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Church Authority

Over the years in church I have seen a great deal of debate over the topic of church authority. Is it right for people to have authority over other people in the church context? Is a paid priest/minister Biblically sound? What Biblical instruction is given on this topic? These are my personal Bible study notes on the topic.

Christ Is Head Over Church

Matthew 16:18
John 10:7-16
1 Corinthians 11:3; 12:12,27
Ephesians 1:20-23; 4:12,15-16
Ephesians 2:19-22 Christ is chief cornerstone of the living temple of God.
Ephesians 5:22-33 Husband-wife relationship is like Christ and the church.
Colossians 1:18,24
1 Corinthians 1:10-13 Have unity under Jesus Christ, not division following various human leaders.
1 Peter 5:4 Jesus is the "chief shepherd".

God Ordains Authority

Exodus 3,4 God ordains Moses, though Moses didn't want the job. Aaron also ordained.
Exodus 18:12-26 Moses appointed judges over Israel, following Jethro’s advice. (But in verse 23, Jethro gave the caveat that his counsel needed God’s approval.)
Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20 Parental authority; respect to parents.
Exodus 27:20-21; 28:1-3,40-43; Leviticus 8; 9 Aaron and his descendants appointed as priests.
Numbers 8:23-26 Levites aged 25-50 serve in temple. Older Levites mentor the younger ones.
Numbers 11:16-17 Seventy elders of Israel appointed to lead the people and to help Moses.
Numbers 17 Aaron's rod budded after the rebellion of Korah.
Numbers 27:17 Moses asked God to provide another leader for the people after him.
Deuteronomy 1:12-17 Ordaining judges of Israel.
Deuteronomy 1:17 "the judgment is God's". 2 Chronicles 19:6 "you do not judge for man but for God, who is with you in the judgment."
Deuteronomy 16:18-20 Appoint judges in Israel.
Deuteronomy 17:2-7 Community responsible to judge evil (presumably judges described in previous chapter). Inquire diligently. Death penalty on testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses. Witnesses must be first in stoning.
Deuteronomy 17:8-13 Authority of priests to judge. People had to respect the priest's decision.
Deuteronomy 17:14-20 King to rule Israel. (1 Samuel 8 is when the people ask for a king when Samuel is old.)
Deuteronomy 31:7-8,14,23; 34:9; Joshua 1:16-18 Joshua was ordained and respected leader after Moses.
Deuteronomy 34 Moses died and the people mourned for him. There has been no leader like him since.
Psalm 78:70-72 David chosen to shepherd Israel with "integrity of heart and skillfulness of hands".
Nehemiah 8:1-8 Priests and elders helped explain God's word.
Matthew 9:35-38 Jesus saw the people like sheep without a shepherd. Pray for God to send out workers into the spiritual harvest.
Matthew 16:18-19; 18:16-18 Peter and apostles: Bind and loose. (see also John 20:23)
Matthew 18:19-20 Jesus Christ's backing of deliberations in harmony with Him -- "in My name".
Matthew 23:1-3 The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore do what they say (but don't do according to their works). It is remarkable considering the rest of the chapter.
Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:4-8 Apostles' commission.
John 4:34-38 Jesus sent the disciples to reap God's spiritual harvest. Matthew 9:37-38
John 20:21-23 Apostles' Commission. Authority to forgive or retain sins. (see also Matthew 16:19)
John 21:15-19 Peter's commission: feed God's sheep.
Acts 1:15-26 Matthias selected to replace Judas, by combination of human selection and lots.
Acts 6:1-6 Seven chosen to serve practically. Laying on of hands.
Acts 9 The calling of Saul of Tarsus to be Paul the apostle.
Acts 13:1-3 Barnabas and Paul appointed by Holy Spirit.
Acts 20:28 Holy Spirit appoints overseers, shepherds.
Romans 3:1-2 The oracles of God were committed to the Jews.
1 Corinthians 3:5-11 Ministers are God's workers.
1 Corinthians 5:4-5 Authority of the church collective (ekklesia).
Romans 12:4-8 God has appointed a range of gifts and functions in the body.
1 Corinthians 12:7-11,28 Apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healings... v.11,18,28 given "as He wills". 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 one body, many members.
1 Corinthians 14:34-36; 1 Timothy 2:11-15 Men (rather than women) appointed to authority and speaking roles in church.
2 Corinthians 13:10 God gave authority (for edification not destruction).
Galatians 1:1 Paul was an apostle through Jesus Christ and God the Father, not through man.
Ephesians 4:11 Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers...
Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19 Husband authority.
1 Timothy 1:1,12; 2:7 Paul was appointed a preacher and apostle, to Gentiles, in faith and truth.
1 Timothy 3:1-13 Qualifications for good leaders. It's a noble work to serve God's people.
1 Timothy 4:6 Timothy urged to instruct the brethren, thus be a good minister of Jesus Christ.
1 Timothy 4:16 Timothy's faithful service has potential to "save" self and hearers.
1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9 Qualifications of overseers.
Timothy and Titus were appointed by Paul to minister to the churches. They were commanded to in turn appoint suitable overseers/elders.

