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How to address authorityMany Christians have the idea that to give suggestions or even to make a reasonable complaint is a sign of rebellion. This produces passive churches and crushed the creative potential of the members and consequently the work loses its agility and ability to grow and expand.

As I have already mentioned in other posts, submission does not mean complete annulment of the will and good sense. We can and we must contribute to the ministry of the church and provide input for our leaders so that the work grows and prospers. Sometimes therefore, we will have address authority, give suggestions, give criticism and even confront them. However we must learn how to address authority by take the following precautions;

When addressing authority do not use offensive words

We disrespect authority and offend God when we use overly harsh words. We should never use derogatory adjectives to refer to a leader. However, if we do not use wrong words and are not motivated by rebellion, criticism or suggestions can be given without falling into sin. We see some good examples in the lives of the apostles (Acts 6:1-4) and in Martha (John 11:20-24; Luke 10:38-40).

When addressing authority avoid spreading second-hand comments

Be careful with comments like, “everyone is saying …” Or “pastor everyone is saying …” If someone has something to say they should say it directly to the leaders. These types of comments come from an incorrect attitude, they are unacceptable and reveal a dishonest heart; it is typical of those who have no commitment with the truth or anybody but themselves.

When addressing authority avoid making comments that have no traceable source

Another serious and gravely wrong attitude is to make comments like, “someone told me, but I can’t say who it was”, or “someone told me to tell you, but it’s a secret”. This is unacceptable and disrespectful to authority. Whenever we say something to or about a leader, we must say it in a direct and frank manner.

When addressing authority don’t complain, present solutions

We cannot limit ourselves to complaining; on the contrary, we must present solutions, pertinent, intelligent and valid suggestions, with common sense. Before complaining, we must commit ourselves to making things better and to change. However, if after having taken all of these cautions the leader continues to be indifferent and untreatable, there is nothing more that can be done for him, other than pray and allow the Holy Spirit to do His part (Proverbs 21:1).

The Lord delegates authority, but whoever receives it will never be greater than He. God is seated on His throne high and lifted up, and He himself is in control of His work and His church.


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Wrong patterns of Authority

Problematic authorityIt is possible to be a Christian leader and exercise a different authority than the pattern that God has established to be used in the church. On one hand, each member must be submissive to the leadership; on the other hand, the leader must learn how to properly exercise authority. There are various problems caused by extremism or by laxity in the exercise of authority. It is therefore necessary to seek a balance. Below is a list of inherent problems in the exercise of spiritual authority.

Spiritual dictatorship

A type of spiritual dictatorship arises when a Christian leader feels that no one must ever question him in exercising the authority that belongs only to God. Thus they impose a spiritual dictatorship; bringing confusion and conflict, and every suggestion or criticism is seen as rebelliousness. The leader must tolerate disagreements and perceive his limits, since his voice cannot be above the voice of God.

Many pastors and leaders fall into the error of exercising spiritual dictatorship because immature disciples transfer the responsibility to hear God with respect to their personal lives to their leaders. This may appear to be submission but it demonstrates a spiritual sickness the symptom of which is flight from responsibility for one’s own choices.

Signs of a dictatorial leader:

  • Fights for position
  • Struggles with greed and ostentation
  • Stimulates competition
  • Plagued by centralization and egocentrism
  • Falls into uncontrolled ambition and disrespect
  • Insults and threatens followers to get his way (Ephesians 6:9)
  • Curses followers and staff instead of leading with an attitude of gratefulness

Conflict between delegated authority and the Bible

This occurs when the leader gives a direction that directly contradicts the clear direction of the bible. In this case, there is an explicit lack of balance of authority since the authority of the Word is above any delegated authority (Acts 23:1-5).

Customs and traditions imposed upon the Bible

Customs and traditions only have value if they are subject to the Word of God (Matthew 15:1-3). If they are anti-biblical, it doesn’t matter how many centuries they have been in place, they must be eliminated or resisted.

The exercise of authority through manipulation and control

The leader must not annul the ability of the disciple to make decisions. The following is a list of subtle forms of manipulation:

  • Mysticism (Colossians 2:18)
  • Prejudice and judgment (Colossians 2:16, 17)
  • False prophecy (Jeremiah 5:30)
  • Debt of gratitude
  • Emotional and financial seduction
  • Acumen


The authoritarian leader exercises leadership through his own strength and oppressive temperament. This type of authority doesn’t last very long, since it is based on fear. Such leaders attract insecure and dependent followers and as a result the church becomes weak and repressed.

