The word "authority" appears 91 times in the bible. There is absolutely no question we are called again and again in scripture to submit to authority. The question must be raised however of who or what authority looks like so we know two things clearly.
The first thing we need to learn is who and what to submit to. The second thing we need to learn is who and what we are not supposed to submit to.
The biggest mistake we make in this area is assuming that just because a person is in charge of something that they have Heaven's authority to be doing that thing. The bible clearly draws a line between a person's position or title of earthly Authority and their Heaven given authority.
In Matthew 7, Jesus has no earthly title. He is not in charge of anything or anyone. No one of earthly authority has given him any authority mantle yet the scripture says in verses 28 & 29, "And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." Even the people of that time did not understand the difference between earthly and heavenly authority.
People miss stories like when David was the King and yet Nathan being a Prophet didn't roll over and submit to him. In fact, Nathan came and brought a prophetic word of correction to him. Nathan was indeed a man of great Heavenly Authority and while Nathan respected the office of the King, He held the honor of God's throne above that of David's as is common in real prophets. This helps burst the bubble of bad doctrine that suggests a real prophet will submit to a local Pastor or board of elders as it's not even an issue about submission. On the contrary, it is the local pastors or boards that should be listening very carefully to the prophets because heavenly authority always trumps earthly authority when the two collide.
In Matthew 21, the religious leaders in charge counted on everyone believing they were the ones put in place by God with God's Authority. This is one reason why they publicly challenged Jesus' authority flat out by asking in whose authority Jesus was operating in and who gave it to Him. This was their way of saying "Hey, we are the only ones God uses here and this guy is not submitted to us". They were just trying to raise doubts about the validity of Jesus authority in the minds of the crowds. Jesus knowing their hearts refused to directly answer but instead gave them a riddle of His own and basically outsmarted them and left them standing there looking like fools which again is something a real prophet often does to the religious elite even today. Point is that even though they had earthly authority, Jesus did not honor them as leaders with Heavenly Authority because they didn't have any.
In Matthew 28 Jesus declared “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth". This is critical to see as it puts Jesus in the driver's seat meaning that He and only He dells out the authority of Heaven to others. After all, He's the only one that has any to give at that point and you can only give what you have.
Luke 7 is where Jesus heals the Centurion's servant. In it we see a couple very powerful things. One, we see one of the only times a person makes Jesus marvel. How would you like to be a person that it can be said about that you made Jesus marvel over you? Well, this guy did just that. It was because the Centurion completely understood earthly authority and by default understood its limitations. Accordingly He knew Jesus didn't even have to be there in person, Jesus could just give the instruction and Jesus' authority would empower the word and bring the healing and that is exactly what happened.
In Luke 10 authority is given to empower people to do certain things.
In Luke 19 authority is given as a reward of being faithful.
Romans 13 is where many get messed up. Here are verses 1, 2, and 3.
1 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. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.
Notice that it does NOT say there is no one in charge that is not put there by God. It says there is no AUTHORITY except from God. Big difference.
Hitler ruled Nazi Germany and slaughtered countless millions but he certainly did not have the authority of God, even though he was clearly in charge. Jim Jones, David Koresh and many like them have been in charge of their given organizations, but they had no true Heavenly Authority. If a person rents a police uniform for a costume party, they may look just like a police officer in every way, but in reality they have no real authority. At the same time, if a leader in the church has the title of Pastor or Elder or whatever, that in no way automatically gives them Heaven's authority.
In the later chapters of Revelation, we see that the dragon gives out "earthy authority" (or the ability to be in charge of things) to the beast. This is not Heavenly Authority from God spoken of in Romans 13. The authority of Heaven is only handed out by Jesus Himself since He is the one who has it all in the first place.
When a person has authority, they have the right to represent and act on behalf of. For married couples, Paul uses authority as an example in 1st Corinthians. "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does"
It's important to see too that authority will one day be done away with. Heaven is not ran by authority as God is God and doesn't need us to represent Him in Heaven as He is there in the fullness of His Glory all the time. It is only within the sin stained walls of earth that we are in need of Heaven's authority. (1st Corinthians 15)
In summary, it becomes very important to see the difference between someone simply being in charge of something and someone being anointed with real authority from Heaven. what does that mean on a practical level? It means this... when a person (church leader or otherwise) tries to insist that you submit to them because they have authority from God, you cannot take their title or position into consideration. Just because someone says "I am the pastor here, you must submit to me and those I appoint"... does not necessarily square with the teachings in scripture.
Consider that Jesus is on trial with only the basics of human rights. Absolutely no title, position or earthly authority whatsoever. Pilot tries to flex his political authority by threatening Jesus reminding the Lord that he could free him or have Jesus crucified. Jesus, standing there broken, beaten unrecognizable and bleeding onto the floor squints through eyes partially swollen shut from the beatings and says to Pilot "you have no authority over me that wasn't given unto you from above, therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of an even greater sin". (John 19 10,- 12)
I could keep giving many other examples, but the point is, a leader is not a leader just because they call themselves one. GOD has to call them and anoint them personally before they have true Heaven given authority.
our churches are SUPPOSED to be submitted to and ran by HEAVENLY authority and instead most run by earthly authority and that is the biggest reason we do not have a move of God's spirit in our churches and a revival in the United States currently. The message to those who do have positions of earthly authority should be obvious... submit yourselves to those who have genuine HEAVENLY authority. SIt down and get out of their way because they will likely never try to force themselves. In many cases those truly anointed with Heaven's authority are sitting on the back rows far too humble to even request a microphone. Heaven's warriors are often those you have banished away from your fellowships because you felt they wouldn't submit to you... in reality they saw the danger in submitting to someone with no heavenly authority and refused to do that.. so the price they paid for their proper discernment was banishment.
I absolutely believe in accountability but that has to be mutual. When a leader wants you to answer to them and they will not answer to you, that is a red flag that you are dealing with a leader with earthly authority and no real heavenly authority. This is why the disciples resisted when Jesus wanted to wash their feet and the Lord's reply was so very telling... I must wash your feet or you can have no part of me. In that day the feet were the most dirty and disgusting part of the body. Any leader asking you to submit to them who is unwilling to be mutually humble with the dirtiest parts of their soul does not really possess heavenly authority. Remember that my friends...
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