John 13:3-17

There are two kinds of authority the Christian is to be conscious about, authority of position and authority of holiness. Position reflects on the responsibility of one who has oversight; to those over us we owe submission (Rom 13:1-7). This submission is required by God up to the point where the authority asks one to personally do something that is contrary to the moral law of God; then we may make an appeal, and if that fails to resolve the conflict, we must then rather obey God (Acts 4:19).

Personal integrity, or godliness is best displayed by godly (humble) submission to authority. We are to be the best citizens the nation has in its midst. Those who learn a true submissive and servant attitude, God frees more than all the freedom the rebel wants (Joseph is the best example, Daniel, Samuel). Also the greater influence one has on society to effect society’s laws and moral conscience.

We do have present authority through our personal holiness to affect evil consciences,

John 16:8-11

8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment;

9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me;

10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me;

11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.


A Christian’s authority is responsibility not status. Godly authority is one who serves the universal good of those under his influence. We are to obey those over us, and also be responsible for those under us. We are called to submit those over us (as Jesus did to the Father) and serve those under us (as Jesus washed the disciples’ feet).

This is unlike the world where authority represents status and those who acquire it think those under them are to assist his/her agenda.

Christians are often given certain authority to exercise. This includes the authority of a parent or a church leader. The noblest use of authority is for serving others. “Let… he who governs,” Jesus said, be “as he who serves…. I am among you as the One who serves” . The Christian who seeks to follow Christ’s example will learn to use authority with others more than over others [1 Pet 5:3]. The wise Christian remembers that all derived authority will one day be returned to the God who gave it <1 Cor. 15:24-28>. But the rewards of faithful service will endure throughout eternity <1 John 2:17>. (from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary)(Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers; bold type added)

Even in heaven Christ has a servant attitude. He will be pleased to serve those who in turn have served faithfully.

Luke 12:37

37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. (NIV)

Often a false premise of pastoral ministry is that the congregation follows the pastor to success; when it is really the pastor’s responsibility to make the members successful. Each member is given authority from God to carry out their respective spiritual gift(s) for the edification of the Body members [not the institution!]. [1] The serving Believer must understand what his authority entails and fulfil that to the degree of grace extended to him [2] for the purpose of unity in love. [3]

e.g. a man who was in charge of CSB. He was encouraged to focus his attention on the maturity of his leaders and not essentially the success of the CSB per se. As he applied this principle he discovered one of his leaders, who approached him, was having some serious problems in his life. My disciple came to me and asked if I would counsel this leader. I told him, “No. The Lord brought him under your authority”. I then took the time to go over the truths my disciple needed to share with his leader; this creates true unified fellowship among believers. This is how God makes people aware of their needs directly proportionate to the church’s ability to meet those needs. That leader, through submission to his direct authority, came to experience victory and grew to love the Lord even more, and that positively affected his ministry to the CBS youths under his care. [4]

Luke 22:24-30

24 And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest.

25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’

26 “But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.

27 “For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

28 “And you are those who have stood by Me in My trials;

29 and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you

30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.


Mankind prefers to make laws thinking they become free from other laws; he feels power in dictating what is good or bad for himself. Canadian society doesn’t always get justice from the courts, which is based upon case law or precedence and procedure. Even the rules of law that govern the judicial system become more important than the process of legitimate meting out justice. Even though the rules were created to establish a proper and fair process to ensure injustice is not practiced, the rules have become so enshrined that they are often exercised at the expense of true justice. [5]

We more often train Christians for ‘program’ success, aimed at furthering the growth of the church institution rather than maturity in holiness. This negates the whole purpose of ministry – affecting salvation and spiritual maturity – personal growth in Christ. Godly service itself is used of God to spur one to grow in the knowledge of Him (Eph 4:13). It is for us to deepen our knowledge and the ways of God; it is His responsibility to widen our ministry.

“By authoritarian we mean ‘authority for authority’s sake’. …we must recognize that to rebellious man law is simply the source of limitation to his ego [and desires], and the fountainhead of all guilt. …Such exercise is generally operative out of pride, insecurity, the desire to dominate, and so on. What then is authority?

“If the concept of authoritarianism can be eliminated, and if serving can be seen to be the highest order, then the fixation regarding office will be dissolved. The Father serves His creation by bringing it into being, by providing for it, by redeeming it, and by bringing it to its mature goal (glorification). The Son serves in all of these elements and so does the Spirit. God is a Worker-Serving-God!

“As we have said, subordination does not imply an inferior order. The greatest is the one who serves.” [6]


Love is like oil to the wheels of obedience. It enables us to run the way of God’s commandments . Without such love, we are as nothing <1 Cor. 13:3>. Such Spirit-inspired love never fails <1 Cor. 13:8> but always flourishes.(from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary)(Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

Love of God submits to His will in light of creation’s order and harmony. This is how you show the love of God to authorities.

Eph 6:5-8

5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ;

6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.

7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men,

8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.(NAS)

Work for your authority’s success! (But do not practice personal evil to do it. The means must be as pure as the sought result).

1 Pet 2:18-19

18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.

19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.(NAS)

God is honoured through your submission, don’t do it for man’s sake but the Lord’s glory, reflecting His servant attitude.

Col 3:22-24

22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.

23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,

24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

Eph 6:5-8

5 Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ;

6 not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,

7 with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men,

8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.