Respect Those in Authority

Exodus 22:28 Don't curse a ruler of the people.
Joshua 1:16-18 Joshua was respected as was Moses.
1 Samuel 24; 26; 2 Samuel 1:1-16 King David respected King Saul as God's anointed, despite Saul being rejected by God and David knew he was destined to take Saul's place.
Ecclesiastes 8:2-6 Obey the king's command with wisdom.
Ecclesiastes 10:4 Serve faithfully even if the ruler is against you. Ride it out patiently and work for conciliation.
Matthew 23:1-3 Respect what the scribes and Pharisees tell you, even though they themselves are hypocrites.
Acts 23:5 Paul showed respect to the high priest, even though he was corrupt. Paul quoted Exodus 22:28.
Romans 12:3 Don't think of ourselves too highly (in context of roles in spiritual body).
1 Corinthians 14:29 Listen respectfully and carefully weigh what is said (in the context of speaking in church).
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 Recognise those who labour among you.
Colossians 4:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2; Hebrews 13:18-19 Pray for the furtherance of the gospel.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-9 Respect and follow those in authority.
1 Timothy 5:17-20 Let those who rule well be counted worthy of double honour. Support financially. Don't receive accusation except by multiple witnesses.
2 Timothy 2:25-26 It is a sin to be in opposition to God's ordained authority. Such people have been taken captive by the devil to do his will.
Titus 2:15 Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.
Hebrews 13:7,17 Remember and obey those who rule over you (they must give account).
1 Peter 5:5 Younger submit to elders. All submit to one another in humility.
2 Peter 2:10-11 Beware of despising authority.
Romans 13:1; 1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Peter 2:13-17 Even respect secular authorities.
Titus 3:2 Don't speak evil of anyone, let alone authorities.
Jude 1:8-11 Beware of rejecting authority.

Give Financial Support to Those Who Labour for the Gospel

1 Corinthians 9:1-18 Paul's defence for ministry being supported by the church. He quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 "Don't muzzle the ox while it treads out the grain." and says, "Is it oxen God is concerned about?"
2 Corinthians 11:7-9 Paul struggled to support himself while lacking support from hostile brethren.
Galatians 6:6 Those who are taught should share their wealth with the one who teaches.
Philippians 4:10-19 Philippians supported Paul, while other churches didn't.
1 Timothy 5:17-18 quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 "Don't muzzle the ox while it treads out the grain." and also says, "The labourer is worthy of his wages." (Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14-15; Luke 10:7)
2 Timothy 2:6 "The hard-working farmer must be first to partake of the crops."

