Every Christian must understand the principle of spiritual authority. The church today must have two things: submission to delegated authority and a right representation of God¶s authority. This series of lessons is based on Watchman Nee¶s book Spiritual Authority.
Lesson 1: Reestablishing God¶s Authority
1. Where does authority come from?
What is authority? In this world, there are many different spheres of authority. In the classroom, the teacher has authority over students. In the workplace, the managers have authority over the employees. In legal affairs, the courts and police have authority in regard to the law. In the family, the parents have authority over children. Romans 13:1-2 Everyone must submit himself 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, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. Eventually, all authority comes from God. God establishes all authorities here on earth. There is no source of authority apart from God.
2. The problem of rebellion
The Bible says that Satan fell because of pride and self-will. Isaiah 14:12-14 refers to Satan¶s fall from heaven. Notice how he proclaims ³I will «´ five times. Isaiah 14:12-14 How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High." Satan was the first one to rebel against God¶s authority. He deceived Adam and Eve into joining in him in rebellion against God¶s authority. They had a choice to obey God and depend on Him to give them every good thing, or to disobey Him and exercise their self-will apart from Him. (For reference, Genesis 3:1-6.) 1 John 3:4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. Adam and Eve disobeyed God¶s authority. They chose to rebel against God¶s authority and become a law unto themselves. They chose self-will instead of God¶s will. They chose the way of Satan. We inherited a sinful nature from our parents Adam and Eve. We were therefore rebels who did not submit to God¶s authority. (For reference, Colossians 1:21 and Romans 5:10.) Instead, we followed our own self-will instead of God¶s will. Romans 8:6-8 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. Romans 8:6-8 says that our sinful nature is in rebellion against God¶s authority. Even when we try to do good, we do so out of self-will and not in submission to God¶s authority. We can only please God when we submit to God¶s authority.
3. God¶s solution to reestablish His authority
God had a plan to reestablish His authority on earth and to save all people. 1 John 3:8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. The Bible says that Jesus came to destroy the devil¶s work. He came to reestablish God¶s authority on earth. Romans 5:19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. Just as all humanity fell into sin through the rebellion of Adam, many people will be brought back into submission to God¶s authority through the submission and obedience of Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:5-11 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death² even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Jesus humbled Himself and was completely obedient to God throughout His entire life. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told the Father that His will was more important to him than anything else, even if it meant death on the cross. (For reference, Matthew 26:39, 42.) Hebrews 5:7-9 During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him « Jesus was reverently submissive, even in the face of suffering. He learned perfect obedience. He reestablished God¶s authority on earth and became the source of our salvation. The following table illustrates how Jesus reestablished God¶s principle of authority in contrast to the Satanic principle of rebellion. 1 John 3:8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. Satan Jesus Rebellion against God Submission to God Self-will is what matters God¶s will is what matters Pride and self-centeredness Humility and servanthood
4. The church must learn from Jesus¶ example
We are to follow the example of Jesus Christ in submission and obedience to God¶s authority.
Ephesians 1:20-23 « which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. God made Jesus the Head of the Church, which is His body. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus, and He manifests His authority through the church. The church must learn complete submission and obedience the same way that Jesus learned complete submission and obedience. Think of how a head relates to a body. When the head thinks of drinking a glass of water, the arm, hands, and mouth all work together, each in their own way. None thinks on its own. In the same way, there must be complete obedience among the members of the church body. We must understand the principle of authority so that we can fall into submission to one another and work together to accomplish God¶s will. If we resist authority in the body, we may think that we are resisting man. But, in fact, we are resisting God. The lawless principle of Satan can have no place in the church. Ephesians 4:7-16 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men."(What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4 describes the ideal state of the church that operates in complete submission and practices godly authority to build up the body of Christ. Christ is the head of the church and each member is functioning according to their authority in perfect conjunction with one another. Let us learn the principles of God¶s authority so that we can play a part in building Jesus¶ glorious church.