|Volume 23 Number 9 September 2021
Who Has the Authority?
Ernest S. Underwood
As Americans, we naturally do not like the idea of someone having authority over us. After all, our constitution guarantees us certain inalienable rights. We have engaged in wars to protect and sustain these rights. As a result of our way of life, we have an almost inborn resistance to anyone telling us what, when, where and how a thing is to be done. We feel that we have a right to “have our say” and that no one has a right to impose anything on us.
Tragically, this kind of thinking has invaded the church. There are members who express the attitude that no one has the right to exercise any authority over them unless they want to submit to it. A thing that some church members, and we are talking about the Lord’s church, never seemed to have grasped is that the church is not a democracy or a republic. Rather, the church is a monarchy. The King – Jesus – has all authority, and He is Head over all things to the church (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:22-23).
Our King designated that in His kingdom there should be a plurality of elders who serve and oversee a local congregation. These men must meet certain qualifications, none of them requiring absolute perfection or sinlessness. Further, they are to exercise their authority in the areas of human judgment and expediency. Seldom, if ever, will the decisions made by these men be pleasing to every member of the congregation. However, it must be remembered that the Lord did not appoint these men to be rubber stamps for the congregation. He did not intend for a majority vote system to rule the church.
Jesus taught through His apostles that the elders are to have the oversight! This oversight was not given to deacons, to preachers, to Bible school teachers or to other members but to the elders. [Incidentally, neither did Jesus intend for an elder or elders less than all the elders to exercise authority. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor] It comes as very poor grace, extremely bad taste and a totally unscriptural thing for any of these to feel that they have the right to usurp this God-given authority.
In my years as a Christian and as a preacher, I have seen some in a congregation attempt to build a power base for themselves so they may approach the elders as a group and dictate to them what they can and cannot do. Such an attempt is a subtle threat to the elders, “If you don’t do as we want you to, we will split the congregation.”
Some individuals detest any authority but their own. Like a little child, they must have their way or they will cause problems. Such an attitude is not only childish, but it is downright sinful. When the Israelites rebelled against the leadership of Moses and Aaron, God was highly displeased. In fact, He opened up the earth, and it “swallowed them up” (Numbers 16:32). In the latter part of that chapter, we learn that because of the continued murmuring of the people, God killed fourteen thousand and seven hundred with a plague. Neither Moses nor Aaron were perfect and sinless beings, but they were the leaders God had appointed, and He expected the people to respect His leaders.
Because of the very public position of the elders, the apostle Paul commanded that no accusation can be received against them except at the mouth of two or three (faithful) witnesses. If the elders are wrong and are in sin, then they must be rebuked as any other member who sins. However, there is a big difference between sin and someone’s opinion. The elders have not only the right but the responsibility “to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). There will never be peace and harmony in a congregation as long as those who take potshots at the elders are allowed to continue in their cowardly acts. For the spiritual good of a congregation, the elders should take whatever actions necessary to put a stop to these subversive deeds. When they do this, they are not exercising strong-arm tactics, but they are obeying their King (Titus 3:10). They will have the full support of all faithful members.
Mark T. Tonkery
We read in Jeremiah 18:18 that after Jeremiah finished his preaching on repentance, the people did not like what they heard. Therefore, they decided to carry a malicious report of what he had said to King Jehoiakim to make the king angry toward Jeremiah. They attacked Jeremiah’s character and his message from the Lord. These people knew that the tongue is a weapon that is more powerful than any other weapon known to humans.
One of the evils of the tongue is gossip. Gossip is defined as “a person who chatters or repeats idle talk and rumors about the private affairs of others.”
Rick Warren gave a great definition of gossip and how we know when we are gossiping. He said, “When we are talking about a situation with somebody who is neither part of the problem or part of the solution, then we are probably gossiping.” Notice what the Bible teaches about gossip.
The Bible teaches that gossip comes from an evil heart (Luke 6:45), often arises from hatred (Psalms 109:3) and happens when people are idle (1 Timothy 5:13). It is a characteristic of the devil (Revelation 12:10). The Bible also reminds us to keep private matters private (Proverbs 11:13; 25:9-10).
Knowing this to be true, why would anyone, especially a Christian want to gossip? Yet, many still do like Harriet. Harriet, the church gossip and self-appointed supervisor of the church’s morals kept sticking her nose into other people’s business. Several church members were unappreciative of her activities but feared her enough to maintain their silence. She made a mistake, however, when she accused George, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his pickup truck parked all afternoon in front of the town’s only bar. She commented to George and to others that everyone seeing it there would know that he was an alcoholic. George, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and then just walked away. He said nothing. Later that evening, George quietly parked his pickup in front of Harriet’s house and left it there all night.