Monday, July 25, 2011

Submission to God's Authority Structure

Submission to God’s authority structure has always been a difficult issue for created beings. The only place where we see a perfect example of it is within the Godhead. God the Son has always been obedient to the Father and perfectly submitted to His will (John 8:28-29). Likewise God the Holy Spirit submits to the Father and the Son and speaks only those things which He has received (John 16:13-14). There is no envy or striving for mastery within the Godhead. There is perfect equality, yet perfect submission to the divine authority structure. The highest of angelic beings could not submit to the authority structure placed on him (Isa 14:12-13), nor could the first man and woman (Gen 3:5-6). We would do well to remember two things as it pertains to the church. Authority structure is important to God, and it is not in our power to submit to it. If we are to be fully submitted to God’s perfect order (for perfect it certainly is), then we must look to the Godhead to supply our lack. First and foremost (as we have seen) it is vitally important that we submit to Christ as our Head, but we must also recognize the other structures of authority that God has placed in the church. We have already looked at God’s provision of overseers, and we see that we are to submit to them (Heb 13:17). Note that this command comes from God even though He knows full well that our overseers are imperfect. There is another authority structure that God has placed in the church that we have not yet explored. That (which we will now undertake) is the issue of the differing roles of men and women.
First of all it is important to understand that in this as in all things, God’s prescribed order is perfectly given for the good of the church. In today’s society it is unpopular to suggest that men and women are different and have different roles. It is clear, however, from Scripture that this is the case, and that God created us this way so that we might complement one another. When we understand this we can learn to joyfully submit to the unique roles that God has given us. This could be a topic for a whole series of articles, but we will focus at this time on the impact it has on the church. In 1 Timothy 2, Paul is talking about the impact that we have on the world, and he begins to highlight the different roles that men and women have in this work. First of all men are encouraged to be active in public prayer, but women are encouraged concerning their apparel and their godly living. He does not say that women can never pray publicly, or that men should not exemplify godly living, but it does illustrate the different types of ministry that God has equipped men and women for. He goes on to show how these differences manifest themselves in the church. Women are told that they are to learn in silence, they are not to teach, and they are not to have a position of authority over a man. Sometimes these commands are viewed as punishments, but they are not. Paul goes on to mention Adam and Eve because it is important to get the point that the reason for these things goes all the way back to creation. In other words we need to understand that God created man and woman with different roles, and different strengths and weaknesses. The woman was designed by the all-wise Creator to be a suitable helper for the man. We will always find the most satisfaction and fulfillment in life (whether in the family or in the church or anywhere) when we submit to God’s order and purpose for our lives. Unfortunately it is the tendency of men and women (and even angels apparently) to want something for which we were never intended. Some women seem to have the attitude that God is withholding some good thing from them, and they look for every loophole to get around it. On the other hand, some men seem to wish that they had the woman’s part. They are quite unwilling to take up the mantle of public prayer and teaching and worship. There is sometimes an attitude of trying to see how little we can do and still be in obedience to God’s order. Let us rather strive to excel in the role that God has given us. This is by no means an exhaustive dealing on the roles of men and women. It is simply my desire to encourage you to study this topic on your own, and when you study it I hope that you will have an attitude of submission to God’s order, and that you will seek to excel in the life and ministry for which God has created you and equipped you.
There is one more topic that I would like to address that relates to this. That is the topic of head coverings. The teaching on this comes from 1 Corinthians 11. Once again I will not take to time to expound the passage in depth; I would simply like to offer a few thoughts for your consideration and further study. First of all we will note at the beginning of this passage that this is an issue of headship, and God’s created order, so it falls right into the topic of this article. Secondly I would like to draw your attention to the purpose of the head covering. As you study through the passage I’m sure you will notice that there is a question of glory at stake. The covering is given as a means of veiling the glory of man and of woman so that Christ can receive all the glory. The head covering of course only does this in a symbolic fashion, but that does not make it any less important. We would do well to remember that God cares about more than just the symbol; He cares about the attitude of the heart, but that doesn’t mean that we are off the hook as far as the symbol goes. We will also notice that the head covering is given as a symbol of authority for the angels. We have already seen that the angels have historically had problems with God’s authority structure. What a great privilege the ladies have of being an object lesson to them concerning the church’s submission to Christ! For that matter, what a great privilege it is to be an instrument in giving glory to God by covering the glory of man and woman! When we understand God’s order and are willing to submit to it, we will not only find fulfillment, but we will find blessing and honor.
Throughout our study of the church this theme will reiterate itself; Christ’s plan for the church is always the best. If we can learn this principle and learn to submit to Him as our head, I believe the church will find new life. We will find that Christ can use us to accomplish great things in the world because we are finally willing to let Him do it according to His will. The issue of men and women is only one part of this principle, but I think it is an important indicator of our willingness to submit to Him in all things.