Allow me to posit the
following: To borrow from our Founding Fathers, with regard
to the passionate search for “a more perfect” church, “Form
should follow Function.”
Tremendous interest surrounds the whole subject of the
identification and the practices of the authentic New Testament
church. Many who have followed the traditional church format have
grown weary of their efforts at goading a dead horse. While
statisticians chronicle the exodus of church members, and while
literally every denominational expression under the sun experiences
decline, some choose to bury their head in the sand of their
programs while others depart in search of something more substantive
and vital, something their hearts yearn for even as their minds are
not able to grasp.
I've heard the Cry on Four Continents, the synthesis of which is:
"We want more than the organized, traditional church has
delivered. We need more than religion can produce or
organization can provide. We're not satisfied with a song
and a sermon and a social club - we want God!"
I am here addressing
structure, not doctrine, and the structure I am addressing
is spiritual and not physical or organizational, which are
valid, but auxiliary considerations not within the scope of
This proposal infers
certain conditions and is not an all-encompassing statement.
To be clear, the claim that “form follows function” can
include panoply of possibilities. I am speaking herein of
function produced by and issuing from applied faith in the
crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ.
born-again person, functioning by and through the Spirit of
God will tend towards a form that is sympathetic to
spiritual life in Christ in whatever shape it may appear.
The resulting form,
absent previously learned behaviors or past religious
experience will be life-giving, life-encouraging and
life-sustaining. How the form of such activity appears is
not a matter of essential concern, except in the sense of
personal inclination. A spiritually alive man will produce a
living form just as a fountain cannot produce both sweet
water and bitter. A spiritually dead man will produce or
follow a spiritually dead form.
My intention here is
to first de-emphasize the necessity or tendency to establish
form (either by imitation of the Acts Model or by the
invention of something new - but oh, how we like “new”).
Often when discussing any kind of emergent church
form, the question quickly goes to “how do we do it?” and
“what should it look like?” These are at best incidental
queries, and at worst, they are self-defeating. To look
first for a “how” and a “what” is to bypass the most
necessary issues, which we will examine shortly.
Secondly, I will
address the question of function changing form, which
is another dynamic of function.
Function is here
defined as the new life as represented in John 20:22 and
Acts 1, 2 among others. When the first disciples experienced
the Second Birth, function – the way they worshipped, the
way they understood God, the way they responded to a now
indwelling Holy Spirit – changed from the Judaic and Levitic
form of worship, which Jews had practiced for millennia to
something new, something untried, and something strikingly
imperfect, yet alive.
The old, sacrificial
system with its hierarchy of the Aaronic priesthood was torn
asunder even as the veil had so recently been “rent in
twain” in the Temple. However inadequately the first
disciples transitioned to a new understanding of the
outworking of the Cross, to include the liberty and freedom
thereby provided, change did occur from the old form of
“law” to the new form contained by grace. This is the change
addressed by Paul when writing to the Galatian church:
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made
us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of
What we read in Acts
2:42-47 and following concerning the assembling together of
the new ekklesia is a radical departure from the
Judaic model even when considering the presence of residual
vestiges of the old system. I say radical, since the first
Christians were entirely Jewish, and possessed a deeply
entrenched institutional memory, knowledge, and custom, of
how one approaches and worships Jehovah God. All that had
been deeply ingrained by the teachers of the law was now
exchanged for a “new and living way” through a newly
recognized High Priest, Jesus, and through the indwelling
Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:6, 17).
With the resurrection
and subsequent ascension of Jesus and the outpouring of the
Holy Spirit at Pentecost, a new entity, a new vehicle of
God’s redemptive provision was born. Ensuing generations
would wrestle with the questions of Old and New, Law and
Grace and in the meanwhile, a fledgling and sometimes
grievously erring church would begin to walk out the intent
of heaven, reaching towards all mankind with the message of
the Good News and the “faith once delivered.”
Each generation of
Christ followers beginning with that primitive church would
find their own contextual methods of speaking with relevance
to their generations.
Traditions would be
born, sacred cows established, habits would be formed and
sacerdotal methodologies that would be engraved in stone.
Inch by inch the church structure would move from its
original center point until in many cases, a literal
“Ichabod” could appropriately be written over
Jesus had promised to
build His church, and has now fulfilled that promise for two
millennia, but the recognition of His building, the
comprehension of what the church was originally meant to be
has gone begging in many ecclesiastical circles.
Form was increasingly
dictating function. The cart truly was placed before the
horse. For instance, those who ardently attempt to follow
the Acts 2 description as our modern pattern have difficulty
with such activities as having “all things in common” and
selling their “possessions and goods, and dividing them
among all, as anyone had need”
(Acts 2:44,45). Some of the activity of the primitive church
was spiritually induced while other activity was a product
of existent culture, or particular circumstance.
We no longer practice
the culture existent two thousand years ago, and our
circumstances differ from those of our spiritual
forefathers. How we address our specific circumstances will
not serve a future generation, since their times will call
for their unique, heaven-directed response.
If we make “form” our
first priority, we will reproduce the physical activity and
perhaps mirror the appearance of an earlier church, but we
will potentially miss the inner power source that enabled
them. The form of “continuing daily with one accord in the
temple, and breaking bread from house to house” flowed from
the function of the indwelling Christ and the life being
experienced as a result. Could it be that today’s follower
of Jesus, experiencing that same indwelling presence will
find a form, different from but no less valid than the first
church’s expression? If replication of form is our
objective, we are creating, once again a dead tradition.
Certainly, the content
of the Acts 2 description is viable in every generation:
There must be essential elements present in the church such
as worship, discipleship, fellowship and evangelism. But the
form or forms these take should not be the issue. Where does
scripture dictate that God’s people must meet on Sunday
mornings? The first followers met daily. How would following
that pattern work with 21st century
five-day-a-week work schedules? Where is the divine edict
for meeting at 9:45 or 11:00 in the morning, or meeting in a
special room (considered to be holy because God appears
there) with special carpets and special seating?
History provides ample
evidence of breakthrough, of heaven crashing into our
programs and upsetting our hallowed activities. The rise of
the Pentecostal movement beginning in 1901 in Topeka, Kansas
is one such example. Among several immediate expressions of
this Pentecostal phenomenon was the birth of the Assemblies
of God, as numbers of former Methodist and Presbyterian
leaders, among others were drawn to the new Fellowship. In
this case, function, (as identified as the
onset of the Pentecost-birthed Baptism in the Holy Spirit
and the accompanying zeal among those baptized) radically
changed the form of worship these leaders had
been trained to conduct.
More recent is the
testimony of the Charismatic movement, where function
changed the form, the shape and the traditions of many
Lutheran, Methodist, Roman Catholic and other groups.
The rise of the
Emerging or Emergent Church - and here I do not refer to
those groups calling themselves emergent
which have either abandoned the belief and practice of the
word of God or which have mixed Eastern religious practice,
New Age teaching or other experimentations with their
Christianity - provides a contemporary example of function
again changing form.
Participants of the
“organic,” “simple church,” or “house church” movements are
discovering that form is not as essential as is first
establishing function. These expressions of church initially
sought a more primitive, more intimate and more authentic
worship experience but are discovering that the questions of
“Who are we?” “What distinguishes us from the world around
us?” “What are we here for?” “How do we approach, worship
and know God in an intimate and life sustaining way?” are of
prime concern. Once function is satisfied, a form typically
appears that may or may not look like another form in the
next city or nation.
form before considering function is akin to rearranging deck
chairs on the Titanic: The décor may look inviting, but the
ship is headed for disaster.
If function becomes
the subject rather than the pursuit of form, the question
moves to “What is the true function of the
church?” Perhaps if this question can be honestly answered,
form will arise of its own accord.
