OF AUTHORITY, LEGALISM, AND HUMILITY

Gene Peacock

Authority is defined (primary usage) by Webster in his Unabridged Dictionary as "The power or right to command, act, enforce obedience, or make final decisions; jurisdiction". Most world religions embrace some earthly authority system. The one that should not is Christianity, because it is expressly prohibited by its leader. Unfortunately, His followers are among the most authority-bound of all. This is strange, for Jesus said (Matthew 20:25-28): "It shall not be so among you. Whosoever would be great in the kingdom shall be a servant, and whosoever would be first shall be the slave to all. Just as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." If this statement were not enough, consider that the requesters in this circumstance were two of the apostles and their mother. Not only did His statement expressly rule out authority for these two, but inferentially for all the other apostles, none of whom had any earthly authority. Also, if even apostles are without earthly authority, surely no one else in the kingdom has any authority, except for the King, who has all authority, as he claimed (Matthew 28: 18, 19). This eliminates not only the hierarchical systems of such as the Roman Catholic church, but also the elders and deacons of the fundamentalist religions, and every stratum between. It eliminates authority in ALL the sects or denominations which claim to be Christian.

Unfortunately, those searching for laws, rules, and regulations to follow in their legalistic approach to salvation, copying the Galatians, cannot seem to find these verses in Matthew, nor to understand this prohibition from the mouth of their King. The real tragedy involved in their legalism is shown in the abandonment of personal involvement evident in all areas of relationships with GOD and man, as well as in the propagation of the gospel. This enervating philosophy has squelched the sharing spirit so evident in the first century Christians, who went everywhere preaching the grace which GOD offers to man, sharing their joy with those around them. This was not just the "preachers" or "missionaries", but everyone. Those who feel no personal responsibility to spread the word soon become satisfied with the limited, spirit-less, level of their activity, and dump the active role on those designated as evangelists and preachers, in order to assume the role of paying spectators. With such a small base of activity, is it any wonder that no progress is made toward giving the whole world the "good news"?

The persecuted practitioners of first-century Christianity went everywhere preaching and teaching; but their 20th century counterparts do not go to people, but to "services", whatever that word means in that context. If the people of the world cannot be persuaded to attend our "services", they have no exposure to the good news. If we really consider it as "good news" for all men, why can we not carry it to the people of the world? From whom did we acquire the perception that we are "serving" our Lord when we ignore his marching orders, when we do not "go into all thX-Mozilla-Status: 0009the gospel to all?" Even the baptism which we correctly insist is necessary for salvation becomes part of a ritualistic, legalistic formula to that end, instead of symbolizing immersion of our whole being into our Lord, losing our selves in Him, seeking to be absorbed and "transformed by the renewing of our minds," to become like Him. How can we possibly believe that our GOD is going to be pleased with such a superficial reaction to the "unspeakable gift" He has given us?

Behind all of this is the pride that insists we can somehow earn salvation, for our minds rebel against the truth that we are totally dependent, and must rely on the undeserved favor of our GOD. Humility is indeed the key to Christianity, for only when we truly understand and accept our total dependence on GOD can we become worthwhile servants, and only then can we experience the joy which characterized the catacomb Christians of Rome. Only then will we be ready to carry the gospel to the whole world!