The Authority Structure Scale – part 16

Leadership, especially on the mission field requires a deep understanding of authority. Jesus did give the apostles authority, but not for everything. He did not give them authority to lead other people (Mark 3:14; 6:7). Jesus fully intends to lead every member of his church all by himself. Jesus is fully aware of where his Church is and what they are doing.

“He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”

(NIV, Matthew 10:1)

Jesus knows better than anyone else what needs to be done. Jesus left us very clear instructions and his apostles wrote them down so that we would all know exactly what he wanted. Even though he allows his authority to pass through blameless overseers, he is still completely in charge. He must be completely in charge in order to accomplish the will of the father.

Jesus came to accomplish two things: His ministry to become the propitiation for the sins of all mankind for the express purpose of their salvation and sanctification. And to prepare his disciples to take this good news as far as they possibly could. Giving glory, honor and praise to God comes as a result of accomplishing these two things. If we give glory honor and praise to God and no souls are being added into his kingdom, are we really accomplishing his will? If souls are being added and they are still leading like the world, is his will being accomplished? If souls are being added and they are sanctified by humbly serving one another, and these two things are not extending his message where it has not yet been taken, is his will being accomplished?

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”.

(NIV, Acts 1:8)

So then, he gives power to witness, not to lead.  Jesus does the leading, we do the witnessing. The power and authority are to do what was needed in order to spread the message, and not much more (Acts 2:42, 43; Acts 4:33; Acts 5:12).

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.

(NIV, Mark 16:15-19)

Jesus gives them the mandate, and then refers to the power that he would give them in that signs would accompany those who believe. Not just the apostles, but everyone who believes would (will) also have signs accompany their preaching. Signs would accompany them as confirmation that the message was true. His word was confirmed.

“Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it”.

(NIV, Mark 16:20)

His message is that he is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that he is to be believed in for salvation and sanctification (John 15:3). These are the primary things that need to be confirmed by signs, wonders and miracles. He did appoint apostles and other roles but he gave greater honor to the parts that lacked is so that no division would arise in the Church body worldwide (1 Corinthians 12:24, 25). The roles were to have equal concern for each other and to move together extending his message to the ends of the earth taking the lowly attitude of humble servants (Matthew 11:29).

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (NIV, Matthew 28:16-20).

Look closely at this passage. All authority in heaven and on earth was given to Jesus, not the apostles. All authority was given to Jesus and then the command was given to the disciples to go. The apostles were simply obeying instructions. They were simply being unworthy servants who were doing their duty (Luke 17:10). We modern Christians have a very different view of the apostle today. Usually, an apostle is someone at the top of the hierarchal chain of leadership. All others are below taking orders from him. This is incorrect and the apostle Paul calls it divisive. It divides the body when men are above one another. We are going to take a close look at this because it is so important. In the New Testament, the apostles made many statements about their ministries and themselves that we need to take into consideration when we try understand the role of an apostle or any other role for that matter. The letter of 1st Corinthians chapter 12 states that we are the body of Christ, and each one of us is a part (1 Corinthians 12:27). God has appointed first of all apostles (1 Corinthians 12:28). Do you remember what Jesus says to those who want to be first in the kingdom of God? (Mark 10:44) Whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. God appoints second of all prophets and thirdly teachers (1 Corinthians 12:28). However, God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. (1 Corinthians 12:24, 25). As soon as someone rises above another in worldly authority, the concern shifts from the servant to the one being served. Division will come in sooner or later when one other than Christ is being served.

I want to give you a very practical diagram to help explain authority in the kingdom of God. Imagine that all authority, worldly and spiritual, is found in the structure below and that it is a scale. We all start at zero when we are born again. Older believers will also have to start at zero if they are joining the body of Christ by faith for the first time. Everything above zero is the authority structure according to the world. To move upward on the scale, you have to become more important or powerful and thus are being served by others. Everything below zero is the authority structure in the spiritual kingdom of God. You have to become more humble and serve in order to descend lower on the scale and have more impact. The lower you go on the scale serving and humbling yourself, the greater impact you have. This lower scale goes contrary to all worldly authority structures.

The Authority Structure Scale: 10 to 10.
(Moving higher in the authority structure of the world, 10 being the highest).
0. Zero, where we all start when we are born again.
(Moving downward is the authority structure in the kingdom of God, 10 being the lowest but having more impact).

In the authority structure of the world, you are moving up vertically. This authority is gotten by worldly methods and attitudes. If you were to rise to a 10 above zero, you might be the president of an entire country or the head of a large corporation. In the authority structure of the kingdom, you are moving down vertically. If you were to get to level 10 you would be someone who has great impact in the kingdom and also by someone who has extended his kingdom bearing much fruit. You will probably also be one who Christ has used to heal and deliver the sick and afflicted. We all start at zero when we are born again. Our soul is born again anew (John 3:3) and we die to ourselves. We are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We begin at zero and start to serve. The first are the last, and the last are the first (Matthew 20:16; Mark 10:31). The more we take on the humble attitude that Christ is the real leader here, the greater we become in the kingdom of God. We move lower on the scale but gain greater impact. We move out of the way and God is exalted, glorified, and extended.

