All authority

And so right away at the very beginning, what I want you to understand is that when it comes to baptizing, when it comes to making disciples, when it comes to teaching them to obey everything He commanded, nothing in this text will be implemented, nothing will be submitted to, nothing will happen in the Great Commission until we begin to be counter-cultural and say, we understand that authority is right at the heart of our faith, Jesus Christ has been given all authority, and therefore we understand we can’t take the Great Commission and obey it unless we are willing to be in authority and to proclaim that authority. Now that’s pretty difficult. And it requires you—whether you are an officer or not in the church—to begin to think differently than this world will teach you to think. Because if there’s one truth about this world, it is that this world hates authority. We just hate it.

It is true, there is abuse of authority, but for Heaven’s sakes, are any of us going to ever, ever begin to discover and to submit to the call to obedience until we die? Are we going to waste our entire lives working to avoid the abuse of authority? Is this really the life of faith? Why do you think Peter says to wives, when he tells them to submit to their husbands, not to give in to fear? Well the reason is that you’re not in submission to an infallible, perfectly righteous man! You’re in submission to a human being, to a man. And men are sinners. And let me remind you, it is sinners that Jesus gives this authority to. It is sinners that are supposed to go and make disciples of all men.

Listen. All the church is, is another household like the one you grew up in when you were a child. It has fathers, it has mothers, and it has authority. And we’re supposed to see that authority in the church, and not until you see that authority in the church, exercised by officers of the church who baptize, who teach everything Jesus commanded, who make disciples—not until you see that has the Great Commision begun to be obeyed. Listen, people. What is at stake in the church is the eternal state of immortal souls.

The 2011 ClearNote Fellowship Conference was titled The Great Commission. Here is Pastor Tim Bayly’s sermon, titled All Authority.

(This is sermon 1 in a series; see also sermon 2, sermon 3, sermon 4, and sermon 5.)


Outline

1. Everything is justified as a fulfillment of the Great Commission

Tonight our subject is authority, and of course since the weekend is focused on the Great Commission we’re going to take the Great Commission as a statement and implementation of authority that our Lord has commanded. But first a couple of words. Stephen gave a good introduction to why we have selected this theme for the weekend, but I want to say a couple of other things about the Great Commission.

Today, almost everything that can be justified, is justified by claims that it’s evangelistic, gospel-centered, or missional, which is to say that it is a fulfillment of the Great Commission. And so we’ve seen that the words of Scripture can be changed, we can change the words that refer to brother or man, we can change the words that refer to the Jews, as long as it’s an effort to avoid being viewed as sexist or anti-Semitic. And if it will make the Bible more approachable to unbelievers, then we’re justified by these changes, they’re missional changes, they’re gospel-centered changes, they’re evangelistic changes.

Similarly, as we can get rid of the words of Scripture we can get rid of baptism, because focusing on it might jeopardize being evangelistic, it might be misunderstood, it might not be viewed as gospel-centered or missional, it might not be a fulfillment of the Great Commission. Similarly, we can forget about the specific truths, the doctrines of Scripture, if they’re a threat to basic Christian faith and sinners accepting Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. And of course, we can forget about church discipline and authority, because these things scare unbelievers. Do anything to avoid offending those who don’t know Jesus—until they come to know Jesus, that is, and then we can be more forthright than we’ve been prior to then—but of course somehow when it comes to the authority of the church, even after people come to the Lord they’re not introduced to it. And so we forget baptism, we forget making all men disciplined students of Jesus, we forget teaching believers to obey everything Jesus commanded, forget everything but the bare bones of being what we call evangelistic or missional, of being gospel-centered. So this is the church’s understanding of what it means to fulfill the Great Commission today.

1.1. There is nothing that justifies more sin and disobedience than claiming to fulfill the Great Commission

I think this really came home to me about 10 years ago when I was involved in fighting against the neutering of Scripture—taking out all the male-specific words—and Christianity Today, which is the great voice from the sky in American conservative Christianity, decided that they were going to weigh in on the issue and were going to tell everybody what they should think about whether the Bible should be neutered or not. And sure enough, in the cover article, everything was justified by saying that it was to fulfill the Great Commission that this was being done—that this was an evangelistic tool. And so we remove the words of Scripture that are offensive to unbelievers, all in the interest of making them believers, but what is a believer but someone who’s submitted to the written Word of God and to the Word of God, Jesus Christ? And so I looked at that, I looked at them justifying the deletion of words from God’s Word—think about this—under the guise of doing evangelism, of fulfilling the Great Commission. And if there’s ever a case of taking with one hand what you’re claiming to give with the other, that’s it. If it requires you to delete God’s Word while claiming to be fulfilling God’s Word, if you have to gag your father in order to obey him—Houston, we have a problem! And it really hit me then that in the evangelical world and in the conservative reformed world there is nothing that justifies more sin and disobedience than claiming to fulfill the Great Commission.

And since then I’ve thought a lot about baptism. I remember a pastor that preceded me in a church here in Bloomington telling me—I knew what his doctrinal commitments were about baptism, but I hadn’t seen the outworking of those doctrinal commitments in his ministry. I was now at his church, and it was amazing to me—and I said to him, why is it that you have not done what you believe is the teaching of Scripture about baptism? Why haven’t you baptized? I came in the church and there were all kinds of people taking Communion who had never been baptized, people who were baptized who were not under the authority of any elders of any church, it was like each man did that which was right in his own eyes. So I said, what gives? Why is your doctrine of baptism not visible in the church that you ministered to for 15-20 years?

