Understanding Spiritual Authority

There is somewhat of a misconception about how things in the kingdom of God operate. The world doesn’t have knowledge of God’s way of doing things, and many Christians don’t either. God’s kingdom is not a democracy, which means we don’t get to vote on things, and the opinion of the majority is not what decides the final say. The kingdom of God is a theocracy, meaning it has one king, who makes the rules. Our King is Jesus, and He has specific guidelines on how His kingdom is to operate. One of those guidelines includes the institution of spiritual authority and leadership in the body of Christ. As Christians, we are called to respect spiritual authority so the blessing can flow in our lives without interruption.

It is important that we learn how to properly relate to spiritual authority so that we don’t short-circuit what God wants to do in our lives. Spiritual leadership includes those men and women of God who have been called to the five-fold ministry—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The Bible says these positions, or offices, are in place for the purpose of “edifying the body of Christ,” or building up its members to a place of maturity (Ephesians 4:10-16). The ministry gifts teach, proclaim, and declare the Word of God, as well as watch over the souls of those under their care, which is why it is critical that we remain connected to them.

There are people who believe it is unnecessary to submit to anyone in a position of church leadership, but it is God’s will for every Christian to be connected to a local church fellowship. He has assigned every born-again Believer to a particular church, headed up by a pastor after His own heart. Each person is to submit to his or her spiritual leader, as that leader follows Christ.

When it comes to relating to spiritual authority, it is important to find out what the Bible has to say about rebellion in the church. Being a part of things like church sedition and division has serious consequences. Romans 13:1-2 says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”

God puts Himself on the same level as the spiritual authority He has instituted, which is why rebelling against leadership has such serious repercussions; it is like rebelling against God Himself (Exodus 16:8). This is not to say that we are expected to submit to a leader who is asking us to sin or disobey the Word. God has a way of dealing with leaders who are in sin. But when we submit to God’s authority by respecting spiritual leadership that is functioning and operating in accordance with the Word, we experience great benefits and freedom.

God honors and respects earthly authority figures, and so should we. Instead of speaking against our leaders, we should pray for them. When we pray for spiritual leaders (and civil authorities), we will find things going well in our households (1Timothy 2:1-2).

Where there is no true submission to God’s authority, the door is opened to rebellion (2 Thessalonians 2:10). As Christians, we must recognize and understand what God is saying through our leaders, even when we don’t necessarily agree. We should realize it is not all about us as individuals but about God’s entire plan and purpose. As we keep this at the forefront of our thinking at all times, we can submit to spiritual authority in a spirit of humility and meekness, which positions us to receive the flow of God’s blessing in our lives.

— Creflo A. Dollar