Summary: What sort of authority should govern a Community and how should a leader exercise it?
OCTOBER 18, 2002
•First Reading: Is. 45: 1, 4-6;
•Psalm: 96:1, 3-5, 7-10
•Second Reading: 1 Thess. 1:1-5
•Gospel: Mt. 22:15-21
Three years ago, Enya and I were blessed to have led a Community worship based on the same Scripture Readings we have this evening. So, we are not going to discuss the justice of taxation or the Christian duty of good citizenship as we did before. What we’d like to share with you this evening pertains to the three types of authority shown in our Scripture Readings, namely the authority of Cyrus, Caesar and of Christ, our LORD.
Our reflection begins with Cyrus, the celebrated King of Persia. Prior to his reign, the great kings of the earth so oppressed the people of God and treated them as slaves. In due course, God chose Cyrus to be His instrument in conquering Babylon and liberating His people (Ezra 1:1, 2). Thus through Cyrus, a pagan king at that, the Jews were able to go back to the Promised Land unimpeded and rebuild the temple of worship. With this type of authority, though impermanent, the person involved is simply a vessel through which the leadership of God flows. With the mighty hand of God leading, that person cannot but follow God’s directions and fulfill His plan and purpose.
The authority of Caesar is given by the LORD as well. The difference lies in the fact that while Cyrus was totally in God’s grasp, Caesars (in the present tense) are free to use their authority according to their own inclinations, ambitions and aspirations in life. When such tendencies incline towards the flesh and begins to consume an individual, its Giver is either pushed aside or totally abandoned. Needless to say, it becomes impossible for leaders in this state of mind to lead others towards the spiritual realm. Then that God-given authority becomes adulterated, frustrating the sublime purpose God has intended it because the pursuit of power, fame and fortune has replaced the pursuit of eternal life. They render to Caesar not only what belongs to Caesar but also what clearly belongs to God.
Although it lasted for sometime, the authority of Cyrus and of Caesar eventually succumbed to the test of time. But there is one authority that “endureth throughout all generations” (Ps. 145:13), whose government is of peace, justice and righteousness (Is. 9:6-7). This is the authority of Christ! In order to understand our Savior’s authority, one must inevitably gaze upon the Cross at Calvary. That is where the LORD Jesus rendered unto God what man could never do, equal or surpass, and, in return, received from the Father the fullness of authority (Mt. 28:18; Phil. 2:9-11). For that reason, all authority comes from Christ Jesus, and He has no successor simply because He lives in the hearts of those living the life in the Spirit.
In summary, there is certainly a need for authority in any Community, without which there would be chaos. No doubt the LORD uses men to be both leaders and examples to others and draw them into a relationship with Him. But what sort of authority should this be? Is it an appointment as a class shepherd, ministry head, steward or servant leader? Does it come by way of seniority or superiority? Is this responsibility conferred by men who are partial to a few? Certainly not! All these are just human standards that can possibly hinder the LORD’s purposes and undermine the growth of the gifts and fruit of the Spirit. The authority that God promises is not one to wield the power of self or to lord it over subordinates. The authority that God promises is the authority to demonstrate the power of the Word and the Spirit, enabling us to increase our work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope in the LORD Jesus Christ. Authority, therefore, is none other than the power to serve! And there is no better example than our Redeemer Himself, Who demonstrated this power by embracing the pains of the Cross! There is no better example that Christ-crucified! That is authority!
Our Order for the week comes from the Gospel, and it reads, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s" (Mt. 22:21). In response, the District Council of Stewards offers the following directions:
1) The LORD calls us to be faithful to worship. Community worship, from which authority flows, is undeniably a measure of our personal commitment to and covenant with the LORD.
2) The LORD calls us to be generous in giving. In the truest sense of the word, worship is giving to God His worth. How much we give to God, whether it’s time, talent or treasure ultimately reveals the way we worship and the way we exercise and obey authority.