And he said, “Well, in this community the Campbellites, the Christian Church denomination, are so central, and baptismal regeneration is their commitment, and so I felt what I needed to do was downplay baptism in order to not—” In order to not what? In order to not appear to be baptismal regeneration.

And I’ve thought about that, I’ve thought about Christianity Today on the issue of Bible translations, and I’ve been in a lot of elders’ meetings, and in elders’ meetings we can get pretty distant from submission to Scripture all in the name of submitting to Scripture, right? You all know this. And what’s clear to me is that when we in our leadership leave behind obedience to Jesus claiming that if we leave behind the specifics of obedience to Jesus that we’ll be closer to the general obedience to Jesus, we have a problem. If your son explains to you that if he actually eats a cookie even though you told him he couldn’t have a cookie he is fulfilling the spirit of your rule that he’s not to have a cookie—we have a problem.

And as you go through this weekend listening to the different sermons on the Great Commission, what I trust is that you’ll begin to see that the evangelical emphasis on the Great Commission is a big shell game—it’s making a big show of giving to God what He claims from us by refusing to give Him what He demands from us. In other words, we say that we’re going to fulfill the Great Commission and then run all over ourselves trying to avoid fulfilling the Great Commission.

2. Authority is the basis of the Great Commission and of any faithfulness to it

Now let’s start with authority. Let’s read together the Great Commission, and I’m going to add verse 16 even though other people probably will not read verse 16. Matthew 28:16-20,

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Let us pray.

Father God, we pray that you will restore submission to Your authority to Your church. And we pray, Lord, that You will put back into our work of making disciples—of evangelism, of being missional, of being gospel-centered—a proclamation of the universal and eternal authority of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lord, now may the words of my mouth and the meditation of every one of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord our strength and our Redeemer. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Now authority is the basis of the Great Commission. And authority is also at the center of any faithfulness to the Great Commission. The Great Commission begins properly in verse 18 with Jesus making a universal declaration of His own authority. He tells the apostles that all authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth. And so when Jesus delegates authority to the apostles, to the eleven, He has authority to delegate.

2.1. The Great Commission is given to officers

Now let me stop here and make a comment. Because we’re all evangelicals, we all want to get sort of cosmic about to whom the Great Commission was given. And we want to make it out that every Christian is the recipient of the commands of the Great Commission. That it’s not given to church officers, that it has no connection to the apostles except that they were the ones who were actually there. And if you read commentaries, they will take verse 16 and flip it on its head and make out that actually there were 500 people there who were listening to Jesus at the time.

So think about that: it says there that the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee to the mountain that Jesus had designated. “When they…and Jesus came and spoke to them…”—and so it explicitly says the eleven, and the commentators will say 500, and then they’ll say, “…and of course the Great Commission is for all of us.” Now listen. The Great Commission is for all of us. But it’s not for all of us in the same way that it was for the eleven apostles.

Now why does it say eleven and not twelve? Well, because one of them had already betrayed his calling, and that was Judas, and so he’s gone. There are only eleven left. And those eleven are the ones that obeyed Jesus, it says that they went to the mountain which Jesus had designated, so there’s obedience there, and Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples…”

And so I want to make that note, that it would be very twisted if Matthew were saying eleven and what it really meant was 500 or 1000 or just everyone. Now this is hard for us, because one of the ways that we try to deny authority in the church is by making every command of the gospels apply to every individual believer. And I want you to see that right away, He is speaking to officers—He is speaking to those who will be the apostles, and that all through the New Testament, whether somebody is an officer in the church matters. Because Paul over and over again says what? He says “I am an apostle.” And that is a call to submit to his authority and to honor it.

2.2. One of the key aspects of faith today is that sinful men nevertheless will claim their office and will lead

Now years ago when I began to realize that being a husband was to be an authority in a marriage, I thought to myself, this is nasty. Because I saw myself and I knew I was a sinner. And I knew that this was not something that was news to my wife.

And so in a day when rebellion is everywhere, especially about husbands and wives, how exactly does one go about claiming one’s authority as a husband in such a way as to not scandalize his wife, who sees him as he is? And right there I realized that one of the key aspects of faith today is that sinful men nevertheless will claim their office and will lead, bearing the responsibility of being a man with feet of clay, a man of flesh, a man of sin, as they lead.

If you wait to exercise authority as a husband, if you wait to exercise authority as a mother over your children, and if you wait to exercise authority as an officer of Christ’s church until there is no sin in you—or at least there’s plausible deniability—you will never exercise authority.

I mean, I look at those of you who are fathers—and I’m not talking about fathers who just go around harrumphing. You know, any idiot can harrumph. Any idiot can go around blustering and shaking his fist and smashing the table and telling people to get out of his way so he can see the television screen—that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about men who benevolently exercise authority, and yet exercise authority even when they can be accused of doing it only for selfish reasons. Those men, those mothers with their children today, live by faith.