We must always seek balance, respecting intelligence, space and disagreement, without however tolerating sin and lack of commitment. God Himself teaches us to reason (Isaiah 1:18) so that we can know his motives and obey with a conscious understanding.

Exclusive authority

Exclusive leadership is exercised through intimidation because of a superior ability, gift or intelligence. Such leaders become exclusive and go to the point of prohibiting their followers from learning from other people and seeking out other sources of information. The truth is, despite all of the intellectual ability and talent that they may possess; these people are insecure and want to maintain their followers through ignorance. Exclusiveness produces fragility and not strength as some imagine.

Perfectionistic authority

The basis of this leadership is obsessive demands in insignificant details. In this situation, the leader afflicts his followers with constant feelings of inadequacy and inability and they feel drawn into a bond of dependency to their leader, which always portrays the image of someone who is super-efficient.

Fear and paternalism

Some leaders fear the exercise of authority because they don’t think that they are spiritually apt to exercise it because they were rejected in the past. Noah did not fall into this deception. Even after he had fallen, he exercised discipline over his son Ham, who was rebellious (Genesis 9:21-27).

Others don’t exercise authority because of paternalism. The paternalistic authority figure paralyzes and incapacitates his followers. The paternalistic leader is possessive and overprotective; he does not tolerate confrontation and considers others incapable in this way producing incompetent, fragile and dependent people. Paternalism is not God’s pattern, and not the proper exercise of authority. Paternity is of God; paternalism is of the flesh.


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Three spheres of authority established by God


God is the basis of all authority in the universe. He establishes all human authority and all human authority is representative of His authority. God has established three spheres of authority:

In the world (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13, 14; Exodus 22:28)

As it is written in Romans, there is no authority that does not proceed from God, and the authorities that exist were instituted by Him. Therefore, whoever submits to them will never be dishonored. The story of David, recorded in 1Samuel, is an example of this. In spite of constant persecution, he was completely submissive and faithful to Saul, always honoring him. He acted in this way because he did not look at the man Saul, but recognized the authority of God upon him. When we reject delegated authority, we reject God himself.

In the church (1Thess. 5:12, 13; 1Timothy 5:17; 1 Peter 5:5; 1Corinthians 16:15, 16)

God commanded that the church membership submit to the elders of each local church – Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit determined that elders and bishops oversee the house of God, or in other words, that they have the responsibility to teach the Word, minister to the Saints, and that they should be honored through the submission of the membership. If a leader fails, God will deal directly with him, but submission to him by the church will be remembered before God.

Pre-eminence depends on physical age – there are however indications that spiritual age is more important than physical age (1Corinthians 16:15, 16).

Can women govern or oversee a church? According to the Bible, the answer is no (1Corinthians 11:3). Women can and must serve in a variety of ways through their spiritual gifts, but the man must give direction and carry the pressure that bears on the governing leadership over the church. God has ordained this order and His Word has no expiration date; it is applicable at any time in history.

According to Jude, those who do not submit themselves to authority are dreamers that defile the flesh, reject authority and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the Archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “the Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:8). Among the angels, there is also authority and Jude shows the contrast between the attitude of Michael and rebellious men.

In the family (Ephesians 5:22-24; 6:1-3; Colossians 3:18; 20, 22; 1 Corinthians 11:3)

God has established a chain of authority in the family beginning with the father, afterwards the mother and finally the children, among them the oldest having the preeminence. Parents must fear the authority that God has given them because they represent the Lord. Husbands must love their wives, who in turn, must be submissive to their husbands; the children must honor their parents, and servants as well as their owners or employers.

Whoever receives much, much will be required of them. We must learn to submit ourselves to and exercise authority. We must use authority to serve; and exercise it with love, lovingly delivering our own lives as did Jesus, our greatest model of authority.


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spiritual-authorityOnly 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.

Sovereign authority

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.

Delegated authority

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

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.

Customary 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

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).


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Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, 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)

There is only one authority in the entire universe: that which proceeds from God Himself and His throne. In Hebrews, we read that the Lord holds up “all things by the power of His Word” (Hebrews 1:3). Therefore, the Word of God is His authority. We are not dealing with authority as a position here but with authority as a governing power.

