No Authority Without Submission to Authority
But wait! There can be no authority without submission to authority. Unless they are in submission to another, no one in the church has any genuine authority. Many scriptures call us into this place of submission, to one another as well as to Christ. When we find this right spirit of submission, true spiritual authority can flow to us and through us.
This is why there must be apostles, or the fullness of Christ’s authority does not come upon the church. Only through submission to apostles under Christ will the church have apostolic authority.
The goal for the whole body is to function in apostolic authority. Every believer may have this apostolic power, as was common in the New Testament. Examples abound. Stephen, though not an apostle, was “a man full of God’s grace and power, (who) did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). Philip the evangelist went to a city in Samaria, proclaimed Christ, and the signs and wonders God gave were incredible. The whole city was brought to faith (Acts 8:4-13).
Understand that these believers were in submission to the apostles (Acts 8:14), and the secret of their power was in this submission. This is the most basic principle of biblical authority, being clearly laid out in the Gospels.
Here we find this foundational concept, ‘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.” 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” ‘ (Matt 8:8-11).
Jesus was amazed to find someone with such perfect insight into Christ’s own authority. Jesus had authority over all things and could freely exercise God’s power because He was so completely submitted to the Father. The Centurion rightly understood that only someone in submission to authority can have authority rest on them. He knew instinctively that Christ’s submission was the secret of His power. And that is how apostolic authority flows to the church.
Apostolic Authority Flows Down
Apostles are called into complete submission to Jesus, and those who yield their will to Him will carry great authority. The other leaders and ministries of the church are meant to recognise the authority of Christ on the apostles, and give the willing submission of their own hearts to Christ and the apostle whom Christ sends to them. By extension of this principle, apostolic authority will then flow upon the whole ministry of the church, and to every believer.
Each individual believer is meant to be in submission to the authority of the leaders that are over them in the Lord. The beautiful writings in the book of Hebrews sets it plainly before us, “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” (Hebrews 13:17).
There Must Be an Authority in the Church
Christ’s headship must have expression in the church, but it is not through leadership systems that have been established by human processes, such as the election or selection of popes, bishops, general superintendents, or whatever else. Neither is it through institutional boards and committees. Christ Himself chooses, anoints and sends apostles.
Apostles are appointed by Christ, not man. The church is not meant to select its own leaders, although we must be diligent in ‘testing’ them so as to recognise them. Some may object by saying that in the early church when the deacons were needed, the apostle Peter said, “Brothers, choose seven men from among you” (Acts 6:3). I point out that they were not choosing the spiritual leaders of the church. Rather, they were looking for good stewards to take responsibility in addressing a need, and Peter exercised an apostolic authority in delegating the responsibility.
Clear authority is needed in every household, and the church is the household of God (Ephesians 2:19). There are to be clear lines of authority in the church, and God has plainly told us the way He wants them. When the church is in divine order and we function according to the wisdom of God, the blessing, grace and power of God flowing to the church greatly increases. When apostles are received and allowed to speak with authority into the life of the church, apostolic grace blesses the church. When the church is in submission to apostles, apostolic authority and power is available to the believers.
Authority and power is much needed by the church, therefore apostolic authority is needed over the church!