One of the topics of
greatest concern to many “church” leaders today is “what is
the church?” “What is its true, biblical function?” “What
does it look like?” “Where can I find it?” To answer these
questions, one must return to the beginning, and to the
Author and Founder of the church. It seems that many have
forgotten the words of Jesus, “I will build My church . . .
” and He begins that building in us.
Looking at hearts
should be a more critical concern than looking at systems or
structures, frameworks or forms. Establishing Spirit-formed
relationships, first with Christ and secondly with our
neighbors should trump the most elaborately designed
structures. When the requirement of function has been
satisfied, form will appear effortlessly.
The church isn’t “out
there,” it’s “in here.”
At the end of the day,
and perhaps even the discussion, It’s not ‘How do we
Do Church’ but ‘How do we Become
“All authority has been given to Me in
heaven and on earth” – Matthew 28:18 NKJ
“By tracing authority to its highest source, you will
eventually see God.”
– Watchman Nee
essay, we will be considering Jesus’ authority as expressed
on earth. It is our desire to see “God on earth” –the
incarnation of the life of Christ manifested on earth to the
fullest in His Body, the Church, the Bride of Christ. This
includes the expression of His kingdom authority and life,
first in us, then through us.
to Jesus’ statement, all legitimate authority has its root
in Him. His authority manifests in three specific realms:
civil authority, familial authority, and
ecclesial authority. We
will touch briefly on civil and familial authority, but the
primary purpose of this writing is the consideration of
days of transition for believers and reformation for the
church. May we take a fresh look at spiritual authority as
Jesus presents it to us?
I THE BASICS: SONSHIP AND SUBMISSION
1. SONS, NOT SLAVES
bath water is flowing in a torrent; and the baby is in jeopardy!
The living waters of rhema words are washing the church, and
revelation knowledge is catapulting saints from slavery
to sonship. Much of what we have known as authority
in the church is coming under scrutiny, and rightly so.
However, we must be careful of the extremes on both sides of
the issue. The old adage certainly applies here: don’t
throw out the baby with the bath water!
Our Father desires that we realize our sonship. We are not
slaves. We may be servants in our work, and must be
servants in our hearts, but we are to grow in the wonderful
knowledge of our adoption as sons in the ecclesial realm,
the kingdom of God. He has set us free that we might be
joint heirs with Christ as God’s sons. It is His intention
that we grow through obedience to become Jesus’ friends. It
is critical that we are all established in the realities of
our sonship, before we attempt to embrace the disciplines of
Jesus’ proclamation, “I call you friends,” came after
three years of discipleship, learning of Him and His ways.
Though it would take Pentecost to “seal” the lessons so to
speak, the point is, the status of "friends with God" does
not come instantaneously to babies. We start as friends at
the new birth in the sense that the war—the enmity between
God and ourselves—is over. We’re part of His family. There
is affectionate assurance in this great truth. However, the
co-laboring, joint-partnership of friendship develops in
Many maturing disciples are actually experiencing life as
sons of our Father. They are no longer bound by sin nor
subject to the systems of the world (including religious
systems). They are “free indeed” to know and carry out
God’s purpose and their destiny with authority. They can
see what the Father is doing, and do likewise. This is
what sons do!
what He saw the Father doing. That’s what sons do!
Please read John 15:14-16, then this
quote from “The Language of Kings” by John Garfield,
contrasting the roles of servants and friends (sons):
“Servants expect to receive commands and try to obey them.
There is no place for personal desires. Friends are invited
into the ‘master's business’ in a way that deploys the
natural desires of their hearts. Instead of telling friends
what to do, God is ‘inviting’ them to ask for the ‘whatever’
of their heart. Our prayer changes from talking to
listening. To our amazement we hear the Father asking us the
same question He asked Solomon, ‘What's your dream, how can
I help you?’”
2. SUBMISSION TO THE
It all starts here. Our first and foremost submission is to
the Holy Spirit.
For as many as are led by the Holy Spirit of God, these
are sons of God.
– Romans 8:14
Submission to His guidance radically affects our lives for
good, empowering us to live lives in subjection to governing
authorities in all arenas of life, civil, familial, and
ecclesial. The basis for spiritual authority is to be found
in the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
All of creation earnestly
expects the revealing of the sons of God, who will bring the
long-awaited deliverance from corruption (Romans 8:19-21)
both to the church and to the earth. The glory of the
Father, seen in the sons who bear His image (Romans 8:18,
29-30), will fulfill the law of the Spirit (Romans 8:2) and
bring life and peace.
Consider the following words of Scripture as they give us
promises of what is to come:
There will be no end to the
increase of His government and peace
as we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness
The zeal of the Lord of hosts
will perform this.
– Isaiah 9:7
Not by might, not by power,
but by My Spirit.
– Zechariah 4:6
He who raised Christ from the
dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His
Spirit who dwells in you.
– Romans 8:11
The reformation process of
the church will eventually produce God’s image and likeness
in His perfect man of many members (Ephesians 4:13).
The body of Christ will do the will of the Father, His
way, in the earth (as it is in heaven). The desires of
hearts (Psalm 37:4) will be calibrated to Father’s heart.
And, He will ask the Solomon questions, “What is your
dream? How can I help you?”
God has placed a
passion within each person.
3. SUBMISSION TO
GOVERNING CIVIL AUTHORITIES
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain
from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your
conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak
against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which
they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Therefore submit yourselves.
1 Peter 2:11-13a
We cannot say that we are in submission to God and to His
kingdom if we are living in disobedience to the tangible and
God-established authorities in our lives. It will be good to
consider Paul’s teaching in Romans 13 by beginning the
context at Chapter 12, verse 9. There are thirty-one
specifics regarding conduct in the passage. These should be
connected to Romans 13:1-2:
(1) Let love be without hypocrisy. (2) Abhor what is
evil. (3) Cling to what is good. (4) Be kindly affectionate
to one another (5) with brotherly love, (6) in honor giving
preference to one another; (7) not lagging in diligence, (8)
fervent in spirit, (9) serving the Lord, (10) rejoicing in
hope, (11) patient in tribulation, (12) continuing
steadfastly in prayer; (13) distributing to the needs of the
saints, (14) given to hospitality. (15) Bless those who
persecute you; (16) bless and do not curse. (17) Rejoice
with those who rejoice, and (18) weep with those who weep.
(19) Be of the same mind toward one another. (20) Do not
set your mind on high things, but (21) associate with the
humble. (22) Do not be wise in your own opinion. (23) Repay
no one evil for evil. (24) Have regard for good things in
the sight of all men. If it is possible, (25) as much as
depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (26) Beloved,
do not avenge yourselves, but rather (27) give place to
wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,
“ says the Lord. (28) Therefore, “If your enemy is
hungry, feed him; (29) if he is thirsty, give him a drink;
for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
(30) Do not be overcome by evil, (31) but overcome evil with
Let every soul be subject to
the governing authorities. For there is no authority except
and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the
ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment
on themselves. – Romans 13:1-2
Liberation from the law of
sin and death is not a license for lawlessness in any realm,
but an introduction to a new kind of life, a
“God-kind-of-life,” which is filled with mercy and grace,
longsuffering, goodness and truth. Paul said (Titus 2:11)
that the grace that has appeared to humanity is a teaching
grace. It teaches us to abstain from ungodliness, not
indulge in lawlessness.
Those who have been liberated
by the power of the Cross and resurrection life learn to
walk in a new and higher level of submission to the
authority of God, bound not by cold and robotic compliance,
but rather constrained by the law of life, love, and liberty
in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2; James 1:25).
