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Bible verses about Authority
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Who were the dignitaries the filthy dreamers spoke evil of in Jude? I John 1 suggests it was the first-century apostles, even as today some speak evil of those God uses to lead his end-time church. But it does not stop there. They say, "I'll never follow another man," as though following a man is inherently evil. Those people speak either from ignorance of God's Word or by design to get a following for themselves. They are forgetting, however, God's sovereignty over His creation. Is there any place in God's Word—except for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden—when a man is not included in the mix between Him and men?

Though God has occasionally stooped to speak directly to one of His servants, He has always used men as messengers to and leaders of those He was working with, including all the prophets and apostles and even some of the kings. These men may have held high positions, being close to God and at times directly inspired by Him. Nonetheless, all of them built upon what they had learned from those who went before. Thus, they too followed men.

These people may also say, "I'm just as good as he is and more intelligent." They might also say: "I can read the same resources he uses." "I can learn apart from him." "Ordinations don't mean a thing." "I've been in the church longer than he has." "My marriage is better than his." All of these may be true, but they are not the issue. God's sovereignty is the issue! It is whether God put that person in the position to shepherd a flock! A shepherd leads, and the rest, the flock, follows. Obedience to this principle is why Paul repented so quickly after reviling the high priest: "Then Paul said, 'I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, 'You shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people'" (Acts 23:5).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Introduction


 

Besides civil authorities, God has given offices of authority to nearly everyone. In the home, the husband leads the family (Ephesians 5:23). When he is away at work, the children are subject to the authority of their mother (Exodus 20:12; Colossians 3:20). At work, though, the husband is frequently subject to his employer (Colossians 3:22).

As we mix with the society around us, we fall into many situations where others have authority over us in their particular niche. The bus driver has the authority to ask us to conduct ourselves properly on his bus. The movie usher can grant us entrance to the theater and direct us to a seat. A park official can ask us not to pick flowers or walk on the grass. In whatever position we fill, we have the authority to do that job properly.

What does obedience to authority produce? Harmony, accord, agreement, order, peace, and above all the character of submission to law that God wants to perfect in each of us. God has seen to it that we all have authority, so that we might learn how to handle it and learn to respect it. Additionally, He has also given us many opportunities to come under authority, so that we might learn to submit and be governed. When we learn these lessons, we can be taught and become of greater use to God.

This lesson is so important that God will place His people under a heavy hand to teach them to be governed. He has done this in the past, as Nehemiah tells the poignant story of Israel's history (Nehemiah 9). How many times Israel rebelled against God and found themselves cowering under the lash of harsh taskmasters!

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Should We Obey the Laws of Our Government?


 

Realizing the tremendous growth in the federal government from 1930-1980, Americans in the nineties have taken "Reduce the size of government!" as a battle cry. Grassroots movements have sprung up everywhere to lobby for handing control of the country back to the people. The national government is the "bad guy" who has over the years taken more than its constituted powers allow, and the people have organized to wrest it back.

Such a scenario was the backdrop for the 1994 "Republican Revolution," where voters booted scores of career politicians from their congressional seats and replaced them with conservative republicans who campaigned on a platform of reducing government. Because the polls showed this to be the country's mood, President Clinton embraced the idea, appointing Vice President Al Gore to head a commission to streamline Washington's bureaucracy. In its ever-so-slow manner, Congress began to return some power to state and local governments. Calling "town meetings," a form of "pure democracy," is a favorite ploy among politicians to seem to be acceding to the people's demands.

Is it any surprise that government and turning control over the church to the laymembership are also primary concerns of many brethren? They have been immersed in this worldly mood for a few decades! No wonder they think government of any kind is the enemy of the people; power should be spread among many to limit the control of any person or group over the church; and all the members of the church are holy, so all should have a say in all its functions.

Some have become so dead-set against government in the church that any attempt to show government from the Bible is harshly rejected as twisting Scripture. No amount of proof will satisfy them! They deny verses from the Old Testament because they are "Old Covenant." They turn plain, literal meanings of New Testament scriptures on their heads to say the opposite. Arguing with such people, as Paul says, just "increase[s] to more ungodliness . . . [and] generate[s] strife" (II Timothy 2:16, 23).

Does God support democracy any more than totalitarianism? What does the Bible say? Basically, it says that God has set up His government like a family, with a father in authority. All His governmental systems contain one person in authority, constrained by His law and motivated by His Spirit. If the members, also likewise constrained and motivated, work in harmony with the person in charge, they produce great fruit.

