(2 Corinthians 10:8)
True authority is meant to be used in a manner that helps people. The power of governments and other authorities is meant to provide assistance for those who are in need. True authority should enable those who have authority to encourage, help and lift those over whom the authority exists.
Unfortunately though, this is not always the case. Too often we see that the giving of a little authority into the hands of some people leads to many evil things. They use authority instead to lord it over others, to seek personal gain, to dole out their authority in a miserly way and to enhance their own position of power or wealth.
While this should be the case in all situations, it is even more important in the church. This is not what true authority is meant to do, and we see here Paul speak about the proper use of authority.
It is evident that in the early church there were already people who were taking what little authority they had and mis-using it. Paul is concerned about that issue and speaks of it here and in the next few verses of this chapter.
He is equally keen to point ensure that the people in Corinth do not think he too is abusing the authority given to him by the Lord. Thus we see Paul write here:
For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I shall not be put to shame. (2 Corinthians 10:8)
Paul shows us that the authority given to him by the Lord was for the purpose of building up the people of God, not destroying them. Paul’s aim was to lift, encourage and grow the church by using the authority he had been given.
Naturally we see times when Paul had to use the authority to call the church back into line when it was going astray. There were times when a firm hand was needed, as we saw in Paul’s earlier letter to the church at Corinth.
But even then, his purpose was to use his authority to lift and grow the church and to build up the church. The “cancers” had to be cut out for the sake of the rest of the church, but even those who had sinned were not cast away without hope, but were able to return when or if they repented.
This is the purpose of the power that exists in Jesus Christ and the correct use of His authority.
Misuse of Authority
Too often we do not see the power and authority given to those who are in church leadership used in the correct way. Too often we see those in positions of power in the church abuse the flock of Christ, and become selfish and self-seeking. They use their positions of authority to feather their own nests at the expense of the congregation. They will be judged by the Lord when they do such things.
This is nothing new. The misuse and abuse of authority in the church has been going on since the very early days and we see various of the apostles and disciples who wrote the books of the bible speak about such abuses.
What is worse today is that they twist scripture to suit their own ends and make a mockery of the word of God. They prefer to be served rather than to serve.
Correct Use of Authority
So let us look at the correct use of the authority given by the Lord to the church. There are many examples of this, but we will consider just one, being where the Lord gave gifts to the church, as discussed in Ephesians.
8 Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 4:8-13)
Here we see the giving of power and positions of authority to the people of the church. The Lord gives these gifts of apostleship, prophecy, teaching and so on to the members of the church.
Now what is important is to note why these gifts are given, and this drives to the heart of what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:8.
In verses 12 and 13 above we see the reason why God gives these ministry gifts to the church.
First, it is for the purpose of doing the work of ministry, and the effect of these works of ministry is for the “…building up the body of Christ.” The first principle of the gifts of ministry is to build up, not tear down. It is to help the church and the congregation to grow in Christ.
The second point in this section is the outcome of these gifts of ministry. When they are operating as they should in the church, then the aim is that all the members of the church should, “…attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” All the members of the body should be united and unified in their faith. There should not be sects among the body but rather all members of the body should hold a unified faith in Jesus Christ, understanding all that He has given for us to know.
This brings us to the third and final point regarding this authority given in the ministry gifts. The ultimate aim is for all of us to reach maturity in Christ. But not just to be a “bit” mature. We are to attain to the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ.
The purpose of the authority given by the Lord in the ministry gifts is to brings us to the same level of maturity as Jesus Christ. That is, they are meant to bring us to perfection just as Jesus is perfect!
Now, do the teachings of many of the churches today lead to perfection? Do the preachers still condemn their congregations as sinners? Do some preachers take advantage of the congregations in many ways for their own purposes?
Yes they do…unfortunately.
Some of those who have received these ministry gifts are not fulfilling the obligations placed on them by the Lord to bring their congregations, “…to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Some indeed are far from this place, and they will be judged accordingly.
But fortunately not all ministers are of this ilk. Many, hopefully most, are seeking how to fulfil their duties as assigned by the Lord and they truly want to help their congregations grow individually so they can stand.
And this is the mark of the correct use of true authority. True authority is given by the Lord to be used by the members and ministers of the church to help the church to grow mature in Christ Jesus. True authority leads and assists people in their walk with Christ to come to the place of maturity. And true authority never takes advantage of another person, but rather it assists them to grow. It may be firm at times when needed, but is not harsh. True authority is based on the love and grace of God.
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