And so right away at the very beginning, what I want you to understand is that when it comes to baptizing, when it comes to making disciples, when it comes to teaching them to obey everything He commanded, nothing in this text will be implemented, nothing will be submitted to, nothing will happen in the Great Commission until we begin to be counter-cultural and say, we understand that authority is right at the heart of our faith, Jesus Christ has been given all authority, and therefore we understand we can’t take the Great Commission and obey it unless we are willing to be in authority and to proclaim that authority. Now that’s pretty difficult. And it requires you—whether you are an officer or not in the church—to begin to think differently than this world will teach you to think. Because if there’s one truth about this world, it is that this world hates authority. We just hate it.

2.4. Discipling is exercising authority

When I was just married, the Lord had used the charismatic movement to bring me back into some semblance of obedience to the Lord, and so I was very grateful for a bunch of individuals in the charismatic prayer group Mary Lee and I went to and asked them to pray every week for our various sins, but also for other people we had never met who were around the country and who were putting out tapes, and I remember listening to one tape series by a particular charismatic leader, and it was a tape series on discipleship. Well I’d never heard anything about discipleship—I’d been raised in Wheaton, I’d never heard anything about discipleship.

And so I’m listening to these tapes, and what do you think this guy did at the very beginning of his tape series on discipleship? The first thing he did was he opened up all of Scripture’s teaching about authority, and he opened up the authority of the one who disciples somebody, and he opened up the submission of the person being discipled to the one who is discipling them. And he began to say that central to the Christian life is those who are being discipled submitting to the authority of the ones that are discipling them.

And of course, that comes right from here: “Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe…” Very personal statement, right? What this means is that the leaders of the church, the fathers of a home, the officers of Christ’s church, are to exercise authority over those they’re discipling.

But then, getting my head around this as a young guy who had just recently pierced his ear in San Diego because he thought it was really hip—long hair—all of a sudden I smack into this wall of authority and discipleship. And I’m telling you, nothing could have gone more totally against who I was. I mean, this was like totally contrary to everything that I loved. And yet it was obvious that it was completely true.

Then, here’s what happened. Shortly after this I began to hear a growing chorus of criticism against “the discipleship movement in charismatic circles”. And you know the criticism was? The criticism was that it was authoritarian.

3. We hate authority

Yesterday—and I make no judgment about it although I know the man—there’s a national leader of a movement that has provided some considerable help to us as a church—I’ve been on a board with the individual involved—and it was announced that this man was going on a temporary leave of absence from his ministry because of the way that he had exercised leadership. It went on to say that there had been no fiscal impropriety, no theft, no immorality, no adultery, no sodomy, nothing like that. But that this man had been “unentreatable.”

Now, men. If you’re married, how many of you have wives who would accuse you of unentreatability? Do you know what that means? What it means is you don’t listen. That’s what it means! What a precious way of saying that he wouldn’t listen. He was unentreatable. Honey, I entreat—is that how your wife comes to you? Honey, I entreat you! That’s not how my wife comes to me!

Now listen, I have nothing against those who are under authority entreating those who are in authority to repent. Nothing. I think if you don’t have a wife who entreats you to repent, you’re a fool, because you have destroyed her ability to help you. She is a helpmate. Do you understand? And therefore she is to entreat you to repent. Nevertheless, why is it that in 2011 we have a national leader who is not found guilty of sexual immorality, he’s not found guilty of theft, but he’s unentreatable. And so he steps down from his ministry. Listen: I’m sure that God has been kind to him by having him step down. I have no objection to it. But can I ask you a question? Do you think the Apostle Paul was entreatable? Or do you think maybe he was just slightly unentreatable? What I want you to understand is, we hate authority.

And it is has been very clear to me from the time when I saw this man attacked for his commitment to discipleship and to authority in discipleship, and then I’ve watched through the years a growing, growing chorus of attack upon the authority of the church—and so Ron Enroth, a guy out at Westmont College, wrote a book on abuse in the church. And the whole book was not a book on the abuse of authority by pastors not warning day and night with tears, do you understand me?

It was a book talking about how there was some idiot out in L.A. who was on a softball team with the people of his church and he got disgusted with how they were playing, and so he made a rule that the next softball game they were all to play left-handed. And this is an indication of what we all need to be on guard against in the church today—churches that abuse.

Now think about that, a pastor makes a rule that the next softball game, everybody in his church is going to play left-handed, and so Ron Enroth writes a book about the terrible danger across the United States of churches that abuse, and here’s an example: a pastor that has everybody play with their left hands! It’s like, we have all kinds of problems we can be on guard against—my point is, it’s absolutely absurd. You know, this is what is my problem. My problem is that when we play soccer as a church, everybody has to shoot with their left foot. It’s stupid.

But it’s not stupid, it’s evil. Because what Ron Enroth is doing, and what everybody is doing with that book, and what everybody is doing everywhere in the church today is denying the authority that God has delegated to the officers of His church. And therefore, the officers are doing what Stephen read just a little while ago, which is, the people are surrounding themselves with teachers who scratch their ears where they itch. And so the one thing I absolutely can promise you is that in churches today, the pastors are not shepherds, but they are chaplains. They don’t know their sheep, they don’t command their sheep, they have no authority.

