their own unrestrained wills and desires. They became unwilling to hear from God for themselves. God extended grace by raising up judges to govern in His stead, yet they continued to forsake the Lord as "every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6). JOSHUA serves as another example of A MAN UNDER GOD'S DIVINE RULE AND AUTHORITY.
God's people would continue to experience His blessings when taking heed to the instructions from the appointed judge of that time. When they departed from it, then God's favor would be removed. The prophet Samuel served as one of Israel's judges. He was a honourable man, a man of God, a man who never used his appointed position of authority for self-gain or to exalt himself above the people. Never to build a kingdom or to make a name for himself. But with the heart of a servant, he ruled as a prophet and priest out of wisdom and love. You ask for what purpose? To unite the people to their God and to bring them to the place of His authority. Samuel was a man whom God had chosen to judge or rule the children of Israel, to govern them in God's stead. He never forced himself upon them, nor was he a prophet based on any self claims. His very presence, nature and character was what restored Israel's union and relationship back to God. SAMUEL SERVED THE PEOPLE TO BRING THEM BACK UNDER GOD'S AUTHORITY. HE WAS A MAN GOVERNED BY GOD.
Over time, the people refused the only true invisible and eternal King to govern their lives. They wanted a visible person to rule them like all the other nations. So God gave them the desires of their heart. He gave them a king whom they had asked for, thus the name Saul. A man who would fit the image, a person of commanding appearance, a man of charisma. A man who appointed to himself those who would serve around him, a man who would take a tenth of their flocks, a man who would force himself upon them, a man to govern their lives, a man set between the people and God. This was the life of Saul. Sadly, most Christian's today are as God's people of yesteryear. They have chosen for themselves a temporal king in the place of God. And how do we know this? Because as it was then, even so is it now that "the Lord will not answer them". Just take a survey and ask when was the last time God has answered one of their prayers. Just look and see how Christendom desires to be like the world, with their strange images of God, music "dove" awards, continued observations of traditional customs, and the like! God forbid. The will of man governs out of fear by placing demands upon the people while constantly claiming their position of authority. The will of God governs out of liberty and peace, never to lay any other burden on the shoulders of men and women than the yoke of our true master, the Lord Jesus Christ. And how do I know this? Because I have searched the scriptures whether these things are so. Because I have seen and met those who are as forceful as Saul and those who are as genuine as Samuel. Because I have tasted of the good word of God and the powers of the age to come! THOSE SERVING GOD WILL ALWAYS GATHER AND BRING PEOPLE UNDER HIS AUTHORITY, NEVER THEIR OWN! Those teaching otherwise do err both in scripture and spirit.
So, down through history the children of Israel, whether under the rulership of kings such as Saul, David and Solomon; or direction of prophet's such as Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel; Israel was in constant opposition to divine rule and guidance, they were opposed to the authority of God, they had shunned that responsibility onto another. Thus, the Old Covenant serves as a shadow of things to come, it provides us with a pattern of thought in how God ordered his affairs among his people. To quickly rehearse the order thus far: 1) Every man knew God and was under His authority; 2) Man desired to self-govern himself; 3) God dealt with individuals, placing them under His authority; 4) God began to deal with a nation; 5) The people refused to submit to God; 6) God appointed men to govern the people and bring them under His authority; 7) The people desired to be ruled by a temporal king rather than be under the authority of the Eternal King; 8) God continued to place those who would stand before Him under His authority and presence to speak in His stead and govern the people, turning them back to the only true government and authority --- GOD!