However, any government—even those using God's form—will make mistakes because fallible human beings run it. Rejecting government in the church because of past mistakes is "throwing the baby out with the bath water." The government is not the problem—sinful men are!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Scratching Our Itches


 

Genesis 1:26

This verse uses the plural pronouns "Us" and "Our" to refer to their antecedent elohim. Two divine personalities were working as one. They were equal in that both were God but not equal in authority, even as husband, wife, and child are equal in their humanity but not equal in authority. Jesus said it Himself: "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28).

John W. Ritenbaugh
God Is . . . What?


 

Genesis 9:5

Some people vehemently oppose capital punishment for murderers. They view it as nothing more than legalized murder committed by the state and a punishment that has no deterrent effect. But how does God, who should be our final authority, weigh in on this matter? His instruction to Noah, upon leaving the ark following the Flood, covers Genesis 8:15Genesis 9:17, part of which involves governments of men: "Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man's brother I will require the life of man" (Genesis 9:5).

Although man has a moral responsibility to God—"render . . . to God the things that are God's"—we must also give a reckoning to men—"render . . . to Caesar the things that are Caesar's" (Matthew 22:21). God has thus delegated to human governments certain areas of His authority in which man obeys God through subjection to his fellow men. God instituted human government to regulate the corporate relationship of man to man, and this includes the authority to take life as punishment for crimes involving murder.

One of the highest responsibilities of government is the protection of life. From this commitment to protect the lives of the innocent arises the very serious responsibility of capital punishment. Humans are not only commanded not to murder, but they are also not to avenge murder. That responsibility falls on the state.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Leviticus 19:32

This theme runs throughout the Bible, appearing in such words that are rendered into the English most commonly as "fear," "honor," "respect," and sometimes even as strong as "reverence." Romans 13:7 makes this clear. "Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor." So we find it actually commanded to give deference, not based on whether we think they deserve it, but simply because they are somebody who fits a certain description (like the elderly) or who is an elected, appointed, or ordained person.

So strong is this theme that God shows that insolence toward those who should be respected presages calamity (cf. II Kings 2:23-25 and Isaiah 3:5). We should thus be warned that when we see disrespect rising, severe social troubles are on the horizon.

The purpose of these scriptures is to help ensure that there is a proper attitude toward God. God is the Giver of all authority (Romans 13:1), and it is really out of respect for the God-given office that the deference is shown.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Respect or Respect of Persons?


 

Numbers 16:3

To paraphrase, they said, "Look! Who are you, Moses? You've taken this authority to yourself, but it should be shared among all the people, because we have all been called out. We are all holy before God. Why then do you exalt yourself above the congregation of the LORD?"

Notice what they say. It is quite ironic. They say, "You are taking too much authority to yourself. Everybody should have this authority." And then they accuse Moses of exalting himself: "You put yourself in this position." But were they not attempting to do the very same thing? These words would come back to haunt them very shortly.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Countering Presumptuousness


 

Numbers 16:9-10

These people wanted more authority, more autonomy. They did not see that God had appointed the authority, and they were actually part of the authority. Some of these leaders came from the tribe of Levi, which was part of the constituted authority within Israel. God had separated them, yet they wanted more. Their desire, the way their pleasure would be gratified, was to be given more than they had already been given.

God has separated us from the congregation of Israel to serve Him. He has made us a part of a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood and to do the work of the church. By this, we become part of His body. So this is exceedingly important to us, as Paul explains in I Corinthians 12. We are a part of the Lord's body, a spiritual body, and who is the Head? Jesus Christ. If we attack or rebel against another part of His body, we are attacking Jesus Christ! That is the principle involved here. We may not like to see it that way, but it is the truth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

Proverbs 21:1

The Living Bible paraphrases Proverbs 21:1 as, "Just as water is turned into irrigation ditches, so the Lord directs the king's thoughts. He turns them wherever He wants to." This helps us to understand God's sovereignty and history as well. If the thoughts of a king - representing the highest and most influential person in the nation - are in God's hand, and He influences his decisions when it pleases Him, are not all governors of men completely under the Almighty's sovereign control? Clearly, the sovereign Lord of Creation is moving all history in the direction He desires it to go.