3.1. We fear man and refuse to exercise authority, leaving the sheep completely at the mercy of the wolves

And the problem with that is that if there is no authority on the part of the shepherds then the sheep are completely at the mercy of the wolves. Do you understand that? If there’s no authority on the part of your mother and father, who is the authority over you going to be? The authority over you is going to be the state. And so I can just show you that in marriage, I can show you that in parent-child relationships, I can show you in the church, I can show you everywhere where Christian authority is at stake that the state is usurping that authority for itself.

And so for instance, Christian parents today are just like elders in a church. If you go into an elders’ meeting and there’s someone who is committing serious sin and you listen to the elders discuss whether or not to discipline that person, what you’ll find out is that in that meeting, the subtext—and often the explicit text—is concern over what? A lawsuit! Again and again and again in churches in America, fear of litigation is what causes elders and pastors to avoid doing what God has called us to do. And so what about parents? Parents have very explicit commands from God telling them don’t spare use of the rod. Corporal punishment is commanded in Scripture, there’s just no question about it. And parents are consistently living in fear of the state taking their children because of the use of corporal punishment today.

And I know many of you are saying, well my father beat me, and I know many wives say they won’t submit to their husbands because their husband has abused authority or because their father abused authority, and I know that many churches have pastors who tell people who tell people not to play with their right hand next game. But when are we going to begin to obey what Jesus commanded, instead of making a big show of giving Him what He commands and then finding a way of being safe—with our discipline of our children being safe, with our session elders’ meetings and our pastoral care, being safe with our relationship with our wife, being safe with our relationship with our husband so that we have a profession and a good paying job so if our husband leaves us then we’re not dependent on him, not in submission to him—in other words, the church is doing everything she can to be safe and yet still claim Jesus Christ.

3.2. If you believe that Jesus has truly been given all authority, then you’re free

And I want you to hear this. Jesus says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” And if you believe that Jesus has truly been given all authority, then you’re free. Because you don’t have to worry about the government, you don’t have to worry about your husband, your wife, you don’t have to worry about them coming and taking your children away; you realize that Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, and that what matters is your submission to Him.

And if you’re trying to fear the civil magistrate and God at the same time, who do you think wins? You can never fear two things at once. You will either fear God and turn your back on the fear of the civil magistrate, or you will fear the civil magistrate and turn your back on obedience to God. And so right at the very beginning I want you to see that the ground, the basis, the fabric, the authority of the Great Commission is the authority of Jesus Christ, and it extends everywhere in heaven and on earth, and it will never end.

And so what does that mean for us in obeying the Great Commission? One thing I want you to note is that an authority isn’t given to Jesus by Satan, and it’s also not an authority that is given to Jesus by the civil magistrate. We’re not waiting for Washington to agree that Jesus Christ has universal authority. You remember what Satan said to Jesus when he tempted Him at the beginning of His ministry? In Matthew 4:8 we read,

Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and [the devil] said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”

Now is it the devil’s place to give authority to Jesus? No! And then we see at the end of His life that Jesus appears before Pilate; in John 19:10 we read,

So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above…”

And so Jesus doesn’t get authority from us, He doesn’t get authority from Pilate, He doesn’t get authority from the state. Jesus gets authority from God the Father.

In Daniel 7:14 we have an Old Testament parallel to this statement of Jesus. It says,

“And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.”

And so the dominion and the kingdom and the authority, the glory of Jesus Christ, is everywhere and lasts forever. And it comes from His Father. In Philippians 2 beginning with verse 9 we read,

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him [Jesus], and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

3.3. We have a problem with Jesus giving authority to sinners

Now I imagine that there are no conservative Christians today, no reformed, no evangelical Christians, who would deny the authority that God has given to Jesus Christ. That really is not where we have the problem, is it? When it comes to the relationship of the Trinity we do have some problem in that egalitarian feminists are trying to deny the authority of the Father over the Son because they understand on some level that if you begin to have equality of the Godhead and an economic subordination, an obedience of the Son to the Father but an equality of the Son to the Father, that you might be able to have—I mean, it’s scary, but you might be able to have the equality of the husband and the wife and the submission of the wife to the husband; so they’re so adamant to get rid of the authority of the husband over the wife that they attack the Trinity, because it would be very scary if you could have equality of the Godhead and the submission of the Son to the Father.

But nevertheless, despite that problem, generally people have no problem with the authority of the Son and the Father. Nobody objects to “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.” We all want Jesus to have every knee bow before Him. “And therefore God has given Him a name which is above every name.” His Father has given His Son a name which is above every name. And His Father has decreed that every knee will bow before His Son.

The real problem we have is not with Jesus saying “All authority has been given to Me.” We have a problem with the word “Therefore” and what follows it. Because the minute the authority of Jesus Christ is vested in any man, then we have the potential for abuse. And we’re very, very concerned to avoid the abuse of authority in ourselves and in others, right? No. Wrong! We’re not really trying to avoid the abuse of authority. What we’re really trying to avoid is the humility that comes from submission or that is required for submission. The real problem is our pride.