Instructions to Those in Authority

Leviticus 19:15 Judge with impartiality.
Deuteronomy 16:18-20 Don't pervert justice with partiality, taking a bribe.
Deuteronomy 17:14-20 King to rule Israel: Don't multiply horses or wives. Write a copy of the law; read it and live by it. The king is not above the law. Make sure his heart is not lifted above his brethren.
Deuteronomy 31:6-8; Joshua 1:5-9 God promised to be with Joshua, commanded him to be diligent to obey the law, and encouraged him to be strong and of good courage.
Deuteronomy 31:9-13 Leaders to read God's law to the people every 7 years.
2 Samuel 7:8; 24:17; Ezekiel 34:23-24 Role of shepherd -- look after God's sheep.
2 Samuel 23:3 Leader must rule justly and in the fear of the Lord.
2 Chronicles 32:25-26; 33:12-13,19,23; 34:27 Example of kings who humbled themselves before God.
1 Kings 12:1-15 Hear the advice of the elders to King Rehoboam. Be a servant to the people, then they will be your faithful servants forever.
Psalm 78:70-72 Shepherd God's people with integrity of heart and skillfulness of hands.
Proverbs 8:15-16 Rule with wisdom. Ecclesiastes 7:19; 9:17.
Proverbs 29:12 A ruler must not listen to lies.
Proverbs 30:6 Don't add to God's word.
Proverbs 31:4-5 A ruler must not corrupt judgment with alcohol.
Malachi 2:7 Priest should faithfully teach things of God, as God's messenger.
Matthew 18:1-5 Be humble as a child, to be greatest in the kingdom (don't seek greatness via preeminence of leadership).
Matthew 20:20-28; 23:11 Don't "lord it over" people. Be a servant, as Jesus did.
Luke 10:2-11 Jesus' instructions to His disciples He sent out.
Luke 12:48 To whom much is given, much will be required.
John 7:18; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; 2 Corinthians 4:5-6 Glorify God, not self.
John 7:16-18; 12:49; 17:8 Preach God's word, not our own.
John 21:15-19 Jesus commanded Peter, "if you love me, feed My sheep".
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 God's wisdom, not our own.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Paul's example of dedication to preaching the gospel to the best of his ability.
1 Corinthians 14:1 Preaching (prophesying) is a noble desire.
1 Corinthians 14 whole chapter gives principles of running an orderly church meeting (in the context of speaking in tongues).
2 Corinthians 1:24 Not dominion over, but fellow workers for joy.
2 Corinthians 4:5 Preach Jesus, not self. Be bondservants of Christ.
Ephesians 4:13 Goal of church.
Philippians 2:6-7 Jesus' example of service.
1 Thessalonians 2 Follow Paul's example of faithful service and integrity and doctrinal truth.
1 Timothy 1:3-4 Charge people to teach "no other doctrine", nor give heed to fables, genealogies which result in disputes rather than Godly edification and faith.
1 Timothy 1:18-19 Wage the good warfare, with faith and a good conscience.
1 Timothy 4:6-7 Diligently instruct brethren with sound doctrine, and reject nonsense.
1 Timothy 4:8-10 Leadership can be tough, bringing hardship. But pursue true godliness and faith in God.
1 Timothy 4:13-16 Be fully dedicated to your job. Don't neglect your gift of service (which therefore gives you a duty).
1 Timothy 4:16 Your work does matter to the lives and salvation of God's people.
2 Timothy 2:14-18 Combat false doctrines, "idle babblings".
2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to be approved; rightly divide the word of God.
2 Timothy 2:24-25 Don't quarrel; correct gently and with humility.
2 Timothy 3:14-17 Stick to what we've learned. Holy Scriptures are foundation.
2 Timothy 4:2 Be ready to preach the word effectively at all times and seasons.
1 Peter 5:1-4 Instructions to elders. Serve, not by compulsion but willingly. Not lording it over, but being examples.

Warnings to Authority

Leviticus 10:3 God must be regarded as holy and glorified by those who come near Him.
Deuteronomy 18:20-22 Don't speak presumptuously in God's name.
2 Chronicles 19:1-3; 20:35-37 Don't ally with wicked people.
Proverbs 29:2 When a wicked man rules, the people groan.
Isa 3:12-14 Woe to rulers who rule poorly and take advantage of the people.
Jeremiah 2:8 Rulers who do not know God.
Jeremiah 5:30-31 The prophets prophesy falsely. The priests rule by their own power.
Jeremiah 10:21 The shepherds have become dull-hearted, and have not sought the Lord.
Ezekiel 34:1-16; 44:1-10; Zechariah 11:4-17 Woe to shepherds who feed themselves and neglect the flock.
Micah 3
Malachi 2
Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:6-13 Don't teach the commandments of men as "doctrines".
Matthew 15:12-14 Every plant not planted by God will be uprooted. Pharisees were "blind leaders of the blind".
Matthew 18:6-7; Mark 9:42 Don't cause little ones to stumble.
Matthew 23:3-7,13-15,25-28 Beware of hypocrisy, the sin of the scribes and Pharisees.
Matthew 23:6-7; Luke 11:43; 20:46; 3 John 1:9 Beware of loving prestige, preeminence.
Matthew 23:8-11 Don't be called Rabbi, Father, Teacher. Leaders are brothers, and must be servants.
Matthew 23:14,25 Devouring widows' houses; full of extortion and self-indulgence.
Matthew 23:16-22 Teaching false doctrine against God's law.
Matthew 23:23-24 Neglecting the "weightier matters of the law".
Matthew 23:29-35 Murderers of God's true servants.
Romans 2:17-24 Beware of hypocrisy.
Romans 2:24; 2 Peter 2:2 Beware of causing the way of truth to be blasphemed.
Acts 20:17-38 Beware of being a savage wolf that attacks the flock; of speaking perverse things; of drawing a following of disciples after oneself.
1 Timothy 1:7 Beware of desiring to be a teacher, without really understanding what you're saying.
1 Timothy 5:19-20 Instructions regarding sinning elders?
James 3:1-2; Matthew 23:14; Luke 20:47 Teachers receive stricter judgment. E.g. Moses Numbers 20:12; Deuteronomy 3:26