Five times in his writings, the
Apostle Paul referred to himself as a “bondservant,” yet the
nature of those bonds was love not grudging duty. The
empowering Spirit of Christ in us, and our subjection to
Him, inevitably produces the right kind of fruit in every
sphere of life.
Because of the love nature and basis of our submission,
Christians are a nation’s best citizens. And that means
more than waving flags. Spirit-led sons of God are the salt
of the earth and the light of the world in practical
ways, making a difference where we live.
Our submission to Christ will
manifest a chaste conduct accompanied by fear, with gentle
and quiet spirits that are precious in the sight of God
(1 Peter 3:2, 4).
Sons will overcome evil with good as we go extra miles, even
giving our shirts, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit of
of the kingdom as expressed in Jesus’ Sermon on the
Mount will be lived out under heaven’s power and
it may be understandable to carnal minds, it is wrong to
compromise our witness by being reactionary, adopting the
world’s ways, and manifesting the strong-arm of the flesh.
This simple (but profound) obedience of faith will take us
all the way up to the point of violating the will and nature
of God. Only at that point will disobedience to civil
authority be in order. (We will touch on this again later in
this essay). Even then, we must maintain the proper
attitude of humility and submission that is expected
and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:5-20; 1 Peter
4. SUBMISSION TO ELDERS
Many believers have attempted
to live a dualistic life with regard to authority. While
they readily will submit to governing civil authorities
(Romans 13:1), they live without restraint or submission to
authority in their spiritual lives. We cannot pick and
choose the spheres of life in which we are willing to
submit. Jesus spoke of rendering to Caesar what is
Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew
Our submission to the elders of the church is vital for our
spiritual development as kingdom men and women. The nature
of our submission, what it looks like and how it works out,
can be as varied as the trees in the forest. But the fact of
our submission to elders is a non-negotiable biblical
God places us under guardians
(Galatians 4:1-2) who, in
turn, give account to Him for our souls (Hebrews 13:17).
They are commissioned to willingly oversee us (1 Peter 5:2)
in ways that equip us for the work of the ministry, so that
we may walk in a manner worthy of our calling (Ephesians
God prepared good works for
us to walk in
But, the works
were prepared for maturing believers. Baby Christians must
begin with simple and general lessons as they begin to learn
how to walk in obedience. (If we cannot obey man whom we
can see, how will we obey God whom we cannot see?) We are
first to become disciples, submitted to teachers (see
Matthew 10:24-25), so that we might learn to walk in His
higher ways of thinking and
(Isaiah 55:8-9). Elders are
examples to the younger followers (1 Peter 5:3).
Our old and carnal ways, the
ways of the flesh, cannot please God (Romans 8:8). Left to
our own devices, we will never walk worthy of our calling,
and never be able to pray as Jesus prayed:
“I glorified You on the earth; I completed the work that
You gave Me to do.”
By yielding to the discipling
of appointed mentors we are transformed by the renewing of
our minds (Romans 12:1-2) and through encounters with the
Lord by the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Here’s what submission to elders/mentors can look like in
From Greg Austin:
My first experience with “ministry” and authority came soon
after I sensed God’s call in that direction. I began working
under a local pastor. I was saved, filled with the Spirit,
called of God, anointed and excited. My first true “ministry
position” began on a Monday morning. When I arrived at the
church, the pastor led me to my first assignment. Stacked
outside next to a wall of the church was a large pile of
used lumber. The pastor said: “Those boards are all full of
nails. We can’t use them until the nails are pulled. Here’s
a hammer. Lunch is at noon.”
Frustrated, even offended that my “anointing” was being
wasted on wood, I pulled nails all that day and the day
following. “I did this stuff when I was a fourteen-year old
nail driver,” I complained to myself. “This is ridiculous. I
should be out praying for the sick, setting captives free,
preaching the Word of God! I should be doing something to at
least prepare for ministry!”
It took several days for me to cool off enough for the Lord
to speak to me, and when He did, His words were brief, but
powerful. “You ARE preparing for the ministry. Pull the
nails and Praise Me.” I thank God that I finally recognized
that the dead man was trying to revive, and that I was a new
creature in Christ who needed to learn to submit before I
would be ready to instruct. Without submission to those God
has placed over us, we prove our immaturity. God will not
release us to “rule over many things” until we have first
been found to be faithful “over a few things.”
I had a similar experience. Mine involved a mop! – Steve
Mine was cleaning toilets! – Don Atkin
At its heart the call to discipleship means submission,
dying daily to futile self-effort, dreams of grandeur, to
hopeless laboring in the flesh, and to the systems and
values taught us by a world out of sync with God. It is
choosing the resurrection life that Jesus brings us on the
other side of the cross.
5. SUBMISSION TO THE BODY
Submitting to one another in the fear of God. - Ephesians
Humanistic religion effortlessly recognizes and submits to a
superior and usually invisible divine figure, but recoils at
submission to another person (not even a prophet or an
apostle) but simply a peer, the “one another” in whom the
Spirit of God dwells. This crucial test reveals our true
spirituality and maturity.
In an hour when many believers have experienced the leading
of the Holy Spirit to leave the institutional traditional
church in search of a more biblically based worship and life
experience, the following truths remain constant: God’s plan
for individuals is found within the context of His Body, the
Forms of church expression, traditional versus house church,
institutional versus organic church should not be confused
or necessarily equated with the genuine church Jesus
declared He would build. The key is to differentiate between
“body” and “institution,” between living organism and
Life begets structure. Structure (regardless of what type)
does not beget life. Our values and mission vision
should dictate form. Form should neither limit nor
compromise values or mission. The reason the Spirit of God
moved on the formless deep in Genesis 1, bringing order and
structure, was because they were necessary to sustain life.
Life is the goal, not merely order. All of God’s order,
without life, is not yet “good.” Only when life is manifest
can it be called as God did in Genesis–good. Order serves
While we may not yet be able to cogently identify and define
the church that is appearing, what is of supreme importance
is that while we may leave one tradition, we dare not in our
zeal create another—inadvertently or consciously.
Regardless of the expression or form the church may take,
the Body of Christ, the Church of Jesus remains, and within
this context believers find meaning, purpose, and destiny.
Submission to the Body means, in part, recognizing the
Spirit of God within the Body and submitting to the Father’s
authority as it is manifested through the Body. This is not
a call to submission to man’s authority manifested through a
denomination, presbytery, fellowship, parish, or even an
apostolic network. Heaven’s call is to humble submission to
one another as we seek to follow and walk with Jesus.
Perhaps you are currently contemplating a departure from a
traditional church structure. While God indeed may be the
genesis of your consideration, stay connected until you know
without doubting that God is transplanting you. Don’t leave
your roots exposed to the elements. It is better to be
part of a body where reformation may not yet be recognized,
than to be a “Lone Ranger” with no committed relationships.
True, godly relationships will always include
accountability. Parents often tell their erring children,
“If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t correct you.” The same is
true in the Body of Christ. Within such a relationship,
being accountable is neither arduous nor negative, and does
not require the familiar “trappings” that we have known as
“church.” Traditional church dogma is based on structures,
while God’s governmental structure is based upon
relationships. It is important to have the “Amen!” of the
Spirit within you regarding your placement.
accountability is essential to our participation in the
unfolding purposes of God.
Both mutual accountability among brethren and accountability
to those who have been given oversight are necessary for
true spiritual maturity to occur. The Holy Spirit of God
establishes righteous accountability in Christ. Although we
serve according to the example of Jesus Christ, we are not
merely servants. It is primarily relational accountability
that facilitates our growing into full and experiential
sonship and into full participation in the reformation of
The life of Christ is by definition, submissive and
accountable, if indeed it is Christ’s very life in us. It
has to be, and it has to manifest. However, you can produce
accountability from the Adamic nature and not possess the
life of Christ. Accountability is a by-product, a fruit, of
something else. It is not a free-standing entity of its own.