It is true, there is abuse of authority, but for Heaven’s sakes, are any of us going to ever, ever begin to discover and to submit to the call to obedience until we die? Are we going to waste our entire lives working to avoid the abuse of authority? Is this really the life of faith? Why do you think Peter says to wives, when he tells them to submit to their husbands, not to give in to fear? Well the reason is that you’re not in submission to an infallible, perfectly righteous man! You’re in submission to a human being, to a man. And men are sinners. And let me remind you, it is sinners that Jesus gives this authority to. It is sinners that are supposed to go and make disciples of all men.

3.4. What Jesus is giving to the apostles is authority

I think I have to make the case more to you that what Jesus is giving to the apostles is authority. Here’s another text that shows this. You remember in Matthew 16 that Jesus is asking the disciples and the crowds who He is—who people say He is. And in Matthew 16:15,

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

So He’s focusing in on the more tight circle.

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

Now. If you take the Great Commission, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth, therefore go and make disciples, baptizing them, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded…” and you put it together with this, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven,” I see absolutely no way for us to weasel our way out of the authority that God has placed in the church. I mean, how on earth can you can up with the description of the power of the keys, and the keys reflecting what happens in heaven—and you know it has to do with souls, right? How do we explain that without there being authority of the most intense kind in the church? Keys are authority!

3.5. How do we deal with the hatred for authority in the church?

I’ve spoken at a number of places, and one of the things I’ve noticed is that people are uncomfortable when I speak. And I’ve thought about it for decades now. I just can’t figure it out. I don’t think it’s they can smell my breath, I’m too far away from them. I don’t think it’s that my wife is ugly; I don’t think it’s that I’m fat, because some of that time I wasn’t fat; and I think my jokes are sometimes funny. I mean, what is it? And increasingly it’s become very clear to me that in America today, you are never supposed to speak with authority.

Now you say, what do you mean by that? And I say, ok, here’s what I mean by that: you’re never supposed to speak to the conscience. What you’re supposed to do is have helpful thoughts. You’re supposed to have good doctrine. You’re supposed to have erudite illustrations. But you’re not supposed to hold up disobedience and obedience, rebellion and submission, and you’re not supposed to call the people to repent and believe. And so if you go to conferences around the country and you listen to—what are they called? They’re called talks, lectures, messages, but what are they never ever called at conferences? Never sermons. Never. And so I’ve tried to deal with this, not knowing how to deal with it. How do we deal with the hatred for authority in the church? And there are two ways of dealing with it.

Hide it

One way is to hide it, and be as faithful as you can be to the exercise of authority, to leadership, to shepherding, while not making yourself vulnerable to being called authoritarian or a cult. Do you understand what I’m saying? And so what you do is you try to get as close as you can to obedience to God while protecting yourself from accusations that you’re authoritarian or a cult. And I’m telling you, this goes on all the time in my mind as a pastor, let alone in elders’ meetings, let alone in conference planning. Everybody is trying to avoid being accused of being authoritarian!

Now. Ask yourself this: if you’re being raised in a home by a father whose primary concern is that people won’t accuse him of being a dictator, of being authoritarian, of abusing authority, do you think you’re going to learn what you need to learn according to the Word of God? It’s just not going to happen. If your primary concern is what plays in Peoria and whether or not people are going to accept you and like you—and listen, don’t sit there and think that I don’t care if you like me or not. I’m probably more in bondage to that than any other speaker who will preach to you this weekend, trust me. And maybe that’s why I understand this so well.

Fear God

And so when you see the keys of the kingdom being given by Jesus to the apostles, and when you see Him saying “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth…therefore…” you should be able to go to your father and mother if you’re a child, to your husband if you’re a wife, to your church, and you should be able to see things that only make sense when you realize that your husband and your father and mother and your elders and pastors have had authority delegated to them. And that they’re living in fear of not being faithful to the delegation of authority God has given to them! And that that’s the thing that really scares the hell out of them—not you!

Now listen, I’m deadly serious about this. If you have not sat in a church and understood that the only thing that the man preaching to you is afraid of is God, then you’ve never been in a place where the Great Commission is being fulfilled. Never! In the normal church in America today, the elders understand their calling to be to protect the people from a zealous pastor. Those of you in the ministry know that this is true. I cannot tell you how many hours every single week I spend with the elders of my church trying to protect the congregation from me.

Until we recover our understanding that Jesus said all authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth, we are not going to begin to be faithful mothers and fathers, we’re not going to begin to be faithful husbands, we’re not going to begin to be faithful officers of Christ’s church. And we’re not going to begin to be faithful sheep with shepherds.

You know the interesting thing about Hebrews where it says, “Submit to those in authority over you in the Lord for they keep watch over your souls”? I love that part, but you know the part I really like? It goes on and it says, “Because if you make life miserable for them, of what benefit is that to you?” You know, that’s what every child thinks: “Well I better make it easy for my father to lead me and teach me and discipline me, because if I don’t make it easy for him, what benefit will he be to me?” Well of course that’s absurd! That’s what our sons are spending all of their lives thinking about: “I’d better be submissive and respectful, because otherwise of what benefit will my father be to me?” That’s what I grew up thinking all the time! No, not.

And so we see Jesus delegating authority and we see Him speaking of the power of the keys.

