Authority: October 2005

Table of Contents

1. Lead on, Lord, Lead on
2. Authority
3. The Authority of Scripture
4. Authority in the Home
5. Lest the Children Be Discouraged
6. Governmental Authority
7. Assembly Authority
8. The Lordship of Christ

Lead on, Lord, Lead on

I bow me to Thy will, O God!
And all Thy ways adore,
And every day I live, I’d seek
To please Thee more and more.
Thy will the end, the blessed rule,
Of Jesus’ toils and tears;
Thy will the passion of His heart,
Those three-and-thirty years.
And He hath breathed into my soul
A special love to Thee —
A love to lose my will in Thine,
And by that loss be free.
When obstacles and trials seem
Like prison walls to be,
I do the little I can do,
And leave the rest to Thee.
I have no care, O blessed Lord!
For all my cares are Thine;
I live in triumph, too, for Thou
Hast made Thy triumphs mine.
Lead on, lead on, triumphantly,
O blessed Lord! Lead on;
Faith’s pilgrim sons behind Thee seek,
The road that Thou hast gone.
Author unknown
“He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12).


Man in his sinful state does not want to be restrained; he wants to be free to do what his heart desires anywhere at any time. But man’s proper place from creation through eternity is one of submission and obedience to God, who is absolute in His rights, His authority, over His creation.
God has formed various relationships among His creatures, such as man – animals, husband – wife, parents – children, government– man, Christ – the assembly, and the Lord – over all creation. For each relationship, God has established the relative duties and responsibilities that are to govern these relationships. In addition, God has delegated authority so that one has the responsibility of headship or rule and the other has the corresponding responsibility of submission or obedience.
This issue focuses on a few of these relationships and gives us some of the Scriptural principles that are to guide and govern our behavior when in these relationships, always “as unto the Lord” who has supreme authority over us and all things.
The issue concludes with the need of applying the knife of self-judgment first to ourselves and our own personal failures before we occupy ourselves with the failures of others or seek to correct them. “Take heed unto thyself” is a good word for all of us.

The Authority of Scripture

The second epistle of Timothy presents to us the ruin of the outward testimony of the church and the consequent duty of the individual believer in such a situation. Two points are brought before the believer to guide his feet — his individual conduct and his relationship to the public profession of Christianity. In connection with both of these, Paul brings out the authority with which our souls must be directly in communion, on which our conduct rests, and the rule by which it is guided. There must be the direct and immediate connection of my soul with God, and immediate subjection to His authority in His Word. Someone else may help me by ministry or pastoral care, but he does not come between my soul and the Word. He may bring me more fully into acquaintance with what God says to me in it, but he does not take me out of the relationship. God’s title is absolute and embraces the whole of my being in obedience. He exercises His authority over me by the Word.
In our lives there are necessary duties toward others, but these are acknowledged by the authority of and obedience to God in His Word. I am to fulfill every relationship in which God has placed me, only by and according to the Word. “We ought to obey” is the Christian’s ensign, but “we ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29) is the absolute claim of God. Thus a believer is bound to take the Word of God as the ultimate rule of truth and conduct, with nothing else between him and God.
Scripture Gives Authority
God has provided for His saints a sure and certain guide, a body of writings called by the Apostle the Holy Scriptures, to be received as inspired and having divine authority. They were recognized by the Apostle and in the most solemn manner by the Lord Himself, as being inspired and as commanding faith because they were inspired. During His earthly pathway, the Lord Jesus constantly recognized the authority of and referred to the Scriptures, whether in teaching or in silencing those who opposed Him. If they were not believed, He assures the people, then men would not be persuaded even if one rose from the dead. More than this, the fact that something was in Scripture gave it authority, for “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). It was not merely that truth was found in it, for this may be the case even in what man writes. Rather, the Scriptures are God’s ordained method of authority, not merely of truth, but clothed with divine authority for the truth. As such, they are addressed to all of God’s people.
God’s Direct Authority
This then is the divine and divinely given resource for the Christian when the church is in an evil state. They are able to make the individual wise to salvation through faith in Christ. The Scriptures are the sure, individual guide when the church is in confusion and evil. More than this, the Scriptures furnish the man of God perfectly. Everything that is Scripture is inspired and profitable for all that is needed to make the man of God perfect. Everyone who wishes to stand for God before the world and who wishes to act for God in the world will find all he needs to complete his state and competency for service in the Scriptures. Others may help me to understand what is there, but if anyone seeks to hinder God’s direct claim over me through the Word, he interferes with God’s title. This is true whether it is an individual or a company, and the higher the claim to do so, the greater the guilt. Because of the present state of things around us, the individual must hold his ground against advancing evil. Under such circumstances, the Scriptures should have the place they were meant to have — a divine authority to instruct and reprove.
The Secure Authority
Finally, we would refer to 1 John 2:24, “Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.” Nothing has secure authority for the believer but that which was from the beginning. This alone ensures our continuing in the Father and in the Son. In the Scriptures I have that certainty — I have the thing itself—nowhere else. No agreement of Christians can give me this — only the Word itself.
J. N. Darby, from Scripture:
The Place It Has in This Day

