Respect for Authority

(Timothy Loraditch) #1

We can see in the life of David that he respected God’s authority when he refused to kill Saul when he had an easy opportunity. 1 Samuel 26.

However; Jesus didn’t seem to pull any punches with the Pharisees. He called them a Brood of vipers and whitewashed sepulchres.

What can we conclude from these examples about how to respond to authorities over us?

(SeanO) #2

@tfloraditch Interesting question. King David was later rebuked by Nathan the prophet, so we see that prophets often rebuked those in authority. However, David himself was not a prophet, so he submitted to the authority God had appointed - Saul.

Even more so than Nathan, Jesus was God’s Son with prophetic authority to rebuke the misuse of authority of the Scribes and Pharisees. However, Jesus also told people to respect the Pharisees’ position in Moses’ seat, but not to imitate them because of their hypocrisy.

Matthew 23:1-4 - Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

We are told to respect governing authorities in Romans 13 and to honor Church leaders in I Thessalonians 5:12-22, with the qualifier that Church leaders living out what they preach (I Cor 11:1, Matt 7:15-20).

Does that help move the conversation forward a bit? Jesus’ was functioning in a prophetic role, whereas David was submitting to the appointed authority.

(Timothy Loraditch) #3

I think I would see the example of Nathan and Jesus as being very different. Nathan was confronting sin by speaking the words to David that God had given him. There was no name calling on the part of Nathan and no contempt. Nathan calls his sin for what it really is, and communicates God’s judgment but I don’t see it as challenging David’s authority.

Jesus however, certainly does challenge the authority of the Pharisees (an appointed authority) even in light of Matt 23:1-4. Certainly, Jesus has the authority to do so, but do we have the freedom to call our pastors a brood of vipers even if it were true?

Also, I don’t see the qualifier in the verses you listed.

1 Like
(SeanO) #4

@tfloraditch Do you believe Jesus was participating in name calling and showing contempt?

1 Like
(Timothy Loraditch) #5

Yes, I do. He used many names for them and labeled them hypocrites

(SeanO) #6

@tfloraditch The OT prophets used similar names for those who did what was wicked - including Israel. In fact, is not Jesus pretty much quoting Isaiah when He says they are a brood of vipers? Jeremiah said some things that were even more startling. So did Amos. So did Paul.

What do you make of these texts?

Isaiah 1:4 - Woe to the sinful nation,
a people whose guilt is great,
a brood of evildoers,
children given to corruption!
They have forsaken the Lord;
they have spurned the Holy One of Israel
and turned their backs on him.

Jeremiah 3:8 - I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery.

Amos 4:1 - Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria,
you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy
and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”

Galatians 5:12 - As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

1 Like
(Timothy Loraditch) #7

Those are good examples of name calling but a little different in that they are not challenging appointed authorities specifically like when Jesus called the Pharisees vipers and taught the people not to be like them.

I don’t think what Jesus did was wrong. I am examining the limits of our relationship to authorities, and how we are to communicate with them especially when they are wrong.

(SeanO) #8

@tfloraditch That is an interesting question :slight_smile: Are you think of Church authorities, government authorities or both? Do you have any sort of hypothetical situation in mind?

(Timothy Loraditch) #9

There are a lot of different authorities in our lives that we need to deal with. They also have authorities over them and the dynamic can create some difficult situations for all of us. Man’s systems tend to make things very complicated. Jesus tends to make things very simple. I’m looking for the simple answer.

Where is the line between respecting God’s appointed authority and questioning, challenging, and possibly condemning sin on the part of those God has put over us? I got a feeling there is a heart issue at the bottom of this.

(Sieglinde) #10

Forgive me if I am way off the mark on this conversation. I am trying to follow. What is the heart condition? Is it that the person who believes the authoritative figure is somehow corrupt, would hold back from confronting them because of some sin in their own life, past or present?

(Timothy Loraditch) #11

The topic is more general than that. Respect for authority is a common theme in Christianity but Jesus was pretty blunt with the Pharisees. How we respond to God’s appointed authorities is basically the question. Is maintaining a high level of respect the standard or as with Jesus is it appropriate to confront, accuse, or otherwise challenge authorities that are out of line with God’s word?

