Body Wisdom: Introduction

Christians in the US are like scattered orphans, disconnected from their family and their Father. Many are rebellious, lonely, fearful, cringing from community and cowering in loneliness before the evil one.

Koinonia is the Greek word for community. It means fellowship, submitting to one another and to Christ, the communion of believers and the communion ritual (Lord's Supper, Eucharist). It is acknowledgement and discernment of Christ's Body. It is concern for the needs of our brothers and sisters, focusing on others and not self. The word koinonia is also used for the offering that the gentile believers gathered for their suffering brethren in Jerusalem. And it is recognition of and submission to godly authority.

America was founded on rebellion against authority and our national icons are the rebel, the loner, and the underdog. We are proud of the rebellion that birthed our nation, and look to Independence Day as one of the defining moments of our identity. Our culture, with emphasis on spectator sports, individual entertainment and self-gratification, breeds isolation, selfishness, and disregard for the sanctity of human life.

The Church itself is disconnected, offering a barrage of buildings and denominations, who claim to serve the same Master, with a bewildering array of claims and criticisms, not only of the unsaved, but other believers. Is it any wonder then that so many christians live in isolation and despair, on the verge of suicide, bound by anxiety and fear? Is it any wonder then that many are turning away from Christ to humanism, atheism or paganism?

The Apostle Paul said that judgement begins at the house of God. We, as believers, need to take a long, hard look at ourselves, not to take pride in our extracted articles of faith, not to boast in soaring steeples or stained glass windows, but to look at ourselves as the world does - fragmented, needy, divisive, and rebellious. Not an attractive picture!

The object of this book is not to bring Christians under condemnation or accusation, but to bring us into a greater knowledge and experience of koinonia. How can we return to the New Testament model of koinonia? How can we present a united front, not only to the world, but to the enemy of our souls?

What do our Lord and the New Testament Apostles and Prophets have to say about the believer and his/her duty to the Body of Christ? How can we reject modern culture and get back to the New Testament model of the Church? Part of the answer lies in our response to some unpopular words: authority, submission, rebellion, judgement and mercy.

What is authority?

  1. Authority comes from the Greek word exousia, (from exesti "it is lawful"), meaning the ability or strength with which one is endued, the right to exercise power of rule and government, the power of one whose will and commands must be obeyed by others.
  2. Authority was understood by a Roman soldier:

    Matthew 8:5-9 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. "Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering."

    Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him."

    The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, `Go,' and he goes; and that one, `Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, `Do this,' and he does it."

  3. According to Jesus, understanding of authority is a sign of great faith.

Matthew 8:10, 13 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith… Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! It will be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that very hour.

Who established authority?

  1. Authority was established by God
  2. 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.

  3. Authority was created by Christ
  4. Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

  5. Authority is upheld by the Holy Spirit

John 16:7-11 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin [will expose the guilt of the world ] and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

Why was authority established?

  1. Authority was established to punish wrongdoing:
  2. Romans 13:3-4 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

  3. Authority was established because of conscience
  4. Romans 13:5-6 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing.

  5. Authority was established to keep order in the church and in the secular world.

1 Corinthians 14: 33a, 40 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

Colossians 2:5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.

James 3:16-17 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

Who is subject to authority?

  1. Everyone is subject to governing authorities
  2. Romans 13:1-2 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.

  3. The people of God are subject to rulers and authorities and are to be obedient, good, not slanderous, peaceable, considerate and humble.

Titus 3 :1-2 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

  1. Exception: when authorities try to keep us from spreading the gospel:

Acts 4:19-20 But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

What authority did Jesus have?

  1. Jesus has authority to judge:

John 5:26-27 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

  1. Jesus has authority over demonic powers:
  2. Luke 4:36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, "What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!"

    Mark 1:27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching--and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him."

  3. Jesus has authority to forgive sins and to grant eternal life.
  4. Matthew 9:6-8 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home." And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men. (see also Mark 2:10)

    John 17:2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

  5. Jesus' teachings have authority.

Mark 1:22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

Matthew 7:29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

  1. Jesus was given all authority after the Resurrection:
Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."

What did Jesus give us authority to do?

1. Drive out demons:

Mark 6:7 Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.

Mark 3:14 -15 He appointed twelve--designating them apostles--that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.

2. Heal sickness and disease

Matthew 10:1 He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

3. To make disciples:, baptize them and teach them obedience:

Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

4. Authority to keep order in and to build up the church.

2 Corinthians 10:8 For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it.

2 Corinthians 13:10 This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority--the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.

