Authority as an Amen Principle
Jul 05, 2009
On July 1, I wrote about authority in relation to free will but failed to express the underlying point that I was trying to make.
The article was written in response to someone who was accusing me of promoting free will on the grounds that I was exercising spiritual authority on this latest trip. He stated outright that authority and free will are the same thing. Of course, I disagree with this.
First of all, any decision we make is an exercise of authority on the part of man's will. My critic makes decisions all the time every day, I am certain, but he apparently does not think that this is an exercise of free will. So therefore, his criticism is unjustified.
Yet he raises an important point that provides me with an occasion to teach about authority and sovereignty--a distinction that is not usually appreciated or understood. For this reason, I think it would be helpful to discuss it with everyone here, instead of confining the discussion to a few people.
My point was NOT to say that my decisions are done by my own free will. In fact, I was making the point that all authority that man exercises is done UNDER the sovereignty of God. To me, it is clearly the case that man's authority is NOT a matter of free will as such.
My second point was to say that regardless of how a sovereign God directs our decisions and the use of our authority--whether by free will or not--God still holds us accountable for our actions. There are countless examples in the Bible about God holding men accountable for their sin. We must take this into account in any discussion of authority or free will.
If someone believes in free will, then their explanation is the simplest. Man sins by his own free will, and God judges him for it.
If someone believes in the sovereignty of God, then the explanation is that God judges us according to our level of authority. And He holds Himself accountable according to His level of sovereignty.
For those of us who believe in the sovereignty of God, the problem comes only when we justify sin on the grounds that "God made me do it." Such an attitude moves into fatalism, which is NOT taught in Scripture.
My critic was essentially opposing my recent trip out West on the grounds that I was trying to "help God" do His work. My exercise of authority, he felt, was an unjustifiable exercise in free will. God needs no help to accomplish His purposes, so I should have just stayed home.
But by that reasoning, I should do absolutely nothing but sit and wait for God to feed me. In fact, I should not even open my mouth to receive the food, lest it be done by my own free will. The fact is, this is a fatalistic attitude, and it leads to a wasted life doing nothing.
I don't try to tell God how to run the universe by His sovereignty. I know very little of the divine PLAN (boulema). But I do pray to know His WILL (thelema), so that I can do it through the exercise of authority. If this is wrong, please, Father, let me know.
It all comes down to a practical matter. I recognize God's sovereignty, but in practical matters, I have to act AS IF I have free will. The fact that God is behind the scenes CAUSING me to choose is not my problem. I cannot concern myself with the divine plan. My concern is only whether or not I am being obedient to the will of God and the leading of the Spirit. If I mess up, as I have often done, I should recognize that this was part of God's PLAN for the purpose of teaching me by my mistakes. Nonetheless, all violations of His WILL require repentance (change of mind, caused by learning).
I need not feel utterly condemned by my mistakes or sin, because I recognize that there is a bigger plan involved and that God is ultimately responsible for training me as His son. I can even recognize that it was part of the Plan in order to accomplish a greater purpose. But yet I cannot use this as an excuse to sin with no twinge of conscience.
Finally, since the question has arisen, if God is so sovereign, why does he need my help in doing anything? In an absolute sense, He needs no man's help. But in the beginning, God established the law of the double witness, and heaven and earth are the ultimate witnesses that establish all things. I did not create this law, but I believe it and will act upon it.
God created authority from the beginning, as I said. The purpose of this authority is to bear witness to God. It is the earthly witness bearing witness to the heavenly in order to establish all things. God delegated authority to Adam for this purpose. It established the lawful path to the establishment of the Kingdom. So for God to establish the Kingdom on earth, He must first raise up earthly witnesses who are trained to agree with His plan and His decrees.
Those who hear His voice are those who say "AMEN" to Him. Man's primary function is to become AMEN people. God is the First Cause of all things. Man is the double witness on earth. Is man's job important? Yes, of course. Why? Simply because God decided to do it that way.
God could have decided to do it all Himself with no input from man. He could have decided not to delegate authority to anyone. But the fact is, He did not do it that way. Man does play an important role. But at the same time, God did not give away His sovereignty to any man either. Authority is not sovereignty. Authority will always be subject to God's sovereignty.
Free will presupposes that God delegated sovereignty to man. This I do not believe. Anyone who thinks that a claim to authority is a claim to having free will is simply not understanding the issue properly. Free will is a claim to sovereignty, not authority. Authority and free will are NOT the same thing.
But suppose for the moment that I am wrong and my critic is right. My question to him is this: You claim to believe God is sovereign and object to my use of authority. Do you not believe that my recent trip and everything I did was all part of the divine plan? Then why object? What choice did I have in doing this? Your very criticism shows that you do not really believe that God is sovereign in the way you present Him. If I did wrong, what concern is that to you? Just sit home and let God do it all. He doesn't need your help.
God has raised up some of us to bear witness to His plan and to "establish" it (not "cause" it) by the law of the double witness. We are establishing what He caused. The greatest use of authority is in doing only what we see our Father do, and speaking only what we hear our Father say. That is the essence of being an AMEN people.
If we understand this properly, we will not be fatalists, nor will we think that we are the First Cause of all things. Those are the two extremes, and they are equally wrong. Understanding our authority is the key to going about our Father's business. It is the key to occupying until He comes. It is the key to everything that we are led to do on earth to further the establishment of the Kingdom of God.
Dr. Stephen Jones