Authority in the Home

In every relationship or position in which the believer may be set, the secret of happiness lies in the maintenance of the divine order. Whether in the family, the household or the church, failure to uphold God’s order will result in serious consequences. If there is the substitution of that which is of man for the sake of convenience and expediency, confusion and discord must be the inevitable result. How many examples of this we see in the Scriptures!
There is a divine order for the family. The value God Himself sets upon subjection to His order is seen in that familiar passage in which He commends Abraham, on the ground that “he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment” (Gen. 18:19). Scripture records others such as Caleb, Amram and Jochebed, and Eunice, the mother of Timothy, who were faithful in their family and household responsibilities and whose families showed the fruit of it. Also, in the epistles of Ephesians and Colossians what care is taken to urge upon every member of the Christian household the importance of fulfilling their several relative responsibilities! Children, servants, parents, masters, husbands and wives are directed as to the duties of their respective positions. On the other hand, what sad examples of parental misrule and of filial disobedience are preserved in the Scriptures for our admonition and warning! The happiness of the families of Eli, Samuel, David and many others was wrecked because these parents did not establish and uphold divine order in their homes. Not only was the happiness of the family destroyed, but the disorder also brought with it divine government. (Read, for example, 1 Samuel 3:11-14.)
Maintaining God’s Order
How then is God’s order in the family to be maintained? The answer to this question is found in both Ephesians and Colossians (Eph. 5:22-33; 6:19; Col. 3:18-25; 4:1). The husband is the head and as such has to act as God’s vice-regent to govern not according to his will, but according to the divine will. The authority put into his hands is from the Lord, and since it is his to wield for Him, it cannot be delegated to another. The wife is in subjection to her husband, even as the church is subject to Christ, the husband on his part having to love his wife even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. The responsibility of children is to obey their parents in the Lord. Their obedience is to be absolute, qualified only by the condition — in the Lord. Servants have likewise to obey their masters, parents and masters having on their side their respective obligations.
With these instructions before us, it is easy to perceive that if the wife governs instead of the husband or if the children are permitted to have their own way — to please themselves instead of living in subjection—it will result in disorder. If servants are allowed to govern the household, it will not produce blessing, harmony or happiness. The pathway of blessing is the pathway of obedience in the spheres we are called upon to fill.
Personal Responsibility
In reading what Scripture says on the subject, let each remember his personal responsibility first. Sometimes we hear a husband urging his wife to obey him, while a wife may complain that her husband does not show his love sufficiently. Or a child may complain that his father provokes him to anger, while parents, perhaps, wonder why their children do not obey them, at least not in the right spirit. In all of this, each must take to heart what Scripture is saying to him or her and seek, with the Lord’s help, to carry it out. Let each first read and obey the Scripture for himself and act on it before being occupied with someone else’s failure.
Furthermore, there is a difference between the subjection of a wife to her husband and the obedience of children to parents. For this reason, Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:14 (JND), “I will that the younger [women] marry, bear children, rule the house, give no occasion to the adversary in respect of reproach.” While the wife is to be subject to her husband, it is expected that she would rule the house, especially as her husband might well be absent a good part of the day in the normal course of earning a living. As his helpmeet, she should enter into his thoughts and feelings and rule according to the pattern he has established. More than this, it should be recognized by both that it is the Lord’s will that should have priority for them. When it is not a question of the Lord’s will, grace can easily be shown, and when love is paramount in the relationship, there will be no difficulty.
Love and Obedience
In the case of children, obedience must be insisted upon, and this is best taught at the earliest age. Implicit obedience to parents must be maintained, and this becomes harder and harder in the atmosphere of the world in which we live. Again, if love is paramount in the home, such obedience will not be burdensome, but rather will be the happy outflow of a normal relationship. An older brother, long since with the Lord, used to remark most aptly, “Never tell your wife to do anything, and never ask your child to do anything.” It was good advice, and with a Scriptural basis.
Submission and Failure
When Scripture addresses issues of obedience and authority, the one in a place of submission is always mentioned first. No doubt this is so because the one who should submit and obey must do so regardless of the manner in which the authority is exercised. Sometimes authority is used in a wrong way, but God never allows us to rebel against an authority which He has set up. We may have to obey God as the supreme authority rather than man, but even in such a case, we must be subject to the consequences just as Daniel’s friends submitted to Nebuchadnezzar’s fire for not bowing to his idol.
On the other hand, when there is disorder and confusion within a sphere of authority God has established, God looks to the responsible head for the reason. Generally it can be said that where there is anything painful and wrong in human relationships, it is usually the one in authority that has failed first. God looks first to the one whom He has placed in responsibility. This is solemn and brings before us the seriousness of acting in a sphere of authority before God.
Christianity at Home
When these principles of God’s order are followed by the various members of a family, that household becomes a testimony for God in a scene where all have departed from Him — a bright circle of light in the midst of surrounding darkness. It becomes an anticipation of millennial blessing when the Lord’s authority shall be acknowledged throughout the whole world.
A large part of our lives is spent in our homes, and the household, therefore, is the chief scene of our testimony. We may appear ever so godly in our assembly life or perhaps out in the world, but it is in the home that our Christianity (or lack of it!) is really displayed. It might be well to remember that one part of proper testimony should be the expression of Christ in our homes — Christ in all the various relationships of the household. “To me to live is Christ.” This is the testimony indeed, whether at home, in the church or in the world.
E. Dennett, adapted and added to
from God’s Order

