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Spiritual rebellion?

October 5, 2011

I think we all know that the Reformation was a watershed event in Church history. The breaking of the Church into two very clearly defined branches, the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant movement, has ramifications that are still being felt nearly 400 years later.  I believe that there were good reasons for the break, Luther, Calvin and others had good doctrinal arguments against the Pope and the excessive authoritarianism the Catholic Church was practicing.

However, we see in today’s protestant church an excessive emphasis on individualism whereupon individuals have become a law unto themselves. We go to church where we “feel good,” or where we can engage at levels we’re “comfortable” with. Since when did the church revolve around us? One biblical group that this is particularly difficult for is church leaders. Ephesians 4:11 specifies that Christ appointed five offices (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) for the equipping and maturation of the Church as a body. Don’t even get me started on the present lack of apostles and prophets or the confusion between pastor and “Pastor,” but it feels like leading has become almost like “lobbying.”

Hebrews 13:17 states, ” Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”  It is assumed in the text that believers would know who their leaders were and that they would submit to them.  This is not to argue a return to authoritarianism where the individual believer has no freedom or self-will, but it is a reminder that perhaps we have gone too far in our individualism.  We are all personally accountable and responsible for our relationship with Christ and we all make up the universal priesthood of believers, but we are also members of a body wherein God the Father commissioned Christ to be the Head and Christ has delegated authority to others to govern His Church.

In John 13:20 Jesus says, ” Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”   Jesus has sent and He has appointed shepherds who are to care for the Body.  It would be good if we bring our individualism, along with all of our personal tastes and preferences, into Biblical submission to spiritual government of the Church.  It is sadly very true that there are bad leaders within the Church, but we as a Body need to weed them out while at the same time solidly establishing the good ones.  Authority always flows downwards from the Head, and our response should flow back upward.  To do otherwise could be likened to spiritual rebellion.

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