Why We Have Not Fulfilled The Great Commission – part 12

Leadership is: submitting to one another. Submitting to one another will cause an even deeper death to self. Submission is a necessary action for everyone in the body of Christ, especially those who call themselves leaders. Christ did not allow men to exercise leadership over one another because he is completely sufficient to provide all the leadership that we need. He did not give men authority over one another because it was not necessary to fulfill his goal.

This is the middle article of the 25 part series on Christian Leadership for Missions. There will be some rebuking for the purpose of correcting in this article. I will summarize the first 11 articles a bit which is necessary. I write these things in love of all my brothers and sisters in the world who are involved in Christian leadership for missions.

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

The leadership that Christ allowed men to have was something totally different than what we see around us today. It comes through humble submission. Jesus Christ does not need other men and women involved in exercising authority in his body (being worldly Christian leaders) because he is omnipotent omniscient and omnipresent. He is everywhere through the Holy Spirit. All we are to do is to submit to him and this includes submitting one another. Once again, a death is going to happen. A death is necessary in order to submit to him and to others. How do we submit to others? We need to do what others ask or tell us to do.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (NIV, Ephesians 5:21). “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ”. (New Revised Standard Version Bible)

The God’s Word® Translation states “Place yourselves under each other’s authority out of respect for Christ.” We are to submit to others because we have deep respect, high esteem, high regard, admiration, and appreciation for Christ. If I understand who Christ is, I will understand that I am no were near his stature. Also, I will understand that I am on the same level as all others when compared to him. This would mean that we are all leveled in authority. Christ never intended for the disciples to be in positions of leadership over one another. They were to be led by one head and submit to one another as equals. Roles were given to them, but they were roles only and not levels of hierarchical authority. The purpose of roles (or gifts in New Testament terminology) is to complete the goals of God efficiently and in a speedy manner. One role is not more authoritative than the other it is just different. The more impact the role has, the lower the individual operating in that role has to be in his own estimation. You need to understand this: all roles are equal so that there will be no division (1 Corinthians 12:24, 25). If one role has more authority than another, there will be division. If we will just obey the teaching of Christ and the apostles in the New Testament, we will come into unity, Christ will lead us and because of him, there will be no divisions. If you see division, someone thinks he has the authority. So here is where we all must begin. It begins by doing what you are told to do, every time.

In order to be part of his body, you must be in complete submission every day of the year. You must be submissive to all authority, especially his authority. Imagine for a moment a world where everyone is in submission to Christ’s authority. All members of Christ’s body have all the authority that is in Christ and it is because of this that we must submit to one another. If my brother has all authority in Christ, then I must submit to him. I must submit to him out of reverence for Christ. If all disciples are brothers (Matthew 23:8), then we are not in authority over one another, but we are equaled through being in Christ in authority and therefore are in his authority with one another. We must be submissive to one another because we are all part of his body. None of us brothers are higher than the other so that there will be no division among us. All brothers are submitted to the one main leader which is a humbling thing that places us all on the same level.

To submit is to accept or yield to a superior force or to the authority or will of another person. Jesus Christ is a person. Submission to Christ and to one another is the key to all true spiritual power and authority. Once you have true spiritual power and authority, it is not for you or to gather a following but to extend the Gospel to where it has not been taken before.

Christian leadership can be summed in these statements:

It is the entire body of believers in submission to Christ, thus they are in submission to one another. It is the entire body of Christ in submission to one another and by doing so, is also in submission to Christ. As they selflessly submit or subject themselves to one another being under the other, they are in submission to Christ. As they selflessly submit themselves to Christ, they are automatically in submission to one another. You could say that all Christians are being led by Christ and we are leading each other through Christ because of it. Effectually, Christ is doing all the leading. No Christian is over another in this reality, Christ is over us all. He is one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:6). He is so much higher than anyone else, that human leadership is nullified. Our human ability to lead is dwarfed by Christ’s high position and ultimate authority.

Another major point is that we must walk in love. Christ’s command is to love each other and lay our desires and even our lives down for one another. We must love one another deeply, from the heart. It is not asked but commanded (John 13:34; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11; 4:7). If I can just resolve myself to do what you say, I am also submitting to Christ and therefore am part of the body that is now able to guide you, if you ask for it. And you will ask for it because you too are in submission to Christ. I would always be guiding you toward Christ because to guide you anywhere else would not be love. If I am in submission to Christ it is because I love him. If I am in submission to my brother, it is because I love him. If we love him, we will submit, and if we love each other we will submit to each other. Love is submission and submission is love. Love is not a warm fuzzy feeling or a personal liking. Love is action. Love is the sacrificial action of putting others’ interests over your own. This kind of love is called agape. There are different words for love in the New Testament: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē but I am referring to the agape kind of love here.

