How are we to relate to an overseer and his authority?

How are we to relate to an overseer and his authority?

The Lord takes believers from their culture to maintain Christian testimony within that culture. However, testimony has always suffered when Christians borrow the mores of their culture. Rejecting God’s authority, our society is anti-authoritarian and casual. We are in the world but not of it (John 17:11, 14). Rejecting society’s thinking, we recognize that God establishes authority; that authority is not our enemy but our ally. Submission to elders is a Biblical truth (Hebrews 13:17), therefore it is for our good (Deuteronomy 6:24).

Saul was anointed by God through Samuel to be king (1 Samuel 10:1), sadly reflecting the people’s sinful desire to be like the nations (8:19, 20). (Solemnly, God may allow among His people leadership that reflects their poor spiritual condition.) Despite this and Saul’s unreasoning oppression, David would not lift the sword against Saul, the Lord’s anointed (24:6). The same principle is evident in the New Testament. Gaius was part of an assembly in which Diotrephes exercised leadership (3 John 1:10). Diotrephes rejected truth communicated by John, an apostle (v 9). When he came to the assembly, John intended to deal with Diotrephes because the issue was God’s truth. Notably, instead of hinting that Gaius should "dethrone" Diotrephes, John encouraged Gaius to continue in truth and love, to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Those two cases are worse than assembly believers face today, but the principle is clear: we are to respect authority established by God.

An authoritarian demeanor, however, is unbecoming to those who lead God’s people. Their mind set is to be that of a servant (Philippians 2:3-8; Mark 10:42-45). Shepherds take their character from the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4). He was approachable, so that even the outcasts of society felt free to come near and converse with Him (Luke 15:1; John 4:27). What a wonderful condition when the sheep and the shepherds in an assembly enjoy a free, open, mutually-edifying, accepting, and harmonious relationship!

D. Oliver