I will explain using a few practical examples. A young man gets saved and starts to attend a youth meeting. The meeting is over and he sees one person folding chairs. About a hundred other young people are chatting and having fun and one other young man is folding chairs. The new believer sees him doing the job alone and starts to help. He has no problem helping out and does it with a humble attitude. The simple act of serving moves the new believer down vertically to level one on the authority structure scale. He stays faithful folding chairs with joy for about a year until he is noticed by an elder who asks him to serve with the chairs in the elder’s meetings. The young man moves down to level two. His job folding chairs in the youth meeting is no more important than folding chairs in the elders meeting but his ministry of serving has expanded. Now the young man also has the opportunity to be around mature Christians and they see him and invite him to their homes for a meal.

Here is the opposite side of the practical example. Another young man comes to Christ about the same time as the first young man. He notices that the leaders of the youth group are exercising oversight of the youth and he desires to do that one day. He approaches the youth leaders and asks what he can do to become a leader one day. They tell him to fold chairs. So he starts folding chairs but doesn’t like the fact that the other youth are chatting and having fun and watching him fold chairs. However, he continues to do it because his goal is to be the leader someday. Soon he is left alone to fold chairs for the youth because the other young believer is now folding chairs for the elder’s meeting. Now he is in charge of folding chairs. In his mind, he has the title of chair folder for the youth. Other people come along to help and he refuses. He wants to do all the work himself so that he can move up the authority structure to be a leader. He starts to expand his ministry to cleaning gum off the chairs and cleaning the floors. This looks good to the youth leaders but an unhealthy attitude is growing inside the young man. He is becoming controlling and territorial. He is helping out more which can be seen as a good thing, but he is harsh with the youth group when they leave gum under the chairs and trash on the floors. Because of his faithfulness, he is eventually rewarded by the youth leaders and given more responsibility. Now he is also in charge of the sound system. They do not know that he has been harsh with the other youth about leaving gum under the chairs. He has moved up vertically to level three on the authority structure scale. He has more authority than before and more responsibility.

What do you think this young man’s attitude will be when he has moved vertically upward to a level five? He might have learned to hide his attitude of lording over others and after about five years eventually becomes one of the youth pastors. He is probably a good looking young man who knows how to speak publically and reads his Bible. The other young man that has a humble attitude has not been given more authority or responsibility quickly. He continues to serve in the elders meetings and gets to know more and more people who cover him in prayer and disciple him in their homes. He continues reading his New Testament and is asked to clean the elders meeting hall. He also asks if he can clean the toilets and offers to help out with small repairs. He even begins to do small tasks in the homes of the older believers that need help. After about five years the pastor of evangelism asks him to help him out developing the plan to evangelize part of the city. He is not the best looking young man and not a very good at speaking from the pulpit but knows how to serve in whatever is asked of him. When he takes initiative to do more it is seen as a good thing. In this practical example, one young man is moving up in authority and another young man is moving down in serving. One is increasing in his greatness in the world’s authority, another is increasing in his greatness in the kingdom of God. The second young man might have been helped if he had been watched more closely. If we promote recent convert, he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil (1 Timothy 3:6). The devil was condemned because he wanted to exalt himself. He wanted to take authority because he felt he deserved it. We can give responsibility to new converts but not authority. They are serving, not in charge of anything. The young man felt that he had authority to scold the other youth when they left their gum on the chairs and trash on the floors. He was not being a servant, he was in charge of the chairs and floors.

“So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God”.

(NIV, 1 Corinthians 4:1)

Apostles, as well as all the other roles in the Church, are just servants who are doing what they were told to do, nothing more. The more they do what they are told and serve, the more impact they have in kingdom extension. The more they recognize that they were given grace and mercy to serve, the more God exalts them, but not as the world does. He lowers them and gives them more impact, more authority of Christ is expressed through them because it is Christ and not them. They are out of the way. Christ is able to shine through because they have been lowered.

“Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.

(NIV, 1 Corinthians 4:6)

Remember that the young man who folded chairs expanded his ministry beyond what he was told to do. He was only told to fold chairs and soon he was doing more. The attitude was not seen by those overseeing his maturity but it was inside him.

“So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future–all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God”.