If we preach and experience the life, we will get the fruit
quite effortlessly. We don’t preach accountability. We
preach Christ, accurately, incarnationally, empowered, and
accountability will result.
Brick masons understand the importance of aligning bricks so
that they are level, square and plumb. The Bible describes
disciples as “living stones” that are being built together
as a habitation for God. Scripture also uses the human body
as a metaphor. Bodies sometimes need a chiropractic
adjustment. We desire for Father to ask us the Solomon
question: "What's your dream, how can I help you?” Filled
with His life-giving Spirit, and rightly ordered in heart
and relationships by His divine Hand, He will give us the
desires of our hearts.
PART II THE
DNA OF KINGDOM AUTHORITY
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE? HOW DOES IT WORK?
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of
God to be revealed.
– Romans 8:19 NIV
could be said that the issue of this essay is the recovery
of God’s DNA in authority on earth. It is a very real battle
for spiritual DNA. What follows is our estimation of some of
the genetic structure that makes up Christ’s authority DNA.
KINGDOM AUTHORITY IS SUBMISSIVE
A father notices that his five-year-old son is standing up
in the back seat of the car, and instructs him, “Son, sit
down and buckle your seat belt!” The son ignores his dad,
who then more emphatically says, “Son, sit down and buckle
your seat belt, right now!” Again, he is ignored. “If you
don’t sit down and buckle your seat belt now, I will stop
the car, we will both get out of the car, and you will be
sorry!” (Meaning: “I’m going to HURT you at the
God-provided spot on your body which cannot be damaged.”
Or, “I am going to get to the “seat” of this problem with
the “board” of “education!”) The boy sits down, and the
father hears him mumbling, “I’m sitting down on the outside,
but I’m still standing up on the inside!”
Many who consider themselves adults are “still standing up
on the inside,” waiting until obedience is forced, either by
direct command or by circumstances.
When I was a child, I spoke
as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child;
but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
– 1 Corinthians 13:11
Submissiveness (an inward attitude) is even more
foundational to the Christian life and witness than
obedience (an outward action). Our inward attitude
will—sooner or later—drive our outward actions. Behavior
modification (in the world and in the church) is no
substitute for conversion and the renewing of our minds.
This is not a concept that can be understood by natural
humanity (the unregenerate Adamic nature), nor a command
that can be obeyed by carnal humanity. Only the new
creation, formed from heaven’s Seed can
experience the dimensions of God’s authority. This is the
unprecedented and supernatural life of a new species
in the earth.
The principle of God’s universal authority applies in the
civil and familial arenas of life for all mankind. However,
the capacity for true and full obedience is only found in
and among the new creation. The operative nature of
ecclesial authority is “love.” Therefore, by love (the
fruit of the Holy Spirit within and upon believers) they are
uniquely empowered to excel in civil and familial arenas as
well as parts of the body of Christ.
Christ in us, portraying the
higher thoughts and ways of God, and demonstrating the way
of the Spirit in true humility in the face of authority.
The Spirit of God is still honoring the Father by honoring
those who are given authority in the earth. Understanding
this, we will no longer vilify people in places of
authority. For, in doing so, we are vilifying God! On the
other hand, when we honor all people
(I Peter 2:17) we
give honor to God.
The three realms of authority—familial, civil, and
ecclesial—do not necessarily operate identically. While the
concept of submission is identical in each, the expression
of submission is not. We must not blur the distinctions.
Civil authority is positional, potentially coercive (no
choice involved), normally non–relational, and static
(rigid). That is, civil authority only changes (in our
society) through the electoral or legislative process in
civil government. Legitimate kingdom authority in the family
and church is not static. It is relational, volitional (in
the church), and most importantly seasonal. Since its
foundation is relational, it’s expression changes as the
relationships change as the result of growth in the seasons
of natural and spiritual life. (See Part VI of this essay).
Wholly furnished with power from on high, anointed saints
are equipped for exemplary demonstrations of the kingdom of
God in societal and family life. In the familial or
ecclesial (spiritual) arenas of life, silence and submission
are not biblically required in the face of abuse, injustice,
or corruption. We do submit when these authorities are
moral, ethical, legal, and jurisdictionally proper.
It’s possible to get hold of a legitimate concept of God and
make God submissive to His own principles as if the
principle itself has within it animating life. If we animate
a “thing,” like accountability, and present it as something
to be pursued, we have subordinated God. This is, of course,
fundamentally idolatrous. We pursue God, and we get
accountability. We don’t pursue accountability thinking we
get God. It is a root and fruit issue. Life is the root.
Accountability is the fruit.
But this matter is so slippery because we often think we are
representing God’s interests by advocating for one of His
principles, when in reality, we are advocating a form of
religious idolatry. There is no substitute for the root and
fountain of life. Cut off from Him/It, any principle becomes
an idol, even when it is a good principle.
We have not seen a more
submissive man in history than Jesus Christ, who is in
us—the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Jesus modeled
the new creation life of love. Jesus lived His life on earth
completely under authority by honoring relationships. When
He was young, He was in subjection to His parents. After
His baptism, the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness.
After emerging into ministry, He only did what He saw His
Father doing. That’s what sons do! As He is, so are we
in the world (1 John 4:17).
Because the submissive Christ
is in us, we can be salt and light (Matthew
5:13-16) in any situation. Kingdom authority happens by
influence. One of the reasons we should not be too hasty to
remove ourselves from present situations that are less than
perfect is because of the potential loss of kingdom
influence at our departure. There is no perfect situation
among today’s options.
While some may eventually close, other local church
expressions are being transformed from within and may
eventually flow together with others in their geo-political
sphere. Don’t be distracted by form; rather look for
substance. God looks upon the heart. Learn to eat the meat
and spit out the bones. Extend the same mercy and grace
that you need extended to you! The Spirit of God will not
lead you to be critical or judgmental. He will lead you to
love and pray.
Bottom line, we are
accountable to God. That accountability is worked out
on practical levels through our
accountability to one another.
3. KINGDOM AUTHORITY MUST
BE SPIRIT-LED IN ALL ARENAS.
Therefore, submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for
the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to
governors, as to those who are sent by Him for the
punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do
good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good
you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men
– as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice,
but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the
brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
– 1 Peter
The obvious question is,
“What if those in authority are unfair, ill-advised, could
cause undue suffering?” Peter continues:
Servants, be submissive to
your masters with all fear, not only to the good and
gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable,
if because of conscience toward God one endures
grief, suffering wrongfully (Verses
conduct is evidence of a new creation (II Corinthians
5:17), a new species in the earth, demonstrating the
kingdom of heaven by the power of the Source of all
authority, God Himself.
This is the faithful and
overcoming lifestyle that comes from the Seed, the Seed of
Christ in you, the
hope of glory (Galatians 4:19; Colossians 1:27)! This kind of
conscience toward God (Acts 23:1; I Peter 2:19) only
comes by the renewing of the mind
(Romans 12:2) and the
embracing of God’s higher thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8).
This does not mean that we are to simply “roll over and play
dead” in the face of abusive or unjust leaders in the
familial or ecclesial arenas. There is also a place for
peacefully opposing prevailing civil authorities (e.g.
Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, opposition to
the Third Reich, Stalin, etc).
However, it is beyond the scope of this writing
address the many specific challenges that may confront the
believer with regard to abusive, unjust, or manifestly evil
civic leadership. When specific situations arise, our trust
is in the Holy Spirit and His promise to provide wisdom and
direction for that moment. Jesus resisted unjust
authorities in His life (Roman and Jewish), and submitted to
them in His passion. There is no “canned answer” substitute
for being led by the Spirit. May we be gracious with one
another in these matters.