I Corinthians 4:21 What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?

How should we exercise authority?

1. We should exercise authority as servants.

Mark 10:42-45 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (see also Matthew 20:25-28 )

2. We should exercise punishment only in extreme situations and be grieved for our fallen brother/sister.

1 Corinthians 5:1-5, 13b It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord… "Expel the wicked man from among you."

Titus 3:10-11 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

3. If the person repents, we should restore him/her gently.

Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

2 Corinthians 2:5-11 If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent--not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven--if there was anything to forgive--I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

What is rebellion?

Rebellion in the Greek is {an-tee-log-ee'-ah} literally "anti word" or law, meaning strife, gainsaying, contradiction, opposition, rebellion. A rebel resists any authority, control, or tradition. The rebel is insubordinate, defiant of authority, participating in a rebellion, mutiny or revolt.

Was Jesus leading a rebellion?

  1. Jesus said that he was not a rebel.
  2. Matthew 26:55 At that time Jesus said to the crowd, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me." (see also Mark 14:48, Luke 22:52)

  3. Both Pilate and Herod said that Jesus was not a rebel.

Luke 23:13-15 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, "You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death.

What are the characteristics of a rebel?

1. Quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.

    Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:20 "Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening. For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged. "

Jude 1:8,10 In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings.

2. Rebels lack understanding and operate by instinct like animals

    Jude 1:10-11 Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals--these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion.

3. Rebels care only for themselves

Jude 1:12 These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm--shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted--twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

4.  Rebels are grumblers and faultfinders, self-centered, boastful and manipulative, scoffers at the truth who seek to divide the church as they do not have the Holy Spirit

Jude 1:16-19 These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

Rebels spread rumors about those in authority

No one has the right to repeat rumors, especially about those in authority. I say "especially" because those in authority over us have been given that responsibility by God and:

  1. It's up to God to discipline them IF they truly step out of line.
  2. James 3:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

    Romans 14:4 Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

  3. They stand in the "line of fire" between us and satan and we should give them the greater respect and love because of this.

1 Timothy 2:1 -2 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

Hebrews 13:7,17 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith... Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Luke 6: 40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
  1. IF you find yourself repeating gossip and rumors on a regular basis, you need to find out what YOU'RE running from - why do you find it necessary to point the finger of blame? What sin in your life are you denying? What are you failing to repent of? Why are you living in rebellion which is as the sin of witchcraft?????

1 Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

How should rebellious people be handled?

Titus 3:10-11 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

1Corinthians 5:11-13 But i am now writing you not to even speak to anyone who bears the name of a brother who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idoater, reviler or drunkard. Do not even eat with such a person. ... Drive out the wicked person from among you.

Rebellion a sign of the end times

2 Thessalonians 2:3 Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.

What are the results of rebellion?

1. Rebellion hardens your heart against God.

Hebrews 3:7-9 So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did.

2. Rebellion causes God to become angry

Hebrews 3:10 That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, `Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.'

3. Rebellion keeps you from entering God's rest

Hebrews 3:11-12 So I declared on oath in my anger, `They shall never enter my rest.'"See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.

4. Rebellion is discouraging and allows sin to deceive you.

Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.

5. Rebellion robs you of your share in Christ and of your confidence in Him:

Hebrews 3:14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.

6. Rebellion brings death:

Hebrews 3:15-17 As has just been said: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion."Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert?

7. Rebellion causes unbelief and disobedience:

Hebrews 3:18-19 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

What is judgement?

Judge, krino {kree'-no} in the Greek, in this context means to to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong; to pronounce judgment, to subject to censure or is used of those who act the part of judges or arbiters in matters of common life, or pass judgment on the deeds and words of others.

Judgement is krima {kree'-mah} condemnation of wrong, the decision (whether severe or mild) which one passes on the faults of others.

What should a believer make judgements about?

  1. "Spiritual" [mature] believers are to make judgements about all things.

1 Corinthians 2:15-16 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

Should we judge others?

  1. We are to judge those inside of the church:
  2. 1 Corinthians 5:12 -13 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."

  3. We are not to use our consciences to judge another man's freedom to drink, eat, or worship.
  4. 1 Corinthians 10:29b For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience?

  5. But we can distinguish true believers from false by their fruits.

Luke 6:43-46 "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. "Why do you call me, `Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?

  1. The standards we use to judge others will be used to judge us.

Luke 6:37-38 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Luke 6:41-42 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, `Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Matthew 7:1-2 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

  1. We will be judged by our own words:
  2. Luke 19:22 "His master replied, `I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow?

