There are only two types of authority, legitimate and illegitimate. Authority, legitimate or otherwise, requires the submission of those the authority has power over. An established authority cannot tolerate an opposing or counter authority. To tolerate this usurpation of power would be an abdication of authority. Subjects of authority that decline to obey an authority are said to be insubordinate. Those that question or reject the legitimacy of an authority are considered rebels, outlaws, or in these times, terrorists.
The average person in the world system routinely encounters people with authority nearly everywhere they go. Among these are: law enforcement, employers, administrators, parents, teachers, doctors, priest, pastors and so on. System people are accustomed to the presence of these authorities, and society at large generally respects and submits to these authorities among men.
For the true Christian, the Bible makes clear who the legitimate authorities are: God the Father, King Jesus, elders (overseer, bishop or minister) wherever the body of Christ (Church) is gathered, and husbands within marriage. A true believer accepts no other authorities as legitimate. So, even a priest or pastor, unless recognized by the Holy Spirit and the believers as an elder, have no authority over other believers. The Bible tells Christians plainly that we are not to lord it over each other as the gentiles do. The gentiles being the world system.
So, how does an elder possess authority and not “lord it over others”? His sole authority is to hold believers to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, not allowing any deviation or alternative interpretations of the Gospel. In fellowship he guards against any deviant teaching or behavior in the body of believers so that wickedness will not supplant the truth and spread among believers like yeast in a batch of doe. Unlike worldly authority, he does not have authority to force anyone to do anything. When he encounters insubordination he counters with loving correction. If that is not effective then he calls for other true believers to help sway the person(s) from their error. Should that not change the deviation then the last recourse is to “shun” the offender, to turn the person over to Satan until such time that they repent of their ways. Notice the elder isn’t kicking the person out. The “shunning” is an ignoring of the person by all believers in regards to their behavior, and or, their teachings. In short they are instructed to have nothing to do with such a person while they are in rebellion. What fellowship does light have with darkness?
For the worldly-minded this seems to be a recipe for chaos, and in their world it would be. Unlike the propaganda of the world that teaches that anarchy is bad, like most things, it is really the foundation it is built on that renders it good or bad. Christians voluntarily submit to their biblical authorities out of love for God and each other. In their form of “anarchy” the foundation is built on love and service. Christians are instructed to love God with everything they are and have, to love their neighbor as they love themselves, bear with each others burdens, to consider the other person more important than themselves, to put the interests of the other person ahead of their own, to love your enemies, and to pray for those who persecute you. This is how we render a servants heart toward each other. All that is bad in worldly anarchy cannot survive or exist in such an environment, because in the obedient body of Christ there are no selfish motives allowed that would inevitably lead to political and ideological differences. These in turn would lead to a desire for power in order to lead the believers into the direction they want to go. Sadly, much of church history, and the existence of many “church” denominations today, are an example of this.
The world must always have the threat of coercion subtly, or not so subtly, implicit in its “laws” and “authorities”, the threat of punishment for noncompliance. It is true that in a comparatively minor way this is also present in the Church, but the threat is not from each other, but the fear of God’s justice, which is eternal. We obey out of love for God’s perfect justice, the world obeys out of fear. The Bible shows us that the elder (minister) bears the sword for those who are disobedient. This sword is not a worldly weapon, it is the Word of God, also called the Sword of Truth. It is not wielded to threaten, wound or kill, but to cut away all that would separate the believer from God’s Kingdom, it is wielded in love. It is for the betterment of the person, not the empowerment of the system.
The Bible shows us that Christ is head over the body of believers. The body is made up of many parts (the believers) with Christ being the head. Together we are one with God. As we all know, the head rules the body. We submit to His authority by believing and obeying the head of the body. Jesus has given us immense freedom to do as we please, as long as it doesn’t disobey His commands, which are comparatively few. He shows us that our decisions may not always be beneficial, but we have the freedom to make them. As King of kings and the Lord of lords He has supreme and eternal authority, making His, and the authority of those He authorizes, the only legitimate authorities.
For the true Christian, the world is a very difficult place to navigate. We are an extreme minority. We do not even consider the world our home, we are in the world, not of it. The Bible also tells us that we are aliens in the world. Obviously this is not referring to creatures from another planet. Our ways are so different from that of the world, combined with our minority status, that we can’t be seen any differently than as some strange anomaly. Some would point to the much larger population of “church-building-goers”, but their ways are as foreign to true believers as are the world’s, sharing with us only a very rudimentary morality, and even that as more of a religious code than a labor of love.
When a true believer encounters a worldly authority, in whatever capacity, they make every attempt to work with that authority. Although not recognized by us as having authority over us, we are told to do this so as not to offend them. Again, the foundational perspective is one of a loving servant. Should the “authority” attempt to enforce a law or requirement on the believer he need only search his heart to know whether to comply or not. What he is searching for is authority from King Jesus to comply, again so as not to offend. But, should the requirement bring the opposing authorities into conflict, when pressed, he must explain that he is not authorized by the King to comply, after all, we cannot serve two masters. Naturally this will anger the worldly authority that demands submission to its power. They will threaten the believer. But there is little that can be used as leverage over a true believer, as a true believer has already left everything to follow Jesus. In the end the threat is boiled down to jail or death. If he is not authorized to comply then he accepts jail, and or, death. The Bible foretells that in these end times believers would either flee, be captured, and or killed. By faith we leave the outcome in the hands of our King, we are His to do with as He pleases, knowing our reward is great, and eternal.
From Outside Babylon