Nearly four hundred years passed since the Lord's prophet Malachi had sought the people for repentance. A man was to be sent from God whose name was John, the Lord's cousin, son of Zacharias and Elisabeth. He came to bear witness of the Light, though he was not that Light himself. His own confession was that he was not the Christ. He was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "make straight the way of the Lord." He was the one to say of Jesus, "He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose." Scripture states, "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, 'Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.' Then he suffered him" (Matt 3:13-15). John was appointed by God and had to fulfil his call. The same was true of Jesus. It became them both to fulfil all righteousness. His baptism was an act of fulfillment under the law, not an act to fulfil some format of ordination. This was the baptism in which John operated. Water baptism was a form of cleansing, although the Lord needed no cleansing for He had no sin. But as under the law, Jesus needed to identify with those who were cleansed. Jesus did not come to abolish the law but rather to fulfil the law. John both saw and bore record that Jesus was the Son of God. He rejoiced because of the bridegroom's voice. John's ministry and delegated authority would decrease as that of Jesus would increase. John recognized that "He that cometh from above is above all." John accepted his appointed place in comparison to that of Christ, he did not hesitate to be subject to Jesus. HE WAS A MAN PLACED UNDER GOD'S AUTHORITY.
"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt 3:16-17). Now, it does not say that the Spirit had descended in the form of a dove. It says, that the decension of the Spirit was as that of a dove. It came down in a peaceful and graceful manner, not forceful and overbearing. The scripture also states that it was "WHEN he was baptized" he went up straightway out of the water. HE WAS A MAN UNDER THE PERFECT AUTHORITY OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD.
Jesus was a man led of the Spirit. He demonstrated this in the wilderness when tempted of the devil. "If thou be the Son of God" invited the adversary. Though addressed as the Son of God, Jesus responded "man shall not.....". He was the Son of God, yet he humbled himself and took the form of a man, making himself of no reputation. Jesus was a man who spoke not of himself, nor did he seek his own glory. Those who make claims to their ministry, their teaching, their apostleship, their authority, their, their, their.... speak of themselves and are in search of their own glory and praise of men, whether they admit it or not. He that speaks of himself seeks his own glory. Yet, true servanthood, true instruction, true church planting and true governing is apparent by the character and nature of a person, by their very being, by who they are, without having to make any self-claims. It is a natural extension of their person and speaks for itself!
Jesus was a man that did nothing out of his own self desire or personal ambition. He said, "I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things....... for I do always those things that please him." (Jhn 8:28-29). He never did anything based on his own authority. He always pleased the Father. Jesus was a man of absolute authority. "Never man spake like this man" said the officers when sent to arrest him. He had authority on earth to forgive sins, all authority was given to him in heaven and in earth, authority to cast into hell, authority to lay down and take up his life, and authority over all flesh, even raising the dead! HE WAS A MAN ALWAYS UNDER DIVINE AUTHORITY.
With confidence and authority, he called Simon (Peter) and Andrew as they were fishing, "Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men." Likewise, he called James and his brother John and they left to follow him. Scripture states, "And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes" (Mark 1:22). Later, he saw a publican, named Levi (Matthew), sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said, "Follow me". Matthew immediately rose up and followed. These were not invitations nor decisions for men to make. It was an obligation which must be obeyed. There was no choice in the matter, it was a response to a divine call, to absolute authority. The Bible tells us that he gave his disciples authority against unclean spirits, authority to heal all manner of sickness and disease, and authority to trend on scorpions (i.e., rebellious people; ref. Ezk 2:6). He chose twelve to be named apostles, not to give them a title but rather to indicate their function or calling. These were called to serve him in a unique way, but only after they had walked with him does he send them forth in this new capacity. THESE MEN WERE SUBJECT TO THE AUTHORITY OF GOD.
When Jesus saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion. They were as sheep having no shepherd. They were scattered abroad, always searching, always wanting, always in need. They needed rest to their weary souls. King David stated, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake" (Ps. 23:1-3). David never lost sight that the Lord was his Shepherd. HE WAS A MAN AFTER GOD'S HEART, A MAN GOVERNED BY GOD.
Most Christians are constantly seeking for truth in all the wrong places, wandering about from church to church to find a new experience, always in need, scattered about, looking for a man set between them and God, having no true Shepherd of the soul, no divine authority over their lives. As stated by one brother, "The problem with people today is that they have a relationship with church rather than a relationship with the Lord." And another has said, "Teachings, miracles, and blessings, important as they may be, are not ends in themselves but only a means to bring us under His authority."