It is not hard to comprehend, then, how Paul formulated the concepts he expresses in Romans 13:1-2:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

This explains why Moses declares that the actions of Korah and his group were a rebellion against God Himself (Numbers 16:11). Nor is it hard to understand why Jesus says in Luke 10:16 that to reject an apostle, one sent by God bearing a message, is to reject Him, and to reject Him is to reject the Father who sent Him.

Government is the overriding issue in the Bible. Ultimately, a son of God need not be concerned if the government of his homeland is legal or illegal, or if it governs appropriately or inappropriately. What matters is that the Christian recognizes God's sovereignty, confident that in His oversight God never sleeps or looks the other way. He is fully aware of whatever happens. Because of the purpose He is working out, this One who knows every sparrow that falls has either passed on what occurs or directly caused it. That is all that matters. With this understanding, we can truly live by faith, knowing God is ruling His creation. That is what we are here to learn and trust.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 

Matthew 7:29

Some have taken Matthew 7:29 out of context to sanction a pompous, brittle, authoritarian approach, stating Jesus "taught . . . as one who had authority, and not as the scribes." Such people assume that this gives license to higher decibels and dogmatic manhandling of the audience, but they seriously misunderstand its intended meaning. Jesus could speak with authority because He possessed an unlimited reservoir of experience. He personified the Word of God, while the scribes and Pharisees could only quibble about the bits and pieces they had studied. Even though Jesus spoke with authority, the Gospels show His manner to be peaceable and yielding in most situations.

David F. Maas
Servant Leadership: Practical Meekness


 

Matthew 20:20-28

Here, the disciples show they understood what Christ was doing, but they immediately let the idea of such awesome power go to their heads by vying for the very top positions. Christ explains that His disciples must use authority in a godly fashion, not for self-aggrandizement as the Gentiles had used it.

Staff
Who Are the 'Guests at the Wedding'?


 

Matthew 23:2

His sitting intimates something more than merely accommodating the prevailing mode of teaching of that time. Mark 1:22, from a time very early in Christ's ministry, reads, "They were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." In Matthew this comment appears as the concluding remarks of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:28-29). As Jesus declares His Kingdom's laws, He speaks with an authority that transcended that of the Jewish leaders. Therefore, His posture is better seen as symbolic of the King sitting on His throne and "laying down the law."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part One: The Sermon on the Mount


 

Matthew 23:2-4

The person who sat in Moses' seat had a measure of authority, and Jesus said it was to be respected. Apparently, the majority of those seats were occupied by Pharisees and scribes. However, Jesus took great exception as to how they used their authority. They said, and they did not. It is clear they used their authority to abuse, to elevate themselves and put others down, and to burden the people in ways Jesus did not agree with.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 25)


 

Matthew 28:18-19

In verse 18, the emphasis is on the word "all." His authority is no longer as it was when He was a man preaching in Galilee and Judea but is once again universal. It is "as it was when He was with the Father" before. He has died and been resurrected, and all authority is once again His. Therefore, His disciples are to understand that wherever they go, everything is subject to His authority. This is a good thing to remember: Everything is subject to Christ's authority.

As they go, they are to make disciples. Teaching and baptizing do not make a person a disciple, though they play a part. Just because a person is baptized does not mean he is converted. Nor does it mean he is a member of the church of God or part of the Family of God. Just because he has been taught the way of God does not mean that he has fully accepted and committed himself to what has been taught.

This is why the emphasis must be on "making disciples." Baptism and obedience to instruction will be a response a person will make who is being made a disciple.

The preaching of the gospel brings a person to faith, repentance, baptism, and seeking further instruction. These are outward responses.

At this point, baptism is very important because it is the outward sign of something exceedingly more important than the fact that one has been "dunked." Baptism is the outward sign of commitment—of coming under the authority of the Father and the Son. Disciples are baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is only when a person comes under or is committed to the authority of the Family of God that he is truly a disciple. This marks the difference between one who is truly a disciple and another who has only been dunked.

Once a person has been truly baptized and has truly committed himself to be under the authority of the Family of God, the issue for the disciple is continued learning as a student and loyalty as a member of the Family—as a new creation to the One he has committed himself to.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works


 

Matthew 28:18

Let us consider the issue of power with respect to Jesus Christ. He says of Himself in Matthew 28:18, "All authority [power, KJV] has been given to Me in heaven and earth." "Authority" is translated from exousia, which has wide usage in the Greek language. It can be used to indicate jurisdiction, privilege, capacity, freedom, influence, force, and right, besides authority and power. Obviously, its usage is not restricted to sheer, brute strength. Jesus, then, is perfectly equipped to handle our needs in the widest variety of situations.

