I feel that the time has come to look again at the proper place and function of what we call "Spiritual Covering" and the demand of "Submitting to Authority", within the body of Christ. Here is what I believe the Lord is revealing in this day regarding this subject.
SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY WITHIN THE CHURCH
Recently I have been aware of God showing me some things in regards to spiritual authority, and the headship of Christ. I have read several good articles, including a brief one by friend Brenda Imus, and a not-so-brief teaching series by David Dyer....both of whom make some very good points, and reveal a lot of light on the subject. Meanwhile, back in this "wilderness" area where I sit and wait to see what God is doing next, I have looked with interest at the parallels of the family structure, and the church. I see some things that they might have been touched on briefly, but I think we really ought to go a little further into the subject.
I was reading a book recently by a very "iconoclastic" author within the body, and he was able to put into perspective the debate about "law vs. grace". This will not be our focus at this time, but something that he mentioned in regards to this really forced me to have a look at the purpose of the law, and shed quite a bit of light on the Book of Galatians, especially chapter 4.
In summation, he made the observation that every day, on his way to the office, he passed by a school building, in which there were elementary age children, teachers, administrators and various kinds of employees. In this school, there was a very stringent set of rules for the children, that they were expected to conform to and to obey...most of them for the protection, establishment of order, to maintain discipline and to teach the children ways of behavior that would result in the self control and self-discipline of the children...another way of saying "growing up".
The rules of this school were very precisely laid out, and the infraction of those rules by the children met with some immediate reaction, and possibly correction or even chastisement. This man observed that these rules for the school children DID NOT apply to him. Number one, he was not a part of that school in any way, and so he did not fall under the jurisdiction of that school. Number two, even if he were a part of the school, he noted that the rules for the children did not apply to the teachers and other staff of that school. The rules for the children were "set in stone". From year to year, and class to class, the rules remained in place: they did not change. But, once the children "moved up" and out of that school, the particular rules within that school no longer applied to the children, and the "authorities in that school did not have any right to go on enforcing those rules once the children left their jurisdiction. In their time there, the children were expected to have learned certain standards of behavior, and to achieve a reasonable level of self-discipline in particular areas. Once they "experienced" first-hand that rules were there for their learning and their instruction, and also for their protection from their own (and others) ignorance and carelessness, and childish immaturity, it was naturally expected that they had reached a level of maturity that they could be counted on to 'live out' by choice, and not bbecause they were simply being "forced" to obey them.
What I began to notice here is that just as we raise up and teach our children in this natural world, so should our spiritual "raising up" be in accordance with how we grow up in this body. Once again, God has given us literal "patterns" and natural examples all around us in order to explain spiritual concepts and principles.
When we are babies and little children, we are subject to the absolute rulership of our mother and father in EVERYTHING. They dress us, feed us, care for us and set rules for us that they expect...no, DEMAND, to be followed "or else." They set boundaries, make rules, and hand down decisions for us that we have little say in (and it does not matter how we feel about them, or whether or not we agree with them, or like them). As we grow up and show some signs of being able to obey in the little mundane things, and begin to bear some responsibility for our own actions, we are given increasingly greater measures of freedom...not so that we may abuse it, but so that we may operate with a little more freedom in those things we are supposed to do.
If, when our children reach the age of 16, 17, 18 or so, we still held them to the same set of rules we had for them when they were 2, the entire world would look at us as if we were crazy. Were we still nursing them, dressing them, and deciding every little thing for them, we would be locking them in a perpetual state of immaturity....designed to keep them dependent upon us for every little decision and instruction, totally unable to "discern" what was the good, and what was the evil (Isaiah7:14-16).