Lest the Children Be Discouraged

The first exhortation to fathers in Ephesians 6 is, “Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath,” and in Colossians, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger” (Col. 3:21). The exhortation follows upon the call to children to obey their parents. Fathers are placed in almost absolute authority in the household, and hence the first thing the Spirit of God does in turning to parents is to admonish them as to the manner in which they should exercise their authority. Knowing what the flesh is, even in a Christian, and how apt we are to be tyrannical and despotic in the place in which God has set us, He, in tender consideration for those who are put in the subject position, says, “Provoke not your children to wrath.” Parents have almost unlimited control (limited only by the words added to the injunction, “in the Lord”) over their children, but they are hereby warned that they must be careful before God as to the method of their government. They must consider the feelings of their children, and while they must never abate one jot or tittle of what is due to the Lord, they must remember their child’s weakness and not lay upon them more than they can bear, lest they might be discouraged.
God’s Tenderness for Children
A more striking illustration of God’s tenderness for children could scarcely be conceived — a tenderness which was exemplified again and again by our blessed Lord while down here upon the earth —than is expressed in this special injunction to parents. We all know how apt we are to be capricious or harsh in our rule, and hence our need of this reminder. Let every parent remember that if, on the one hand, God has given him the rule over his family, on the other, He has carefully defined the character of its exercise, and that he is as responsible for the latter as for the former.
“Lest they should be discouraged.” How easy to discourage children, and especially from the right ways of the Lord. With keen and tender susceptibilities, of quick observation and rapid detection of inconsistencies, harsh discipline and admonishment might very soon undo years of patient teaching and speedily mar the most industrious efforts to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Parents cannot be too careful on this point, and it will aid them to be so if they remember that they derive their own position from divine appointment and that their children are to be governed and trained for the Lord.
E. Dennett

