by Raymond E. Ashmore, D.Min., Imparting Life Ministries
True spiritual authority is expressed as the Holy Spirit exercises Christ’s Lordship through designated leaders. There is a difference between an Authority and an instrument of that authority. Authority is resident in Jesus Christ and His Spirit, yet exercised through chosen human vessels. This manifestation of authority is God’s alone, imparted through His leaders but not infused into them, as if, in themselves they were little gods, superior over others.
Spiritual authority is vertical only in the sense that Jesus Christ is above all things. But authority is not vertical in the sense that one human instrument is above another. Authority is not a hierarchical, institutional position of superiority. Authority is organic. For example, my brain has a certain created authority and control over the rest of my body. That control is exercised by coordinating body parts to function as a united whole, for the good of the whole body. Yet, while my brain may have a certain functional control over the rest of my body, it is not superior to my body’s other organs. Without the other body parts, my brain’s authority and control would be of no effect. The heart needs the brain’s control in order to function correctly. But if the heart does not pump blood to the brain, the brain dies, and its “authority” dies with it. As Wolfgang Simson wrote, “In the Kingdom, seniority does not turn into positional hierarchy, but into relational maturity and wisdom.”
Changing metaphors, kingdom elders were and are the foundation for the kingdom of God on earth. But a foundation does not have inherent authority over the rest of the building. Yes, a building rests upon its foundation, but the foundation has no useful purpose unless a house is erected upon it. The Contractor-in-Chief is the one who carries and exercises authority, as the house He designed is constructed and used as a dwelling place for its Inhabitant, Jesus Christ.
Another point: Christ’s authority is manifested through His chosen instruments in servanthood, to God first, and to others as God leads. This authority, exercised through Christ’s servants, does not demand obedience to the leadership’s fleshly whims or desires for control. Instead, leaders may insist on obedience at times. But that obedience is only a call to the will of the King of Kings and His written word.
The practical outworkings of leadership in our space-time continuum varies with particular leaders and their commitments to the Lord’s will. Chris Anderson, wrote this: “God Himself has to prove and mediate in order to bring about legitimate unity in an authority context.”
As far as ecclesiastical hierarchy, under no circumstances should servants of God be considered “clergy,” as if there were a clergy/laity distinction, that is, different levels of superiority and class among the people of God. Leaders are to submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit and be mutually submitted to one another under the Lordship of Christ when called together as a team or to complementary or overlapping ministries.