Notice that Jesus says authority has been given to Him. For this to be true, a greater Being must be the Giver. In this vein, I Corinthians 15:25-28 transports us into the future, revealing the source of His powers:

For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For "He has put all things under His feet." But when He says "all things are put under Him," it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.

The Giver in Matthew 28:18 must be the Father, so the word "all" in that verse excludes the Father, who is supreme in authority. The resurrected Son is the channel through which the Father's every purpose and plan are being worked out.

How extensive is Jesus' given authority? Colossians 1:14-19 explains some of His authority more specifically:

. . . in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell. . . .

Paul stresses Christ's positional authority, that is, where Christ stands in relation to all other beings, whether human or spirit. "Firstborn" in verses 15 and 18 does not refer to His being created, as other verses clearly show that He has eternally existed. Here, the word indicates primacy of rank, since the apostle is showing Christ's status in relation to all other beings and institutions.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part Two)


 

Mark 1:25-28

Jesus commands the demon to leave, giving it a short, direct order backed by God's authority. He does not rebuke the man, because the unclean spirit had possessed him, yet each of us must resist the influence of demons (I Peter 5:8-9). Jesus tells the demon, "Hold your peace," which actually means "be gagged or muzzled," a phrase He also uses to calm the storm in Mark 4:39. The unclean spirit does not speak again, but obeys in rage and anguish.

By his own power or authority, no man can cast out demons. Even the archangel Michael, not daring to revile Satan, called on the power and authority of God to rebuke him (Jude 9), setting a right example for us. Similarly, in rebuking the "spirit of divination" at Philippi, Paul says, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her" (Acts 16:18).

Because of Christ's authority in performing this miracle, the people in the synagogue are "amazed," a word meaning "to stupefy" and "to dumbfound or flabbergast." They express their astonishment in questions: "What is this? What new doctrine is this?" (Mark 1:27), as well as by immediately rushing away to tell everyone they can. The word translated "amazed" also can mean "to terrify" and "to be frightened." The people are not only astounded but also fearful of God's power through Jesus.

The focus of the testimony is on how Jesus exorcises the demon: simply by His command, which shows the power of God's Word. Contemporary Jewish doctrine for casting out demons was much different, as exorcists among them sometimes appeared to cast out demons by prayers or chants. Christ, however, does not cajole or request demons to leave, but authoritatively commands them to come out. The world has its weak and useless methods to appease evil and entice it to surrender, but Christ commands its defeat.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Exorcism in the Synagogue


 

John 1:12

We will focus on the word translated as "right." The King James Version reads "power." This is exousia (Strong's #1849), which has a variety of usages: "power," "authority," "capability," "ability," "strength," "entrusted," "commissioned." It implies the liberty or power to do something. This Greek word has its roots in exesti. The two of them, exesti and exousia, combine two different ideas, "right" and "might." A person can be given the right to do something and then given the might or power to do it. What does God do here through Jesus Christ? As many as receive Him, to them He gives the right and the power to become children of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 5)


 

Romans 13:1-2

Under normal circumstances, we understand this perfectly. But what if obedience to human government would lead us to sin? Acts 5:29 clearly delineates our responsibility: "Peter and the other apostles answered and said: 'We ought to obey God rather than men.'" Comparing the principles involved leads us to conclude that we should obey God without qualification. If our obedience to God causes us to commit a crime against the state, our submission to the crime's penalty also constitutes submitting to human government.

God rules supreme over human government on every level, but as with individuals, He gives governments free-moral agency. They are thus free to reap what they sow. They are free to enact laws that are contrary to God. In such a situation, a Christian can find himself on the horns of a dilemma. Do we understand this and love God deeply enough to make the choices necessary to maintain our relationship with Him, despite being placed at a disadvantage?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)


 

1 Corinthians 11:3-15

Did Paul teach the early New Testament church of God that women must wear a hat or veil to church services? To obtain a clear picture of what the apostle meant by these statements, we must understand these verses in the context of his entire discussion of head coverings. This topic begins in verse 3, giving the underlying principle for his decision: "But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God."

The real subject under discussion is subjection to authority! Paul shows that, under God's government, there is a chain of authority. A woman is subject to her husband, who is subject to Christ, who is subject to God the Father (see also Ephesians 5:22-24).

