Obedience and Submission
The Lines Of Authority And Leadership
God has designed all of life to take place in lines of authority or leadership. No one can exist on their own without being part of a line of authority. We must all learn obedience and submission in order to be part of a line of leadership or authority. This is the most important lesson to learn in life. Your happiness and success in all of your relationships is based on how well you have learned and practiced this lesson. All relationships exist within a line of authority. It is only in a line of authority that we can learn unselfishness and obedience.
Jesus set the perfect example of obedience for us to follow. He humbled Himself and made Himself of no reputation, and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
(Phil 2:5-8) He didn’t want to follow His own will. He wanted to please His Father. He didn’t want to speak about Himself. He wanted to speak about His Father. He didn’t communicate His own message. He communicated His Father’s message. We must follow this example! (John 6:38)
The opposite of obedience and submission, is disobedience and rebellion. Jesus’ disciples and apostles teach us to be obedient to our parents, and for wives to obey their husbands, and for people to obey their boss or master, and for people to obey their elders and spiritual leaders, and for everyone to obey the laws of the land and the government. When people are obedient and submissive the line of authority is established and all the people on that line can work together in peace and harmony. Everybody on the line of authority is both a follower and a leader. Leaders lead by example, and also by instruction and authority. Followers lead by example only. God often uses followers, who lead by example to create more spiritual change and growth, than using leaders who lead by instruction and authority only. An example would be, a submissive wife who by setting a good example of gentleness, quietness and humility, can convict the husband of his sin, and God can bring about repentance and salvation for her husband. (1 Pet 3:1, 2)
There is a line of authority or leadership in the body of Christ, with Christ being the head of the Church, and the apostles and prophets having the authority to teach the message of God through preaching and writing, which they did in the first century. They built the foundation. We are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” (Eph 2:20) “As a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 3:10, 11) “And He gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Eph 4:11, 12) The body of Christ is a gentle, humble, loving line of authority compared to worldly lines where force and punishment are used.
There is a line of authority in a business, with the owner of the company being the boss and then the managers, assistant managers and supervisors being under the boss or owner in authority. Even the new employee who is just in training is on the line of authority, but at the lowest level. There’s also a line of authority in government, from the President or Prime Minister of a country, down through all the various government departments regulating, controlling and organizing all the functions of society to make life in that country possible.
There’s a line of authority in the family. (Eph 5: 22-33) The husband is under the Lord Jesus Christ. Then the wife is under her husband. Then the oldest child down to the youngest child completes the line of authority. The most important lesson for the follower of Christ to learn, after self-denial, is obedience and submission. The level of satisfaction and fulfillment that you experience in life is based on your level of obedience and submission to the people God has put in authority over you!
The Example Of The Military
The military is a worldly example of the line of authority, or ‘chain of command’ as they call it. Every soldier and officer is trained to deny themselves and to follow orders. Obedience is expected even in the face of danger, or loss of the soldier’s life. The apostle Paul uses this example when we are told to be soldiers for Christ, and to fight a spiritual battle. We are commanded to put on the whole armour of God, and we are expected to be obedient even to the point of death. This takes great training and discipline, because our selfish, sinful nature wants to rebel and please itself rather than dying for Christ. (2 Tim 2:3-4)
Selfishness Is The Problem
Selfishness is very damaging to relationships. You cannot be obedient if you are selfish, because the selfish person will want their own way, and want to please themselves, rather than the person they are supposed to obey. The selfish person will be disobedient to the people above them on the line of authority, which will break those relationships. They will also set an example of selfishness and self-centredness to their followers. The followers will become more selfish, which will make them more disobedient, and those relationships will be broken as well. Selfishness disconnects us from the people above us and below us on every line of authority, so we cannot benefit from our connection with them. We cannot give to them or receive from them, so we lose everything. We must not please ourselves, but others. (Rom 15: 1-3) Selfishness disconnects us from God for the same reasons.
Bondage And Freedom
The worst bondage is selfishness and disobedience, because it breaks all connections with God and people, and you are left with nothing. You can’t give or receive on any level, and isolation, misery and death are the result. Unselfishness and obedience brings freedom and life, because you can be reconciled to God and people, and give and receive on every level.
