Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer And gathers her provision in the harvest (Prov 6:6-8)
Take a look at this fascinating video showing stunning examples in nature,
particularly the ants and the bees, of absolute cooperation and team work without any hierarchical structure. Evidently every member of the team is receiving it’s instructions from a higher authority and submits to one another toward the successful completion of the task at hand. They each are obedient to their Creator and are wholly dedicated to the work that they were created to do and they serve out of total surrender.
Proper Authority & Submission in The Ekklesia
What does God mean by authority? What is proper, biblical submission? What transcends what: the Vertical relationship we each have with the Head, or the Horizontal with each other?
One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost (primary/first/preeminent/transcendant) is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. (Col 1:15-18 NASB)
…which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, and He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Eph 1:22-23 NASB)
For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; (Col 2:9-10 NASB)
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (Mat 28:18)
The above passages and many others clearly indicate that there is NO hierarchy in God, in His creation, in His Kingdom or in His Ekklesia. Jesus Christ is first, before ALL things, the source of ALL things, the Head of His Ekklesia and preeminent over ALL rule and authority.
Our relationship, our love and our ministry is first and foremost to and for Him. Then secondarily, out of the vertical, we BEcome all these to one another.
What is Proper, Biblical Submission?
There are 6 greek words used in the New Testament to convey something like our modern concept of submission: hupotasso, hupakouo, hupeiko, peitho, peitharcheo and dogmatizo. Keep in mind that many greek words have different meanings based on their context. It is no different in English. I may submit a proposal or submit to a search before boarding a plane. Words take on different meanings based on how they are used.
The word most commonly translated submit or subjection is hupotasso. Hupotasso is a military term used to signify a surrender on a battle field. It’s non-military usage is different.
It can mean any of the following depending on context:
- Arrange under
- Yield to admonition or advice
Hupotasso is not used to convey a sense of involuntary obedience to human command or authority in the New Testament. The New Testament words that best represent that are hupakouo and peitharcheo. Neither of these words are used in reference to church leadership.
Hupotasso, as it relates to members of the church interacting with each other is “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.” When Paul instructs the Ephesians to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” it is clear that he is speaking the sense of “arranging under” or “yield to admonition or advice” He isn’t telling people to obey each other. In 1Cor 16:16 when Paul calls on the Corinthians to submit to “everyone who cooperates in the work” it is clear there is no sense of hierarchy.
Hupotasso is found the following verses…
Luk 10:17 “Then the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name!’”
Heb 12:9 “Besides, we have experienced discipline from our earthly fathers and we respected them; shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of spirits and receive life?”
Rom 8:7 “because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so.”
Rom 10:3 “For ignoring the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking instead to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”
Rom 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God.
1Co 16:16 “also to submit to people like this, and to everyone who cooperates in the work and labors hard.”
Eph 5:22 “Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord”
Col 3:8 “Wives submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord”
Tit 2:9 Slaves are to be subject to their own masters in everything, to do what is wanted and not talk back,
Tit 3:1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.
1Pe 2:13 Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether to a king as supreme
1Pe 2:18 Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are perverse.
1Pe 3:22 who went into heaven and is at the right hand of God with angels and authorities and powers subject to him.
1Pe 5:5 In the same way, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
Jas 4:7 “So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Submit (be subject) to God-ordained worldly authorities…
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it (worldly authority) is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it (worldly authority) does not bear the sword for nothing; for it (worldly authority) is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. (Rom 13:1-7 NASB)
Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government. (1Pet 2:11-17 MSG)
Submit to God-ordained Authority in the Family
Slaves, Servants (out of reverence and respect)
Col_3:22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:
Children (out of honor)
Eph_6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Col_3:20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
Husbands & Wives (out of love)
Eph_5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
Eph_5:24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Eph_5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
Eph_5:28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;
Col_3:18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Col_3:19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.
What is proper authority within the Ekklesia?
What it is NOT!
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She *said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They *said to Him, “We are able.” He *said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.” And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall 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.” (Mat 20:20-28 NASB)
Jesus did not submit Himself to the religious leaders, those who had raised themselves up as self-appointed rulers and authorities. On the contrary He defied them and renounced them (See Matt 23)
He would not be a judge over any other man.
Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (Luk 12:13-14)
So what exactly does it mean then to “obey those who are ‘over you’ in the Lord?”
