February 23, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-131 Timothy 5:17Hebrews 13:17

What duties and attitudes are described in these passages?

From the perspective of the leaders, the duties are preparing God’s people for works of service, speaking the truth in love, working hard, admonishing, directing the affairs of the church, preaching and teaching, and keeping watch over God’s flock.  The attitude of such leaders is a reverential fear of God, as they recognize that one day, they must given an account for the ones to whom they have ministered.  As Apostle Paul exhorted, there can be no “lording it over those entrusted to [leaders], but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:3).

From the perspective of the ones being led, the duties described include respecting those who are over them in the Lord, holding them in the highest regard in love because of their work, granting double honor to the elders, submitting to the older ones, and obeying the leaders and submitting to their authority.  The attitudes required are humility, teachability, openness to truth spoken in love, gratitude and appreciation for the leaders’ labor of love and sacrifice, and a genuine desire to make the work of leaders a joy and not a burden.

Reflect on the picture of the church envisioned by these passages.  What are some perspectives in today’s world that would disapprove of such a community?

Some perspectives in our world today that would disapprove of such a community include the notion of a flattened organization, where are the constituents are equals, each possessing a legitimate voice and legitimate authority to speak into another person’s life – with the net effect being that nobody says anything to anyone.  There is no proper recognition of someone being better, wiser, more experienced, and no appropriate acknowledgement of God-given authority (“It was he [God] who gave…” [Ephesians 4:11]).  This perspective breeds the attitude of “Who are you to speak into my life?”

What are some personal values and contemporary viewpoints that resist the idea of submission to human authority of any kind?

A personal value that resists the idea of submission to human authority of any kind is the value of personal autonomy – the ability to determine one’s own actions, or another way of putting it, the refusal to allow anyone to tell you what to do.  If you are a toddler, then that is an expected part of development we call “the terrible two’s,” and with proper instruction and discipline, you eventually grow out of it.  If you are a young adult, however, then that is prideful folly – proud because you do not think anyone has anything to offer you in terms of instruction/advice/correction, and foolish because you think you can simply figure things out on your own.

The athlete submits to the coach’s human authority because he wants to advance in his skills so that he can outperform his competitors.  The college student submits to the professor’s human authority because he wants to learn the material and excel in his coursework.  The medical resident submits to the attending physician’s human authority because he wants to gain experience and be a competent health practitioner.  The employee submits to the supervisor’s human authority so that he can advance his career.  Anyone who wants to grow submits to the authority of those with more knowledge, skills, and experience.  For the self-proclaimed Christian who says he wants to be more like Christ but who resists the idea of submitting to the God-given authority of human leaders, his posture casts doubt on his stated intention to grow spiritually.

What about Christian life makes it crucial to have spiritual leaders who have actual authority and influence over the life of the individual Christian and in the church?

Christian life occurs across a growth continuum – there are the spiritual infants on one end, and there are the spiritual mature on the other end.  In Ephesians 4, Apostle Paul talked about no longer being infants but becoming mature and growing up into Christ.  According to the Bible, this process of spiritual growth occurs in the context of community.  Apostle Paul’s description of the church states that God has provided leaders to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the entire body of Christ may be built up, and as it is being built up, we are all reaching unity and striving after “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” – and that is why we need leaders to speak the truth in love to us and to admonish us and to exercise their authority over us.

How does today’s text apply to you?

Being part of this church, I am in the blessed position of having people “over me in the Lord” who lead me and admonish me and help me grow spiritually, as well as people under me who submit to my authority.  The first application for me is to cultivate an attitude of submission to those whom God has placed over me as leaders and shepherds.  What that means is that I obey them, I give them respect and hold them in the highest regard because of their work, and I receive their correction with a humble and open heart.  I want to make their work a joy, and not a burden; and one way I do is by sharing in their heart, by working hard alongside them and carrying the burden of ministry.  The second application is to approach my role as a leader with utmost seriousness and a reverential consideration of the God before whom I must give an account.  The title of “staff” does not entitle me to special treatment or recognition, but rather it confers upon me the responsibility and the expectation to work hard and give my all in serving the people whom God has entrusted into my care.

Submitted by Wilson Fong, Gracepoint Berkeley.

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