UNTANGLING TWISTED VIEWS OF SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY
Only those who submit to authority can exercise it. Unbiblical practices of authority and submission taught by some people and abuses practiced by others cause many wounds among the people of God. Biblical truths can be taken to extremes and when this happens, lives can be destroyed. God did not call leaders to manipulate the sheep or control their lives. Jesus, our model and ultimate authority never controlled or manipulated anyone. He served, He gave, and He was gracious and generous. We need to exercise authority with love and within the limits establish by God. In order for this to happen, it is necessary to understand the existing levels of authority. The Word of God mentions seven levels of authority. The first three levels are exclusively God’s prerogatives; His ministers can operate in the other four levels.
The highest level of authority is sovereign authority. This level must never be questioned or challenged, it is absolute and infallible. This authority belongs only to God and never can be exercised by any man. To assume authority that is not meant for man is rebelliousness. Sovereign authority belongs exclusively to God.
Christ received sovereign authority. This was Lucifer’s ambition (Isaiah 14:12-14), but it was Jesus who received it (Ephesians 1:16-22).
Be careful with those who try to take Christ’s place. Any person who places his anointing on an unquestionable and infallible level is assuming the position of antichrist. To be an antichrist does not mean being against Christ but to try to take His place (Matthew 24:5). In this manner, such leaders constrain people to obey them without questioning, making them think that if they question the leader they will be confronting the Lord Himself and rebelling against Him. Asking God or any person for an explanation is not an act of rebellion. No authority exists in the church to which Christians must submit an unquestionable obedience other than that of God. Humility before God and His leaders is an essential characteristic of the Christian leader.
The authority of the truth
The authority of the truth is that authority which concerns everything that is as true, absolute and unquestionable as God himself (2Corinthians 13:8).
God himself is truth (John 14:6; 1:17; 5:6) – God is truth, the Son is the truth and the Spirit also is the truth. There are not three gods, just one.
The truth is everything that God says (2 Thessalonians 2:12; Numbers 23:19; Psalm 89:34) God Himself is the truth just as His words and His promises are true.
The Bible is the truth (2 Timothy 3:16; Galatians 1:8) – the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit of God and therefore is the absolute and infallible truth.
The authority of conscience
We call the conscience the capacity that every man has to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong. Even unbelievers are able to make such a distinction, applying a basic principle: we should not do to others that which we would not want them to do to us.
We must not violate the conscience of others (1 Corinthians 8:12; Romans 14:23) – no man has the right to demand anything from any other man that violates his conscience.
We must submit to it (Romans 14:5, 6; 13) – the Word of God says that we sin when we act contrary to our conscience, since it is the testimony of the truth within us.
From these three types of authority we can conclude that no man whether from the church or the state has the right to force anyone to disobey God, the Bible and his own conscience. Only God may exercise these first three levels of authority. The next four can be exercised by man.
Wherever the kingdom of God has been established (His government and authority), there is justice, peace and joy in the spirit (Romans 14:17). In other words, when delegated authority is exercised correctly, these are the results that are obtained.
The leaders of the church possess delegated authority – Church leaders merely exercise the authority that Christ delegated to them (2 Corinthians 5:20). However, it is important to remember that such authority belongs to God and He delegated it to us to aid in the governing of the church. We must not exercise this authority by dominating the flock, but with the attitude of Christ: to give our life for the sheep (John 10:11; 1 Peter 5:2, 3).
Delegated authority proceeds from responsibility. Whoever has responsibility and exercises it gains authority. Therefore, I cannot exercise authority over people for whom I am not responsible.
Delegated authority never goes beyond responsibility; the limit of authority is therefore responsibility. Never go beyond responsibility. The opposite is also true: whenever we cease to assume responsibility, we lose authority.
Functional authority is often the basis upon which we establish delegated authority. It comes from ability, competence, experience and training. There is no problem at all in a delegated authority submitting to functional authority.
The authority of customs and traditions is established when these have proved themselves over the years as providing a consensus of well-being for everyone concerned. Some customs and traditions are good, even though they have no Biblical basis. The use of a veil is one of them. Paul appealed to the authority of customs when he spoke about the matter of the veil in the church of Corinth, where using a veil was a sign of submission to God (1 Corinthians 11:16). No church or leadership can ignore local or community customs if such customs do not contradict the Bible.
Contractual authority implies the authority of the law. This authority governs a society and rules in legal contracts and agreements. Although it is something natural, its origin is divine. Paul said that this authority also was constituted by God and proceeds from Him (Romans 13:1-6).