Thursday, August 24, 2006

Authority is Loyalty

In Mark 9, John points out to Jesus that they (the disciples) had seen someone casting out demons in Jesus' name, but because they were not followers of the disciples, they were forbidden to continue the practice. And Jesus responds: "Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side."

In a post several days ago regarding my qualms with those who "convert" to other branches of Christendom, I questioned the validity of playing the "authority card" in defense of Rome or Constantinople. Now to make it perfectly clear, I do believe that the Church is the Body of Christ, and the appointed leaders of the Church speak with real authority, and they are to be honored and obeyed as such. And I am willing to fully affirm that it is possible that some ecclesiastical authorities today have been ordained by men who have been ordained by men who were ordained by others who (going back all the way) were ordained by apostles who were chosen by Jesus. But Jesus' words make it clear that authority does not rest in a particular theological pedigree. Ultimately, true authority rests in loyalty to Jesus. And because this is the case, all authority must be assumed to be such (1 Pet. 2:13ff).

And of course someone will pipe up in the back of the peanut gallery and want to know how many miracles I have performed in the last few months. Isn't that a prerequisite for "rogue" ministry? Actually, no. Jesus says that for sure whoever is doing miracles in His name should be left alone, but continues and allows for even more. The mark of true ministry and authority is allegiance to Jesus. The point is this: there is no club, no seminary, no ecclesastical convention, and no tatoo that entitles you to a free ride. The guy with the apostolic succession on his head may be as godly as St. Peter himself, or as God damned as Judas. To say that all Protestants must repent of their sectarianism and return to Rome or Constantinople is like saying that the scribes, pharisees and Pilot weren't guilty of the blood of Jesus because hey, they were just doing what that Holy Blessed Apostle Judas told them to do.

And no, this doesn't mean that ordination doesn't matter or that the church is a free-for-all democracy. But it does mean that the church is a theocracy; it means that God does whatever He wants and He does it with whomever He wants, our fancy little ceremonies notwithstanding. Maybe God will wind up reuniting the organizational structure of the church over the history of the world. Maybe in ten or thirty thousand years there will be an "Office of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church." Maybe. But I kind of doubt it. I suspect that as God perfects His Bride, it will be far more organic. Sure, maybe there will be various leadership positions over certain branches of the church and those leaders will be in fellowship and communion with other leaders. But that unity and fellowship will not be based on a particular heritage, a pretentious ceremony or the letterhead on the stationary. Our unity is and will always be in our allegiance to Christ, our loyalty to Him and to His people.

It's the disloyalty expressed in phrases like "I'm converting" that makes me sick.

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