Sacrifical love will be needed to do what others tell you to do.

Don’t argue, don’t question, don’t wonder how it will make you look. Just obey, submit and lay your own wants and desires down to accomplish those of others. Do this even if they are not submitting to what you want, ask, or need. That is sacrificial love. You have to sow sacrificial love, without expecting anything in return for about a year before you see fruit. What is the fruit? It is not getting what you want, it is not leading others. The fruit is: God’s kingdom is extending.

“Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

(NIV, Philippians 2:2-11)

He is so great, that all of us bow to him, no matter how much we have learned or accomplished. He is so high that we brothers and sisters are all leveled equally on the same plane. Of course, you should not submit to someone if they ask you to sin. Nor do you have to submit to the enemies of the cross, those calling themselves Christians but who are blatantly living in sin (1 Corinthians 5:11-13). If my brother sins, I have the loving obligation to rebuke or confront him and let him know that he is in error (Luke 17:3; 1 Timothy 5:20). We are watching out for one another out of our submission to Christ’s command to love one another. Rebuking is what you might call “tough love” today. If you love your fellow man you have fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8). The law is fulfilled in this command (Matthew 19:19; 22:38-40; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). If you want to submit, it must be because you are sacrificing your own will to act according to the will of another. This is humbling, especially when you don’t want to do it. It is even more humbling when you don’t agree with the other person. The reality is that most of the time you will probably not want to do it or you will not be in agreement with the other person. This is where the love becomes sacrificial. Christ humbled himself to the will of God and went to the cross. He didn’t want to do it. He forced himself to agree with it which lead to action. Then, he humbled himself and was exalted.

Therefore, if you want to be exalted you must humble yourself (Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; 18:14). But if you want to be exalted for the wrong reasons, humility is not in you and you are not likely to get what you want, much less extend the kingdom of God. We must only humble ourselves not thinking if we are going to be exalted or not. Jesus didn’t give us the option to humble ourselves nor did he give us the option to love one another. They are commanded of us. We also do not have the option to disagree with one another. We have to agree with one another if we are to be in submission (1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 4:2). If we will just humble ourselves, love each other sacrificially, and agree, we will be in submission to everyone, Christ included and there will be no division among us. What is more important, having division among us, or learning to agree with everyone’s point of view in order that we are perfectly united in mind and thought.

What Is Division? There is no doubt that the body of Christ is divided. Does this division come from Christ? Does it exist because we are all in submission to one another, loving one another deeply from the heart? Certainly not. The reason that division exists is because we have allowed it. We have allowed it because we are proud. We are arrogant because we have allowed the enemy to dupe us. If we are proud, we really do not understand who Jesus Christ is. God opposes the proud and this is why we have not fulfilled the great commission. He is resisting us — opposing us in our endeavors to fulfill the great commission. We are divided and weak because of selfish pride.

5 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

1 Peter 5:5-6

We have allowed ourselves the right to disagree with our brother. Therefore we are the cause of our own division. Christ is not divided, we are. We are divided because we refuse to submit ourselves to one another out of reverence to Christ. We refuse to serve one another and humble ourselves. We want to exercise our perceived authority over others and lord it over them. It is written that we must humble, submit, love, and sacrifice ourselves for others. When we take pride in one man over another, we go beyond what is written and we do not consider all brothers as servants of Christ: one is the servant, the other is being served. We serve a man by having pride in that man over another, and his ego was served by us taking pride in him over another man.

“So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. 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. 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? Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings–and that without us!”.

(1 Corinthians 4:1-8 NRSV)

If one man is different than another, then he can take pride in himself because of the fact that he is different. He is above the other man. If one man got knowledge, power, prestige, and experience on his own, then he did not receive it but earned it on his own. He has a right to boast. Boasting is not humbling. If you exalt yourself you will be humbled. If you exalt your name over others, you will become famous and be admired by men, but you will lose your position as a servant and any true power to advance his spiritual kingdom.

“Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?”.

(1 Corinthians 1:13)

It is a sin that the body of Christ is divided. You must know that it is not the spirit of Christ nor are we (his body) advancing the great commission of Christ when we are divided. We are not supposed to be divided. Division comes from our sin.

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come”.

(Mark 3:24-26 NRSV)

But Satan doesn’t oppose himself, he knows better than to do that. The Christian movement is deceived to the point that we actually think that all the division is normal. Jesus is telling us that his kingdom should not be divided. It cannot be divided or it will not stand. Let’s look at the definition of division. 1. The action of separating something into parts, or the process of being separated. Synonyms: dividing (up), breaking up, breakup, splitting; 2. Disagreement between two or more groups, typically producing tension or hostility. “A growing sense of division between north and south.” Synonyms: disunity, disunion, conflict, discord, disagreement, dissension, disaffection, estrangement, alienation, isolation, “the causes of social division”.

