What does the Bible say about those in the church in positions of authority?
Mat 20:25-27 “But Jesus called [the twelve] to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’”
Those who desire authority within the church are not to lord in a position over others rather Jesus tells them to serve. Jesus had authority given to Him by God yet He served. (Mat 28:18)
How much would change in the church if people in positions of “authority” were not focused on their authority, but rather they were first and foremost serving others and living righteously as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? What if they walked among the congregation and knew the people and served the people. What if the people were really able to know them? What if we were able to serve and exhort each other?
Pro 24:9-12 “…If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?”
Family is about being there for each other. It’s about knowing what’s actually happening in each other’s lives and caring enough to make a difference. But if we, as the church of Christ (body and leadership) aren’t spending time listening to each other and getting to know each other, then we will get to the point where we say, “surely we did not know.” When that is the case, we are indeed facing problems because we should know. We can’t deliver people or hold them back from stumbling when we don’t even know the path they are walking. We are failing to love, serve, and lead.
There is a story in Acts that I love, because it is the way we should be as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Act 18:24-28 “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.”
Aquila and Priscilla didn’t keep their mouths shut because of Apollos’s position as a teacher, they stepped in and spoke truth and informed Apollos “the way of God more accurately.” Apollos could have been offended or told them they had no right to take him aside, etc., but he had a heart to hear. This meant he accepted them taking him aside and allowed them to teach him. Because of this he was able to “vigorously refute the Jews” showing them Jesus in the Scriptures.
2Ti 4:2 “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”
What if a person, whether in authority or not, is doing something wrong? What are we supposed to do in response? Are we supposed to just submit and keep our mouths shut?
Luke 17:3 “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”
Lev 19:17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.” (Jas 4:17 “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”)
This is a psalm of David, an anointed king. Psa 141:4-5 “Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies. Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it….”
Pro 25:12 “Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.”
Mat 18:15-16 “…if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more…”
Heb 3:12-13 “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
Pro 24:23-25 “These things also belong to the wise: It is not good to show partiality in judgment. He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,” him the people will curse; nations will abhor him. But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them.”
2Ti 3:16-17 “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
So after reading these verses, what do you think? Are we supposed to remain silent?
We are told in Scripture to tell our brother and sister their faults, exhort one another daily, rebuke the wicked, and use the Scriptures for reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. This doesn’t sound even remotely close to silence to me. In fact this sounds a whole lot like talking, and knowing each other, like listening and being a part of one another’s lives. So much so that we might daily exhort one another in the ways of the LORD.
Yesterday was Palm Sunday and next Sunday will be Easter. Do you know what Jesus did between the His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mat 21:1-10) and the time He stood silent before His accusers (Mat 27)?
Jesus drove the wicked out of the temple (Mat 21:12) and then He proceeded in no uncertain terms to very publicly rebuke the religious “authorities” (Mat 23) in what they would have considered their own house (Mat 21:23).
Read Matthew 23 and take note of this rebuke because Jesus says very clearly what He thinks of them and their mis-use of their leadership. And when it comes to authority, Jesus expresses his opinion in an interesting way.
Mat 23:8-11 In the midst of His rebuke to these religious “authorities” Jesus says “…do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.”