Governmental Authority

Although God established government by man, He did not do so at the beginning of man’s history. Prior to the flood, God did not establish government of any kind in the world. As a result, He had to observe that the earth was filled with violence and corruption, and He destroyed it by a flood. In order to preserve some order in the world of sinful man, God placed government into the hands of man after the flood when He said to Noah and his sons, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed” (Gen. 9:6). This command continues to this day, although no government in the hands of sinful man can ever be an adequate display of God’s righteousness. By becoming drunken, Noah failed almost immediately in his responsibility, and later Israel, into whose hands God committed governmental responsibility, failed because of their rebelliousness against Him. After bearing with them for hundreds of years, God allowed them to be taken into captivity in Babylon, and He committed governmental authority and power to the Gentiles. Thus in Nebuchadnezzar began the times of the Gentiles. The church period forms a parenthesis in all this, for it is a display of God’s grace in calling souls to heavenly glory. Nevertheless, the times of the Gentiles continue to this day, and government in the world is generally in their hands. In the millennium, and only then, will righteous government be seen in the earth and be again in the hands of Abraham’s seed, when the Lord Jesus Christ will have His rightful place and His authority will be recognized everywhere in this world.
Usurping God’s Authority
Although Nebuchadnezzar had learned from Daniel that the God of heaven had given him his universal kingdom, yet he used his absolute power to have a god of his own. He attempted to assert his own will over his subjects and thus to usurp for himself the place and authority that belonged to God alone. He used the power that God gave him to deny God and to put himself in the place of God. He made a magnificent image that was to serve as the deity for all that were subject to his authority.
The command to bow before the images was simple and the penalty was plain. Not much was required, according to human thoughts. However, it was the intrusion of man’s will into God’s domain. Obedience to the powers that be is a God-given duty, but obedience to these powers must be rendered within the circle of their own lawful authority. In this we find that the responsibilities of believers today coalesce with those of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. If the powers that be step out of this circle of responsibility, our first responsibility is to God. When the rulers in Jerusalem commanded the apostles not to teach or to preach in the name of Jesus, Peter and John answered, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Absolute monarch though he was, Nebuchadnezzar stepped outside of his own domain and claimed for himself what was due to God alone.
As far as we know, only Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to comply with the king’s decree. They were brought before the king, and morally it was a most impressive scene. On the one hand was Nebuchadnezzar, one of the mightiest monarchs the world had ever seen, surrounded with all the pomp of his court and realm, and on the other hand, three men of a despised and conquered race. The question to be answered was this: Who is supreme, God or man? Among other things that he said, Nebuchadnezzar issued a challenge: “Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (Dan. 3:15). In so doing, he engaged in battle, not with men, but with God Himself.
The answer of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, quiet and subdued in tone, is sublime in its expression of their confidence in God and His power. They counted on God’s power, which they knew could deliver them, should Nebuchadnezzar carry out his threat to throw them into the furnace. On the other hand, their determination was fixed not to yield to the king’s command. If it were the Lord’s will, they were ready to die as martyrs for His sake. Their faith and obedience were as absolute as the will of the king.
The Christian Attitude
The attitude of these defines the true position of the believer to the powers that be today. Everywhere in the New Testament, submission to these is commanded, and such should be the path of the Christian in the middle of political agitations and confusions. Various scriptures could be quoted, but Romans 13:12 is sufficient: Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”
The believer is neither to raise questions nor to examine the lawfulness of constituted authorities. It is enough for him that they are in power, and he pursues his way in peace as he renders the required obedience. But if these authorities travel outside their own province and seek to substitute their will for the Word of God and to impose that will on their subjects, they effectively put themselves in the place of God. In such a case, faithfulness to God, as with the three children of the Jewish captivity, demands that God be obeyed rather than man. The limit of obedience to government is obedience to God in obeying them. If called upon to disobey God by yielding to a government’s demands, the believer must retain a good conscience toward God, even at the cost of his life. Such was the ground taken by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Submission Even Unto Death
Again, we know the end of the story. These three men were thrown into the furnace, but God came in and silently exhibited His power before the furious king. The fire had no effect on them except to burn the bonds that held them, and more than this, the Lord Himself walked with them in the fire. On the other hand, we need to remember that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not know with certainty that they would receive such a wonderful deliverance. They were ready to die rather than deny their God, and Hebrews 11:3638 speaks of others who were tortured, imprisoned, exiled and killed for their faithfulness. So it must be today. Some are delivered in a marvelous way, while others honor the Lord by suffering and even dying for Him.
In conclusion, we may say clearly that the believer is to obey the powers that be, for God has set them up. As long as sin is in the world, government is necessary, for the awful tendencies of man’s sinful nature must be restrained. But the believer, as part of a heavenly company, is not to be involved in the government of this world. His turn to govern will come when he lives and reigns with Christ a thousand years (Rev. 20:6), but to attempt to do so now is to seek to reign before God’s time. The Corinthians wanted to do this and Paul had to tell them, “Ye have reigned as kings without us” (1 Cor. 4:8). According to Daniel 4:17, government may sometimes be in the hands of “the basest of men,” but since God has set them up, we are to be in subjection to them.
E. Dennett, adapted from Daniel the Prophet