The principle of Lucifer

The principle of Lucifer is self-exaltation. If we analyze the fall of Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:13-17), we can understand the motivation that led him to rebel against God. Mankind can only choose between two paths: the path of Lucifer and the path of Jesus. Both are related to the throne of God. However, one will result in humiliation and the other in exaltation. One (Lucifer) sought glory for himself and the other (Christ) emptied himself to the point of dying on a cross. Those who submit themselves to the throne will be exalted; those who want to be where God has not placed them will be humiliated.

The path of Lucifer

Lucifer wants to be equal to God and usurp His throne; therefore, God cast him down to the deepest pit. The result of his self-exaltation was humiliation.

The path of Jesus

Although Jesus is God He did not judge His divine attributes as something that He had to grasp, but He took on the form of a man and humbled himself unto death (Philippians 2:5-10). The result of His humiliation was exaltation.

Sometimes leaders with spurious intentions (artificial) who are on the path of Lucifer rather than on the path of Christ exercise authority. It is easy to exercise power. It is difficult to take up the cross. Jesus did not receive authority simply because He rose up and rebuked the devil. He cast out demons throughout His ministry but we only read that He overcame Lucifer after He went to the cross.


Disobedience is a sin against the holiness of God, but rebellion is a sin against His authority. The example of Saul and David reveals this difference very clearly. God ordered Saul to destroy the Amalekites in battle, but by obeying the principle of Lucifer, he decided to spare the best of the cattle to sacrifice to the Lord. He made sacrifices according to the instructions of God, but he assumed a contrary attitude toward the orders that he received and was rejected because he rebelled against God’s authority; this was a sin against the throne of God (1 Samuel 15:23).

David committed sins that most people consider more serious. David committed adultery with the wife of one of his soldiers while he was away at war and because of the resulting pregnancy, in order to hide his sin; he ordered that the husband be placed in a position where he would certainly die. However, God did not reject David, because his sin was disobedience, not rebellion. David disobeyed and transgressed God’s holiness but not His authority.


If we violate authority we will be walking in the principle of Lucifer. He questioned and violated the authority of God. He did not accept the possibility of submitting to God.

We can clearly perceive the same attitude in man’s behavior today, since as John said: “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1John 5:19), and the world has Lucifer’s mentality. However, some servants of God also act in this manner: they serve Jesus by obeying doctrines, but they are motivated by the principle of Lucifer. We can teach what is correct, but with the wrong attitude. The things that we say may be appropriate, but if our heart, what we are on the inside is wrong, God will reprove us.

What does it mean to preach the gospel? The preaching of the Gospel is leading people who are rebelling against God by obeying their own will, to submit to divine authority and learn how to obey the Lord’s will. How can we preach the Gospel so that people submit themselves to the God’s authority if we ourselves do not submit? Satan does not fear our word; he only fears our submission to God.

When Jesus offered what we call the “Lord’s Prayer”, He asked God to deliver us from temptation and from evil, which are tied to the work of Lucifer. However, at the end of the prayer we read, “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory” (Matthew 6:9-13). This is the key to everything, since every man because of his sinful nature seeks after the kingdom, power and glory. The kingdom represents authority and government. Jesus said that these things belong to God and not to us. Only He is sovereign. Jesus taught us to pray exactly that which Satan questioned every day.

Some people are converted but they do not understand the authority of God. Paul is an interesting example. He persecuted the church until he met the Lord on the road to Damascus. He persecuted Christians thinking that he was being zealous for God, just as many Christians do today. However, he did it with a rebellious heart. Only after he met the Lord did he recognize who had true authority.

Paul was very important in his days; he was a religious authority with social status. However, he obeyed God by submitting to Ananias who was a simple and unknown man in order to receive healing and spiritual direction (Acts 9). Those who understand this principle do not confuse the person with the authority that he represents. Whoever understands what authority is, knows that it comes from God and that it uses people as mere instruments.

Our service to God is not a matter of sacrifice, neglecting our ego or accomplishing great works, but of submission to the Lord’s will. We do not have to do great things for God; we have to do only what He commanded. It is not a question of preference or of will, but of obedience. In the garden of Gethsemane, it wasn’t a matter of whether Jesus would do something for God or not, like going to the cross, but whether he would submit to God’s will or not even if it meant dying on the cross.

Many people do great works for God, but they are not submissive to His authority (Mat. 7:21-23). This is why we must teach the vision of the overcomer. Overcomers don’t merely receive salvation, but they have accepted God’s authority.