4. KINGDOM AUTHORITY BEARS
THE AROMA OF CHRIST
The following quote from David VanCronkite expresses the
contrast between what Jesus modeled and what we see today.
Kingdom is relational, not organizational. It is a
supernatural expression of His essence. The Church must have
a religious structural organization today because it refuses
to be relational and disregards the supernatural. It needs a
religious form to let men know if they are meeting the
expectations. Kingdom needs no man to affirm, only man to
love and encourage, giving the same grace and mercy to one
another that is received from God.”
We must go all the way back to Jesus’ earth walk for an
authentic model of kingdom life which is to govern the
church. We are being raised up to manifest His life and
authority—a supernatural expression of His essence—in
God resists the proud, but
gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). So much of what we
have seen and experienced in what we have called “church”
has reeked of the boastful pride of life. We are watching
leaders succumb to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the
eye, and the boastful pride of life (1John 2:15-17).
We are not to be driven by
passions, possessions or position. Our only ambition should
be to serve the purpose of our Father, by doing what we see
Him doing. Jesus did nothing of His own initiative (John
5:19, 30). He is our model for true spiritual authority.
Jesus did not drive people; He led them—those who chose to
follow Him. He explained how the shepherd functions:
He calls his own sheep by
name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own
sheep, he goes before them; and they follow him, for they
know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a
stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the
voice of a stranger.
The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. I know
My Sheep, and am known by My own. My sheep hear My voice,
and I know them, and they follow Me. - John 10:3-5, 11,
The government of God is
carried out through relationships. Spiritual authority is
rightly working when believers are accountable where they
have been placed (I Corinthians 12:18). A proof of
God’s placement is the ability to hear what the Spirit is
saying to the church, through godly servant-leaders and
Following one of Jesus’
teachings in the synagogue in Capernaum, many of His
disciples responded, “This is a hard saying; who can
understand it?” In the same way that He explained the
contrast of two realms to Nicodemus (John 3), Jesus said to
It is the Spirit who gives
life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to
you are spirit, and they are life
Knowing from the beginning those who would not believe and
would betray Him (John 6:64),
He revealed a principle that also applies to the setting of
order in His body:
“Therefore I have said to you
that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him
by My Father.” From that time many of His disciples went
back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the
twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter
answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the
words of eternal life.”
– John 6: 65-68
A significant portion of our
storehouse, the words of eternal life, will be found flowing
through the relationships that God has appointed for us.
Truth will be spoken in love, with humility, from pure
hearts of servant leaders who will lay down their lives for
the sheep (John 10:11).
We will grow up in all
aspects into the Head, Christ (Ephesians 4:15), under the
protection and with the provision of good shepherds. We
will discover our vocations and destiny in the safe
environment which they provide. We will be prepared for and
released into our life’s work by ministry gifts (Ephesians
4:11) that are flowing in God’s anointing.
5. HOW DOES SPIRITUAL
first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and
giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who
are in authority, that you may lead a quiet and peaceable
life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and
acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all
men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
- 1 Timothy 2:1-4
God’s thoughts and ways are
higher than man’s thoughts and ways
(Isaiah 55:9). We are called
upon to seek Him
while He may be found
(Verse 6), repenting of our
instinctive human concepts of authority, and embracing what
is revealed to us by the Spirit of God. “Spiritual
authority is exercised within the church, not
over the Church.” – David Newby
Much of the church is yet under Gentile authority.
Temporal, static, positional authority, while established by
God to govern human institutions and situations, falls short
of the will of God for the church. Human institutions, no
matter how rightly motivated, cannot provide heaven’s
government. While positional authority is normative in the
civil arena, “it shall not be so among you” is Jesus’
word on the subject. Only when love fails or immaturity
reigns may such positional authority become necessary in the
familial or ecclesial arenas. Perfected love is our goal,
not the maintenance of order. Perfect love rules in heaven,
and earth is supposed to reflect heaven (as it is in heaven,
etc.) Expressed authority is the restraining necessity upon
a fallen creation. It is God’s preventative against chaos,
which is the tendency of all things natural when the love
reign of Christ is not effective.
Our attempts to organize and structure an acceptable
wineskin for the church will always fall short of the divine
ideal. No institution or facility is the true wineskin of
God. All are the products of man’s creativity and
ingenuity. At best, present-day structures, organizations
and facilities are temporary scaffolds. At worst, they
pervert and limit the purpose of God to fill the earth with
His government and glory through mature sons.
The principle was made
evident when a righteous and good King David determined to
build a house for God. The Lord’s response was simply:
“You shall not
build Me a house to dwell in”
(1 Chronicles 17). Jesus told
His disciples, “I
will build My church . . .”
And God has already begun to pour out His Wine into His
The body of Christ IS
the New Wineskin!
Jesus walked on the earth, His body was heaven’s wineskin.
He was filled with the wine of God. Since His ascension,
Jesus has a new body on the earth now. When Jesus was here
in bodily form, His earthly body (birthed by Mary) was the
Wineskin. Today, His body on the earth is His wineskin.
The church is God’s
acceptable wineskin, but the church is not a building, it’s
not a program, and it’s not an organization. God’s wineskin
is a people (1 Peter 2:10), living stones (1 Peter 2:5),
built together through relationships to receive and rightly
steward the wine of His Presence and the temple of His
Habitation (Ephesians 2:22).
Many saints who do not
struggle with accountability anywhere else are struggling in
the church. They are fitting into the world’s systems, but
not into the religious systems. Hearts given to the Lord
Jesus Christ are frustrated in their search for placement (I
Corinthians 12:18) and purpose (I Corinthians 12:7;
Ephesians 2:10) in the body of Christ.
This revelation will
necessarily revolutionize our entire concept of the church.
The contrast is now becoming clear:
That which is born of the
flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is
spirit (John 3:6).
We are to be
accountable to authority in every human realm. However, the
church is neither birthed nor nurtured under humanly devised
6. KINGDOM AUTHORITY IS
Blessed is the man whose
heart is set on pilgrimage. – Psalm 84:5
While some are
and others are settlers, we are all to be pilgrims.
We pilgrims understand that, as sojourners, we are
seeking a city
whose builder and maker is God
(Hebrews 11:10). Therefore,
we abstain from
fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having our conduct
honorable among the Gentiles, that they may glorify God in
the day of visitation
(I Peter 2:11-12).
Settlers may be content within the confines of their
present church situation. Pioneers may be looking
for more. Both are encouraged to seek the heart of God.
Both settlers and pioneers are to have hearts set on pilgrimage.
The bride, the Lamb’s wife,
the great city, the holy Jerusalem, will descend out of
heaven from God, having the glory of God.
– Revelation 21:9-11
The glory of God, the government of
God, descends out of heaven. The authority of God
originates from Him and points to Him.
Wherever Christ is
manifest, His government is present. That includes in one
another. We can learn to submit to one another as we
recognize one another according to Christ, not according to
We can discover who we are in Him. We can look upon one
another after the Spirit. We can see Christ in one another,
the hope of glory, and recognize the authority of God
in our lives with one another. We can! We must!
III NEW CREATION LEADERSHIP
step in reformation will require fresh and
profound revelation about spiritual authority.
the church will require a brand new architectural design!
to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master
builder I have laid a foundation.
– I Corinthians 3:10
Jeremiah over the nations and kingdoms, to root out and
pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to
This is a prophetic look at what needs to happen today.
IN TANDEM WITH APOSTLES
Both prophets and apostles
are to be involved in fulfilling this Jeremiah
commission—but not alone and isolated from one another.
