Spiritual authority was established from the beginning of human history when God told Adam and Eve to steward the planet (Genesis 1:26-28). The fact that Adam represented the whole human race is clear from Romans 5:12. It says that when he sinned – all sinned. This is why we are by nature objects of God’s wrath, as we see in Ephesians 2:1-3. This is called “Federal Headship.” This can be understood in contemporary society when all the people of a nation are affected, for good or evil, by their leader’s decisions. For example, a nation can go to war against another nation because of its leaders. Hence, young men, who have nothing to do with these decisions, may die on the battlefield because their leaders decided to go to war.
Jesus spoke about delegated authority when He said, “whoever receives you receives me” (Matthew 10:40). Thus, Jesus imparted His power and His delegated authority in His leaders so His Kingdom can be properly aligned. This is why He gave His leaders the ability to bind and loose things on earth (Matthew 16:19).
In plain English, when a person cannot submit to spiritual authority, they cannot submit to Jesus’s leadership. Truly, the Church is the visible community of the invisible triune God. The Bible makes it very clear that there are leaders in the Church. Paul says that apostles and prophets are the foundation of the Church (Ephesians 2:20). Ephesians 4:13 implies that we still need apostles and prophets, the entire five-fold ministry gifts. This is essential so that the believer can mature.
Ephesians 4:7-12 teaches that the grace of God for a believer to be equipped for the work of the ministry doesn’t come directly from heaven. Rather, it comes through the APEST ministry gifts (Ephesians 4:11). Hence, if you are not with said ministry gifts, you will not mature, even if you are saved. This shows how important your spiritual leaders are to your development regarding your assignment. The measure of grace you receive is based upon the measure of grace by which the APEST gifts are poured into you.
Other leaders in the Church can be functional elders and deacons. (The team of leaders God has assigned in a New Testament congregation.) Elders help shepherd, bear the burden of the Church, and make decisions with the lead pastor; together, they form an eldership team (Numbers 11:16-17).
Deacons are recognized servants, as we see in Acts 6:1-12. The Bible makes it clear that we need to be accountable to spiritual leaders in order to grow.
- The 5th commandment teaches us to honor our father and mother. This implies the honoring of spiritual and biological parents and elders in the faith which God has assigned to you. Following this concept of honor is essential if a person will be influential and prosperous in the spheres of life and geography they dwell in (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:1-3).
- Hebrews 13:17 teaches us to submit to our spiritual leaders because they watch over our souls as one who has to give an account to God. This should be done in such a way that it causes them joy and not grief.
- The Bible speaks about the importance of receiving commandments from other people, not just God (Proverbs 10:8; 17; 29:1).
- Paul, the apostle, submitted his ministry and preached to the main apostles in Jerusalem to make sure he was not running in vain (Galatians 2:1-2).
- Going to older mature believers to resolve conflict is essential, as we see in Matthew 18:15-18. Also, less mature people need the input of older, seasoned believers to deal with certain relational issues and challenges in life. This is why Matthew 18 says to tell it to the elders.
- We should not gossip, slander, or uncover our leaders. This is demonstrated in the story of Noah and his sons. Even though Noah committed wrong, the sons who covered their father were blessed, and the son who uncovered him was cursed (Genesis 9:20-27).
- Of course, the greatest, most sobering illustration we have in the Scriptures is the account of how Lucifer fell from his high position in heaven because he attempted to usurp the authority of God because of his pride and rebellion. His rebellion negatively impacted many other heavenly angels who followed his lead (Isaiah 14:12-14, Revelation 12:7-9). He wanted to be the “top dog” instead of living blissfully in eternity in submission to His heavenly Creator.
In conclusion, we are called not only to have an individual walk with God, but we are to walk in community with His household. This household is led by the Spiritual leaders, whom God assigns. If we cannot submit to them, then it shows we have a problem submitting to God.