But....isn't that what the church is doing today, with it's "demand" that it's members "do" certain things, and "perform" certain rituals, and "observe" traditions and the like? When we tell them that the 'pastor' is the 'boss' (let's call 'em like they are, okay?) and that they should "submit" to whatever it is that he tells them they ought to (or ought NOT to )be doing, aren't we, in a way, perpetuating the childishness and immaturity of the members? Aren't we then purposely stunting their inner growth, and then using their lack of growth and maturity as an excuse to constantly "rule over them", and never equipping them to leave the nest? (Which practice, I might add, certainly must have something to do with the benefit of keeping the "children" in these churches in a kind of "servitude" to their "overseers", not to mention the fact that it certainly pads the pockets of those whom they serve.) These observations would certainly sound like I am advocating a mass exodus from from these churches...and I am....but not until it's "due season"...
I feel like God would be asking us to be balanced in this teaching. I hear everyday more and more people are "leaving the church", because they don't like what it is teaching and practicing. I myself heard the call to "come out of her, my people", and I did....once God called me. But somehow, I have the feeling that just as we subject in this world to the sometimes oppressive authority and laws of the countries of which we live, that BABIES and CHILDREN, like it or not, do not have the capacity to make these decisions for themselves. They would be, in fact "transgressing" the authority that has been placed over them by God. Whether or not we consider that rule and authority as "Godly" or "right"is not the issue; God says to honor that authority, because it ALL proceeds from Him...(Romans 13:1-7)
Being required to submit to harsh, demanding, and sometimes even tyranical parents is the lot of many children these days. But when the time comes to "grow up" and "move away", God will let you know, and you need to do so.....quietly and peaceably, and in the proper time. Just as the natural child reflects the situation of the spiritual child, we would do well to observe this "pattern" and learn from it. When it is time to leave the nest, God will lead you, just as He led Christ to do the same thing. If it is not yet time, ask Him for His mercy, grace and the longsuffering to endure.
There are certainly many ministries these days focused on "spiritual covering". This is the idea that for some reason, they have perceived that people should ALWAYS answer to another human authority within the church, because God has revealed that He does, indeed, have a proper order of things. I should like to ask you a simple question. If the case is that you are to always "submit yourself " to the proper leadership within the church system (i.e., human pastors, elders, apostles, prophets, etc.) then pray tell me just how these people (that demand your submission to them) get THEIR authority to rule you? If God ups and says to them one day, "You go and pastor this church, and you (the pastor) answer only to me, but they (the sheep) will answer to you," then where does the buck stop? Obviously, at some point, "they" say they were "called" or "chosen" by God. (Supposedly...but we know a lot of "pastors", etc., who weren't called by God, but by their own souls. Unfortunately, we cannot take that subject up here now.) How does it happen that they are ruling, and you aren't? What makes them any more special or qualified to be the "head" or the "leadership"?
Look at the situation with your own upbringing, in the natural family. Once, when you were a child, it was expected and neccessary for to you "be under" and "submit" to the rule of your parents, so you could learn certain life principles. They were the adults, and you were the child. They had, we hope, "experience" in some of the things in life, and supposedly had enough self-discipline and self-control to be able to "rule well" over you. If your parents did a good job of raising you, when you were finally "of age", you left the nest, found a mate, and began the process of starting a family of your own. Do you really expect (or need) the minute-by-minute "bossing" of your parents in the most mundane of daily activities in your life? If you have been brought up well, you don't want that, and certainly don't need it, and wouldn't expect them to hold your hand every step of the way. Though, on an ocassion, some "advice and counsel" in a sticky or troubling matter is both needed and welcomed. Good parents will have the wisdom to know when to assist you...and when to stand back, and let you learn even the adult lessons of life on your own, without fussing over you and interfering in every aspect of your daily life. Hopefully, the basic "rules" (laws) of childhood have taken root, and shaped the character of the inner man, so they do not have to be constantly before you, being drummed into you again and again, in order to keep you from doing evil. Having learned first hand the pain of disobeying these "rules/laws" in childhood, the customary reaction to the chastisement would be NOT to repeat the behavior, and to have learned from the error, or rebellion.