Assembly Authority

All authority depends on God’s sovereign rights over His creation, and thus submission and obedience is the proper place for every individual and every institution before God. God has established all authority, including authority in government, in the home and in the assembly.
Christ is “Son over His own house,” and the assembly is responsible for its behavior as “the house of God.” Accordingly, Christ has delegated to the assembly authority to deal in His name with what is inconsistent with the holy character of the assembly as His representative in this world. As stated in Matthew 18:18, the responsibility thus given to the assembly is immense: “Verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
In no other sphere of God’s delegated authority do we find such a solemn and sweeping investiture of divine authority as we find here! These words (as well as 1 Corinthians 5:45 and other scriptures) give the assembly authority to maintain order, to deal with one who sins by exhortation and rebuke, and in an extreme case to put away an evildoer from its midst.
The subject of assembly authority is large, and it is beyond the scope of this article to go into detail on all that Scripture gives us concerning the use and abuse of assembly authority, but the following points cover a few important principles concerning this subject.
The Lord in the Midst
The Lord Himself is in the midst of the assembly, and He is there to direct by His Spirit, through His Word. Thus the assembly, properly speaking, is not a judicial body, but rather a place where the Lord’s will is sought and carried out according to His Word. It is the place where His glory must be paramount.
The presence of the Lord in the midst of the assembly and the fact that it acts in His name makes the exercise of its authority most solemn. In view of His presence there, the assembly is to exercise its authority in keeping with the principles of His Word, in dependence on Himself, and always with reference to Himself.
Acting in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is most important, for when a local expression of the body acts in His name, its actions are not merely binding in that place, but in every place — both in heaven and on earth — where the Lord’s authority and Headship are owned.
The Scope of Assembly Authority
As with every sphere of delegated authority, the assembly has a prescribed area of responsibility, and the instructions to fulfill its responsibilities are given in the Word of God. God has established the scope of responsibility for each authority that He has set up in such a way that they are not in conflict with each other. For example, suppose a young man, living in his father’s household and at the table of the Lord, robs a bank. For that act, the local government, the father and the assembly, each according to their respective God-given area of responsibility, will have to deal with that young man in discipline or punishment, but none may take the place of or interfere with the responsibility of the other authorities involved.
When the assembly acts within the sphere that the Word of God gives it and upon those who are “within” its sphere, there must be submission to it, as to the Lord Himself. As with every authority committed to man, it is not infallible. Its authority may be abused, mistakes may be made, and the flesh may enter into its actions, but God never rescinds His delegated authority simply because of this. As stated above, the Word in Matthew 18:18 gives the assembly its authority, and only the Word can take it away. Of course, if God’s Word has been violated, then His Word must be upheld, for God never gives either an individual or the assembly authority to set aside His Word. While it is beyond the scope of this article to consider this aspect of the subject, it is important to notice that God in His governmental ways may remove an authority He has set up. He may remove a person in a place of authority. He may remove an assembly, or transfer authority from one power to another, as He did when putting government into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.
Authority and Power
God formed different relationships of authority and submission, such as man – animals, husband –wife, parents – children, government – man, and Christ – the assembly. Then He established the relative duties and responsibilities that are to govern these relationships. By “authority” we mean that these relationships, duties and responsibilities are not voluntary, but are ordained by God. In these relationships there is the responsibility of headship or rule and a corresponding responsibility of submission and obedience.
In view of the flesh in those under authority, God has given “power” to those in authority to fulfill their responsibilities. God has given the sword into the hands of government to back up its authority, while to parents He has given the rod. Likewise, a master has at least legal power to enforce his authority. The assembly’s power is different, however, from that of other authorities. The assembly’s power in collective action is “the power of [the] Lord Jesus Christ,” its Head, who acts by the Holy Spirit according to the Word.
While in every relationship the one in authority over others may fail, due to ignorance, a lack of dependence upon God or fleshly activity in him, Christ the Head in the assembly never fails. His direction is always perfect and according to God’s mind and will. If the assembly fails, it is always its own failure to follow the direction of the Head, who leads and works by the Spirit.