Afterwards, Jesus appointed another seventy and sent them forth into every city and place. These men were not sent by the apostles but rather by Christ himself. They were commissioned by Christ, ordained of God and sent forth. Some regard the theory of apostolic succession as the only means of qualification and authority in which a person can be blessed before they are sent forth to minister Christ. According to this thought, modern apostles have received their authority down through the ages from an apostle before them, which in turn received from the early apostles, which in turn received from Jesus Christ. Basically, it is believed that the apostle is the primary channel by which God expresses His authority upon earth. The authority of the apostle would be transmitted to an individual by the laying on of hands and the blessing pronounced for their work in the ministry. If a person believes to have a calling from God and wish to leave their church, they must first receive the approval of this apostle. If the apostle believes that the person has not heard from God, then that person is made to believe that they are in error. And if they do leave the church? Well, they are then considered as having rejected the authority of the ministry and are labeled as rebellious, mavericks and such.
Now let us clarify, lest anyone leave this study has misunderstood us. We believe that God clearly uses the method of divine impartation and the laying on of hands. It is scriptural, honourable and still valid for our day. Examples include the apostles having appointed elders in every church and commending them to the Lord and the apostles having appointed seven men of honest report and full of the Spirit and laying their hands upon them (ref. Acts 14:23; 6:3-6). Timothy also received his gift by prophecy and the laying on of hands, though not from an apostle, not from the apostle Paul who had fathered him, but rather from the eldership (ref. I Tim 4:14). The lesson is simple, no man, whether apostle or elder, can take this glory upon himself, the honor and glory belongs solely to the Lord.
However, to imply that a person's ordination must follow the pattern of "apostolic succession" is entirely foreign to the Word of God. Some try to exchange the terms and definitions by replacing the position of an "apostle" with any one of the so-called "five-fold" ministries yet their teaching is basically the same as stated above. But listen to the words of the apostle Paul, "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ......But when it pleased God..... and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.....But they had heard only, that he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith..." (Gal 1:11-23). Paul did not receive his office from man but God, nor did he get confirmation from one of the early apostles to receive their approval, public or private! As for the Old Covenant, it was written for our example, instruction, and serves as a tutor. However, Paul said, "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (Gal 3:24-25). While it has principles which serve as a shadow of good things to come, the observance of its various methods and order of administration can never contribute to the very image in which we aspire nor can it make us perfect.
Man cannot ordain himself into the ministry, nor can he bring the calling of God upon his own life. Jesus said, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you...." (Jhn 15:16). Thousands upon thousands are so-called ordained ministers of God. They have the documents to prove it. I too have a little card indicating that a ministry recognized my calling and had ordained me. Does that piece of paper qualify me for ministry? A million times no. The Lord Himself can only ordain a person. A man cannot take such a high and holy calling upon himself. The writer of Hebrews stated, "..no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee" (Heb 5:4-5). No man can take this function upon himself, he must be called and anointed of God. God called Aaron and made him a minister unto Himself in the office of a priest. (ref. Ex 28:1). Likewise, Christ did not take this honour upon himself but rather was called and ordained into the ministry by the Father - "TODAY HAVE I BEGOTTEN THEE!" And Christ has called and honoured us. This is the order or pattern found in the scriptures. I must insist that Hebrews, chapter 5 says nothing regarding the ordination of ministry, nor is the doctrine of apostolic succession to be found in the Bible. To suggest otherwise presents a major problem with what is taught in the Word of God. To suggest otherwise would mean that many saints recorded therein must have been misinformed by God.... they missed the so-called pattern! Noah, Abraham, Daniel, Paul, even Jesus.... they must have missed it! God forbid. Those who teach such things are in grave error and have applied their own reasoning to holy script. As sons of God, we must learn to let inspiration lead and interpretation follow.
