Leaders for Liberty

By Paul Green

Reprinted from:

Among Christians, common ideas about Romans 13 lay claim to an event that no church, theological school or individual has been able to show ever occured: The divine creation of government.

So it is now time to reconsider those ideas – however popular they may be. To do this, we need to look at the source of the ideas, and why they are accepted so universally.

And for that, we need to look at leaders and teachers – how to appreciate and derive the benefit they offer, while at the same time avoiding child-like dependancy.

Leading by Example

In spiritual matters, as in all areas of life, knowledge is usually passed on from teachers and leaders. Normally, rather than starting from scratch or going through the school of “hard knocks”, much more progress can be made when starting from a platform of established knowledge, delivered by those with practical experience of it. Only fools will not listen to their elders.

In this way, Christian leaders can be a wonderful blessing when they are specially gifted by God to start or organize congregations or to help young and new believers grow. In that limited sense, they can be like spiritual fathers, and their calling and rightful jurisdiction (ie. church/ministry matters) should be respected.

But even when genuinely gifted and properly qualiifed according to scriptures like 1 Timothy 3 (accept no substitutes…), leaders are still our flawed fellow human beings – and their calling is to help, not to dominate. Ideally, they will also have learned and grown enough personally to be able to give sound instruction and most of all, to set a good example.

But leaders cannot stand in for us on Judgement Day, and cannot make moral decisions for us.

Even the Apostle Paul, with all his spiritual fatherhood and authority over the numerous churches he founded; by inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, made this absolutely clear in the introductory chapter of his second epistle to the Corinthians: Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand.

If then, a leader does give bad advice or instruction, the primary responsibility for any bad consequence still rests with the blind follower – for abdicating their personal duty to seek God for themselves. Whether through peer-pressure, mindless “groupthink”, ignorance, laziness or for other fleshly reasons, regrettably this is all too common.

Knowing this tendency, some leaders do actively misuse their position, exploiting guilt or fear and making unfounded promises to gain improper control and profit. Typically, such people use fear and condemnation as leverage by equating loyalty to themselves, their church or their ministry with loyalty to God.

But note carefully that under the New Covenant, leaders are not there to think for us and do not always automatically either know better, or have any better standing or communion with God:

“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant…. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.” Hebrews 8:8-11

They love… to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. Matthew 23:6-11

These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. John 14:25-26

These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. 1 John 2:26-27

Only when individual Christians diligently seek the truth for themselves, can the weakness, doubt and mental enslavement to a growing tyranny around us, be transformed into the strength and faith it takes to overcome the world and set us free.

Only with leaders who help young believers to grow up in this knowledge of their own fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and of their own personal relationship with our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus, will the Gospel of the Kingdom of God fully “turn the world upside down” once again.

In the immediate term, if such leaders are not to be found, then for those individuals who choose to follow God, that may mean starting from scratch or undergoing the “school of hard knocks” without the benefit of a helping, experienced hand. Or it may mean accepting whatever fellowship or help is available from teachers or a church – being careful to maintain love, grace and appreciation – while still very carefully rejecting or sifting out the error.

The Bible does warn us: “do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as is the habit of some“.

Yet it also says, “you come together not for the better, but for the worse” (1 Cor 11:17). And the Lord himself said, “wherever two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst of them“.

Therefore, it requires wisdom from God on whether to attend an existing church or fellowship group, to start a new one, or indeed to make a family household itself the main church gathering – which is a very scriptural practice (Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:9, Collosians 4:15).

Though this path may be more difficult in some ways, the reward for those who will obey God at any price is great. Plus, they will experience God’s mercy and comfort all through that time of testing. Then, sooner or later, having stood firm with good cheer, it will be time to enter into the full blessing.

How long and how hard can that be? Our decisions can have a lot to do with that.

Note the contrast in that while Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days – the complaining, unbelieving Israelites wandered around in the wilderness for 40 years and many died. The good news then, is that we can certainly shorten the duration of any testing time, by learning from James, Chapter 1:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

…Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

There are many such examples in the Old and New Testaments which are given to encourage us:

Abraham the patriarch for one, did not have a local church he could call into for guidance or prayer. Paul the Apostle had a message destined to reverse the predominantly Jewish worldview of the early church, and so was trained by God outside the mainstream of church fellowship for 14 years (see Galatians 1 and 2). John the Baptist was an unusual case but again, was well outside of the mainstream congregations until he entered into his primary calling.

Final Word – The Kingdom of Liberty

Our commission is to preach and teach the Kingdom of God, in all aspects and in everything that the Lord Jesus taught: “This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world as a witness…”

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations… teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

It can be said conversely then, that so long as a message is preached that, even in part, idolizes the kingdoms of this world; then the world changing power demonstrated in the Book of Acts can never be fully evident.

Unlike the oppressive tyrannies of this world, the Kingdom of God has a natural and decentralised structure, offering the maximum possible liberty for dependants. This natural, earthly order of God’s Kingdom is emphasised – at length – not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New.

In kindness and love but even at the cost of contention; the family framework, together with symbolic, natural hallmarks of submission to this order – including hair length and decent clothing – is to be upheld absolutely by all godly supporting institutions.

“…Christ Jesus… gave Himself a ransom for all… for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle… I desire therefore that… the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation… Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” – 1 Timothy 2:5-13

“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… For a man… is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man…. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head… 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. But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.” – 1 Corinthians 11

In regard to the above quotation, note that in the opening chapter, 1 Corinthians is addressed to: “all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord“.

In addition to this, and contrary to those who claim such matters are locally or culturally optional – ie. with no need to challenge or face contention at all – note that the scripture commands these outward hallmarks to be the custom in all “the churches of God“. Like baptism or communion, such outward symbolism is of value only when it reflects an inner submission to God – and in this case, to the order of “nature itself“.

It was from this foundation of godly order – and consequently, as enemies of the state order – that the early church delivered a much more accurate and complete message of the Kingdom of God, and so experienced much greater results. The very last verse in the Gospel of Mark records that they,

“…went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.” By God’s grace, let us commit to preaching and teaching a message that God can fully work with and fully confirm – by making it his Word and his Kingdom alone that we proclaim.