In verse 4, Paul relates this matter of authority first to a man's head covering. Paul explains that a man should not have his head covered because a head covering symbolizes subjection. To wear a head covering would dishonor his God-given position as the head of his wife. The apostle explains this principle further in verses 7-10.

As God has appointed the roles of men and women, a man stands in a similar position toward his wife as Christ does to men. Thus, Paul says, a man who is a godly example of loving authority "is the image and glory of God." Likewise, a woman stands in a similar position as man does to God, in subjection. Therefore, Paul concludes, a woman must appear in her God-designed role as a submissive wife (Genesis 2:18; 3:16). Her submissive appearance renders glory to her head, her husband.

For further proof that this is what God intends, Paul recalls that God created a man first, then He formed a woman out of the man (I Corinthians 11:8). To him, the order of creation is significant, showing who was to be in authority. He then uses the fact that Eve was created as a helper and companion for Adam (verse 9), rather than vice versa, as a final proof for his conclusion that a man should not cover his head.

Paul immediately explains that the head covering a woman should wear symbolizes her submission to the man (verse 10). The covering on a woman's head is a sign of her willingness to be in subjection to a man. It also acknowledges that she has a special need for protection by angels that a man may not need.

In verses 11-12 the apostle cautions us not to go to extremes in these God-given roles. Men and women need each other and can teach each other many things. In these verses, Paul seems to be recalling Genesis 2:24: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall be one flesh." If a husband and wife work together "in the Lord," they can produce the godly character that God desires in us. God has made us what we are, so we should, as "one flesh," strive to fulfill His purpose for us.

What is this covering that Paul is saying a man should not wear but a woman should? In answering this unspoken question, Paul asks, "Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?" (verse 13). He immediately answers his own question: "Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering" (verses 14-15).

All along, Paul has been writing, not about a hat or veil, but the length of one's hair! He is not saying a woman should wear something over her hair, but rather she should wear her hair long enough to be recognized as feminine. This wearing of her hair long shows her submission to the man.

Thus, in verse 5, Paul is saying that if a woman prays or prophesies while wearing her hair short like a man, she is dishonoring the man. She is not showing a willingness to wear the symbol of submission to the man's authority. Further, for a woman to wear her hair short like a man is just as dishonorable as if she had her head shaved like a fallen woman! Verse 6 means that if a woman has the wrong attitude about this matter, she might as well go all the way and have her head shaved!

The issue under discussion, far from being a matter of wearing a hat or veil, involves the length of men's and women's hair. Paul's "head covering" is the actual hair that grows on our heads, and his teaching is that a woman should wear long hair and a man should wear short hair.

Because Paul specifies that a woman should wear long hair, some wonder, "How long is long?" Some have gone so far as to believe that a woman should never cut her hair. However, Scripture does not specify uncut hair, but long hair. Others have confused shorn hair with cut hair. Shorn hair is hair that has been closely clipped in a mannish hairdo.

Paul is making the point that a woman should wear her hair long enough so that she looks feminine and honorable. This is why he says in verse 15, "If a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her." A woman should pay particular attention to her hair and make certain that it is long enough and properly groomed and styled to enhance her appearance and femininity.

On the other hand, men must not follow modern fads and styles and wear their hair long like women. Long hair brings dishonor upon a man. God intends that we make a clear distinction between men and women in both grooming and dress (Deuteronomy 22:5). The length of one's hair is a most important line of distinction to God.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Men and Women, Hats and Hair


 

2 Corinthians 10:12-16

The first-century apostles divided the world into spheres, or areas, of responsibility and did not encroach into another's sphere. In doing so, they avoided throwing the church into needless confusion about whom members should look for authority.

We often hear people say, "I think I should go with So-and-so because he is doing this." Another says, "No, I think we should go with Mr. So-and-so because he believes this and is doing that." I Corinthians 1:12-13 says, "Now I say this, that each of you says, 'I am of Paul,' or 'I am of Apollos,' or 'I am of Cephas,' or 'I am of Christ.' Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"

John W. Ritenbaugh
Who Is Doing the Work of God?


 

2 Corinthians 10:13-16

Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. It was his province, his area of authority, his area of influence. Paul says that he lived within it and worked within it. He did not go into other men's areas to extend his influence beyond what was given to him. Peter was made preeminent over them all, and then as the work grew, God divided it up, saying in effect, "Paul, concentrate on this. Peter, concentrate on that." They had leadership in those areas, and it was almost as though the two shall never meet.