The same thought applies to the doctrine of "covering". Hear the precious insights of J. Preston Eby, "We have heard much over the past two decades about having a "local group for a covering," whatever that is supposed to mean. This so-called "truth" usually refers to a pseudo-spiritual submission to men calling themselves elders, or shepherds, who desire to lord it over a flock or other men's lives, and tell others what they can and cannot do. They esteem themselves spiritual enough to discern for everybody else what the will of the Lord is, though they themselves are missing the point entirely. My brother, my sister, harken to the words of the prophet Isaiah: "Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, BUT NOT OF ME; and that cover with a covering, BUT NOT MY SPIRIT, that they may add sin to sin" (Isa. 30:1).
COVERING! By many this term is used to mean that each believer, being a "dumb sheep," needs the "covering" protection of a group, or fold, presided over by men who are "shepherds". Every one is in "submission" to someone higher in the pyramid, until the whole structure becomes one vast hierarchy with just a few men or one man at the top. Each "shepherd" of a local group is "in submission" to some other higher "shepherd" and all these are ultimately submitted to an "apostle" somewhere in the world. Some rule more strictly than others over their "dumb sheep," but in general the individual believer is taught that he cannot trust his own ability to hear from the Lord, or understand the Word of God, or order his own life, but must look to his earthly shepherd to hear from the Lord for him. In many cases one dare not change jobs, move from one place to another, marry, go on vacation, or make any other decision without checking it out with his "shepherd" or the "elders." The counsel of the "shepherd" in many cases MUST be followed! Women have often been told that they must always obey their husband's wishes, even if he requires something illegal or immoral! Some are instructed as to how much of their means to "give" to the "body."
In some assemblies if a prophecy is to be given, the one who has heard from the Spirit Himself is required to gain permission from the 'pastor' or 'elder' or 'shepherd' in order to prophesy. If permission is granted, that one is then required to leave his seat, march down front, take the microphone, and then prophesy. By then I think that the Spirit's message would be, "Quench not My Spirit and touch not My prophets." Such false shepherds instruct God's people, "Submit to church government - NO MATTER WHAT!" "Obey your leaders - even if they are wrong!" "Don't judge the ministry!" "God placed the ministry over you. You don't second-guess their decisions. They are God-inspired!" Are YOU victim to this kind of "inspired teaching"? If so, danger is stalking your eternal life. Isn't it time you asked yourself, "What is behind such totalitarian rhetoric?" The tactic is simple. You are being intimidated. Through raw and robust fear tactics, you are SCARED INTO OBEDIENCE TO MEN - not to God. Your mind is being conditioned to accept - without thinking and without reproof - everything such preachers say. You are being brainwashed to behave like spiritual zombies. The mind of Christ in you is being raped!
Now, not all who teach "the covering" are that extreme, but for many the half has not been told. There is a great emphasis on the term "covering" as being necessary for each member, for protection from harm and deception. If we do not have this "covering" of the local fellowship, or elders, or shepherds, then, we are told, we cannot discern the will of the Lord, cannot understand the Word of the Lord, will be overcome by our adversary, will fall into sin or delusion, or the present world system will destroy us. I am frankly appalled at the shallowness, gullibility, and lack of spiritual discernment and maturity among the people of God, for they give heed continually to the voice of such strangers, but the voice of the Good Shepherd they do not know. Why are the children of God so ready to blindly accept every subtle and plausible teaching that is thrust at them, without earnestly seeking the help of the blessed Spirit WHO ALONE HAS BEEN SENT TO GUIDE US INTO ALL TRUTH. Any preacher today who can come up with some fantastic notion can corral God's people under his authority, and the more fantastic the notion the more people run after it. I do not hesitate to tell you that I know of no greater deception that has entered in among the Lord's sheep during the past 20 years than the error of the "covering" teaching." - endquote.
Whether an "apostolic covering", "church covering", or "father covering", the same idea applies. Some have the opinion that without such a "covering", you have no right to the ministry, without such a "covering" you are not a son! Let us comment on this absurdity. The principle of "fathering" is honourable and ought to be found among those of maturity, as they pour their lives into raising others. I've had such a person over me many years ago while living in Pennsylvania. Likewise, Paul had likened himself as a "father" to Timothy as he birthed, nurtured and provided for him until he came of age. However, Paul never suggested that he was this man's "authority", delegated or otherwise. In fact, Paul always purposed to present all as a chaste virgin TO CHRIST, never to himself! He rebuked such a childish notion as the church of Corinth contended over whether they were of Peter or Apollos or himself. He asked, "Is Christ divided?" So why, I ask, do men continue to DIVIDE CHRIST?