I was speculating that the heart condition of the confronter may be a vital key. Some people like to challenge authority and may err on the side of disrespect, while others may have too high a regard for leadership and would never question leadership.

(Donna) #12

Hello, I have read the conversation and would like to share my thoughts if I may. I think if we are disappointed by leaders who are teaching false doctrine, if we have a hope at all that they themselves are genuinely seeking after God but have adopted a false doctrine then simply having a conversation with them as a brother or sister in Christ and discussing the scriptures may be all that it takes. If the entire church body is on board with false doctrines, it may be time to find a new church.
I strongly recommend you get your hands on a copy of American (Christ Alone) Gospel. It could be the tool that you use to share the true gospel message to those in leadership you are concerned with. If the conversation was purely hypothetical, please take what you will :slight_smile:

1 Like
(Timothy Loraditch) #13

It is very much a hypothetical conversation. I am just trying to dig into the word and learn what I can about the differences that I see in the two examples. Respect vs confrontation. Conformity vs individual perspectives. What is Jesus teaching us about how the conflict should be managed within the church?

Most teachers lean toward respect, but most teachers are leaders who benefit from respect. Is it safe to assume that others within the local church will see things that the leadership will not? When they do, how does God want that walked out?

1 Like
(Phillip Walter Coetzee) #14

Continuing the discussion from Respect for Authority:

If I may, Paul came to this crossroads in his letter to the Galatians. In chapter 1 verse 10 he points out an interesting dynamic. It looks like if it happens that the truth of God suffers under the lie of another then it would be unfit for us to remain quiet for the sake of the authorities at hand, even if it is the president himself you are talking to. God’s truth is more than man’s opinion and should be viewed as absolute.

We also see in Acts 5:29 that God’s authority supercedes the authority of anyone on earth. When you are in a situation where your boss says you should commit fraud unknowingly, but the Holy Spirit says that you shouldn’t do that thing; what do you do?

Or let’s make it more complicated, the governing authorities decide everyone should get the mark of the beast but the scriptures say that we shouldn’t; what do we do? Because if we are to interpret in Roman’s 13 that all governing authorities are directly from God and that to deny them is like denying God himself; we have a big problem and an interestingly woven contradiction.

So by the guidance of the Holy Spirit in light of God’s word we should submit according to the will of God.
In the words of Peter, “It is better to do what God says than what man says.”

Also we must remember to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. We are as sheep in the midst of wolves as Jesus said.

1 Like
(Melvin Greene) #15

Interesting conversation. Thanks for raising this topic, @tfloraditch.

My take on this is that I think we have created a false dichotomy between respect and confrontation. It’s easy to put a negative spin on confrontation. We think we show disrespect to authority if we confront leaders who are acting in a way that tarnished the position they are occupying. We can be confrontational and still respect their position, or show them the respect due to all people. It’s the same principle when we have discussions with people who hold different beliefs. We can “argue” with someone with an opposing view and still show respect and love.

In the case where Jesus calls the Pharisees a brood of vipers, I believe Jesus was using hyperbole to expose their behaviors to the people. The Pharisees were abusing their authority that was entrusted to them. This is a very serious issue. People who have been given positions of authority have a heavy responsibility and they have to be very careful of their actions and motivations. I believe that God holds leaders, especially in His Church, to very high standards. People who seek these positions must do so with sober judgement and self-reflection.

(Timothy Loraditch) #16

@Melvin_Greene @Phillip The question is not whether we confront sin or not. It is more a question of HOW we confront leaders. Jesus was very direct and accusatory and spoke in a way that seriously undermined the authority of the Pharisees. Paul confronted Peter “to his face”. What does that mean?

Also to this point, in the discussion, we have assumed that the authority is in the wrong. Many times we assume leadership is wrong but there are significant details that we are not aware of. Certainly, it seems prudent to exercise a high level of humility in all conflicts within the church, but where is the place for harsh direct confrontation like Jesus used that risks undermining the authority given to others?