Today the assembly has reached a state of such disorder and confusion that, as a whole, it no longer keeps the “unity of the Spirit” in the uniting “bond of peace.” As a result, there are within the house many “vessels  .  .  .  to dishonor,” and, as well, there are many who refuse to separate from such. While the whole is in a state of outward ruin and a collective dishonor to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, God has not set aside the authority of even “two or three” gathered unto His name acting in obedience to the Word concerning assembly responsibility. The promise that the Lord Himself will be in their midst is still valid, and “binding” decisions may still be made in His name.
Obedience and Conscience
The assembly today is to obey God’s will communicated to it through the Word, and His will is specially given through the apostles’ doctrine. An assembly action is an act of obedience to the will of its Head communicated by God’s Word. It is to have the character of the obedience of the Christ — that obedience in which God’s will is everything and man’s will is nothing.
In its normal operation, when the obedience of the Christ is operating in the soul (that is, when self-will and the flesh are not active), then the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and gives to each individual His mind, His will, His heart in a matter. This acts upon the spirit, the heart and the conscience as a word from the Lord.
The case of the evildoer in Corinth furnishes us with divine instruction as to how the assembly is to deal with evil in its midst and how God works to exercise the conscience of each one and bring the assembly to act in obedience. When Paul first wrote, the saints were both in a poor state and ignorant of God’s mind. Paul had first to rebuke them about the evil in their midst by saying, “Ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned.” By a word from the Lord he enlightens their dark consciences with the truth of God.
God had communicated to Paul what the assembly must do in the Lord’s name and by His power. In obedience to the Head, they were to purge from among themselves the wicked person. As an apostle, Paul had authority and power to “deliver such a one unto Satan,” but he alone would not do so, for the assembly must prove itself “clear in [the] matter” by each one having their conscience exercised by the evil in their midst. They clear themselves of the evil by acting in obedience to the word of the Head given to the Apostle Paul, and by each repenting—the evildoer as well. When the “mass” (the body at large) did so, it would return practically to its proper state as an unleavened lump.
Purging the wicked man from their midst was an act of obedience. If the act was according to the Word of God, the Spirit of God would act upon each heart and conscience to submit to and support God’s will. It is not supposed when evil is present that every conscience would respond properly, for the working of a conscience cannot be separated from the state of a soul. At first the consciences in Corinth were ignorant. Then they were enlightened. As shown by his actions, the evildoer was not in communion with God — he was in a bad state of conscience. As well as having a bad conscience, any working of the will of the flesh in a saint leads to unwillingness to submit to the will of the Lord.
The Apostle Paul is a pattern for us of assembly leadership. He illustrates how one in a position of authority or leadership should act when those in the assembly are not in a proper state. He not only applies the truth to them, but also his own walk is in conformity to the truth and commends that truth “to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2). He leads them by moral example into the path of obedience to the will of God.
The Apostle Paul also gave a right example in the way he used the Word of God to bring the consciences of the Corinthians into the same mind of the Lord while at the same time recognizing the authority of the Lord over them. He wrote to the Corinthians, “To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also: for if I forgave anything, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:10). He did not use his own will or even his right as an apostle to govern their consciences.
On the other hand, when one leads in a fleshly spirit, he greatly hinders the work of the Spirit of God. While it does not set aside the responsibility of obedience to the Head, the working of the flesh in one tends to stir the flesh in others, and the result may be confusion, strife, and even division.
Self-Judgment Comes First
Scripture exhorts us, “In lowliness of mind let us each esteem other better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3). It is of the highest importance for all of us to remember this, for we are quick to find fault in others and slow to recognize fault in ourselves. Let us, first of all, search our own hearts and ways to see our own faults. If we are honest before God and are willing to get into His presence, He will show us, first of all, the truth about ourselves, and then enable us to see clearly with respect to others. Only when we are right with the Lord ourselves can we make a right judgment concerning another. Finally, let us remember that true slavery is being enslaved by our own will, while true liberty consists in having our own wills entirely set aside.
Adapted from the writings
of various authors