I would suggest to you that ideally, a local church (body) should have within it at least two or three "spiritually mature" people, who have walked with the Lord for a period of time, and have some "experience" in spiritual matters. I AM NOT SPEAKING OF THE EXPERIENCE OF NATURAL OR WORLDY THINGS, OR EVEN BIBLICAL KNOWLEDGE. That also does not mean having gone to "seminary", or having spent years in the church system. I am speaking of strictly spiritual maturity, the which cannot be gained by the knowledge or experience of this natural world, or it's systems or standards. I am speaking of something along the lines of the apostle Paul, whom God broke from his "religious" ideas, took him out into the wilderness for a few years, and taught him GOD"S WAYS. Before He ever let Paul even come into contact with the other apostles, or preach or teach or any of the other authoritative things he did, Paul had to reach a level of spiritual maturity that would be a requirement in order to "rule" in the church. ONLY one who has been apprehended by God, and been broken and remade in the likeness of Christ is qualified to do that. (1 Tim. 3:1-7) This kind of "fathering" and "leadership" and "authority" is very much a necessary and vital ingredient if we are to raise up a generation of truly"spiritually mature" children. But I also submit to you that even this kind of wise "spiritual covering" is ONLY FOR A SEASON....until the children of God, and babes in Christ "grow up" in to the measure of fullness of the stature of the son of God.
Where the body of Christ gets off balance is when you take a position of only seeing one side of issue. Either "you must have a spiritual covering" (i.e., a "human authority figure"), or, "Christ is the ONLY authority over the believer". I don't think the issue is that this is an "either/or" decision, but that both sides are somewhat right; the issue is with the "season", and with the growth of the believer, and the timing of God in regards to that particular believers' spiritual maturity level. If you will, take a really hard look at this scripture (I Cor. 11:3). This is the verse that is usually used as a 'proof-text' for those advocating the position that "Christ alone is my head". You will notice that the scripture says that" the "head" (authority, covering, rulership) of every MAN is Christ. This means that Christ alone truly is the Lord and supreme authority over those that have "gone through" the maturation process set forth by John (1 John 3:12-14), and that others.... the church, or other men, have no right to come between a mature believer and the Lord.
Just as it would be inappropriate for my little 6 year old son to "leave home" right now and desperately try and make it on his own, (without the help of parents who have already "gone before him" in this path that we call "life experience"), it would be equally disastrous for my 30 year-old adult son to still be living at home and being cared for and disciplined by his momma.... not working, having an 8:00 curfew and a 9:00 bedtime, having his clothes laid out for him, not being allowed to drive the car....basically having to be told each and every step to make in his daily life.
To me, Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 says it best: "To everything, there is a season....and a time for every purpose under the heaven". This includes the purpose of spiritual authority in one's spiritual life. Perhaps Paul also said it very well, when he said this:
"...when I was child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." (I Cor.13:11)
One of those things that pertains to a child is having "tutors, governors and the literal Law" as school masters" (Galatians 4:1-11)...in order to bring us to Christ. This "bringing to Christ" does not only mean to direct and guide us towards Him...but it also means to bring us up spiritually into Him... into being like Him, in full measure of a MAN...one who is mature, fully grown and developed, with not only some knowledge and experience, but wisdom. These are the hallmarks of one who has no further need of a "covering"....but one who is ready to be a covering for those who lack the maturity as yet to be "fully formed" in Christ. Parents NEVER give birth to fully grown men....they birth babies, who will eventually GROW into men, with the passing of time and the instruction and teaching and guidance of adult parents.
Although we are even right now, in the time spoken of by Isaiah in chapter 3:1-15, in which God has prophesied a time for the people of Judah when "babes would rule over them" (verse 3) and that "children are their oppressors and women rule over them" (verse 12), God Himself will eventually hear our cries; and the children will turn their hearts to the hearts of their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to their children", and we may expect a time of refreshing and even a "changing of the guard" back to what is right and Godly for the believer.
I hope that this writing will be a help, a comfort, and an aid for God's people as they travel through this spiritual journey; and that all may recognize the "due seasons" of their own lives.I pray that "overseers" will begin to recognize these seasons also, and do well by the "children" that God has given them.I hope for the release of the young men in their midst to the ongoing work and "headship" of Christ; that they may "move out" and take their positions as husbands and fathers within the spiritual family of the Lord.