Warnings About Corrupt Authority (When to Ignore Authority)

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 Ignore someone who tries to turn people away from God.
Deuteronomy 18:17-22 Ignore "prophets" whose words fail to come to pass.
Matthew 7:15-20 Beware of false prophets, wolves in sheep's clothing. Know them by their fruits.
Matthew 16:5-12 Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Luke 12:1 Hypocrisy.
Matthew 23:3 Do not do according to their works -- hypocrisy.
Matthew 23:8-11 Don't call anyone Rabbi, Father, Teacher. Leaders are brothers, and must be servants.
Acts 5:29 Obey God not Man.
Acts 17:10-12 Bereans checked apostles' preaching against the Scriptures.
Acts 20:29-31 Prediction of savage wolves to come.
1 Corinthians 14:29 Listen respectfully and carefully weigh what is said (in the context of speaking in church).
2 Corinthians 11:1-4 Beware of someone preaching "another Jesus", or a different spirit, or a different gospel.
2 Corinthians 11:12-15 Beware that false apostles could appear to be ministers of righteousness.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 Beware of the coming false religion, false religious leader, with the power of Satan.
1 Timothy 1:3-7; 6:3-5 Teachers who get caught up in fables and endless genealogies; who don't understand the purpose of the law: love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith.
1 Timothy 4:1-3 People who will depart from the faith, give heed to demons, and try to command people with false laws.
2 Timothy 2:14-18 Leaders with "idle babblings" and false doctrines.
2 Timothy 3:13 Evil men and imposters will grow worse.
2 Peter 2:1 False prophets will come.
1 John 4:1 Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits.
3 John 1:11 Do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.
Jude 1:4 Ungodly men have crept in (leaders, or people in general?)
Revelation 13:1-18 Warning of coming deception of the beast power.

Historic Challenges to Authority

Exodus 15:22-25; 16:1-3; 17:1-4; Numbers 11:1-3; 14:22; 20:1-5 Many times the Israelites complained against God, and against Moses and Aaron.
Numbers 12 Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses.
Numbers 16 Rebellion of Korah. Numbers 17 Aaron's rod budded.
1 Samuel 22 King Saul kills Ahimelech and other priests of the Lord, by the hand of Doeg.
2 Samuel 15 Absalom challenges King David's rulership.
2 Samuel 16:5 Shimei curses King David.
2 Samuel 20 Sheba's rebellion against King David.
1 Kings 12:1-19 Israel splits from King Rehoboam, who then rules only Judah.
1 Corinthians 1:10-17 Corinthian church was divided, taking sides with various human leaders.
2 Corinthians Paul was defending his authority against Corinthian opposition.
2 Timothy 4:14-16 Alexander the coppersmith did Paul much harm.

Laypeople Advising Authority

Exodus 18:12-26 Jethro advised Moses to appoint judge's over Israel. But in verse 23, Jethro gave the caveat that his counsel needed God's approval.
Proverbs 25:15 Persuade a ruler by long forbearance and a gentle tongue.
Ecclesiastes 10:4 "If the spirit of the ruler rises against you, Do not leave your post; For conciliation pacifies great offenses."
1 Samuel 25 Abigail to David (not yet king, though had been anointed).
1 Samuel 24; 26 David to King Saul.
2 Samuel 14 The wise woman of Tekoa to King David (by Joab's planning).

