Not only are Christians to be accountable to the
authority of a spiritual leader, but this passage also shows that believers
should be a part of a local church — where such pastors and elders can be
found (Heb. 10:25). One cannot really be accountable to spiritual
supervision without a commitment to a church. Nor can a person be
accountable if they merely drift from one church to another, week after week
— making themselves inaccessible from the supervision, teaching or
correction of a pastor who knows something about their personal life.
Despite what some people like to think, God has no lone rangers!
Accountability to a continuity of ministry and leadership is vital to God's
plan of providing the necessary "checks and balances" to produce solid
One common reason that some Christians "hop" from
church to church, or abandon church participation, is that they foster an
"independent spirit" which resists authority. They do not wish to be
corrected or to confront truths they would prefer to avoid. Without
accountability to authority, a believer develops "itching ears" (2 Tim.
4:3). They look for teachings that agree with their own opinions, instead of
"objective" instruction — the whole counsel of God's Word — that will force
them to face their areas of immaturity and grow up.
Some believers with an independent attitude will
contend that they don't need the church or spiritual leaders — that they
have God's Spirit to teach them. Indeed, every believer has the personal
indwelling of the Holy Spirit to guide them (1 John 2:27), but this does not
discharge them from the Biblical counsel and ministry of the church (Heb.
13:7,17, Prov. 11:14-15, 2 Cor. 13:1). The church is Christ's plan for His
followers. He is the head (Eph. 5:23), and commissioned His church to
represent Him and His authority in the world (2 Cor. 5:20, Matt. 18:17-20,
John 14:12). He has ordained elders, deacons, and pastors, to supervise and
manage His flock (Acts 14:23, 1 Tim. 3:10-13), and additional ministries to
teach, train, and spiritually equip the saints for service (Eph. 4:11-16).
Ministers are not lone rangers either. They too are accountable to the
authority of overseers, who may offer counsel, reproof, or discipline when
necessary (Acts 21:18-24).
All believers should be committed to a Bible
believing, Christ-centered church. They should be accountable to a Pastor
and spiritual leaders, on the condition that leadership meets basic
qualifications of (1) a moral and Godly lifestyle (Matt. 7:15-16, Gal.
5:19-25, 1 Tim. 3:1-7), and (2) that they proclaim the uncompromised Word of
God (2 Tim. 3:16, Rom. 1:16). Cooperate with the man of God whose life
exhibits these biblical qualities. Don't rebel or give him a hard time. The
Bible warns that contempt toward God's obedient servant is equal to contempt
toward God (Exodus 16:2,8, Josh. 22:19).
Not only does Paul teach that all believers are to
have someone over them in the Lord, he also directs that they should know
their leaders (1 Thes. 5:12). So often, the people in the church want their
pastor to know all about them — however Paul says that believers should get
to know their leaders. That is, know their lifestyle, their sincerity, their
integrity. Knowing your pastors and leaders provides a tangible example to
follow, and also enables you to have trust and respect in their ministry.
Sometimes people will balk at the authority of some
pastors because they think they're too young, inexperienced, or not
sufficiently spiritual. However, the Bible says we are to submit — not to
those we deem qualified — but to those whom God has seen fit to give the
rule. I'll never forget the rugged, old Army sergeant that lectured new
recruits about the chain of authority. "As far you may see, the second
lieutenant may be younger than you, inexperienced, and green behind the
ears. You may not figure how in the world he got to the rank he is, but when
he gives an order, you look at the bars on his uniform and say 'Yes sir!'
When you obey his orders, you're obeying the one at the highest level who,
for whatever reason, saw fit to grant him that authority."
God requires us to respect the authority He has placed
over us, even if that authority isn't perfect. Spiritual leaders are human
and will make mistakes, but the Lord still demands our respect and restraint
toward them. They are His servants and He reserves the right to correct or
reprove them (Psa. 105:15).
We recall that even after King Saul had become
disobedient to God and corrupt, he remained as the anointed King over Israel
for quite some time. Saul eventually became jealous of the heir to his
throne, David, and began a relentless manhunt to kill him. At one point,
David and his men stumbled across Saul encamped in a cave and had the
opportunity to kill their sleeping pursuer. But instead, David chose to
quietly cut off a portion of Saul's robe as evidence to show his
unwillingness to slay Saul when he had opportunity. However, later the Lord
convicted David's heart that not only was it wrong to slay God's anointed,
it was wrong to even cut his robe or lift a finger against him in any way.
"Now it happened afterward that David's heart troubled him because he had
cut Saul's robe. And he said to his men, The LORD forbid that I should do
this thing to my master, the Lord's anointed, to stretch out my hand against
him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD" (1 Sam. 24:5-6).
Respect toward authority is not limited to our
actions, but even relates to how we speak of them. The Bible warns against
lifting our tongue against the Lord's servants, even though they might be
worthy of criticism. When the Apostle Paul was unjustly punished for
preaching the Gospel, he spoke defiantly until he realized that he was
addressing Ananias, the High Priest. He apologized and said, "I did not
know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, You shall
not speak evil of the ruler of your people" (Acts 23:5). Just imagine. Even
though this High Priest was an enemy to the Gospel, and was wrong to have
Paul slapped on the mouth, yet he was still a spiritual authority whom Paul
was obligated to respect. If Paul was not permitted to speak against
Ananias, then you certainly don't have any right to badmouth Godly,
spiritual leaders. It is an act of rebellion, for which you will answer to
Certainly, leaders and pastors must be held accountable for their behavior, and may even need to be corrected or disciplined. But God has ordained for this to be done in an honorable way, through an appropriate chain of authority by other spiritual overseers.