4. If you do not exercise the authority delegated to you for the good of those under you, that is damnable

Let me read to you something that I got from a very, very sophisticated academic with the terminal degree a few years ago. This was a man that hated authority here in Bloomington. He was a psychologist. And he wrote me and he said this:

The authority of Christ over the church is only taught in Scripture ‘by implication’ rather than directly…

The authority of Christ over the church is only taught ‘by implication’ in Scripture, not directly.
The authority of Jesus Christ over the church is not taught directly in Scripture, but only ‘by implication’.
You know we’re off to a bad start, right? And then he says,

…and nowhere in the New Testament is there any indication that Christ exercises authority over the church. Rather, He shares His authority with the church.

Now, when I got this letter, I thought about it hard, hard, hard, hard. Because I knew this letter expressed the central rebellion of the church this man was a part of, so I wanted to understand it deep, deep down. And so I shook it like a dog shakes a bone. And I shook it and shook it and finally I had an ‘Aha!’ experience, when I read again him saying that Jesus Christ only shares His authority with the church.

And I thought to myself, the only thing you really need to know about a man that has authority shared with him is that he has no obligation to exercise it. I’m going to share my authority with you and if you choose to not receive it, there’s no blame on you. You know? And so if God shares His authority with me as a pastor and I say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” I’m not condemnable–I mean what’s wrong? He’s offering and I’m refusing, and it’s not impolite!

But listen. If God delegates authority to me—have any of you been in the military? If you have authority delegated to you and you do not exercise that authority for the good of those placed under your authority, that is damnable. That will get you in great, great trouble. And so if Jesus only by implication has authority over the church, doesn’t really exercise authority over the church, and if Jesus doesn’t delegate authority to officers of the church but only shares it with them, every man does that which is right in his own eyes! There’s no problem! “I don’t have to exercise authority, because Jesus offered it to me and I refused it.”

4.1. They attack every authority but their own

This guy goes on and says,

References to Christ as Lord could be interpreted as references to authority but not necessarily any such meaning. Such references are general and appear to exalt Christ rather than to assert His authority over anything in particular. Nowhere in the New Testament are church leaders in general said to have authority.

Should I read that again?

Nowhere in the New Testament are church leaders in general said to have authority. There is no general reference to the authority of church leaders in the New Testament.

It’s just unbelievable. And what I never understand about the people who are rebels is why they think that they can attack every authority but their own without losing their own authority. And so this guy has the terminal degree, he’s a professor at the university, and as I often say, he still grades papers!
And he still parades with his hood!
And he still puts PhD after his name.

You understand the hypocrisy. Think of the federal government. The federal government, while it destroys the authority of parents, while it has you living in fear so that you don’t spank your children, let me tell you, there’s no question about their authority. When they show up and your home and knock on the door and it’s Child Protective Services, you’d better believe that they can snap your children out of your home before you can say Jack Robinson, and there’s not a thing you can do about it. It’s happened to my friends! Through the public school system, they can encourage your children to have abortions while they’re still minors, without even telling you—how authoritative is that? They can kill your grandchild. And so don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that people that are talking the way this godless man is talking here live in any way in conformity to what they’re trying to get you to live according to.

Now it may be true that this man is no authority over his wife. But I guarantee you he is adamant, he is dogmatic, he is inflexible and he is absolutist when it comes to him telling you that there is no authority. And he will use his hood, he will use his PhD, he will use his position at the university and he will require you to pay him taxes so that he gets paid. And if you don’t pay your taxes, they will come after you. And that’s authority.

4.2. Authority never vanishes; it only moves from one place to another

In other words, what I’m trying to say to you is, authority never vanishes. Authority only moves from one place to another.

And so what’s really going on if you don’t spank your children is that the government has become the authority over your children. You say, “Well, we shouldn’t be stupid in the way we raise our children.” I agree with that. We shouldn’t be stupid in the way that we exercise the authority of a church. We shouldn’t be stupid in the way we exercise authority as husbands. I agree with that. But I’m trying to get you to see that there is a systematic attack upon authority on every level except the authority of the state.

And the authority of the state is growing and growing and growing and growing and growing. 9/11 was a huge increase in the authority of the state. And Christians are just like the 1984 commercial for Apple. And what I want to do is just—I don’t want to hurt the cello, but I just want you to get a picture of what’s actually going on, where I crash into this and fall down and hit my head, and you go “You stupid idiot, weren’t you looking where you were going?” And I go, “No, that’s the whole point!” None of us are looking where we’re going. We just steadily give over more and more authority to everybody except those that God has delegated authority to. God has delegated authority to husbands over their wives. And if your wife doesn’t submit to your authority that’s because you are not requiring her to.

And you go, “Wait, wait, wait, wait! Qualify that!” I go, ok, what do you want me to do? Go ahead, tell me. How do you want me to say it? Yeah, you need to do it lovingly. Ok, anybody else want me to qualify it? Yes, yes, you need to be entreatable, that’s right. What else? And you shouldn’t chew tobacco. Unless you’re playing baseball.

Ok, now let’s go to the church.

4.3. You will give an accounting for those under your authority

Listen. Jesus says, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth; therefore go and make disciples.” And what that means is what we have to do is starting with our children we need to understand that God has deposited His authority over us as the natural sovereigns of our children. Do you understand what I mean by “natural sovereigns”? The ones to whom God has delegated the authority to raise these children. They have not been given to the state. And until you get it into your mind that you will give an accounting to God for your children, you won’t begin to do the things you need to do to protect their souls and to prepare them for when they will stand before Almighty God and give an answer for their lives.