When one man is better than the other, he separates himself and his followers from the other man. He separates because he is better than man. The other brothers and sisters now have to choose to follow one over the other. They take pride in one against the other. And because they have chosen the better man to follow, they too are better than those who stayed with the inferior man. As time passes, the brothers who were separated into one of the two groups also find that they are not in agreement with each other. They begin to argue and divide into two other different groups. Now you have three groups that are divided. All this happened because they could not submit themselves to one another’s ideas and ways of doing things. This same process happens over and over again until we have thousands of different denominations, movements, and doctrines that divide us. The body of Christ is in disagreement on countless issues. There are an estimated 33,000 Christian denominations worldwide. There are nine hundred English translations of the Bible along with millions of other Christian books. The Church couldn’t be more divided, or could it? New movements and independent churches are born every month. Division is so common that we don’t even recognize that is it is a problem anymore.

So why does all this division exist? Let’s start with a look at the denominations. What is a denomination? A denomination in Christianity is a distinct religious body identified by traits such as a common name, structure, leadership, and doctrine. Individual bodies, however, may use alternative terms to describe themselves, such as “church movements” or sometimes “a fellowship of churches”. The divisions between different denominations and church movements are caused by differences in doctrine, or church authority. Larger divisions have occurred from disputes over the authority of apostolic succession, eschatology, and papal primacy. These have separated the Christian religion into several major distinct “branches”. Branches is a nice word for the division. Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism are all severely divided against one another, and yet oddly, we all believe in the same messiah. Most of these major divisions occurred because they placed the original apostles above the body using a worldly hierarchical form of leadership, not as servants of the body below the body. Roman Catholicism places Peter in direct apostolic succession after Christ. Once the church began to expand into the east where Latin was not understood, other bodies of Christians developed their hierarchical leadership systems. In 1054, the Roman successor to Christ, Pope Leo IX excommunicated the Patriarch Michael Cerularius and visa-versa. They were divided over the same things that the church is divided over today; who is truly in charge, what kind of bread to use during communion, and the nature of Christ. Instead of focusing on what Christ told us to do, we focus on the theology about his divine and human nature. Positionally we are still forgiven, saved, redeemed, and sanctified in Christ through his work. Why argue over his nature when we could be spreading the message? We should be out there telling others the good news, Jesus is risen and is the messiah! But we are inside the walls of the church arguing over petty disagreements. That is where the enemy wants us to be. It is also where those who preach the gospel for worldly gain. They are those who have an interest to keep us near so that the change falls out of our pockets and into their coffers. There is a difference in preaching the Gospel for your keep and preaching the Gospel for a profit. Take a close look at the New Testament. You will find teaching from Christ and the apostles was against the preaching of the Gospel for financial gain (2 Corinthians 2:17; 1 Timothy 6:3-5).

The fact is that we are divided. However, some actually believe in denominationalism, claiming that some or all Christian groups are legitimate churches of the same religion regardless of their distinguishing labels, beliefs, and practices. If this is true, why is there so much disunity, conflict, and disagreement? Why don’t we go to the other denominations barbeque? Are we not all Christian brothers and sisters working for the same God? If we are all sanctified, why aren’t we busy telling others about it? According to the New Testament, your sanctification is taken care of (Romans 6:22; Ephesians 2:6-9). So why are there so many churches in competition for your attendance? And the thousands of unreached people groups around the world are the evidence of our error.

“He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

(NRSV, 1 Corinthians 1:30)

Not only is your sanctifications taken care of, your redemption is taken care of as well. When men and their worldly leadership models get in the middle, they will need to keep you coming back to them and their church buildings and formulas because they are telling you that you are not sanctified enough. They are selling you something and you will need to look to them (or their specific doctrine) for the answer. One denomination is better than the other because their man has an answer that the other denomination’s man does not. However, your name is written in THE Lamb’s book of life, isn’t it? Do you need anything more? You are seated with THE Christ positionally in heaven by his grace, mercy, forgiveness, and cleansing (Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 3:1). He has done it all for you. Your holiness and sanctification have been taken care of. The defects you still see are like leaves on a tree. When you turn to Christ, he lays an ax at the roots and the tree is literally dead. There are still leaves that are green in the top of the tree but the tree is dead. The bottom leaves begin to fall off first, but the leaves highest in the tree fall off much later. You died (past tense) when you were crucified with Christ (past tense), and you no longer live (present tense). The life you live in the body (present tense) you live by faith in the son God who loved you and gave himself for you (Galatians 2:16, 19).

Take heart, repent and let’s move on.