The picture that appears from all of this is that, not only did Paul adhere to the sphere of influence that God had given him, but so did the other twelve apostles. They divided up the world, went to their areas, and conducted their spiritual and governmental responsibilities only within their regions. That is the only way God could keep order over a worldwide work at the time.

The people who responded to the teaching of those men in those areas were not confused by other voices speaking to them. Each stayed within his own sphere of influence, the one that had been given by God. In that area, he was the top authority, as far as the doctrines that were to be followed, and in this way, God could keep order. Quite likely, the apostles were all speaking the same thing, yet by this method, confusion in terms of government was kept to a minimum. The people were not confused about whom they were to look to in their region for authority in matters pertaining to their relationship with God. It is a wonderful system.

God is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33). Doctrine was put into the church as the work expanded in the way that He has always done it - as He did through Moses, through whom He gave the first five books; as He did through Samuel, who may very well have been the author or main editor of all the books from Joshua to II Samuel; then through others whom God used to add to the scriptures so that we might have the complete Bible today.

So, it is God who puts doctrine into His church by the man He chooses to be His ambassador, His representative to those who have been called. That keeps matters in order. Our job is to have faith in God's decision and in the pattern that He reveals in His Word. That will keep us on track if we choose to make the right choices.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 2): God's Pattern of Leadership


 

Galatians 5:23

Contrary to popular belief, the meek (gentle, NKJV) do not take everything "lying down." Notice Moses, who was the meekest man of his time. He did not hesitate to order the execution of about three thousand of the idolaters who worshipped the Golden Calf while he was with God on the mountain (Exodus 32:25-28). Against evil this meek man was as stern as steel. How a meek man reacts depends upon what he discerns God's will is for him within the circumstance. Because the meek man sets his mind on God's purpose and not his own comfort, ambition, or reputation, he will offer implacable resistance to evil in defense of God yet react with patience, kindness, and gentleness when others attack him.

Jesus set a clear example of this pattern of reaction too. He made a whip of rope, and with stern and vehement energy, overturned the tables and drove the livestock, their sellers, and moneychangers from the Temple compound because they had turned God's house into a common bazaar by their sacrilege. With simple, forthright, firm, instructive answers and incisive questions, He met the twisted, intellectual, carnal reasoning of the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees. Yet as Matthew 12:19-20 reads, "He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench." Peter adds:

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth"; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. (I Peter 2:21-23)

A meek person will feel the wrong done against him and feel it bitterly. But because he is not thinking of himself, his meekness does not allow his spirit to give vent to a hateful, savage, and vindictive anger that seeks to "get even." He will instead be full of pity for the damaged character, attitudes, and blindness of the perpetrator. From the stake Jesus uttered, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). This virtue is a strong bulwark against self-righteousness and intolerant and critical judgment of others. Yet neither does it excuse or condone sin. Rather, a meek person understands it more clearly, thus his judgment is tempered, avoiding reacting more harshly than is necessary.

Paul writes in Titus 3:1-2, "Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility [meekness, KJV] to all men." The possibility of conflict is inherent where the subject includes our relationship with governments; it is quite easy to have conflict with those in authority over us. Some in positions of authority take pleasure in wielding their power, as Jesus notes in Matthew 20:25: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them."

On the flip side are those under authority, and this is where Paul's main emphasis is in Titus 3. Humans, by nature, tend to be very sensitive, critical, and harsh in their judgments of those over them. It frequently results in slanderous attacks and quarrels against those in authority—sometimes even in revolutions. Paul advises us to be non-belligerent, considerate, unassertive, and meek. If the fruit of meekness has been produced in either or both parties, peace and unity are more possible because a major tool is in place to allow both to perform their responsibilities within the relationship correctly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Meekness


 

Ephesians 6:4

Just because he says "fathers," he does not exclude mothers. Paul simply addresses the party with the overall responsibility.

Even though it is not directly stated, we must remember that God consistently teaches that the strong are responsible to care for the weak. In this context, the parents are strong, the children are weak. However, parents must not depend upon their size and strength to demand respect, but should strive to earn it through strength of character, wisdom, and clearly expressed love.

The Greek word translated "bring them up" at first meant merely providing bodily nourishment. Through time its usage extended to include education in its entirety since bringing up children obviously is more than just feeding a child food. "Training" is more correct than the weak "nurture" used in the KJV. The Greek word means "to train or discipline by repeated and narrow exercises in a matter." It implies action more than intellectual thought and corresponds to the word "train" in Proverbs 22:6, which means "to hedge" or "narrow in." Thus God expects parents to train their children to walk the straight and narrow way rather than allowing them to wander aimlessly about on the broad way.

