Church Hierarchy and Submission To Spiritual Authority

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Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children. 1 Thessalonians 2:7

There are believers in our day that teach and believe that any hierarchical authority in the Church is wrong. That to submit to a Christian leader as above one is wrong and to have any leaders who are above other leaders is wrong also. Such thinking lauds the idea of the autonomous local Church, meaning that believers can act independently and freely in a local area without any jurisdiction or control. But as we look at the New Testament as a whole we see the Church was anything but autonomous. The Church was a family, they were co-dependent, they were submissive to Apostles, evangelists, elders and prophets would travel amongst different Churches in cities. Paul the Apostle says to the believers in Thessonlica: “Even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). Clearly he was teaching that as an Apostle of Jesus Christ they had authority given to them by God (Matthew 28:18). Though acting as spiritual parents they did not desire in any way to impose control or authority on people but came with tenderness, love and meekness. Our Lord said his leaders would not impose themselves like the gentiles over others but rather to come as slaves.

The word picture of an infant needing the help of the mother is very revealing—showing the need for believers to submit to their spiritual leadership for the good of the believers to be fed the pure milk of the Word of God (1 Peter 2:2). Such leaders such as Apostles had spiritual authority over local Elders and were respected as such. This submission was willing as people respected those Apostles, especially that saw our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh (John 1:14). Cyprian says, “The Lord warns us, He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. (Matthew 12:30) He who breaks the peace and the unity of Christ, is an opponent of Christ. He who gathers anywhere than in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ.” Though God’s Church is far from perfect we need to submit to the plan of God in establishing leadership and those who can feed and care for believers. No denomination or Church work is perfect, each has faults and problems over time. We are to seek to be humble, join with what God is doing (1 Peter 5:5). We are to seek to submit under Church leadership that is meek like Moses was (Numbers 12:3). For Paul the Apostle spoke of himself as being gentle, like children amongst the believers, as slaves yet having authority like a master. To fight against hierarchy and leadership in the Church is going against God’s order. Find a place where you can submit under godly men and start to gather with the Lord helping those sheep who are astray. The work of God will go on, God will always establish a wineskin for his work in any generation.

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