This leads us to the question of church government and how it ought to operate or function today. First, let's define the word "church" for it comes from the greek word "ekklesia", a common noun, compounded from the elements ek, meaning "out", and klesia, meaning "called". Joining these together, we get the meaning of this word "church" as "out-called" or CALLED OUT. The usage of this word "church" in the context of scripture determines its meaning. As such, any reader would find that: Jesus builds his church, not man; a church is not a building or physical structure; the children of Israel were called out of Eqypt, a church separated unto the Lord; a church will often come together to share or rehearse all that God has done for them; a church can be a mob of unbelievers gathering for a specific purpose; the Holy Spirit may set several overseers or bishops to feed a particular church and Jesus Christ is the Shepherd and Bishop of our soul who is the head over all things to the church. (It is worth noting that those overseeing and feeding others must be blameless, watchful, attentive, sober, of good behaviour, hospitable, apt to teach, not fond of money, not quarrelsome, but lenient, pacific and one that controls his household ideally).
So how ought the church be established and how should it function? "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also Christ...... But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him...... And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way......" (I Cor. 12). So what exactly does this all mean? First of all, we are told that there is only one body, not many. There are not bodies within a body, but ONE BODY. Paul said, "there is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope (expectation) of your calling". This is an important point that we dare not miss. There is but one body and therefore but ONE CHURCH, though it consist of many members.
Paul goes on to tell us that God "HATH SET SOME" in the body who would operate in a certain capacity. Some perform one function, some another. No one chooses their place in the body, for God reserves this entirely within His providence. It is futile to usurp a function we are not divinely empowered to serve. Likewise, it is unproductive when we do not exercise the function in which God has fitted us. All must deeply seek to discover their call and ask God's grace to fill it. God will use a person in the body as He sees fit to benefit others. A person cannot boast in their calling above another for they had nothing to do in obtaining it. When Paul states that God "hath set some" in the church, he is simply stating a fact. He is not outlining a church hierarchy or governmental authority. If that were the case, most assemblies have been stuck and cannot get past the third office; they are still waiting for the fourth and fifth, namely miracles and healings -- which precede government! Although we do thank God for sending forth ministry that moves in the midst of the church, let us not lose sight that where two or three are gathered together in his name, Christ is in their midst. Let us not forget that He is the Apostle and High Priest of our faith.
When Paul left Ephesus he made no provision other than commending them to God. God would be faithful to send them ministry from time to time for further edification. In the meantime, the overseers continued to feed the group of believers. They also were not impressed with titles and positions. They discerned whether a person be truthful or a liar when claiming to be an apostle. A persons title and position means nothing. Jesus taught that we are not to seek special distinctions or titles, "Be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, Christ; and all ye are brethren" (Matt 23:8). He also opposed special leadership positions, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so..." (Luke 22:25-26). After all, a man is not what he is because he wears a title or job description. A man is what he is because of what he is. If a man truly has a pastor's heart, it is obvious by his concern and compassion for the people. A PERSON'S MINISTRY IS EVIDENT AND EXPRESSED THROUGH THEM.
Regarding ministry Paul also said, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph 4:11-13). Even though the ministry is good and blessed and will continue to function as such, it can never bring an individual to full maturity in Christ. The text reads that this can only be accomplished by the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Therefore, the purpose of New Covenant ministry is to function out of the Christ within to serve God's people; to edify and encourage; to guard, gather and ground in truth; and to bring one another into covenant relationship; but never to interfere with and function as God's direct authority over a believer.
AS SONS OF GOD, WE MUST LEARN TO BE LED BY THE AUTHORITY OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD, WE MUST COME INTO FULL SUBMISSION TO OUR ONE TRUE FATHER AND HIS SON JESUS CHRIST!