Paul adds in Colossians 3:21, "Fathers, do not provoke your children lest they become discouraged." To some degree, all children resist their parents and what they represent and teach. How parents overcome it is Paul's concern. These verses testify that many parents strive to elicit their children's obedience and respect in the wrong manner.

The wrong way provokes embittered, fretful, defensive, listless, resentful, moody, angry, or sullen children. Paul counsels not to challenge the child's resistance with an unreasonable exercise of authority. Correction is necessary, but a parent must administer it in the right spirit, counterbalanced by lavish affection and acceptance. A twig should be bent with caution.

Firmness does not need to be harsh nor cruel. Punishment should never be revenge nor dispensed just because the parent is irritated. Severity only hardens the child and makes him more desperate. If a parent does not use his authority justly, he cannot expect a child to be respectful. It does not happen automatically.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)


 

Ephesians 6:4

Parents are not to provoke their children "but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." Our heavenly Father sets the example by publicly honoring His Son more than once (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). Jesus preaches a heartwarming passage of the closeness He has with His Father (John 5:18-30) and the mutual respect and honor that is present in their relationship. Our heavenly Father honors His Son and expects us to honor Him also (John 5:23).

Those of us with children, especially, should take time to study this section carefully. Do we treat our children with dignity and respect due someone made in the image of God? How we treat our children can indicate how we might lead a city. Are we prepared to receive a city from God (Luke 19:15-24), or do we need to learn more about encouraging and even correcting in a way that maintains a person's dignity, self-respect, and honor?

Staff
A Matter of Honor


 

1 Peter 5:1-5

Notice all the words that suggest leading and/or following: elder(s), shepherd, flock, serving, overseers, lords, entrusted, and examples. This clearly establishes that God's church is a body in which He has placed leaders to oversee and care for His people. Further, the leadership is to provide examples for them to follow.

The Bible nowhere anticipates independent Christians in its instructions, but it always assumes the body has ministers given by Christ to provide teaching and guidance. Too frequently, people separate from one group then regroup around a person whom Christ has not appointed to teach His Word. It is not that this person cannot teach at all but that Christ has not given him the gifts to teach His people in His behalf. He was not placed in the body for that purpose. Steady spiritual degeneration within that group occurs.

John W. Ritenbaugh
'I'll Never Follow Another Man!'


 

1 John 1:1-5

Notice the apostle's frequent use of "we" and "our." John was establishing his authority for what he was teaching! He is saying that what he writes in this epistle he received firsthand from Christ! During his day, false teachers were contacting Christian congregations claiming that John was a one-hundred-year-old fuddy-duddy who was "out of touch" with reality. What they were teaching was the truth, they said. John later labeled these people as antichrists (I John 2:18). His first epistle is an exhortation to reestablish their faith in the original beliefs and doctrines by and into which they had been converted.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

1 John 1:1-5

Why did John begin his epistle in this manner? He was establishing his authority to preach the true gospel because some were disparaging the message he said he heard from Jesus Christ. The false teachers disparaged his message as too conservative, orthodox, and some said downright wrong. His defense was that he had personally seen, heard, and touched the Christ when He was on earth, and for almost seventy years after that, he had continued his fellowship with Him through prayer, study, and obedience! As he wrote, his detractors viewed him as a senile, cranky, old man who looked at life through 100-year-old eyes. Human nature never changes. Satan never changes. Most importantly, God never changes those things that are basic to His purpose! Knowing this, John could speak with powerful authority.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

1 John 1:1

Who is "we" and "our" here? They are the apostles of Christ: Peter, James, John, Andrew, and even Paul, an apostle "born out of due time" (I Corinthians 15:8). Why would they be unimpeachable as sources? John tells us why: "We were with the Boss for three and a half years. We heard our Lord, Master, and Savior with our own ears, saw Him with our eyes, watched Him do miracles, saw Him walk on the water. We touched Him. We ate with Him. We slept by Him." It really makes a difference to have good sources, and eyewitnesses are among the best.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 20)


 

Jude 1:1

Jude wastes no time getting into his subject. The first thing he does is call himself a servant of Jesus Christ, not His brother. Most commentators note that this shows his humility. He was not coming to them with authority because of his blood relationship with Jesus but with the authority of Christ's servant, who had been specifically commissioned to do this job. Yes, there is humility but also a great deal of authority.