The Lordship of Christ

The term “Lord” is a special title of authority and is used frequently in the Word of God. When used in the New Testament with reference to believers, Lordship is always applied to the individual, for the Lord Jesus is Lord to each one of us. He is Head of the church, but Lord over us as individuals. The title directs our thoughts to Him to whom we owe our allegiance and whom we are called to serve and obey. He is also Lord to those in the world, although many do not recognize His title. Over those who do not acknowledge it now, the authority of the title will be vindicated to its Possessor by God’s almighty power in a coming day. However, He is especially presented now as Lord to those who are His own.
Unrestricted Authority
If Jesus is Lord to us at the present time, He is Lord in all the unrestricted authority which the title expresses. The claim of the authority is absolute, and it must be met by absolute and willing subjection. Of course, we recognize that the title of Lord for believers is founded in grace and redemption, as we learn from Romans 14 and many other scriptures. However, this does not change the degree of that authority, for we read, “Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8). Nothing can be more absolute than this language, for it describes an authority that is binding on us at all times and in all places.
While this authority is absolute, it is a delight to the believer to contemplate, if he is walking with the Lord. The believer is set free from every other authority and tyranny, to be subject to Him alone. When other authorities are involved, His supreme authority is to be recognized, as, for example, the relationship of the parent with the child: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord” (Eph. 6:1). It is a relationship that will never be laid aside. Amid the “gods many, and lords many” (1 Cor. 8:5) that seek to rule men’s minds in this world, it is wonderful to our souls to know that “to us there is but one God, the Father  .  .  .  and one Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 8:6).
When thinking of the infinitude of God’s grace, let us not forget Christ’s title as Lord. A believer may profess many truths of the highest possible character, and yet his soul may be lacking in this most essential point — the witness of a good confession. It is to Christ Jesus my Lord personally, as rejected in the world and coming again in glory, that I am to show my loyalty here in the world. It is a principle that binds me to Him at all times and in all circumstances. I am to confess His name and paramount claims where they have been rejected, and His Lordship is the bond of my fellowship here in this world with those who are separated from it by the cross.
The Practical Side
The practical side of all this is the principle of subjection. It is this that gives stability to my course through the conflicting elements of this world and which will produce a practical conformity to Christ. He has not redeemed us and set us loose to follow our own will. He has said with infinite grace, “If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love” (John 15:10). We are “elect  .  .  . through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience” (1 Peter 1:2), and thus my whole course through this world ought to be governed by the question, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). Love is the constraining principle of all true Christian action, but the will of the Lord who has loved us is just as necessary to guide the outgoings of that affection.
The principle of subjection to the Lord leaves the heavenly portion of the believer as bright as ever, but it furnishes a strong bridle of restraint for the operation of self-will down here. More than this, subjection is the regulating principle of Christian fellowship.
Finally, let us notice that Christ has left us a perfect example of all this. All that was heavenly in Him, all that connected itself with His conscious, unbroken communion with the Father, all that is contained in His declaration, “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen” (John 3:11), as far as it was seen on earth, was in lowly subjection to the Father’s will.
Adapted from The Girdle of Truth, Vol. 9