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Building up believers and the New Testament church

Spiritual Authority

Spiritual Authority in the Life of the Individual Believer

The first place that we come into contact with spiritual authority is in the relationship of the individual believer and God. In Hebrews 5:9 we read, "He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation." Salvation is by grace through faith, and not of works, lest any man should boast. But true faith always produces obedience, since faith without works is dead (in other words, is not Biblical faith). Obedience implies authority by its very meaning, for there can be no obedience unless there is someone to obey. The vehicle through which the direction comes to obey is words, for words communicate the will of the one to be obeyed. There is no separation of the one to be obeyed from the word spoken. Thus Christ is spoken of as the Living Word. He is the communication of the total message of the Father. Christ and the Word of God are one. Every aspect of salvation comes to us through the living Word of God, that is, Christ.

The Living Word, Christ, is communicated to us as God speaks His living word to our hearts. That living word is given with only one goal in mind: that the purpose of God or the will of God be accomplished. The purpose of God is that all things be reconciled to God and find their meaning and fulfillment in Him. However, this is only realized as the word of God is obeyed. He speaks not just for hearing, but for doing. It is only as we recognize the authority of His word, submit our hearts to it, and obey the direction of God that the word will ever accomplish the purpose for which it is given.

Consider, for example, the first word that comes to each one of us. It is the word "repent." Apart from repentance there can be no forgiveness of sin, and without forgiveness of sin there is no salvation. God is faithful to work His divine work in our lives, but there must be a response to the word which He gives in order to make a place for further work to take place. Without a response to His word, God is prevented from accomplishing what He desires in our life. He has sovereignly chosen not to move past the will of man. Thus a response to the authority of the living word is essential to every aspect of our relationship with God, including initial repentance and cleansing from sin.

This takes us back one step further, for there will never be a recognition of the spiritual authority in the word Christ speaks to our hearts unless there is a recognition of the One from whom the word comes. In Acts 13:27, we read that the Jews condemned Christ because they did not recognize Him nor the scriptures which spoke of Him. If they had known God, they would have heard God through the scriptures. If they had heard God through the scriptures, they would have recognized Christ. Since they knew neither, they killed the very One sent to give them eternal life. The root problem was that they had no revelation in their hearts of God; therefore they did not recognize God in the scriptures, nor the Living Word before their very eyes.

We can use a natural illustration to see this more clearly. Suppose a person receives several letters. He sorts through them quickly to see who they are from. Some are from organizations, some are from casual friends, but one is a personal letter from the president of the company for which he works. Which will he open first, and which will receive immediate attention? It will be the one from the person he recognizes as having authority in his life and having something to say with direct bearing on his livelihood. All others will be treated in a secondary manner. So it is with God. If we recognize Him, and Christ as God in our lives, then His word will carry strong authority, and we will give it the most earnest heed. However, if we do not have a revelation of Christ in our hearts, His word will carry no authority in our lives and will not profit us, nor the purpose of God.

The first working of spiritual authority in a person's life, therefore, always involves some measure of revelation of the person and work of Christ. It is also a continuing work, for this revelation must grow if we are to grow in God. In these last days, God has spoken to us through His Son (Hebrews 1:2). As God reveals His Son to us, we find that he is also the Living Word to our hearts. For the word to profit in any way, it must be united with faith (Hebrews 4:2), which includes obedience. To the one who obeys the word, God becomes the source of eternal salvation, and in that salvation, God is known in reality.

If we can see clearly the importance of the authority of the Lord and His word in the life of the believer, it will clear away all of our questions concerning salvation and the lordship of Christ. There can be no separation of these two. Christ desires that all men be saved, but He cannot save anyone who will not submit to Him as Lord. Submission to God brings us into salvation. A supposed salvation that has not brought a man under the authority of Christ and His word (they are not separated) is not salvation at all, but a delusion. The distinction between these two has been created by men wanting to give comfort to those who desire assurance that everything is all right, but who have not received an assurance from God. God by the Holy Spirit is the only one who can give assurance of a right relationship with God, and He only gives it to the one who is rightly related to Him: that is, to one who has Christ as his Head and Lord.

There is only one God, and He must occupy the place of God or He does not occupy at all. God is not a God of compromise, and His salvation is not cheap. It is full and rich, with eternal blessings, but is only known by those who have recognized the authority vested in Christ and have submitted to that authority with an obedient heart and life.