  3. God is to judge those outside of the church:

John 12:47-48 "As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.

Acts 17:31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."

1 Corinthians 5:13 God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."

Should we judge ourselves?

  1. Testing our own actions without comparing ourselves to others, and without boasting.
  2. Galatians 6:4 -5 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
    1 Corinthians 4:6-8 Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
  3. Judgement of the Christian's motives should be left to Jesus at the appointed time.
  4. 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

    I Peter 4:5-6 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.
  5. We will be judged by the Lord for grumbling against each other.
  6. James 5:9 Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
  7. Mercy triumphs over judgement!
James 2:12-13 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

James 3:17-18 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

Should Christians take each other to court?

1. Jesus said not to.

Matthew 5:25-26 "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. "

Luke 12:57 "Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?"

2. Jesus will bring justice to the believer

Luke 18:7-8 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"

Submission to Authority

God is a God of order and not confusion. Therefore He has established an order in government, the Church and family life.

Romans 13:1 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.

This is something that under the current administration, we have to take by faith, I agree. But remember who was the government when Paul wrote this - the Romans - some of the most hated conquerors the world has known. AND it was NOT a democracy for the oppressed people, such as the Jews and early Christians. AND Paul was imprisioned by that government when he wrote this! AND Paul was soon to be executed by that government and he knew it when he wrote this verse. And we are not only to submit to the governing authorities, but to pray for them:

1 Timothy 2 :1-2 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

I Corinthians 14:33a,40 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace... everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

This order is established not to oppress us, or to make us unhappy, but to give us peace. If we then find our place in this godly order and fulfill what God has called us to do, we will live in peace and happiness. This is NOT what the world will tell you. The world encourages us to be unhappy, discontented and competitive, ever striving to make more money and get into a higher station in life.

James 3:16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

This discontent and continual striving for more causes disorder, in our bodies, in the familiy, in the community and in the Church. Of course, this is satan's plan. He has come to steal, kill and destroy us, and he does NOT play fair. Any way he can keep a Christian from being victorious, he will do it without reservation or conscience.

Jesus said in John 10:10: The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Jesus is our example in all things. He came to die for our sins and did nothing out of a competitive spirit, selfish ambition, or a feeling that He was better than us. But He had the spirit of humility that said to God, "Not my will, but thine be done." He was looking out for our interests - what would benefit us no matter what it cost Him.

Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

In the godly order of things, Jesus reigned with God in Heaven. And He had all the universe at His command. But He did not grasp at His equality with God, He did not try to hold on to His superiority, but He MADE Himself nothing. He gave up His position of authority, and took on the nature of a slave - in total submission, and was obedient even to death on the cross.

Philippians 2:5-8 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 death-- even death on a cross!

Submission has been one of my greatest struggles. Submission is difficult because our flesh wants to reign supreme. Let's be honest, no one likes to be "bossed around". We all want to feel like we are in control of our lives. But when we meditate on Christ's submission, when we realize that the King of the Universe became a lowly slave, and was obedient to death, then we can begin to be ready to become willing to submit to God's plan and order.

Many people have come to the Church, failed to submit to the authorities therein appointed, gotten angry and left, criticizing loudly everything that the church stands for. Others have taken it upon themselves to harass the flock, test it with some challenge or the other, and generally cause trouble, and then are offended when the authorities check their hand.

God is a God of order and not confusion. He created the Church in Christ Jesus to be called OUT of the world and INTO fellowship, believer with believer. He also set an order in the Church of leadership: apostles, pastors, prophets, teachers, etc. to guide and equip the saints. To be a Christian is not only to accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ, but also to accept the authority of leaders He has appointed over us.

Ephesians 4:11-32 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.

No church leader, pastor, teacher, etc. is perfect, but those in authority have been tested BY THE LORD, and found to be useful in His Kingdom. They have been placed in the Church to to help you grow. Since the Lord has called you to Him, when you join a church, submit to the authorities He has placed there in love.

The Lord tests those that He places in authority, mainly from the "school of hard knocks and bumps". God is interested most of all in willing, submitted hearts rather than degrees, although it doesn't ever hurt to gain knowledge about God and His Word. My definition of "be useful" in the kingdom includes to witness to the unbeliever and encourage and support the believer.