(Sieglinde) #17

I understand, thank you.
I asked because I just went through this with my church. I left because I did not believe the teaching was biblical. Before I left, I wrote a very respectful letter. I started with all the positives I had come away with from attending this church then segued into the reason I felt I needed to leave. In my case, the letter was very well received.

(Phillip Walter Coetzee) #18

I see what you mean. On the basis of harsh exhortation or even name-calling as we see Jesus did; you initially have to be sure that are not in the wrong concerning doctrine. Secondly I think the merits to rebuke someone as strongly as Jesus did are that firstly; he was actually talking to a specific group of pharisees and saduccees. These people perverted the way of salvation and the people’s understanding of who God is. They took unto themselves the duty of burdening people beyond what they can bear.
Secondly; they were the biggest hypocrites alive at the time (given the context) which is why they received the title “white sepulchers” and “brood of vipers” (this came from John the Baptist).

If you look at the characteristics of the names used; it can’t be seen as mere “name calling” because name calling as it is may be used for teasing as well as condemnation. Take a school playground into consideration. The titles that were assigned to these pharisees and scribes were based on rational truth and are not irrationally based on feelings.

So where can we do this? Anywhere where the authority is like these examples. But we should be aware of our hearts. Some people just want to harm people for the sake of harming them. This is nothing short of sadism and serves no purpose in defending the truth.

In conclusion; as Sean said these names were also citations from old testament texts. You can also look at the socio-cultural context of the day to further understand why these words were chosen. Given the scenario, they were described as being children of the devil in another place (John 8v44). Why is this? Because they lie in what they teach people and Satan is the Father of lies.

1 Like
(Kathleen) #19

I do wonder about the assumption that we often have (in hindsight) that everyone knew the Pharisees were hypocrites. I’m more inclined to think that most people were shocked that Jesus would have such strong words for them! I think it reflects the limits to which He (Jesus) had to go to get His point across to a group of men who were doing what they were convinced was the right thing. I also believe that in calling them out like that, He was actually loving them with His pointed rebuke. “Don’t be like them” was probably one of the last things people expected him to say.

In my own personal view, I find that when I name-call, it’s counter-productive and unhelpful to civil conversation esp. with leaders. But is it necessarily wrong? I am apt to think that there may be times when it’s warranted…like with Jesus.

I then wonder if name-calling was Jesus’ first tactic out of the gate with them. I recall it as something he did later in his interactions with them…?

(Kevin Hurst) #20

Hi @tfloraditch, just a few thoughts and maybe someone has a thought on this as well. I am always amazed at David’s response with Saul. He would not touch the Lord’s anointed even when Saul was trying to kill him. But David did confront Saul on what he was doing as I would understand it. 1 Samuel 24:9 is one example. David questions Saul on why he is believing what people are saying, that David is trying to kill him.
I Samuel 26:19,20 - Again David confronts Saul and asks him why he is trying to kill him. He did nothing wrong. Saul does admit that he was wrong.

I would say that David did confront Saul to his face. But one thing that I do appreciate about David in his dealing with Saul is that when he did eventually leave, he left alone. He didn’t try to get a big army on his side. I think this can happen sometimes when someone is unhappy with what their leader is doing. Try to turn everyone against the leader. Almost in the spirit of Korah which Jude 11 talks against.

What is also interesting to me is that David also faced somewhat of the same thing that Saul did with David. David was a young man that came along and got the hearts of the country and Saul became jealous and tried to kill him. David also faced this with Absolom. Absolom did gather an army to go against David, but David did not stand his ground like Saul. David left the city. Now he did fight later, but his response was not to try to hold onto his authority. He realized where his authority really came from. God gave it to him and God could also take it from him if He so desired.

I believe God has a way of dealing with bad leaders in our lives. He dealt with Saul. And maybe that bad leader is in my life to help me get prepared for the time when I am in a place leadership and am faced with an Absolom in my own life.
Can we make an appeal to them and even confront them with truth? I believe that is allowed by the Bible. But I am hesitant to try to overthrow them.

Paul also gives this admonition in 1 Timothy 5:19-2- 19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. (ESV)

1 Like