Examples of Bad Authority

Leviticus 10 Nadab and Abihu offer profane fire before the Lord.
Numbers 13; 14 Ten of the spies of Canaan (all who were leaders among the people) bring back a bad report, and turn the hearts of Israel.
1 Samuel 2:12-17,22-36 High priest Eli's sons, Hophni and Phinehas. They are actually called "sons of Belial" in v.12.
1 Samuel 8:1-3 Samuel's sons.
1 Samuel 13 Saul's pivotal moment.
1 Samuel 15 King Saul proved to be a poor king, despite being selected by God. God eventually rejected him, and replaced him with David.
1 Samuel 24; 26; 2 Samuel 1:1-16 King David respected King Saul as God's anointed, despite Saul being rejected by God and David knew he was destined to take Saul's place.
1 Kings 11:29-38; 12:26-33 Jeroboam was promised an enduring kingdom by God if he obeyed. But he disobeyed God in his efforts to secure his rule by human reasoning.
2 Chronicles 26:16-21 Uzziah went outside his domain of authority.
Psalm 78:64 Unfaithful priests in unfaithful nation.
Jeremiah 22:11-30 Consider most of the kings of Israel and Judah. They were given authority and expected to lead the people, but they were mostly failures.
Jeremiah 50:6
Matthew 23; Mark 12:38-40 Scribes and Pharisees were bad leaders, hypocrites.
John 12:42-43 Secular leaders in Christ's time didn't confess Christ because of the Pharisees; they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
Acts 4:1-31; 5:17-42 The Sadducees and Sanhedrin fought against the New Testament church.
3 John 1 is a letter of encouragement to Gaius in the face of Diotrephes' Corrupt behaviour as elder. Do not fear those who do evil, for they are not of God.
Revelation 2:2 Church of Ephesus tested those who say they are apostles, but are not, and found them liars.

Examples of Good Authority

1 Samuel 2:35 A priest after God’s heart -- apparently Zadok. 2 Samuel 20:25; 1 Kings 2:26-27; Ezekiel 40:46; 44:15
1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22 King David, a man after God's heart. Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Hosea 3:5 Jesus Christ will establish King David as a righteous ruler in future.
1 Thessalonians 2:1-13 Apostle Paul.

Examples of God's Servants Who Still Made Mistakes, or Had Sinful Past

Exodus 32 Aaron made the golden calf.
Numbers 20:10-12,24; 27:12-17 (note Moses' acceptance of his penalty) Deuteronomy 3:23-26 Moses and Aaron failed to obey God and honour Him before the people.
Joshua 9:3-21 Joshua and the leaders made an error of judgment in the matter of the Gibeonites.
Judges 13; 14; 15; 16 Samson was a judge of Israel with a tempestuous life.
2 Samuel 11; King David, adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah. 1 Kings 15:5.
1 Kings 13:1-30 The prophet who rightly prophesied against Jeroboam, but then disobeyed God's instructions and died.
2 Chronicles 32:24-26 Hezekiah nearly fell to pride.
2 Chronicles 33:10-14 King Manasseh humbled himself before God.
Apostles chosen by Christ were flawed but God made them strong. Peter put his foot in it on several occasions (Matthew 16:22-23; Luke 9:33), denied Christ (Matthew 26:31-35,69-75). Thomas doubted (John 20:24-29). James and John were "sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17; Luke 9:53-56).
Acts 12:25; 13:13 John Mark abandoned the mission.
Acts 15:36-41 Paul and Barnabas had a sharp contention over John Mark, and split. Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11 Later John Mark recommitted to the work, and Paul reconciled with him.
Galatians 2:11-14 Peter and Barnabas hypocritical over Gentiles' salvation.

Romans 7:13-25 Apostle Paul describes his struggle against sin. "O wretched man that I am..."
1 Timothy 1:12-17 Apostle Paul was fighting against the church prior to his calling. Honour and glory to God. Acts 9:13-14,26-28 Brethren were suspicious of Paul at first.
Hebrews 5:3; 7:27; 9:7 The priests had to make offerings for their own sins as well as the sins of the people.
1 John 1:8 Apostle John says we all have sin.

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