And once you understand that you will give an accounting for them, once you understand that it’s your job to give a picture of the authority of God and of the divisiveness of the judgment seat, once you understand that it’s your job to communicate to children that one day they will stand and give an accounting and that one day you will give an accounting for how they stand and give and accounting—until that authority of God to the parents to the children, until the authority of God to the husband for the wife—why do you think it says that Jesus sanctifies the Church? We have an obligation to sanctify our wives!

That’s what authority is, it’s for the sanctification of the children, it’s for the sanctification of the wives, it’s for the sanctification of the people in the church. It’s to make you holy! How on earth are going to be holy if your leaders are constantly trembling that you might think them authoritarian, and that Child Protective Services might take their children from them, and that the wives of the church will be very angry at you because they see your wife crying?

5. The real danger today is that pastors and elders aren’t exercising any authority

Listen. I know you all could be sitting there and you could be thinking that I don’t know the difference between authority and authoritarianism. And I do know the difference. And I know the difference because I see myself sometimes exercising authority and sometimes being authoritarian.

But honestly, if you were to sum up the failures of the church today and I were to ask you to tell me whether it’s more of a risk to the church today that her shepherds don’t protect the sheep or that it’s more of a risk that her shepherds are using the sheep for their own good—that they’re fleecing, that they’re taking the milk, that they’re taking the wool, that they’re using the sheep for their own personal benefit—which is true? What is the real danger today? Is the real danger that authority is being used for the personal benefit of pastors and elders?

And the answer is no, that’s not the real danger. The real danger today is that pastors and elders aren’t exercising any authority. The sermons are not to the conscience, they don’t call for repentance and faith, Paul says he went from house to house warning day and night with tears, pastors and elders don’t go from house to house, they don’t make night calls, and they don’t cry as they call you to repent and believe. The problem with the church today is that we do not believe in authority. We hate it, and we’re all so busy trying to avoid anybody calling us a cult, anybody saying we’re authoritarian, anybody thinking that we’re not aware of our own weaknesses, that we never do what Jesus commands.

5.1. Servant leadership

One of the things that I harp on regularly is the discussion of servant leadership. And let me read something to you. This is from our Lord in Matthew 20, where the mother of the sons of Zebedee comes to Him and asks if her sons can sit on His right hand and His left, Matthew 20 beginning at verse 20,

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.”

And so, whether we’re talking about management courses at the business school or we’re talking about the church or we’re talking about marriage—I don’t think yet many people talk about it in terms of parents and children—but it’s all the rage to talk about servant leadership.

Is it a biblical concept? Yes, it’s absolutely biblical. But does servant leadership mean that there’s no exercise of authority? No! What servant leadership means is that you’re not supposed to argue that one of you should have the right the other the left hand of Jesus in the kingdom. In other words, you’re not supposed to use the authority to promote yourself. Does this make sense to you? Servant leadership is washing feet rather than trying to fight to get the perky positions, right? Makes sense to you, right? Servant leadership is to wash feet instead of trying to get your name known.

Now again, do any of you see what’s going on in the church today? Everything is an absolute marketing blitz for this person and this person and this person. That’s what the church is! The church today is an unbelievable giving over to individuals promoting their own names, their own ministries, and to wanting to be known nationally and internationally, and so if you invite somebody to come and speak at your conference, you then put out to the people:

  • how many people they have in their churches,
  • how many books they’ve had,
  • how many sales of those books they’ve had,
  • what the size of their budget is,
  • what famous people they serve on boards with,
  • what degree they got from what perky school (and it helps if it’s Oxford or Harvard, one of the Ivies, right?)

And then that person can come into the church and give a whole talk on servant leadership and we’re all fleeced! We’re all completely bamboozled. I mean, have any of you read some of the articles on humility written recently by the people who more than anybody else promote themselves all over the world? And they write these articles on humility. It’s mind-boggling!

And so yes, there is such a thing as servant leadership. It means that you don’t promote yourself, but you serve the people through your authority. It doesn’t mean that you abdicate your authority. It doesn’t mean you deny your authority. It means that you exercise your authority for the good of the flock instead of for your own good. That’s servant leadership.

And this is the reason I say over and over again, today if you want to find a humble man, find a man who exercises authority and fights for the souls under his care. Because today in postmodern, femmy world that we live in, the warrior is the humble man. But everybody’s so scandalized by that and they say, “Oh, it can’t be.” You know, “It can’t possibly be. It’s undoubtably the man that promotes himself as being a humble man who’s really humble.”

5.2. It’s an authority for building up and not for tearing down

Listen to this. Now you can find a number of places in the New Testament where it says this, but the Apostle Paul writes, he says,

For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down.

The authority that God has given to the officers of His church is an authority for building up and not for tearing down. Now does that mean that when the authorities in the church come to you and exhort you and admonish you and correct you that you’re going to look at them and say, “Well I recognize that’s the authority for building me up and not tearing me down!”? No! That’s not what it means! Were you that way with your parents? Every time they came you said, “Oh Dad, give it to me, because I want to make your job a joy, because otherwise it would be no profit to me!”?