Now authority in the Church doesn't mean that our leaders have absolute power over us and can use us at their will. This wasn't what Jesus taught and practiced. It is not authority in the sense of to have power over (like a politician or bully) but authority in the sense of caring for as a shepherd, being a spiritual covering for, and having concern over. Even as being a guard or guardian for, as the Apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:1-7:

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Here are two important keys to submission - one is to have the same attitude as Christ (Philippians 2) and the second is here - Humble yourselves under God's mighty hand.

It would be silly, if not dangerous, for a sheep to revolt against the care of his loving shepherd. After all, the shepherd provides food, rest, and protection for the flock. We are the sheep of Jesus' pasture and we need to submit to the loving guardianship of the shepherds He places over us.

Hebrews 13:17 "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."

Of course that brings up a question: what if the spiritual authority you are under is not living for God? What if he/she is found to be a false shepherd, a messenger of satan, corrupt in some way?

Or what if your spiritual authority is someone you don't like, or is not as intelligent as you, or you think makes bad decisions? How do you handle that situation?

First of all, be obedient to God. A godly authority will not ask you to do anything that contradicts God's Word. If he/she does, then maybe it's time you found another church!

Second of all, note that the writer of Hebrews states that leaders are "men who must give an account". An account of what and to whom? Leaders are themselves under the authority of the Lord and must please Him. They must give an accounting of how they handle their responsibilities given by God. If they are in error, or fail, or make bad decisions, it is not YOUR responsibility to correct them. They are subject to discipline by God and by those God has appointed as authorities above them.

If you find yourself in a difficult situation because of a leader's attitude or decision, go to God first in prayer. It is a major mistake to gossip and gripe about him/her. Seek godly counsel and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. Immerse yourself in the Word. Be sure you are not acting out of bitterness or spite if you feel you must leave the situation.

1 Peter 2:17-"Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king."

Now the respect that is due your leaders is a respect for their POSITION of authority, irregardless of whether you like them or not, whether you agree with them or not, or whether they make bad decisions or not. It's the same as a working situation. You may not like your supervisor, or agree with him/her, or like their decisions. But if you want to keep your job, you do what they tell you (unless, of course, it is contrary to God's Word).

Believe me, the Lord has given me opportunity after opportunity to learn this lesson. Finally, I began to see that the problems I was having at work was lack of respect for the supervisor's POSITION, and once I realized that, work became easier.

However, you can respectfully and tactfully voice your opinion. If it is rejected, then you have no choice but to obey, unless it violates God's Word. Why do I say this? Because God is trying to teach you a lesson about authority and submission that will have eternal consequences. If you are faithful to fulfill your position, to serve others as if they were the Lord Himself, you will have learned something that will translate into the spiritual and give you great victory in life.

Submitting One to Another

Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ephesians 5:18-21 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

To fully understand what this type of submission entails, you need to understand a little about Greek grammar. The command "be filled with the Spirit" from verse 18, is followed in the Greek by a series of participles (ing form of the verb) that explains what being filled with the Spirit entails. Speaking with psalms…; singing; making melody (v. 19); giving thanks (v. 20); and submitting (5:21-6:9).

So in Greek those three verses are really one big sentence: Be filled with the Spirit ... speaking...singing... making thanks ...submitting. All are part of the same thought.

The enabling for all these tasks comes from the Spirit. Most of us don't have a great deal of problems speaking, singing, and making melody because most of us love music. Sometimes we have problems giving thanks when things are rough. But submitting, now that's hard for most of us. Just remember it is the SPIRIT that gives us the ability to do all these things. And remember, too, that this is part of putting on the NEW SELF in Christ Jesus as we discussed in chapter 4.

Greek is a much more complex language than English, and it is difficult to translate exactly what Paul meant without some explanation. Greek verbs have three forms: active, middle and passive. (English does not have a middle form) Understand that all three forms are expresssed in Greek by the same root verb, but with different endings.

So what you can say in ONE word in the Greek takes a whole sentence in English - I'll give you an example.

For example: An active verb would be something like: OldTimer threw the ball. The subject of the sentence (OldTimer) did the acting (threw the ball). A passive verb: The ball was thrown by OldTimer. The subject of the sentence (the ball) was being acted upon (thrown) by the object (OldTimer). In the middle form, the subject is both the one acting and the one being acted upon: OldTimer taught herself to throw the ball.

So why did I explain all that? So we could understand what the form of the verb "submit" or "be subject to" here means. "Submit to one another" here and in verse 22 is in the middle form. That means "You voluntarily submit yourself". No one is forcing you to do it. No one is bullying you into it. You submit because you want to.