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit (hupeiko) yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Heb 13:17 KJV)
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief (or frustration), for this would be unprofitable for you. (Heb 13:17 NASB)
Be obedient to those leading you, and be subject, for these do watch for your souls, as about to give account, that with joy they may do this, and not sighing, for this is unprofitable to you. (Heb 13:17 YLT)
Here are the other words translated submit or obey….
Definition: “to obey authority” (Thomas)
Act 5:29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than people
Act 5:32 And we are witnesses of these events, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Tit 3:1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.
Definition: “to persuade, to have confidence” (Thomas)
It can be translated obey if spoken in the active or middle/passive. Most of us have no clue about active or passive tenses in Greek translation. What it means is that the word can be translated obey depending on how it used. In Heb 13:17 the word is used in such away that leads most translations to translated it as “obey.”
There are far too many verses to list here. The following is the main relevant passage:
Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work. Let them do this with joy and not with complaints, for this would be no advantage for you.
Definition: to listen, attend to:—answer(1), became obedient(1), becoming obedient(1), heed(1), obedient(2), obey(12), obeyed(3). (Thomas)
Eph 6:5 Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart as to Christ,
Eph 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.
Defintion: to decree, to subject oneself to an ordinance:—submit … to decrees(1). (Thomas)
Col 2:20 “If you have died with Christ to the elemental spirits of the world, why do you submit to them as though you lived in the world?”
Defintion: to retire, withdraw, submit:—submit(1). (Thomas)
Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : Updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.
To retire or withdraw giving the sense that we are to yield the right of way to, to “keep out of the way”, to “not hinder their efforts” rather than any sense of “following a direct order”.
Don’t rebel against or hinder them from fulfilling their calling or doing their job because they will give an account to the Lord, and it will do you no good either. With this meaning the rest of the verse, and the spirit of the entire passage then makes sense or bears witness.
The Greek word “peitharcheo” is found in Acts 5:29 and other places, but is never used in the New Testament in reference to “obeying” church leaders.
There also no actual word for “authority” in Heb 13:17 in the Greek text.
The Greek word for Obey used in Heb 13:17 is “peitho” which means “to voluntarily submit as a result of persuasion. In other words, if there is any authority at all in what they are saying, it is based solely upon their integrity before God and because they will have to give an account directly to God for what they are teaching or instructing. The intimation is that they are more accountable for what they are saying than you are to them to do what they are saying.
You are not required to obey some kind of delegated authority that they have “over you”, as some would want to believe and teach, but to obey, or submit yourSELF, to the TRUTH (Christ) that they are declaring.
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. (Heb 13:7)
Let all that you do be done in love. Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints), that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors. (1Co 16:14-16 NASB)
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. (1Pet 5:1-3)
Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them? (Heb 13:17 – The Message)
Rom_2:8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
Gal_3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
Gal_5:7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
Act_5:29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
Jesus Christ is concerned with only ONE thing, and Paul was called to that same single focus… THE WORK of building and equipping the Ekklesia so we ALL could be co-laborers in THE WORK!
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Cor 3:1-9)
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. (1John 2:20 NASB)
As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life. These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. (1John 2:24-27 NASB)
What role do pastors, elders, five-fold ministries, etc. have in terms of authority?
He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Eph 4:10-16 NASB)
There is no mention of rank or position in Paul’s instruction to the Church or when defining ministry. Paul didn’t say “I have authority because I’ve been appointed by the church and all church leaders are God’s delegated authority”. The Corinthians originally recognized Paul’s authority as their Father in the gospel (1Cor 4:15). Even this authority had limits. He had no authority to tear down (2Cor 10:8). Even in the expulsion of the immoral brother Paul instructed the whole Corinthian church to do it (1Cor 5:4). He didn’t do it and he didn’t instruct the leaders to do it. In “covering” theology everyone is commanded to obey people almost solely on their organizational rank. Organizational rank is very much “outward appearance”, acknowledged by “sight”, from a “human point of view” bolstered by “letters of recommendation.”
Paul presents himself as one who preached Christ as Lord. Covering theology equates the authority of church leaders with God’s authority. This sounds a lot like preaching “themselves” as lord rather than preaching Christ as Lord.
What would submission in the church look like if it were pursued in a manner that was truly a “voluntary attitude of giving in and co-operating“. It would look very different from what often goes on in authoritarian churches.
Biblical submission is always a “voluntary attitude.” What is the difference between a voluntary attitude and an involuntary attitude? Involuntary submission it is motivated by command, rules, fear, coercion, or manipulation. People give in because they have a tangible and an imminent fear of something negative happening to them.
