A proper understanding of the real meaning of spiritual authority is greatly needed. We in these posts make no attempt to deal exhaustively with this topic, but we just look to give some examples. At the end of the post we mention some good readings on the subject for those that need more information.
When we became Christians many years ago and started this blog (in Spanish), a Catholic priest wrote requesting from us the gift of silence or as he said: an ‘obsequious silence’ to the mistakes of the leaders of the Catholic Church, according to him the only true church etc . This misunderstanding of spiritual authority (looking to serve man or organization rather than God) is the reason many keep silence & tolerate spiritual abuse in this large denomination, as well in many others.
When a leader demands obedience or submission because or their ‘position’ of authority, in so doing have demonstrated his lack of genuine spiritual authority. Authority in the Body of Christ is not positional or organizational but spiritual. Its application must likewise be spiritual. When the apostle Paul had to correct people in the church, he used only the Word of God as authority, never his position. Authority in the church is very different to worldly authority, leaders within the church must, first of all, be servants.
We are not implying to rebel against you leaders. We thanks God for good & humble leaders that teach sound doctrine & serve the body well, we appreciate them & respect them. But we are talking here about a growing problem that was mainly seen in cults & sects, that is now becoming more & more common in some Christian churches. One example is The Believer’s Church of Gospel for Asia or GFA. This organization receives around $50 millions a year from churches & Christian individuals, which don’t know of the spiritual abuse occurring in this organization – see Video,- besides the allegations of financial mismanagement. (See an inauguration ceremony (other) & their center piece with fleur de lis cross, compare with a Hindu ceremony. It’s a Hindu sacred lamp, (1). Also check their logo with cross vs. Knight Templar cross).
Many Christians have been taught to obey & submit to their leaders by quoting to them Hebrews 13:17 . The Church’s authority does not reside in the Church, or in any office-holder in the Church, but in the Word of God. The Head is the authority & that head of the Church is Jesus Christ alone, (Ephesians 5:23), we all (the body) submit to Him.
Obey (#G3982 = be persuaded by) them that have the rule (G2233= leader) over you, and submit (G5226= yield) 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. Hebrews 13:17
-The word translated as ‘obey’ is the Greek word ‘pheitos’ Strong’s number G3982 that means ‘to be persuaded‘, and is used with that meaning many times in other bible verses. Greek word Pheitho G3982 is used 55 times in the New Testament. And we can be persuaded because they are teaching us the Word of God, vs.7 not their own ideas or personal agendas. The word in Greek that translates obey is the word ‘hupakouo‘ Strong’s # G5219, used in Ephesians 6:1 : Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
From Vine’s Expository Dictionary: “Peitho: to persuade, to win over; to be persuaded, to listen to, (to agree) as in Acts 5:40 (passive voice). The obedience suggested is not by submission to authority, but resulting from persuasion”.
We also have among many others the following bible verse, that some are not taking into consideration when interpreting Hebrews 13:
But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister (#G1249– Servant): And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Mark 10:42:44
There are not contradictions in the bible, if Hebrews 13:17 means obedience & submission to authority, because of leadership position in the church, etc. then Mark 10 would be a contradiction. Let us read the following explanation on the subject made by pastor Joseph Herrin:
If a man has been appointed as a minister by Christ and he acquits himself faithfully, then that man is worthy of honor. He should be listened to. However, there has never been any commandment given to the church instructing the individual members to give obeisance to any minister. Some quote the following passage from Paul’s words to the Hebrews, while wresting a wrong interpretation from it.
Obey (peitho) 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, for this would be unprofitable for you.
The word “Obey” is a poor translation. The Greek word is “peitho” which means “to persuade, to convince.” This Greek word is used in the following verses:
But the chief priests and elders persuaded (peitho) the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. KJV
And [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded (peitho) the Jews and the Greeks. KJV
For I am persuaded (peitho), that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. KJV
It should be obvious from these verses that the Greek word peitho does not mean what some contend when they use Hebrews 13:17 as the foundation stone upon which to build a doctrine of unquestioned obedience to church leaders. The last verse above is from one of Paul’s writings. He clearly used this word in a manner that conveyed something different than what most English speakers understand the word “obey” to mean. To paraphrase Paul’s intent, he was saying, “Let yourself be persuaded by those who are appointed ministers in the church. Listen to them intelligently. Do not be stubborn or rebellious.” To be persuaded by the voice of reason is very different from blind obedience.
Returning to the false history being promoted by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, it is demonstrable that there never existed among the early church any central authority akin to what they have adopted. Those whom Christ appointed as ministers were to view themselves as servants of all. They were not invested with authority to become the rulers of men. Their goal was to lead all those under their care to a condition of spiritual maturity where they were hearing the voice of God themselves and were walking in obedience to Christ who is the Head of man. Essentially, the goal of a minister is to work himself out of a job by promoting the maturity of the body of Christ so that he is no longer needed.
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.
If a minister is not trying to render his position unnecessary by bringing those under his care to spiritual maturity, he has misunderstood the purpose of his calling. If a minister is seeking to perpetuate his role, and is ruling over the lives of others, magnifying his own importance, he is acting contrary to the intent of Christ and is manifesting selfish ambition. . . -emphasis in the original, (Parablesblog.blogspot.com)
More on the subject: