|Sons to Glory book by Paul Jablonowski||
Part 1 - Thinking Like Mature Sons - Doctrine
Spiritual Authority vs. Civil Authority
The doctrine of the Nicolaitans is something Jesus says that He hates (Revelation 2:6,15). In the Greek language, Nicolaitan means "conquer" (Nikao) "the people" (laos). This false doctrine attempts to divide the body of Christ into some form of a clergy/laity system. It is a false spiritual authority that usurps the headship of Christ. It will effectively cut off God's giftings by cutting off and dividing God's people. It dismembers parts of God's Body by not allowing the giftings that God gives to each body member to function. But a correct understanding of how spiritual authority works apart from civil authority will help to expose this false authority which has been masquerading as truth since the third century.
Jesus said, "ALL authority has been given to Me in heaven (spiritual authority) and on earth (dominion authority)" (Matt. 28:18). So there are two types of authority currently at work: spiritual and dominion. Spiritual authority comes from God, while dominion authority is delegated authority given by God to Adam (mankind): "Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion..." (Genesis 3:26-28). Notice that it was never God's original intent for mankind to rule over other men and women. This corrupted type of dominion authority became "civil authority" after the fall when sin entered the picture. It is important to differentiate between dominion authority which is from God, and civil authority which is the corruption of dominion authority where men started self-government apart from God to dominate and control others.
Civil authority is what is currently operating in the kingdoms of man and this authority allows footholds for the demons and principalities of darkness. Civil authority and occult religion are the corruption of fallen man to replace the God ordained offices of kings and priests. The following chart contrasts these two opposing kingdoms:
Nevertheless, Paul told us in Romans 13:1-7 that we are to be subject to the civil authority without question unless it violates direct commandments from God. Herein, lies the tension between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this present world. God's kings will bring prosperity and His priests will bring freedom, but they will do this through discipleship like Jesus did and not through the structures of man. The structures of man are religion and politics (civil authority), which is the art of trying to control other people's lives. In the final analysis, these corrupted types of authority will foster elitism and a love of money. This type of man-made authority is "official" and related to hierarchical position and status. It runs like a business or a military with rank and titles and classes which are given to a select few.
On the other hand, spiritual authority is given to ALL who are filled with the Spirit and it operates through TRUST by LOVE like a family household for the building up of relationships and not for tearing them down. Spiritual authority is organic and free flowing and comes from Jesus only as the head of the Body (Eph 1:22). True spiritual authority flows from the head through the Body, which is the "priesthood of all believers" (1 Peter 2:5,9), and is about mutual submission to one another. It operates like a living organism or body, unlike civil authority which operates like an organization or worldly government.
The husband/wife relationship is a good example of spiritual authority. The Scriptures say that I am the head of my wife and that my wife is to be submissive to me as her husband (Eph 5:22,23). This is spiritual authority. Yet, if I demand and assert that she "submit" to me because I have this position of authority, then I have just used civil authority methods to dominate and control my wife's life beyond true spiritual authority. The honor and respect and submission that I receive from my wife is always merited and earned, and it is never demanded or asserted. Likewise, those who correctly demonstrate spiritual authority have proven themselves to be trustworthy servants not because of a title or position, but in reality. Earned recognition and trust from the Body of Christ is one of the characteristics of true spiritual authority.
Below is a chart that contrasts spiritual authority and civil authority. One thing we must remember about civil authority is that even though it is not God's perfect will for mankind, He is still able to use it for good and asks us to submit to the governing authorities and pray for them so that the gospel can be spread where we live.
Many sincere Christian fellowships cut off the moving of God's Spirit because there is an attempt to mix elements of civil authority with spiritual authority. In other words, any mixture of civil and spiritual authority causes the Church to be out of God's divine order so things cannot flow properly. God is indeed restoring apostles to their full function in His Body, but this does not make them "President" type leaders on the top of a hierarchical chain of command in a pyramid-like structure of descending authority. A true apostolic call has nothing to do with controlling people. Those who are called to be apostles are your brothers and sisters with problems and areas in their lives that may need loving correction. Nevertheless, apostles are very often used by God to express the authority of Christ. When it is true spiritual authority then it will be recognized by those who are mature. But, when it is carried out in a demeaning and dictatorial manner, then it is just a person trying to assert their own authority.
Jesus clearly tells his apostles, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them, YET IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU, but whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant." (Matt. 20:25-26, and Luke 24:30). Jesus condemns the whole idea of using civil authority hierarchy methods for exercising spiritual authority in the Kingdom of God. As God's real purpose for authority becomes known, we will begin to see a restoration of true spiritual authority as well as dominion authority (instead of the civil authority). Jesus will bring a proper union of both of these pure types of authorities as described in Zechariah 6:13:"He shall build the temple of the Lord... He shall be a priest (spiritual authority) on His throne (king with dominion authority), and the counsel of peace shall be between both offices." Only in Christ can there be a proper balance of both dominion and spiritual authority.
Moses set up a hierarchy government not by the direction of God, but by the direction of his father-in-law Jethro. And since Moses was operating under the Old Covenant, the Lord blessed this civil type authority, but it is not His perfect will for His people who are now under the Newer Covenant. Moses and David were foreshadows of JESUS alone and not any particular man. When leaders compare themselves to Moses for the purpose of persuading others to "submit" then it can often be a subtle game of manipulation and control. Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive for they watch out for your souls." But another translation of the Greek could easily read: "Allow yourself to be persuaded by those who have guardianship among the flock." There is a big difference in our perspective and the Greek words used to describe these functions!
When people tried to tell Moses to stop others who were prophesying, Moses said, "Oh, that ALL the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!" (Num. 11:29). Moses was called the "meekest man who ever lived," and meekness involves being childlike in approachableness and willing to listen to others. God's true leaders will have the integrity and character (meek and lowly) that is paramount in those who carry spiritual authority. Bringing correction is a key component of leadership, but the attitude and manner in which correction is implemented is just as important as what is right and what is wrong. Acts 20:28 shows us that the leaders and elders were not "over" the church but "among" the flock. They were guardians, caretakers and servants of God's people. Unfortunately, many Bible translations do not reflect this original truth.
In the 17th century, the Anglican church translated the Scriptures according to their own bias toward a hierarchical institution of church. This positional mindset debases spiritual authority to titles, ranks, and job descriptions like some kind of corporation. All of the original Greek words used for official rulers or dignitaries or religious officers are missing from the Scriptures. Instead, the Greek words like "servant" and "waiter" and "bus-boy" are used for positions of leadership in God's assemblies. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers are descriptions of FUNCTIONS that people DO and not titles of rank to put in front of their name. In order for the Body of Christ to come into proper order, there must be a dismantling of the current clergy/laity system that infiltrates so much of the church.
The whole modern idea of a spiritual "covering" being widely used in the church has no Scriptural basis either. This word covering is only used once in the New Testament and it deals with a woman's head covering. Rather, a believer's "protection" comes from their mutual subjection to one another. Spiritual authority has been given to the entire body and not to a select few. When church leaders try to function as a "covering" for others, like a CEO of a corporation would, then they become usurpers of the headship of Christ. This impersonal "professional" atmosphere opens the door for the "Jezebel" type of rebellion and the "Absalom" type of disloyalty that also usurps the headship of Christ. When you truly "know those who labor among you" you can "nip in the bud" these types of wrong attitudes.
Those through whom God wields spiritual authority never demand obedience to themselves. Rather they persuade and appeal with pleas like the apostle Paul did (1 Cor. 7:6,25; 2 Cor. 8:8). Paul almost always addresses the churches with the Greek words parakalein (appeal) and erotao (request) and not with epitage (commandment). In the end, it is only LOVE that has "covering" power (1 Peter 4:8, Prov. 10:12, 17:9). And the way of love is always the way of the Cross, which is what mutual subjection to one another works out in each of us. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." (Prov. 27:17)
Jesus was very clear about spiritual authority in Luke 22:25-26 when He says that: "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called benefactors. BUT NOT SO AMONG YOU, on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves." So the one who serves is the one who really leads with spiritual authority.
The real question is: Who is in charge? Is Jesus really head of His Church? Or are the "leaders" usurping His authority by trying to carry out spiritual authority with civil authority methods? Demanding that people submit to "leaders" because of the function God has given them, such as apostles or prophets, is not right. The pope in the Catholic church is a prime example of how man has taken the seat of authority from Christ into his own hands. But, even small "non-denominational" churches do the same thing when they set up a clergy/laity system of relationship. The only clergy is Jesus, and all authority comes through Him. We must learn to recognize Him whether He decides to speak through a seasoned pastor or an eight year old child. The problem is that we have not been taught this way.
Spiritual authority can only be understood properly when we learn how the Holy Spirit teaches. So how does the Holy Spirit teach? "Not in words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Cor. 2:13). So the key is to compare the things the Lord is saying among the many members of His body with whom He has you connected. Patience is a must here. Way too often we will get a prophetic word or a dream from the Lord and then seek the interpretation from people that we respect instead of seeking God and letting Him bring the interpretation from wherever He chooses. We must seek God and not man. One way to do this is to keep a daily journal or flow chart and write down questions to the Lord and things from His word and Spirit that He shows you. This will help you to wait on God's direction for His will in your life.
"Majority rule" and democracy are NOT the methods in God's Kingdom to make decisions. In the New Testament, decisions were often made simply by the consensus of the entire assembly as Acts 15:22,25,28 shows: "for it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things..." If Jesus is head of the assembly then Jesus is well able to give us His mind on issues which is why Scriptures so often admonish us to be of "one mind" (Rom 15:5-7; 1Cor.1:10; 2Cor.13:11; Eph 4:3, and Phil 2:2, 4:2). The problem is often a matter of patience and trust. If Jesus was able to entrust the entire future of God's Kingdom on earth to His disciples who had just betrayed Him, how much more should we be able to trust Christ who lives in our brothers and sisters regardless of all their imperfections. It is not about us, it is about Jesus IN us (Col. 1:27) and we must be patient until we see Him.
This trust will build a unity that is unbreakable. The scheme of the enemy is to divide and conquer, which is why we have so many denominations and sects. We need to be able to communicate about our differences without "cutting off" each other. We need to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, even if we cannot come to agreement on every single issue. We already HAVE a unity in the Spirit, because Eph. 4:3 tells us to KEEP it, and this unity does not have to be broken because of minor doctrinal disagreements. Satan is the one who brings division and is behind "cutting off" people from fellowship who see things differently than we do.
God is changing how we understand "church" and part of this paradigm shift is understanding how spiritual authority works apart from the controlling and dominating hierarchical methods of civil authority. This will liberate and set free God's leaders from false obligations to unrighteously "rule over" others. It will also set God's people free to hear from God themselves and function in their high calling as priests and kings. I pray that this false doctrine of the Nicolaitans will be exposed and repented of so that Jesus can once again be head of His church and so that we can see His glory in His Bride Body.
This proper understanding of authority will help prepare us for the coming new age of the Kingdom. The Kingdom Age is expanded upon in the Scriptures as the "Covenant of Peace." The next chapter will discuss this Covenant of Peace which God has made with mankind describing the Millennial (1,000 year) Age in which we find ourselves transitioning into. It will be a time when mature sons come to glory!