What should motivate us to submit to each other?
- Reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21)
- In honor of those leaders keeping watch over us (Heb 13:17)
- So the leaders have joy (Heb 13:17)
- It would be profitable for us (Heb 13:17)
- Clothe ourselves in humility to each other (1Pe 5:5)
There is a noticeable absence of any “spiritual disaster” in the above list.
The proponents of Covering Theology often present themselves as God’s chosen leaders and label those who disagree with them as rebels. There is an incredible irony to this as these same leaders have cast off centuries of solid biblical interpretation to arrive at their conclusions. In order to accomplish this task they have redefined or skewed the traditional biblical concepts of sin, grace, submission, and faith.
HOW TO DISCERN A TRUE MINISTRY FROM THE FALSE. AM I A TRUE MINISTER?
The clergy-laity dichotomy is a direct carry-over from pre-Reformation Roman Catholicism and a throwback to the Old Testament priesthood. It is one of the principal obstacles to the church effectively being God’s agent of the kingdom today because it creates a false idea that only ‘holy men,’ namely, ordained ministers, are really qualified and responsible for leadership and significant ministry. In the New Testament there are functional distinctions between various kinds of ministries but no hierarchical division between clergy and laity. ~ Howard Snyder
In order to discern whether a ministry is on the right path we have to consider the big question of “why.” What is the motivation? If we are ministering for our personal gain our methods and our teaching will eventually reflect this. We might be in it for fame, status, reputation, money, religious success. We might be living out our own legalistic, self-condemnation on others or reliving our own victimization through others.
Paul loved people and was so filled with the love of God it compelled him despite all the suffering and the risks. He lived with an open heart and a Godly jealous for Christ’s people. He tried very hard not to be a burden and attempted to work with the Corinthians for their joy. He saw the Corinthians as partners to work in co-operation with, not just people to minister too.
Paul suffered not just from external persecution but by the insensitive treatment by those he sought to minister to. It seems to bleed out especially later on in the letter where we makes some honest but biting remarks about the Corinthian’s willingness to let themselves become exploited.
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. (Heb 13:7)
Here are a few questions that every minister of the Lord needs to ask of him/herself…
Which “well” am I drinking from?
Is it the grace of Christ leading to life, freedom and transformation or condemnation leading to shame, bondage and death?
Why do I do what I do? What are the motivations?
A careful examination of my heart and my actions will reveal clues to where my heart is? I will find my heart with my treasure so I should examine how I spend my resources (mental, emotional, material) and follow the “money trail” to the orientation of my heart.
Am I comfortable with my own weakness or do I need to project an image of strength to others?
Am I confident that Christ has transformed me and I have no need to fake it for others? Am I overly concerned with how people think of me?
Am I honest, open and willing to submit myself to conscious examination of others?
Do I use flattery, trickery or other methods to guide people? Do I try to control what people think so I can guide the situation to further my goals whether they are altruistic or not?
You don’t have to be an author, a pastor, or an elder of a local church to be a leader. In fact, some of the greatest Christian leaders I’ve known were neither. Focus on following Jesus and you will be leading others naturally by your example, let alone by the things you say. Is it possible that much of Christianity today is focused on being a leader when it should rather be focused on how to follow an indwelling Christ?
~ Frank Viola
This is a huge topic and one that can be approached from many different angles. In summary what I have concluded is that we are to submit only to God as He would reveal the Truth (Christ) to us, through others, by The Spirit. Humbly submit ourselves to one another in the Love, fear and admiration of the Lord. Be subject to the worldly authorities in order to win them over, but never in place of God if they were to go against His rule in our life. Don’t place any man over you as an “authority” through whom you exclusively get direction from or obey rather than Christ (in you). Don’t look to others to take on your offense, or to approach or confront someone, or to carry the burden for you. Be ready always to participate and engage in “The Work” of building up the Body of Christ out of agape love without ANY expectation of receiving anything in return, flowing only as directed by the Head.
Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. (Mat 23:10)
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1Tim 2:5)
Be imitators of me, in so far as I in turn am an imitator of Christ. Now I commend you for remembering me in everything, and because you hold fast truths and practices precisely as I have taught them to you. I would have you know, however, that of every man, Christ is the Head, that of a woman her husband is the Head, and that God is Christ’s Head. (1Co 11:1-3 Weymouth)
“Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve others – qualities which are within easy reach of every soul – are the foundation of one’s spiritual life.”
~ Nelson Mandela. http://onforb.es/18qc7by