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Old 12-07-2016, 05:44 PM   #1
Evangelical
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Default Delegated Authority -what many Christians today do not understand

Few Christians would disobey a direct command from God. However many Christians disobey God's delegated commands, by not recognizing a delegated command when it happens.

Delegated authority is God exercising his authority through persons who represent Him to exercise His authority. Modern society and Christianity has thrown away this concept almost entirely.

While the Bible speaks about God speaking to us directly, through dreams, visions, angels and the inward speaking, many ignore God's indirect speaking through delegated authority.

Examples of delegated authorities are church elders, teachers, government officials, police, parents, husbands etc.

Romans 13:1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities

1 Peter 2:13 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human authority

Eph 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

Eph 6:1 Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right

Many Christians have a wrong concept of delegated authority in the church. They believe that if they go to one denomination, the pastor or priest is the authority and submission to them is equivalent to submission to God. If they go to another denomination they likewise will submit to the pastor or priest.

However this is not what it seems. This is because the leaders of denominations are (usually) employed by and represent the denominational organization. They have acquired organizational authority by receiving the required qualifications (theological degree for example) and by being appointed to the position. They bear the name of the denomination and carry organizational authority, not genuine delegated authority from God. Also, a leader in one organization has no authority in another organization. The Pope holds no authority in a Lutheran church, for example (and vice versa), so the Pope's authority is merely organizational and not spiritual. Paul, however, had spiritual authority in all the churches - this is a reason why all Christians today take Paul's writings as authoritative, regardless of organizational affiliation.

One Christian might go to one denomination which permits certain things, but in another church it is prohibited. Both cannot be God's delegated authorities because they both say different things. The apostle Paul did not give different rules to each church - he said
1 Cor 7:17 "This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.".

Today, most Christians understand delegated authority to be based upon theological qualification and appointment to position within an organization. They believe that praying and asking God to bless their organizational appointment means that they automatically receive God's blessing and delegated authority. This idea probably comes from past history where there was no real distinction between political organizations, monarchies and the church. For example in the Anglican organization, the Queen of England was seen to have God's delegated authority over the church of England not just her country. However in the New Testament God's delegated authority in the church and the delegated authorities in the world (possibly non-Christian e.g. pagan) were distinct.

Denominations which have stemmed from the religio-political organizations such as Catholic and Anglican, have continued this idea of one ruler over both the organization and the church. The same model is also used in denominations which may look nothing like Catholic or Anglican, yet follow the same principles. For example, certain pentecostal denominations are more like commercial organizations or businesses that hold church services as a means to provide income and status. The leaders or presidents (as they are often called) of the organization often assumes the role of church leader as well. They exercise the organization's delegated authority to fire and hire pastors etc.

The bible reveals God's delegated authority in the church being exercised in an organic way not an organizational way. We can see this in the example of how God gave delegated authority to the apostle Paul. Paul's first encounter with the Lord was directly. Acts 22:10 ""'What shall I do, Lord?' I asked. " 'Get up,' the Lord said, 'and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.'"

At this point, God reverted authority to His chosen delegated authority in Ananias:

Acts 22:12 "A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there."

Paul submitted to God's delegated authority by submitting to Ananias. [Remark: If it happened today, Paul would probably have demanded to see Ananias's theological qualification and appointment as a "reverend" before being baptized. ]

Paul then leaves the delegated authority with Ananias and God's direct speaking comes to Paul again in verse 18:

Acts 22:18 and saw the Lord speaking to me. 'Quick!' he said. 'Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.'

In this example we can see the interplay between God's direct authority and God's delegated authority. One often follows the other. First God's direct speaking, then the delegated speaking, then direct speaking, then the delegated speaking again. We have to learn not only to listen to God's direct speaking abut also His delegated authority. If we are obeying rightly the two should match up. It is unhealthy to rely upon either authority to the detriment of the other - there must be balance. Paul did not demand that God restore his vision through a direct miracle, Paul followed God's instructions and submitted to Ananias. Neither did Paul follow Ananias just because God chose Ananias to restore Paul's sight- he followed the Spirit's leading.

God's delegated authority was the person God chose to use in that moment to minister to Paul. In Paul's case it was Ananias. It does not mean that Ananias was "the delegated authority" and all converts had to go through him. There were no permanent, organizational authorities unlike in the denominations today. Ananias was not a specially qualified person according to an organization. His qualification came from God - "a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews".

Another aspect to this is the relationship between the direct and delegated authority. If we disregard God's direct speaking or the delegated authority, it is equivalent to disregarding the other. We cannot presume to obey God's direct speaking only while disobeying the delegated authorities, whether they be church elders or policepersons. This is typical of churches that emphasize individual responsibility and personal relationship with God. Likewise, we cannot presume to obey God by obeying the delegated authorities only and not following God's direct speaking. This is typical of those in the traditional churches with very strong heirarchy - Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran etc. This is because both authority comes from God.
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Old 12-07-2016, 07:19 PM   #2
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Default Re: Delegated Authority -what many Christians today do not understand

I don’t intend to speak for others, but I think it raises a lot of eyebrows when there is talk of delegated authority. That’s not to say that anyone here would deny that so-called “delegated authority” can or does exist, it’s just that I don’t think it’s something that we need to concern ourselves with. In order to function in society and be an upstanding citizen, the ability to submit to the proper authorities is already a prerequisite. Obviously people fail in regards to submitting to now and then, but as it pertains to submission, the whole narrative of a ‘lawless’ society/Christians is the figment of someone’s imagination. It’s not a problem that the average person deals with, it is a strawman problem used to construct an alternative authority structure to what God already has in place.

