This is the fourth in a series of articles on “Leadership, Authority and Submission”. The first article was entitled Jesus – The Chief Shepherd. It discussed the often misapplication of 1 Samuel 15:22-23. The second article was entitled The Hebrews 13:17 Dilemma. The third article was entitled Romans Chapter 13 – Which Power?
What do the scriptures have to say about the subjects of authority and submission? Well, Jesus had a lot to say about spiritual leadership. He said that leaders in the church should be servants. Christian leaders should not act as gentiles who “lord it over” people. A good example of this principle is found in Matthew chapter 20.
Matthew 20:25-28 (KJV) – “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
What the scriptures reveal is that authority in the church is very different from authority in the world. Church leaders must first and foremost be servants. In Matthew chapter 20 we see Jesus making reference to Gentile rulers. At this time, Israel was occupied by the Roman army and its’ system of regional government. The Romans had set up an elaborate command structure with multiple levels of authority. The Jews hated the Romans and desired to throw off the yoke of Roman government and oppression. Jesus was discouraging His followers from developing authority structures that were like Rome.
Authority and Submission – Misapplied Scriptures
In my experience these are the Bible passages and issues regarding authority and submission that have been misunderstood and misused within the Christian church:
- 1 Samuel 15:22-23
- Hebrews 13:17
- Romans Chapter 13
- 1 Peter 5:5
- Psalms 105:15
- The Shepherding Movement
- Exodus 19:12
These passages are often taken out of context and misused. Misused in that there is no attempt to study the meaning of each scripture. There’s no attempt to look at the whole body of scripture that deals with the subject of authority and submission within the church. Concordances, commentaries and translations other than the King James Version (KJV) are never consulted or studied. Whether done out of ignorance or malice, the word of God is never rightly divided. The next passages that cause confusion are found in Romans chapter 13. Open your Bibles and commentaries with me as we explore what the scriptures reveal!
1 Peter 5:5 – Subject One to Another
1Peter 5:5(KJV) – “Likewise, ye younger, be subject unto the elder. Yea, all of you gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another: for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.”
Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament Commentary – “Submit yourselves unto the elder. That is, with the respect due to their age, and to the offices which they sustain. There is here, probably, a particular reference to those who sustained the office of elders or teachers, as the same word is used here which occurs in 1 Peter 5:1. As there was an allusion in that verse, by the use of the word, to age, so there is in this verse to the fact that they sustained an office in the church. The general duty, however, is here implied, as it is everywhere in the Bible, that all suitable respect is to be shown to the aged…….Yea, all of you be subject one to another. In your proper ranks and relations. You are not to attempt to lord it over one another, but are to treat each other with deference and respect.”
Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Commentary – It’s interesting that is this commentary the phase “be subject” is actually not found in the oldest manuscripts and versions. “Be subject–omitted in the oldest manuscripts and versions.”
Subject Unto Who?
The English word “subject” comes from the Greek word “hupotasso”. It is not the same word for “submit” used earlier in Hebrews 13:17. It is referring to the respect that is due an aged person. The general implication here, as throughout the scriptures, is that suitable respect should be shown to those older and wiser. The word “elder” is NOT referring exclusively to a Pastor or other church leader. In any case, the sense of this passage is not to imply blind or unquestioning obedience to anyone. However, unfortunately, this passage is used by many in just that manner. Moreover, of course, the portion of the passage that says “to serve one another” is never mentioned or emphasized. A literal rendering could be the “to wrap ourselves up in humility one to another”. A mutual respect and deference are what is being taught in this passage as well as mutual service. The scriptures clearly reveal that we are “subject” one to another and that we are to serve one another. There is no big “I” and little “you” in God’s Kingdom.
This is the fourth in a series of articles on the subject of “Leadership, Authority and Submission” within the Church. The articles focus on the misuse of scriptures that relate to this subject. The first article was entitled Jesus – The Chief Shepherd. The second article discussed the confusion surrounding Hebrews 13:17 . The third article focused on the misapplication of Romans Chapter 13. The next article will focus on Psalms 105:15.