The household of
God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and
prophets (Ephesians 2:19-22), needs these two grace gifts to labor
The simultaneous exercise of
(1) the prophetic grace to root out and pull down, to
destroy and to throw down, and (2) the apostolic grace
to plant and build up, will lead to an unprecedented
response from believers. There is a spiritually instinctive
desire within the hearts of those who
are being built together for
a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22)
safe, Christ-like, foundational leadership.
Most prophets and apostles
are still operating independently, so the “Jeremiah
commission” goes unfulfilled to date. Many prophets are
following a variety of rabbit trails, and some apostles are
still trying to fit into old wineskins. There are apostles
who are suspicious of prophets and prophets who cannot trust
apostles. Much that is to be rooted out, pulled down,
destroyed and thrown down remains. And much that is to be
built and planted has not yet begun to happen.
There must be a
radical mutual accountability among prophets
and apostles before a radical reformation of the church
will take place.
Yoked together in Jesus, apostles oversee the construction
and prophets provide guidance and encouragement for the job
being done. Because they are together, apostles are free to
focus upon the master plan, and prophets are free to focus
upon both the logos and the rhema of God. Subsequent
to these developments, the teachers will be able to begin
grounding the church, building on a right foundation, under
proper government and guidance, rather than focusing upon
their own perspectives and teaching their pet doctrines.
WITH RIGHT HEARTS
If a man desires the position
of a bishop, he desires a good work.
- 1Timothy 3:1
First, the “b” in
bishop is not capitalized
(in contrast to today’s practice). Also, note that it is
the work that they desire, not the position. Bishops,
overseers, elders, are positioned by apostolic appointment,
to serve as overseers and examples to the flock:
Shepherd the flock of God
which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion
but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as
being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples
to the flock. - I
The emphasis is upon
serving. Those who rule well are deserving of double honor
(1 Timothy 5:17), but should not demand or necessarily
expect that double honor. We should be extremely wary of
those who demand five-star hotels, limo service, or luxury
rental cars, and huge honorariums. Perhaps they still love
the world and the things of the world.
Peter also identified himself
as an elder (1 Peter 5:1). Surely, the standards to which
elders are called apply also to apostles! Paul protected
was a burden to no one—in labors more abundant, in stripes
above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.
Beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, perils, weariness, toil,
sleeplessness, hunger and thirst, fastings, cold and
nakedness. – 2
Above all of these, he was
daily burdened by his deep concern for all the churches (2
Corinthians 11:28). He had a true apostolic heart—the heart
of Jesus—who made
Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant,
and coming in the likeness of men, humbled Himself
3. MINISTERS WITH
The husband of one wife, one
who rules his own household well, having his children in
submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know
how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the
church of God?).
Not a novice, lest he fall into the condemnation of the
devil. Moreover he must have a good report of those which
are without; lest he fall in to the reproach of the devil
– 1 Timothy 3:2, 4-7.
Four key opportunities for proving one’s ability to serve in
God’s leadership service are: (1) wife, (2) household, (3)
children and (4) testimony of unbelievers. God is concerned
about His wife, His household, His children, and
unbelievers. He does not want them in the care of, or
handled by, unproven, prematurely appointed leaders.
How can a man who cannot
take care of his wife take care of the church—Jesus’ wife?
While fidelity, protection and provision are essential,
wives are also to be loved! It does not take long to
discern whether or not a wife is loved by her husband. The
woman is the glory of the man (1 Corinthians 11:7).
love your wives,
just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for
her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing
of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a
glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such
things, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So
husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies;
he who loves his wife loves himself. –
Husbands, likewise, dwell
with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as
to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the
grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. –
1 Peter 3:7
How can a man who cannot take
care of his household take care of the church of God? The
household of God is a people, not a place. Nevertheless,
servant-leadership among the people requires being fiscally
responsible. We are not talking about a pop prosperity
message. We are talking about great grace upon the
saints, so there is no one among us who lacks.
For all who were possessors
of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of
the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’
feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
– Acts 4:34-35
Not long afterward it was brought to the apostles’ attention
that the needs of some widows were not being met. They
immediately administrated the fulfilling of those needs.
Their proven status as guardians (protectors) and stewards
(providers) was apparent in the household of God.
How can a man who cannot take
care of his own children take care of God’s children?
And you, fathers,
do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in
the training and admonition of the Lord
(Ephesians 6:4). It is the
exhortation of fathers that results in the motivation of
children. Fathers’ comfort gives the security, and their
charge imparts vision and destiny
(See 1Thessalonians 2:11-12).
Undisciplined, unruly, or unloved children are indications
that a man is not yet ready to rule in the household of
God. Though the father may live in the home, these signs of
neglect are indications of wrong priorities.
Proper care of our homes, families and finances is a
foundational qualification for righteous ruling in the house
of God. There is a mutual accountability among family
members, as well as accountability for the stewardship of
any material possessions.
4. Relationships outside the community of believers
This is hard for many to swallow, but the Scriptures teach
that the testimony of unbelievers must be considered when
evaluating someone for “ministry” or church leadership.
When Paul refers to “those who are without” he is referring
to those outside the community of faith: unbelievers. This
is a matter that we “church folk” are often not serious
about. A person’s testimony and relationship with
unbelievers is part of the qualification to lead in God’s
Church. This is particularly true in the matter of morals
and ethics—how we live behaviorally before the eyes of the
unbelievers in our spheres of life. Contextually in the
1Timothy passage, it can also link to the idea of not having
any criminal or legal judgments pending against a leadership
If a person walks on water and prophesies like Jeremiah on
Sunday, but cheats on his taxes and is an overbearing,
offensive, religious zealot at his place of work, Monday
through Saturday, that individual does not belong in any
form of church leadership. If the individual’s relationships
with the unbelievers in his sphere of influence are not
right, that individual should not be in church leadership.
4. MINISTERS WITH RIGHT
We must understand that (1) we are ministers of the grace of
God, by the grace of God (2) we are oracles of the word of
God, (3) we are messengers, not managers, presidents, or
kings and (4) we have specific spheres of God-given
responsibility, with corresponding authority.
1. Ministers by Grace
by grace I am what I am
15:10). To each
one of us grace was given according to the measure of
Christ’s gift (Ephesians 4:7).
with all gifts, is an extension of God’s grace to His
For you see your calling,
brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not
many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen
the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise,
and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to
shame the things that are mighty; and the base things of the
world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and
the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things
that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.
– 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
We have become partakers and
dispensers of His glory because of His graceful choice. We
live and serve by His unmerited favor and power. We are
graced with the Spirit of sonship that we might be joint
heirs with Christ (Romans 8:14-18). Remember: God is
opposed to the
proud and gives grace to the humble
2. We are to speak as
(1 Peter 4:11).
The word is not ours, but
His. It needs none of our embellishments. God does not
need our help. His
word is alive, powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword
It stands on its own, and will not return unto Him void.
It will accomplish His purpose in sending it forth (Isaiah
not unnecessarily raise our voice, or shout at people or
talk down to people. We should avoid being driven by
religious spirits to change our voice quality or demeanor.
We are simply oracles of God. The Author does the work
through the Spirit as we, in faith, share what we have been
given to share.
We are to
speak the truth in love
God is love (1
John 4:8). Anything less than love is not fit to bear the
truth to others. Love makes the word acceptable, palatable,
overriding all prejudice and previous pain. Love cuts
through the obstacles of the flesh and pierces the heart.
3. Appropriate self-evaluation
In Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation Jesus dictated seven
letters to John, who was an apostolic father to the seven
churches in Asia. These seven individual evaluations and
directives were addressed to the messengers of these
individual cities/regions. These apostles were in John’s
sphere, and accountable to him.