Unless a church is in serious disarray, it can be reasonably assumed that members recognize and submit to the authority structure in place. That’s not because anyone told them to. It’s because they recognized that God has arranged things that way. This is why it raises red flags for so many of us when people start talking about delegated authority. Why must it be assumed that the current state is insufficient? Why is it assumed that the lack of explicit submission to a certain person indicates ‘lawlessness’?

In the examples that you provided with Paul, I don’t deny that they could be examples of submitting to authority, but I would ask how we can be so sure that these examples have meaning for us outside the specific situation? I don’t have that assurance, so I could not apply them as universal principles. In fact, the NT doesn’t say all that much about identifying and submitting to an authority, so I don’t think such a process is all that important. In the course of our Christians lives, we generally automatically recognize those people who are put over us and that submission comes naturally, without even thinking about it, whether it be a church elder, pastor, etc. It’s when someone claims they must be submitted to, that they are God’s delegated authority, that’s when the problems start.
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Old 12-07-2016, 08:52 PM   #3
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Default Re: Delegated Authority -what many Christians today do not understand

It is most likely that those who say "I am God's delegated authority" are not.
This is because delegated authority is organic and not positional. A delegated authority may not even be aware that God is using them as such.

A person can be a delegated authority not because of their position but because of them receiving direct authority from God. This authority may be long-lasting or it may be for a particular point in time for a particular situation. It lasts for as long as God chooses to use the person.

Example:

Ananias was a disciple, of no particular importance compared to the apostle Paul, but nonetheless an outstanding disciple and well respected.

At the time when Paul received direct instruction from God, God was also giving direct instruction to Ananias. So when Paul and Ananias met, they did not say to each other "who are you and what are you doing here?".

What the example of Ananias shows us is that a delegated authority is one who themselves has received direct authority from God. A delegated authority is not one who is speaking on their own behalf just because they are in the position of a delegated authority. If they did that, it would be their own authority not God's.

The concept of many Christians is that a pastor or priest or elder is to be obeyed because they are a pastor or priest or elder. But the bible shows us that a person is to be obeyed if they have received direct authority from God. That person may not necessarily be a church leader. It could be our bible study leader, or it could be another Christian in the room. It could be the person that sweeps the floors.
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Old 12-11-2016, 05:28 PM   #4
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Default Re: Delegated Authority -what many Christians today do not understand

Quote:
Originally Posted by Evangelical View Post
Ananias was a disciple, of no particular importance compared to the apostle Paul, but nonetheless an outstanding disciple and well respected.

At the time when Paul received direct instruction from God, God was also giving direct instruction to Ananias. So when Paul and Ananias met, they did not say to each other "who are you and what are you doing here?".

What the example of Ananias shows us is that a delegated authority is one who themselves has received direct authority from God. A delegated authority is not one who is speaking on their own behalf just because they are in the position of a delegated authority. If they did that, it would be their own authority not God's.
As you pointed out, Paul and Ananias were each spoken to by the Lord before they met. The situation was prearranged, and while I don't think the situation was anything related to 'authority', I do think that the basis of the interaction was direct speaking from God to each person. In other words, if God had only spoken to one person, it wouldn't have been possible for the interaction to take place.

So this is where I take issue with the notion of God 'delegating' authority. If God happened to tell one person that they have been 'deputized', how would anyone else know it? They would just hear someone making a certain claim, and would have no reason to believe the claim.

I can't say that I've ever experienced or known anyone who had an experience of God telling them to submit to a certain person as well as God simultaneously telling the 'authority' that others must submit to them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Evangelical View Post
The concept of many Christians is that a pastor or priest or elder is to be obeyed because they are a pastor or priest or elder. But the bible shows us that a person is to be obeyed if they have received direct authority from God. That person may not necessarily be a church leader. It could be our bible study leader, or it could be another Christian in the room. It could be the person that sweeps the floors.
Pastors, priests and elders have authority because they are leading others. There has to be some kind of order in the church, and that necessitates a certain amount of authority over others. I wouldn't say that the Lord grants the authority explicitly, the authority is part of being a leader. God calls certain people to lead in the church and those who have been called to do so take on various responsibilities and roles, including having authority.
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Old 12-11-2016, 05:44 PM   #5
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Default Re: Delegated Authority -what many Christians today do not understand

In the New Testament, both apostles and elders were chosen via direct revelation from God sometimes via prophets. Not an individualistic revelation (e.g." I had a cool dream last night about unicorns, I think God wants me to be a missionary in Africa" but a revelation given to all concerned, seeming right to them and to God.
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Old 12-13-2016, 07:39 PM   #6
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Default Re: Delegated Authority -what many Christians today do not understand

Quote:
Originally Posted by Evangelical View Post
In the New Testament, both apostles and elders were chosen via direct revelation from God sometimes via prophets. Not an individualistic revelation (e.g." I had a cool dream last night about unicorns, I think God wants me to be a missionary in Africa" but a revelation given to all concerned, seeming right to them and to God.
I think the recovery cliché "he who has the life has the authority" has some merit if you substitute agape love for life.
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