Spiritual Authority

The world seems to be entering a period of increased instability. To add to economic troubles and long drawn out wars in the Middle East, we have the Brexit in Europe bringing turmoil. As well, there are contentious elections underway in the US and Australia. It seems that drama is unfolding both near and far. As Christians, how we interact with the world is related to how we relate to church and family turmoil as well. We can get through these storms in a Christ-centred way if we understand the essential Christian teaching on spiritual authority.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

To understanding spiritual authority we have to get our orientation right.

There’s a lot going on at Mission Control in Heaven. We don’t know what it looks like or how God manages it all. But we do know He is in control.

What if we were able to enter the throne room of God, and have a God’s-eye-view of the world? This passage in Colossians 3 explains that we are in that situation. Jesus has drawn us to himself. In effect, we are already present with him at “Mission Control.”  If it’s difficult to understand how God relates to the world, and how we also should, maybe we need to change our orientation, so we see the world as God sees it.

The View From Above

Jesus said his kingdom is not of this world in John 18:36. Though his throne is in heaven with the Father, his authority is expressed everywhere in delegated authorities on the earth. There is a lot going on in the world, in nations, organisations, families and on the individual level. In Colossians 2 we are told:

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10)

It’s hard to imagine how God’s throne must operate, governing all the complexity of life, not just on an individual level, but on every level! This is a core area that we must understand in order to be obedient Christians, governed by God in all areas of life.

Spiritual Authority Made Simple

If you do a quick google search of “spiritual authority diagram” you will see a huge number of confusing representations. It seems that this is an area that most Christians are unclear on. Spiritual authority is not complicated. At Perth Healing Ministries we use a simple diagram to explain how God’s instituted authority works. It’s a teaching that is necessary for all Christians, as there are many misunderstandings about authority.

Christians need to understand God's authority over all creation, and how it is expressed in authorities on the earth.

The diagram is arranged from the top down. On the face of it, it seems likely that anyone who is a Christian would understand that God rules supreme over all creation. Unfortunately, most of us don’t yet understand that. Without understanding the supremacy of God, the whole understanding of authority is broken. Once we realise how it is that God rules over all, we are changed to obedience and the other aspects of authority fall into place.

In the diagram we can see God ruling from the top down, and below, instituted authorities. As Romans 13 explains, we must be subject to the governing authorities. Jesus also demonstrated this when he obeyed the laws of the land, including taxation. He also placed himself under the ruling authority of the priesthood, for example, when questioned by the High Priest he didn’t resist or criticise him, but simply obeyed. He also paid the temple tax, and instructed others to follow the commands of authority as well, including paying national taxes (Mark 12).

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. (Romans 13:1-2)

The ten commandments instruct us to honour our fathers and mothers, and many examples show that we are to respect elders and older family members, including older siblings. To do otherwise brings a rebuke from God.

Ephesians 5 talks about the relationship between husbands and wives, that wives are to respect the authority of their husbands and husbands are to love their wives. The diagram as a whole indicates to us that we are all under authorities, and most of us also express authority over others when we become an adult, whether in family relationships or in our jobs. Notice that this authority is irrespective of the quality of rule on the part of human authorities. As Jesus was subject to the very imperfect rule of his day, we are to be subject to imperfect rule as well. In doing so, we are showing God that we are able to be obedient. If we are obedient to authorities He has allowed and established, we are demonstrating obedience to him.

How Should Christians Respond to Abuse of Authority?

Most of us have seen terrible things done in the name of authority. We need only read a newspaper to see that some priests abuse, some world leaders act in self-interest and domestic violence is rampant, to name just a few pressing matters. How can we be under authority to imperfect worldly authorities? The answer is we have to be first under God’s authority.

Let’s go back to the “Mission Control” analogy. God rules from heaven, where presumably his will and purpose is supported and enacted by teams of angelic beings. If we were able to see how this looks, it would no doubt be an inspiring sight! But what is God ruling from heaven? What are his activities? If we could look at heavenly monitor screens, what would be the things that God is acting in authority over on earth today? Have a think about the following scriptures, which give just a very few of the many insights into God’s work on earth in the Bible:

God cares and has intimate knowledge of the details of life:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:29-30)

God sees the mistakes world leaders make. They do not trouble him! 

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,  “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,  “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” Psalm 2:1-6

God understands not just our actions, but our human motivations. His inside knowledge means he can judge justly, unlike us.

…deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts for you alone know every human heart... (1 Kings 8:39)

Christ rules the church, and has responsibility for building it, we don’t.

…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18)

God uses his power to support our acts undertaken under his leadership:

2 Thessalonians 1:11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.

God directs his creation to bring about his purposes:

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfil my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will doListen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are now far from my righteousness. I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed. I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendour to Israel. Isaiah 46:9-13

God sees all things, and keeps an account. This means we don’t have to.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:13-16

Do we really believe that God rules from heaven? Do we see the world with a heaven-downward orientation? Are we assured that God sees all things, and that good and bad deeds alike are allowed by him? If we do really believe this, we are freed immediately from taking up causes that attack authority on earth. Just as Miriam and Aaron were rebuked in Numbers 12 for criticising their spiritual leader, Moses, many Christians are suffering a rebuke from God for the same thing. Many come for ministry having physical illnesses directly related to their breaches of spiritual authority. These illness are healed when the Christian learns of her mistake and comes before Jesus in repentance, for healing and restoration.

If God wants us to take care of matters it will be within our proper God-given authority position. If we take up causes without his leading, we are acting in rebellion. We must learn to demonstrate absolute trust that God is the ruler of all things. Once we understand that, we will not only have peace, we will also be able to be used by God to advance his Kingdom.

This message is from a sermon given on 10 July 2016 at the Victoria Park Christian Centre Chapel. If you would like to discuss teachings on spiritual authority, or any other matters relating to your Christian walk, please drop in for a chat during our open hours.