Matt 5:44-45

44 “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you

45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.(NAS)

In God’s natural order He provides for the well being of the wicked along with the righteous (Matt 5:44, 45 sends rain on the just and unjust. Most of what sinners receive in life is of their own doing, choosing sin has its own consequence, without the need of the direct involvement of God. [7] However His judgment does fall upon those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Ro 1:18) REPROBATE MIND: The primary meaning of adokimos (reprobate) is ‘not-received,’ ‘not acknowledged. It is applied to persons who do not or ought not to receive honour or recognition.’ [8] God therefore lets these continue is sin, though still giving them benefits to keep on living for a while.

Love will exercise personal authority on behalf of the good of other people. This is where you show God’s love and care to one another.

Mark 10:42-45

42 And calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.

43 “But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;

44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.

45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”


“The Gentile rulers “lord it over them,” i.e., over their subjects (vs 42). But this is not the way it is among true followers of Jesus (vs 43). Among them greatness is not achieved by asserting rank but by humble service (vs 44). “Here is the paradox of the Kingdom of God. Instead of being lords, its great ones become servants, and its chiefs bond-servants of all” (Gould, p 202)” [9]

“[Godly authority] presupposes laws and principles. Both O.T. and N.T. combine to show us that the functional laws of the creation (which are at the same time moral) are love. Love is both the essence (Gk. pleroma, fulness) of the law, as well as the actual outworking, function of that law. Love without authority is jaws without teeth, and authority without love is demonic.” [10]

God’s law is given for our safety and good.
Deut 5:29

29 `Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever! (NAS)

What about people who have been wounded by authority, child abuse, sex abuse, unjustly fired, wrongfully mistreated. This inflames ones rebellion against authority. Here one is not justified in not loving. However, one is healed by loving, not seeking to be loved!

“This is true healing of the mind. Those who have been damaged* emotionally are those who have felt unloved. The healing of being unloved is to love, and not wait to be loved, since true love takes the initiative. Only where forgiveness is received from God the Father is love truly known, and then, reflexively, truly given! … Being forgiven, and forgiving others now places us in our true roles, giving us purpose and a goal, with the rich expectation of hope.”

*the term ‘damaged emotionally’ may fit certain cases, no doubt. However, those who ‘hug their hurts’ may even be said to have self inflicted wounds since love endures all things”. (1 Cor 13) [11]

Subordination does not make one inferior. As wives are admonished to submit to husbands, children to parents, employees to bosses, husbands to Christ, it must be remembered Christ submitted to the Father, earthy parents, secular authorities, and this did not make Him inferior but Christ was God, it is a matter of functional responsibility not status – “the greatest is the one who serves.”

There is a difference between being a follower and a supporter. A follower follows as long as it does not interfere with his personal agenda. A supporter follows another at the cost of his personal goals. A teenager may follow God when convenient but when faced with dating a fantastic person, who is not a believer, then they would rather follow the heart, the passion, the prize of what they consider of greater value, and as a result will resent, rebel, justify actions against God’s clear law given for their good and safety.

2 Tim 2:22

22 Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love {and} peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (NAS)

James 1:4

4 And let endurance have {its} perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (NAS)

The biblical word ‘perfect’ does not mean ‘faultless’. It has three synonyms in Scripture:

blameless(Phil 2:15) or having no selfish intention.—–sincere (Phil 1:10) or honest and transparent, being all you appear to be—-complete (Col 2:10) or mature, to be all we should be at our stage of growth.

The purpose for which we are saved, other than the love of God being displayed in us (Eph 2:7), is to have us grow up into the image of Christ (Ro 8:29) and be trained so as to carry out authority and responsibility in the reign with Christ (Rev 20:6). This prepares us to serve Him in eternity (Rev 22:3-5).

The futility of earthly aspirations outside the will of God will reveal itself; what Solomon learned through all his years of wisdom, wealth, fame, was summed up in Ecc 1:16-2:11; 12:9-14.

Because God serves His creation, works to fulfil His promises to Israel and the Church, exercising ultimate authority motivated by Love, so we love – we serve – for in this we partake of the image of God!!!


We have authority:

-in prayer (1 Jn 5:16) – to defeat strongholds (2 Cor 10:4) – authority against sin (Ro 6:11-12) – to resist Satan (Ja 4:7-10) – to undertake all that is necessary to further the Kingdom

Matt 28:18-20


[1] 1 Cor 12:7

[2] 1 Pet 4:10,11

[3] Eph 4:11 – 16

[4] See my T.T.E. manual re: philosophy of ministry

[5] A blatant example a couple of years ago was when the RCMP, tracking evidence of a murder, followed the trail to a house trailer, they were technically in persuit and at the time and was within legal jurisprudence, entered the home, found the man laying in his bed covered with the blood of the victim and the rifle by his side. The court ruled against the pursuit and said the evidence found was therefore inadmissible. Justice paid the price of procedure having authority over justice.

[6] Geoffrey Bingham; transcript of lecture Australia.

[7] Though the Scriptures do teach that His wrath is upon them continually, more to the point His rejection of giving them the light

[8] International Bible Ency. Reprobate

[9] Walter W. Wessel; the Expositors Bible Commentary; Vol 8

[10] ibid. – Bingham

[11] ibid Bingham

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