However, not all are apostles
or prophets or teachers (1 Corinthians 12:29). Not all are
elders (overseers). There are gifts of helps and
administrations. There are managers. It is
honorable—equally valuable—to be called by God to the
ministries of helps, administrations, management.
Jesus dictated through John
individual letters to the messengers of the seven churches
(Revelation 2-3). We are
writing to messengers, not managers. So many who
have been graced as messengers have allowed themselves to be
unduly burdened as managers. Please note how the Lord’s
first twelve messengers preserved their rightful role:
Seek out from among you seven
men . . . whom we may appoint over this business; but we
will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the
ministry of the word.
– Acts 6:3-4
Organization is necessary in the body of Christ.
Unnecessary organizational encumbrances will be eliminated
as the church is reformed. Developing a right understanding
of these things will set us on course for kingdom
Knowing our spheres of
responsibility and corresponding authority (2 Corinthians
10:13) helps us to be properly yoked with Jesus, whose yoke
is easy and burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). Rest for
our souls is the fruit of being rightly ordered.
what they see their Father doing (John 5:19). No less. No
more. Maturity releases us from pleasing men, from our own
selfish ambitions, and frees us to walk in peace. (We are
praying that we may grow up before we grow old!)
God is not
establishing many individual kingdoms.
Realizing that the poor will
always be with us (Matthew 26:11), we learn to not be
motivated merely by discernible need. Rather, we become
motivated by obedience that will address both perceived need
and need which may not be apparent to the natural eye or the
mind. So many concerns are wiped away when we know who we
are, where we are placed, and what we are to do. Only this
kind of mature understanding qualifies us to lead as
servants in this greatest time in history for the
reformation of the church.
As we come to realize our
identities, our places in the body, and our spheres of
responsibility (with corresponding authority), we will see
exponential increase in our influence and effectiveness in
the kingdom. We will bear fruit that abides (John 15:8).
IV APOSTOLIC DIMENSIONS OF
1. POSITIONAL VS.
Jesus Christ commissioned the apostles:
All authority has been given
to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make
disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching
them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and
lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
– Matthew 28:18-20)
I will not leave you orphans;
I will come to you. A little while longer and the world
will see Me no more, but you will see Me.
– John 14:18-19
He who has My commandments
and keeps them, it is he who loves Me, and he who loves Me
will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest
Myself to him. –
Even the demons are subject
to us in Your name. “Behold, I give you authority.”
– Luke 10:17-20
Authentic spiritual authority
flows from the throne of God into the earth realm through
those who have been
raised up together, and made
to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus
2:4-7). Christ Jesus rules, He is in us (Colossians 1:27),
and we are in Him (Colossians 3:1-4).
Here’s an important insight:
and King, but He normally functions in and among
His people as Christ, the Anointed One.
God has set humanity
over the works of His hands, but we must learn to
function in His anointing. This is the clear
authority and spiritual authority.
He is our pattern and example
God has set man over the
works of His hands, and put all things in subjection under
his feet. He left nothing that is not put under him. But
now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see
Hebrews 2:5-13). We are running with endurance the
race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author
and finisher of our faith (From Hebrews 12:1-2.).
We would already see all
things put under us if positional authority were all
that is needed to realize God’s kingdom. But it’s the
anointing that breaks yokes (Isaiah 10:27), not Gentile
authority! God has already declared our position as joint
heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). But, to rule and reign
with Him (II Timothy 2:12) waits for the perfecting
(maturing) of the glorious bride, the church (Ephesians
We have already received the
crown of anointing (Leviticus 21:10-12) as the virtuous
bride of Christ (Proverbs 31:10)We have received an
anointing from the Holy One (I John 2:20). Although the
anointing abides in us, we are still learning how to abide
in the Son and in the Father (Verse 24), to abide in the
anointing (Verse 27).
spiritual authority was prophesied by Isaiah and
demonstrated by Jesus. Because of the significance of this
point, we will consider both of these passages:
“Behold! My Servant whom I
uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My
Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the
Gentiles. He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor
cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed
He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He
will bring forth justice for truth. He will not fail nor be
discouraged, Till He has established Justice in the earth;
and the coastlands shall wait for His law.”
- Isaiah 42:1-4
My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is
well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will
declare justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry
out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A
bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not
quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory; and in His
name Gentiles will trust.”
– Matthew 12:18-21
We can look at these prophetic passages and see the higher
ways and thoughts of God as they were demonstrated through
the earthly life of Jesus. This will help us to evaluate
what the anointing looks like in action! Notice that in the
four gospels, Jesus only used the word, “Authority,” a few
He did not break bruised reeds or quench smoking flax
He identified the exercise of Gentile authority as
Lording it over others
He responded to questions about where He got His
He used the word in the parable of the servants
He acknowledged that He had been given authority
He claimed all authority, both in heaven and on earth,
while commissioning the apostles.
Those who have been given authority do not need to talk
about it! Jesus simply lived in the anointing that He had
received from Father. True spiritual authority is not
exercised; it operates within the anointing.
will learn how to abide in the anointing that breaks
yokes of bondage off God’s precious creation and
releases captives into their rightful inheritance as
We are holding to the prophetic promise spoken through
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no
end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order
it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time
forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will
We are being
gathered from among the nations in order
to be given to the nations! We are positioned for
the inheritance through our adoption as sons. Creation
eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. The
last Man, through the sons, will fulfill his original
commission to the first man:
Be fruitful and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over every
living thing that moves on the earth.
– Genesis 1:28
Most people will discover that their primary purpose is to
be walked out in their homes, in the marketplaces of
education, science, commerce, medicine, industry, the arts,
etc., not as a “hireling” or “CEO” of a religious
institution. They are to be equipped and under- girded
through placement in the body of Christ so that their
kingdom light will freely shine wherever they are and
whatever they are doing.
2. APOSTOLIC GRACE
given to apostles is to be held lightly, exercised
faithfully, expressed relationally, and followed
We should not
neglect the very nature of God’s Firstborn Son as we look for
His life and ministry flow among men.
Jesus is the Way to the Father
(John 14:6), and all believers have bold access into the Holy
of holies through His blood (Hebrews 4:16). Each of us has
been given individual authority that frees us from the past and
enables us for the future.
That future is to be found,
uncovered, discovered and embraced, within the body of Christ.
We have been given the
right to become children of God, through faith in His name
(John 1:12). As we
choose to obey and submit to
guardians and stewards
they will help us grow
to maturity, and to our places of mutual accountability within
the family of God.
God has appointed these in the
church, first apostles
(I Corinthians 12:28).
Responsibility and the corresponding authority for establishing
and overseeing the church is given first to the apostles, and
subsequently to elders in cities and regions (Acts 12:23; I
apostolic authority continue after elders (overseers; shepherds)
are appointed? Let’s look at a few examples of continuing
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as
I have given
orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also.
Paul continues with detailed
directives throughout the next several verses. It is clear from
this passage that the church in Corinth was to (1) relate to
Paul, (2) accommodate his schedule, and (3) help him on his way
(From 1Corinthians 16).
Paul was also specific about how
they were to receive and treat Timothy. And, he urged them to
submit to everyone who
works and labors with them
(1 Corinthians 16:10-16).
Apostolic servant-leadership is saturated in love and is
decisive, specific, and clear on issues of order, authority, and
accountability. The Corinthian Christians were still babes, and
needed this kind of clarity. Boundaries are essential for the
security of both natural and spiritual children.
Another example is recorded in Acts 20, where Paul summoned the
elders from Ephesus to meet him in Miletus. It was no small
task for them to do so. Yet, there was no question. They did
so. Their inconvenience served Paul’s convenience.