(NIV, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23)

Apollos had gone beyond what was written. He was doing things that no one told him to do. He began to take authority and control by adding to the simple task of serving. Because of this, he became conceited, taking pride in himself over Cephas, and thus began to draw men unto himself and away from Cephas. The brothers began to quarrel among themselves as to which man to follow (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Because of all this, they were disqualified to be advancing the kingdom because of their immaturity and pride. They were mere infants in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1). If you are not humble, you will not be exalted. And you will not be put into the lower position to serve having greater impact. And the ministerial gifts are serving gifts. They are gifts given to you as he determines. If you get a gift given to you and think that you are now special or more worthy, you disqualify yourself from using the gift. If you get a responsibility it is a gift. If you want leadership, you are disqualified. Want for nothing more than to serve the master in his explicit instructions to extend the message and build his body.

“For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”.

(NIV, 1 Corinthians 4:7)

They were boasting about things that were given as gifts, not because of who they were, or because of their education or their extensive experience. Boasting is mentioned several times between 1 Corinthians chapter one and six referring to this situation (1 Corinthians 1:23, 31; 3:21; 4:6-7). These men began to boast that the things they had done or the knowledge they possessed came from themselves. One was better than the other. Apollos was better than Cephas. They were moving upward in the authority structure and not downward.

God’s hierarchy of authority:

  1. – God the Father (Ephesians 4:6)
  2. – Jesus Christ the Messiah (1 Corinthians 15:28)
  3. – The Holy Spirit (John 14:26)
  4. -The body of Christ (brothers and sisters), including teachers, pastors, evangelists, prophets (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:12) and lastly apostles. (1 Corinthians 4:9-13).

All of these listed in number four are on the same level, and the degree of their impact depends on how low in the authority structure scale they are. Apostles are at the end of the list. Apostles are the last and the lowest on the authority structure scale. They are the servant slaves of the body of Christ. They do the most difficult work and are commonly unrecognized and treated poorly on this earth (1 Corinthians 4:9-13). Because they are the lowest here on earth, they will be exalted in heaven. The personal disciples of Christ will have the greater reward in heaven. Because apostles are the lowest they have a greater degree of impact. They serve and slave as aliens and strangers in this world, not counting their own life worth much for his sake. Those who aspire to this kind of life must remember that Christ knows how to reward his disciples. (Matthew 5:12; 16:27; Luke 6:35; Ephesians 6:8; Revelations 11:18; 21:14. Those who are vertically at the top of the 21 point authority structure do not understand true spiritual authority or leadership. They are very high in the world’s structure but not at all low in the spiritual kingdom of God.

“He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” (NIV, 1 Corinthians 1:28-31).

The ministerial gifts are mentioned in a few places in the New Testament. If we misunderstand authority we will misunderstand the ministerial gifts. The pastor is one example of a gift that is misunderstood. Today, the pastor does most of the work in today’s church setting. Read the following verses carefully and look for the reality and the role.

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”.

(NIV, Ephesians 4:1-9)

Paul is exhorting the brothers to be completely humble, which means one hundred percent humble. He says all these things before he explains the various ministerial gifts.

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work”.

(NIV, Ephesians 4:11-16)

The ministerial gifts (apostles prophets and evangelists), are to prepare the body (the rest of the saints) for the extension of the Gospel throughout the world. They are also given to do many logistical things so that the rest of the body is freed up to focus more time and energy on announcing the good news and discipling. Jesus taught his apostles over and over again that they were to do tasks as lowly servants. So much so, that they were actually waiting on tables after he had ascended. In verse twelve of Ephesians chapter, four Paul mentions that the ministerial gifts exist for the purpose to build up the body, not to place themselves over others. They also exist to create unity and greater knowledge of the son Jesus Christ. Maturity will come from their service to the body. Furthermore, the body will not be led away by worldly teaching and will also grow up into Christ who is the Head (with a capital H). Jesus holds the whole body together. Here we see the ministerial gifts mentioned, but they are surrounded by many other words that put them on the level they belong. The ministerial gifts are to be completely humble and blameless not lording Christ’s authority over one another.

The only authority we have was given to us for the extension of the message. Gifts do not represent authority. They are gifts that are given and they are all deliberately flattened down on the same level. When you are humbled, you are flat as a sheet of paper and God can pass over you. All gifts are flat and are on the same level. No gift is more important than any other. Some are lower in serving than others. But all are flat on level zero of the authority structure scale. No one, with or without a gift, requires more attitude of humility and serving than others do. However, we are all in a process of sanctification and therefore we all start at zero and are humbled lower and lower on the authority structure scale. There are two kinds of humbling and discipline; self-applied and God-applied. You can humble yourself, or God can humble you. Christ’s authority is so much greater than the entire body, all of the saints, including the ministerial gifts, that we all should bow before him and worship him as the supreme King who is high above all other kings. We are all laid flat (prostrate) before him and are latterly unworthy servants before him. We are all the servants, he is the master. Satan tempted Christ with all the kingdoms of the world. He could have had all worldly authority over them but he told Satan, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only” (Matthew 4:10). And for this attitude and his sacrifice on the Cross, Jesus was made King of kings (capital K).