He underpins his authority by calling himself the brother of James. James, in the New Testament church, was a bedrock figure. Remember, Paul likens him, with Peter and John, to a pillar, pointing to his high reputation in the church as a person of great authority. James summed up matters in the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, and he was generally known as righteous. A tradition has come down to us that James had knees like a camel's because he spent so much time in prayer. So, Jude establishes his credibility in his humility and his authority in that he is Christ's servant and has a direct link to James, who had a sterling reputation in the church.

He goes on to describe true Christians. He makes sure his salutation includes this description in it because he is beginning to separate the wheat from the tares. "True Christians are like this," he says. "They are called, sanctified by the Father, and preserved by Christ."

First, he says true Christians are specifically invited into the family (John 6:44). God the Father sends out the call, and He brings them to His Son, Jesus Christ.

Second, true Christians are set apart by the Father's calling, His mercy in forgiving them, His bringing of them to repentance, and His acceptance of them when He gives them His Holy Spirit. Romans 8 says that, if we have the Spirit of God, we are the sons of God. Jude, then, makes a distinction here. True Christians are "the called" and "the sanctified," people who have been made holy.

Third, he says we are guarded, kept, made secure, preserved, by Christ's work on our behalf. Without Him, we would have fallen away years ago. Without Christ's intervention on our behalf before the Father, we would be long gone. His strength has kept us here, not our own, so it shows a relationship with our Protector. We have a calling, we have a relationship with the Father, and we have a relationship with the Son. These distinctions are significant in the midst of apostasy, because they separate the sheep from the goats.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Revelation 3:7

The key of David - (See Isaiah 22:22; 9:6; Matthew 28:18) A misunderstanding of this symbol may have fostered abuses of church or ministerial authority. For decades, the church interpreted Revelation 3:7 to mean the church had "God's government," and the ministry too often wielded this club with a heavy hand (Ezekiel 34:1-10; Jeremiah 23:1-3). Revelation 3:7, however, is clear that the key of David belongs, not to the church, but to the One who is holy and true, Jesus Christ. He alone has the authority to govern the church and to open and shut doors before it.

Jeremiah 23:20 predicts that we will fully understand this problem "in the latter days." Having experienced man's misuse of Christ's authority and the church's scattering, we should now see that in its administration the church must be very careful to stay within the bounds of true Christianity and not usurp God's prerogatives.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Philadelphia


 

Revelation 11:6

Like the last two verses, this one has obvious references to the Old Testament. The first miracle—no rain falling in the days of their prophecy—refers specifically to Elijah's 3½ year drought (I Kings 17-18). The second—waters turning to blood—is an obvious reference to the first plague that Moses brought upon Egypt (Exodus 7:14-25). This seems to be a return to the way God's servants worked before Jesus Christ came—specifically focusing on Elijah's and Moses' works.

The word "power" appears again. When somebody says, "These have power," we think in terms of energy or force or strength to do something. However, the implication of "power" here is authority. God gives them the authority, or the right, to cause these things to happen. In a way, they are given carte blanche to do what needs to be done.

In studying the lives of Elijah, Moses, and others of the prophets, we do not often see them going to God and saying, "Now, what should I do at this point? God, you know our enemies are coming, and I'm not sure what I should do." No, they just do whatever needs to be done. In II Kings 1, when the groups of fifty men and their captains come upon Elijah, the prophet was not sitting there and praying at the top of a hill, saying, "Oh, they're getting close. God, tell me what to do." He just called for fire from heaven and destroyed them. So, the Two Witnesses are given much the same authority at the time of the end. These two will have been trained and prepared by God to such an extent that they will know what to do. They will call upon God, and He will answer with power.

We do not find Jesus, for that matter, beseeching God for instruction about what to do. If someone came to Him for healing, He healed him. If someone needed a demon cast out, He cast out the demon. Once one has God's Spirit—and is in line with God's will—then these decisions are easier to make because, as Paul says in I Corinthians 2:16, "We have the mind of Christ." As we grow, we develop more of that mind of Christ, and we should be able to make decisions as Christ would make them.

So these Two Witnesses will be very much like Christ. They are witnesses of Him, as it says in the literal translation of verse 3. They are, in a way, some of the best representatives of Jesus Christ and His character that will have ever walked this earth. They will act like Christ as much as any two men can, and people in the world will see these two people as like Christ—and eventually treat them as they treated Christ.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 6)


 

 




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