3. DIFFERENT ADMINISTRATIONS
Paul’s epistle to Philemon,
demonstrates how Paul expressed his authority to one who was
mature. Philemon was Paul’s beloved friend and fellow laborer.
You will remember that Jesus called the apostles friends only
after three years of posturing themselves as servants (John
language of this letter makes it clear that Philemon was a peer
in ministry. Paul does exercise his apostolic authority, but in
a different way. He appeals to him on behalf of Onesimus. Paul
summarizes his appeal with:
confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you
will do even more than I say.
– Philemon 21
Maturity, peer status, and friendship, do not diminish God’s
apostolic order and authority. Ways of relating change as
people grow in the Lord, much as they do with our children.
Relationships may last a lifetime, but the application of
authority in those relationships changes. As a parent your
expression of authority is different with a baby, child,
adolescent, or adult. It is appropriate to restrain a 4-year-old
who is trying to dart across a road. It is not appropriate to
hold on to an adult who is trying to pursue a future life plan
that you may not agree with.
the church, the expression of authority changes with a baby,
young man, or father (not gender specific). Corinthian babies
needed a certain form of strong-handed spiritual parenting from
Paul. Their maturity and condition necessitated a certain
“style” or expression of authority that would have been
inappropriate for Paul’s relationships with Timothy or Peter.
Seasonality in authority applies to everyone. Those with
authority who don’t know how to practically change their
approach (“learn to let go”) as the “children” mature, whose
concept of authority is rigid and static like in the civil
realm, will suffer and those under their care will suffer.
Those who act adolescently in a premature desire to throw off
authority will likewise suffer, as will those around them. In
our living out of kingdom authority, all parties must be
sensitive and in tune to the seasons of spiritual life.
entrusted spheres of responsibility with corresponding authority
to these sons in the faith. He did not interfere with the daily
operation of their ministries. He trusted the Holy Spirit to
guide and empower them. He knew their character. They were
Fathers, sons, grandsons (male and female) all make up one
family and one kingdom. The flow of authoritative counsel
continued to flow from Paul to those whom the Lord had given
him. The same is true of today’s apostles.
4. ELDERS APPOINTED IN EVERY
will see kingdom order increase as our understanding of and
adherence to this kind of accountability increases. Spiritual
order will gradually replace human order. Denominational
designations will be overshadowed by citywide and regional
identities ~ the church in Corinth, Rome, etc.
softening and purifying of hearts toward God, and the increasing
revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, will cause men and women to
reconsider their ways in favor of God’s higher thoughts and
ways. God will make evident those whom He is placing in
overseeing roles. Apostles will emerge with citywide and
regional jurisdictions. Elders who are relationally connected
with and submitted to apostles and one another will be set in
place in each geo-political sphere.
reader might ask at this point, “Who will establish these
designations, and who will ensure that leaders will work
cooperatively?” The question points back to our former
structures, and gets at the weaknesses and failures of our
institutional memory, but the answer is simply, “The Lord will
do it!” This supernatural church will be led by supernatural
means. In our highly competitive church-view with its
hierarchical history, in order to transition to the city-wide
church it will be required that we adopt the mind of Christ in
order to comprehend such supra-denominational expressions of the
began this essay by highlighting the essential value of
accountability in the process of reforming (re-forming) the
church. We pointed out that God is the highest source of
authority and order. We then reminded the reader that all of
creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God.
Those who are born of the Spirit have God’s DNA, and are the
true church. This church will be reformed according to His
architectural design. Apostles are the master builders, who are
graced to raise up and release people into a new order of living
life before God and man.
God loves His bride, and is committed to
completing what He has begun.
pray that no one will try to “make this happen!” History is
filled with accounts of those who tried to make something happen
before the proper time and before the proper components were in
order. We don’t need another “Ishmael.”
PART V CONCLUDING
1. Accountability will play a vital part in the unfolding of
God’s eternal purpose through His reformed Church. The
accountability of God’s people is necessary for God’s order to
be manifested and His will to be carried out on the earth as it
is in heaven. Each member of the body is to be accountable to
the other members, as God places us in His order.
All authority in heaven and
on earth originates with God (Matthew 28:18). Boundaries
and spheres measure authority, and those allotted authority are
to operate within those limits or allotments (II Corinthians
10:13). The Scripture outlines abuses that, in extreme cases,
justify disobedience. Even in such cases, submissive attitudes
are to be maintained in a spirit of humility and meekness.
3. While we are subject to
Gentile authority within human structures, we are never to
exercise such authority (Matthew 20:25-28). We are to manifest
God’s higher thoughts and ways in our conduct, both in
submission to and in the exercise of authority. Gentile
authority has no place in the church that Jesus is building.
The kingdom of God is
righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit
The church is both the agent and manifestation of His kingdom.
There is an old song that captures the essence of body life. It
points out that “the foot bone is connected to the ankle bone,
which is connected to the shin bone, which is connected to the
knee bone, which is connected to the thigh bone, which is
connected to the hip bone, which is connected to the back bone,
which is connected to the neck bone, which is connected to the
of life flows, in an orderly manner, from the Head to the entire
body. This requires order. Positional authority may hold things
in place in an orderly way. But, only organic authority releases
the flow of Life to all who are connected.
carts are common in India and other Third World cultures. The
oxen are equally matched in size and strength. No one puts an
elephant and a puppy in the same yoke. They are teams. Some of
them differ in color and in gender. But, they are the same
type, size and strength.
Jesus invites us into His yoke. He is the firstborn of many
brothers. God is bringing many sons to glory. We will do His
works according to His capacity, leaving behind our own
inadequacies. We are being transformed into His image and
likeness to multiply His authority, His government, and His
kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We have no alternative to
being intimately yoked with Jesus and one another according to
His placement and order.
late Bill Britton penned a fitting parable about two young
horses romping in open range. It went something like this:
One day, the king’s horseman selected one to be added the
master’s stable. Although the other horse missed his friend, he
went on enjoying the lush pastureland and running in the fresh
breezes. When he felt like it, he would lie down in the warmth
of the sun. When he felt like it, he would run as fast as he
could until he was totally winded. He would then walk along in
his leisure graze until he had his fill. He was full-bodied,
and his coat had a beautiful sheen to it. He often thought to
himself, “It just doesn’t get any better than this!”
day, the king’s carriage came by, and there—harnessed with three
other horses—was his young friend. He asked, “Isn’t it
uncomfortable for you to wear that harness? To be pulling such
a load? To be unable to frolic in the fields, drink from the
brook, and nibble on grass at will? I am so sorry for you!”
friend responded, “I am well-fed. I am brushed daily. I enjoy
having the fellowship of other horses, the care of the king’s
horseman, and having purpose for my life. You don’t need to
feel sorry for me.” His free-spirited friend, chuckled as he
kicked up his heals and proudly demonstrated his liberty by
running off and leaving the king’s horse in the dust.
then, drought hit the land, the brook and the grass dried up.
There was inadequate food and water. For the first time in his
life, he began to hunger and thirst. There was no rain or
relief in sight. The young horse began to worry. He lost
weight. The sheen was gone. The energy was gone. There was no
more running and leaping. There was no more grazing and
sipping. There was only hunger—starvation. The young horse’s
freedom became meaningless in his struggle for survival.
day, he heard the rumble of the king’s carriage, accompanied by
the “clip-clop” of the team’s shod feet on the dusty road.
Soon, he could see cloud of dust as the carriage approached. He
saw how well fed and well groomed his friend and the other
horses were, how they held their heads up high and their tails
were like flags in the breeze.
finally understood. He finally ‘got it’.” May we all!
Greg Austin –
Steve Crosby –