In light of our upcoming Vital Life class on Authority on Saturday, June 29, I thought it’d be helpful to give a little taste of what to expect. Authority is a very important topic, as God has structured his world with authority, and in rediscovering how authority is meant to function in our lives we can grab hold of his gracious intentions in providing it for our good. This post is the 3rd of 4.
As I mentioned in Sunday’s announcement, our recognition of authority is vitally connected to our faith in God. Said another way, we must recognize the authority of Jesus if we are going to exercise faith that attracts his praise.
And we must exercise faith if we are going to successfully engage with authority in this age. Whether we are called to exercise authority (fathers, parents, husbands, employers, pastors, civil servants, etc) or to submit to authority (children, wives, employees, church members, citizens, etc), it is difficult to deal with authority in a fallen world. Next week we will look briefly at some of the times that we might rightfully resist authority, but today we look at the positive role of authority in the Christian’s life.
God has given us authorities, as Romans 13 makes clear. And those who are called to authoritative roles must see those callings as coming from God himself. Which raises the question of how the God-man viewed authority. Jesus gave us a biblical insight into authority in the famous account of washing the feet of disciples. Here’s the story, from John 13:
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
Now note Jesus’ interpretation:
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Jesus accomplished a delicate balance here–he fundamentally transformed the idea of exercising authority to an orientation to service; but he did so without abolishing authority itself. He said, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.” Jesus’ service of his disciples did not abolish his position and authority. He is our Lord and Teacher. But his authoritative position was not about maximizing his comforts and wealth, but rather for serving those with whom he was entrusted. We see this dynamic in other spheres as well. Here are just two examples:
Pastors (1 Peter 5:1-4):
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Fathers (Ephesians 6:4):
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
And what about when we are called to submit? What should our stance be then?
Church members (1 Peter 5:5):
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Children (Ephesians 6:1-3):
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
Much more could be said, but those should give us a brief taste of the goodness and blessing of authority. Also notice the promises of reward in those verses–humility in both the exercise of and submission to authority receive tremendous promises of reward.
This is truly a rich topic, so we hope to see you at seminar as we flesh these truths out a bit more. (Register here).