Now there may be some people reading this who think these thoughts are promoting a leaderless type of roundtable Christianity where everyone has the same authority and never has to listen to anyone else. That is not what is being said. As we seek in the Old Testament as well as in the early Church, God has always chosen certain people to stand in places of authority over others. In His kingdom, He has devised His way of communicating His will for His people.
Our Heavenly Father is a God of order. He speaks to those who are meant to proclaim His messages. This does get complicated as many believe that they only have to listen to the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, yet we all need to understand that the Holy Spirit is not the only one that speaks to us here on earth. If the voice inside of us is different than the voice God is speaking through, we should be humble and eager to test and weigh the difference (of those voices) to seek out and destroy that which is false in our hearts.
God makes it clear that authority dispensed love is a good thing. Just like the relationship of a parent and a child, authority displayed in love yields results of goodness and acts of righteousness. In the spiritual sense, Jesus has given us a way to check and calibrate the Spirit of God within His people.
If we are honest with ourselves, none of us really want to believe that our Spirit may be out of step with the Spirit of God. For our consciences guide our every action. And as we act and react to the stimulus of our lives, we do our best to do what we feel is right in our hearts. With that said, is it too hard to believe that even in the smallest moments, we could actually begin to listen to a spirit that is not of Christ?
By all means yes. It should be so disarming as we find the example given to us in scripture as the Rock of the church (the apostle Peter) is sternly rebuked mere moments after proclaiming the climax of the gospel narrative. Here Peter (in the holiness of the moment), is quickly brought low seconds later as Christ calls out the enemy within him.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.
From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Mat. 16:13-23)
The thing that we need to take away here is that God uses other people to teach, correct and rebuke us because even the best of us can leave the unity of God’s nature that dwells as Christ within us. Therefore, God chooses to place people in our lives that will love us enough to guide us as we live in the brokenness on this world.
Therefore, the real question is, how do we allow God to be our King while also submitting to the authorities He has placed in our lives to guide us in the faith? That is a great question. The answer is simpler than you think. For God has given us a Manual of how we should act and how we are to function within His kingdom. He has given us specific roles and functions in the body of Christ. Some of us are called to serve and love others, while others have been empowered and called to shepherd and lead others in the faith. God seems to call some to be His mouthpiece while others are meant to be the ones receiving what God has said.
The problem that has always plagued religion in the established church is that we have adulterated and contorted the roles and authorities of those God has called to lead us. For if you really take a close look at how the early church leaders functioned, you will find that they acted more like loving parents rather than civil authorities.
What this means is that God provides elders and deacons in every fellowship in order to help guide them in seeking the unity and will of the Father. Scripture is clear that these servants live as examples to the flock to mentor them in discipleship. Therefore, the true purpose of elders and deacons are to make disciples through mentoring and loving relationships. These concepts will be covered later in the book.