Listen. All the church is, is another household like the one you grew up in when you were a child. It has fathers, it has mothers, and it has authority. And we’re supposed to see that authority in the church, and not until you see that authority in the church, exercised by officers of the church who baptize, who teach everything Jesus commanded, who make disciples—not until you see that has the Great Commision begun to be obeyed. Listen, people. What is at stake in the church is the eternal state of immortal souls.

5.3. All kinds of people in authority: doctors, nurses, police officers…

As a pastor I fantasize about all kinds of people in authority. Because the one thing I know I don’t have is any authority. And so if I go for my physical and a woman comes in and tells me to strip, I fantasize about authority. I mean, how is it that we will strip when a woman tells us to in an examining room? How does that work? “It’s authoritarian! I like servant leaders! You strip, I’ll strip!” These are thoughts that come to me. I mean, not that.

But think about it: police officers. They can stand by the stop sign on Indiana Avenue and just lift up their little index finger and they can tell you to pull over and they can write you a ticket for not having nylon across your belly. And it’ll be appealed to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court’ll say, “That’s absolutely good.” You know, “Yes they have a right to do that!”

And a pastor can come to you and tell you you are not to date an unbelieving woman, and you would think that we are devils from hell, find another church! How many people we’ve lost at this church because a woman or a man goes to a young college student and says, “You are not to date an unbeliever”—and they’re gone! And then they write on Facebook for years afterwards about the abuse of authority of Church of the Good Shepherd. So, doctors, nurses, police officers…

5.4. Homosexuality is legal, but we can’t buy a gas can!

I was at Kleindorfer’s last night. How would you describe to people not from Bloomington what Kleindorfer’s is? It’s fairly hard to describe to you, but it’s a man’s place. And if women come in, they’re treated like women. I kid you not. It’s a wonderful place.

So we go in last night and we’re going to buy some sheer bolts and some other stuff, and just on the off chance I go over and I say to the guy, “Hey, do you have any gas cans?” He takes me to look at the gas cans. And what do the gas cans have? The gas cans have these horrible things that you have to like, Ckkkkkkkkkkkkkh—I mean it drives me bonkers. I can’t get the gas out of my gas cans!

You know you have to shove it down and turn it this way, and then the spring—I said to him, “Don’t you have any gas cans that just let you pour gas?”

And they said, “No, when we heard the federal government was making these laws, we loaded up a trailer in back of our store with the old kind, and finally we sold them all out.” And then he told me that pretty soon you’re not even going to be able to use the old gas cans, because they’re going to be able to give you a ticket for using the old gas cans where you don’t have to turn it on its side, push down the plunger, and pray that the gas comes out! And so it was five minutes until they were closing and there were a bunch of men standing there. And so my wife was next to me. You know what I did? I said to them, “Yeah, think of the world we live in. Homosexuality is legal, but we can’t buy a gas can!”

And do you think that I did that because I don’t like homosexually tempted people? No! I wanted to encourage them to see what the government is doing to them. Where they can’t even think out loud thoughts that have to do with God’s authority, but when it comes to the constitution and the authority of Washington, D.C. that causes every state in the union to have to have spring-loaded snouts that won’t give you gas…!

Conclusion: Be faithful to exercise the authority that God has given to you; this is the very beginning of the Great Commission

Now why am I ending with that? I’m ending with that because I want you to understand what I said earlier. Which is, there is no decline in authority in the world you live in. The only question is whether we will hold to the authority that God has delegated—which is the authority of the church, of her officers, of the older women teaching the younger women, of parents with their children, of husbands with their wives—either we will fear God and exercise the authority He has delegated to us, either children will be under their natural sovereigns, or they will be under their unnatural sovereigns. And that’s the very beginning of the Great Commission. All authority has been given to Jesus Christ, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And so, look. Don’t whine to me about how you are a sinner and you can’t really exercise authority over your wife until you get your life in order. Because then I’m going to tell you that every single time I preach and administer the Lord’s Supper I’m revulsed that God has chosen to have you led by a man with feet of clay instead of angels, who are perfect.

There is no such thing as perfect authority in this world. And the mark of a wicked age is that it despises authority. And the mark of godliness is that we begin to submit to authority—but I’m not really pushing you on that tonight, you realize that? What I’m pushing you to is to be faithful to exercise the authority that God has given to you. Forget submission. Do you hear me, I am calling you to be faithful to exercise the authority that God has given to you. As mothers, as fathers, as husbands, as older women of the church teaching the younger women, as deacons, as pastors, and as elders. Make disciples of your children. Make disciples of the people in the church. Baptize them and teach them to obey everything that Jesus…shared with us. That’s not what it says! It says everything that Jesus commanded.

I hope that you will get a good night’s sleep and that tomorrow morning you will arrive ready to be preached to again. And I pray that our times when we get together every year will be characterized by the authoritative declaration of Scripture, first to ourselves and then to you.

Let’s pray.

Father, we thank You that You have given all authority to Your Son, Jesus Christ. And that He Himself has given to Your church the authority of the keys. We pray, Father, that we will not fear our press, what people say about us, what’s on the internet, but that we will fear You and that we will exercise the authority that You have given us as mothers and fathers, as husbands, and as the officers of Your church. We pray in Jesus’ name…

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