It could be translated: "Voluntarily submitting yourselves to one another out of reverance to Christ". Remember that the enabling or the ability to submit comes from being filled with the Spirit. The motivation for submission comes out of the reverence for Christ. The middle form of the verb stresses the mutuality and voluntary nature of submission.

Also notice when you submit to one another, there isn't a ruler/subject relationship - no one is "boss". This mutual submission carries with it an attitude of humility. Romans 12:3 says:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

It doesn't mean we think we are worms or doormats. We are citizens of Heaven, saints of God, and beloved by Christ. But it does mean that we are equal to the other Christians and a superior attitude is not allowed.

Paul goes on to say in Romans 12:4-5: Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

"Each member belongs to all the others" - we need to remember that we ARE one body and ALL members are essential for the body to function.

Galatians 5:13 - You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

When we recognize that we are parts of one Body and show reverence for the the Head of that Body (Christ), then serving one another in love will flow naturally.

In I Peter 5, it says "All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another".

See what Paul is trying to say? This is not a ruler/subject submission where someone is "boss" and orders everyone else about. It is a subject/subject relationship, where we each look out for each other.

Now the next passage, where it talks about wives and husbands, has given us a lot of grief. This passage has been used to abuse women, and Paul has been accused of being a woman hater because of this and other passages.

But the verb form for submit is STILL the MIDDLE form - so the same subject/subject type of submission is being requested. It is not a ruler/subject relationship. I will try to explain it as best I can. Let me refer you also to What Paul Really Said About Women by John Temple Bristow for the full explanation.

Now Mr. Bristow knows Greek better than I do, but his thesis is basically that if we would read the passage in the original Greek we would understand exactly what Paul meant by his word choice. For example, using the middle form of to submit means that this is a voluntary submission. A better translation, he says, might be, "wives, be supportive of your husbands".

In the passages dealing with ruler/subject submission, the word for ruler is usually a form of archon - which DOES mean an authority you MUST submit to. Here we are told that the husband is the "head" of the wife - which in the Greek is kephale - the same word for your physical noggin. This word was NOT used for a ruler as archon was - in the sense of ruler/subject submission. It was often used in military terms as the leader of a mission - not the general - but the first into battle - known as pointleader.

So this is a loving submission, support for, respect for the husband by the wife, volunarily given because of love. Not the kind of submission that can be commanded. Do you see the difference?

The Greek word for "submit" here is the middle form (hupotassomai) and is almost the same as the Greek word for love (agapao) in that both require being responsive to the needs of the other person. So again we see the mutuality of voluntarily submitting to one another, as in verse 21. So in a sense husbands and wives are to submit to each other, as in verse 21.

Now lets look at kephale for a minute, translated "head". If it is simply translated "head" it appears to suggest a position of authority over those under the head, where kephale describes a position of risk, being out in front, serving those who follow the head.

We often speak of the husband being the covering for the wife in spiritual sense, he goes ahead of her (and the family) into spiritual warfare, leading the charge so to speak. And he is also the head in the sense that he is responsible for his family as priest of the household.

Oh, if the men of our nation would take on this kind of headship! Not to be heavy handed rulers, but to grieve before God for the spiritual welfare of their families - to go forward into battle for their souls! This would revolutionize our world! Then, it would not be hard at all for wives to voluntarily submit, be supportive of and respectful of them!

Submission Questionare

Am I submitting to the following?

  1. GOD
  2. Is my life totally submitted through prayer and obedience to God?

    Is my pastor (church/denomination) teaching/preaching the full counsel of God - or picking and choosing proof texts?

  3. The Government
  4. Am I praying for those in authority? (First of all, pray for those in authority….)

    Am I paying my fair share of taxes? (Render unto Caesar …)

    Am I excercising my responsibility to vote?

    Am I aware of and concerned about current issues?

    Am I breaking any laws?

  5. Spiritual Authority in the Church
  6. Am I supporting and praying for my pastor, and all Christian leaders?

    Am I supporting the Church with my finances, prayers and presence?

    Am I submitting to church leadership, or gossiping and promoting division?

  7. Family Authority
  8. Am I submitting to and in partnership with my spouse, or trying to run the show?

    Am I showing love and respect to my spouse, especially in front of my children?

    Am I giving honor to my father and mother, no matter what their age?

  9. Other Believers

Am I submitting to other Christians in love?

Am I receiving exhortations and warnings with respect and humitily, or being angry, defiant, and rebellious against them?

Am I speaking the truth in love to others?

Am I not only sharing with others in need, but putting their needs above my own?

Do I have the attitude of a servant, or want to be the boss?