One of the great benefits of being submissive on a line of authority is the freedom from bondage and slavery to selfishness and sin. When we make our self a slave to the people on the line of authority above us we have all the benefits and blessings of that line or team. When you think it over and weigh the benefits, obedience is always in your best interests. If you are a servant on the line of authority the result is blessings, whereas rebelling makes you a slave to sin, death and the devil. (Rom 6:12-23) “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
What Happens When You Move Up The Line
The only way to move up the line of authority is to obey the person above you. Moving up the line however, creates more responsibilities and burdens, because you are responsible then for all the people below you on the line of authority. (James 3: 1-2) Your judgment is going to be stricter, because of the influence you have had on other people through your teaching and instruction. For example, fathers can have a stricter judgment than the mother because they teach, guide and discipline their family. Both the strengths and weaknesses, and the good and the bad influences of the father are seen in the family, and even in subsequent generations. This applies to all leaders and teachers because their influence can be a blessing, but can also be a stumbling block.
Relationships Of Equality
Relationships of equality do not exist in reality because people are selfish by nature, and that puts an end to all relationships. When people are selfish they want their own way, and that will destroy their relationship with others, because they won’t be able to work together anymore. Even if people were perfectly unselfish and obedient, a relationship based on equality would be stagnant. There needs to be leadership for direction, and for growth to occur. In all of creation there is no such thing as equality. Even with animals in the wild there is a ‘pecking order’ or line of authority, so the animals can function together as a herd, pack or flock. This creates order and protection, and helps to meet the animal’s needs for food, reproduction and survival.
Where there is an attempt at equality, there is confusion, disorganization and constant conflict between people. There has to be a line of authority for organization to occur and to create peace.
Be Careful You Don’t Lose Your Position
If a leader does not set the right example by obeying and submitting to the people above him on the line of authority, he will lose his leadership. This is because his followers will follow his example of disobedience and rebellion, and rebel against him. A leader cannot expect his followers to be anymore obedient and submissive to him than he is to his leader.
In the line of leadership there are leaders and followers. Everyone leads by example by being obedient to the person above them on the line of leadership. If they are disobedient to the person above them, they are no longer setting the right example, and they will lose their position on the line.
The follower must still be obedient to their leader, unless it causes them to be disobedient to their leader’s leader. For example, if the mother tells the oldest child to do something a certain way, and the youngest child knows that, and then the oldest child is not obedient, then the youngest child should not go along. However, if the youngest child doesn’t know the mother’s wishes, then they must obey the instruction of the older child.
Even if you are the head of a line of authority, you should not be bossy or forceful with your followers. We must all clothe ourselves in humility, and esteem or regard others above our self. (Phil 2:3) The head of one line of authority will not be the head of other lines, and they must show obedience and submission on those other lines.
T.E.A.M. (Together Everyone Achieves More)
Whenever people live and work together, there are lines of authority that make up a team. All of life is based on people working together as a team. There is no other way to live. The goal is not to move up the line of authority, but to be unselfish and obedient so that you can fulfill your role as part of the team. It is only by setting this good example that the team can prosper as a whole, and you can benefit from being part of this successful team.
Leadership on the team is established by the people who by unselfishness and obedience set the best example. The most effective leadership and the only leadership that lasts is the one that sets the example of unselfishness and obedience. Leadership that is based on authority without setting the right example will always self-destruct because the followers become increasingly more selfish and disobedient, and the team falls apart and everyone loses. In other words, leaders must first practice what they preach in order to be taken seriously, and for their followers to be inspired and uplifted by their godly example.
When people are disobedient in the line of leadership, they will lose the benefits of that team or line of people. If the disobedience is ongoing, they will soon be punished in some way. If they are working for a business they could be demoted and earn less money. In some cases they will be fired and lose their job altogether. We are all in a line of authority with the government, and to all the government departments that regulate different areas of our life. If we disobey the government’s rules and laws we can be fined, and in some cases put into prison. In the body of Christ, people who are disobedient will be exhorted and rebuked, and will eventually be shunned if they do not confess and repent.
When people obey the person above them on the line of authority, they have a good relationship with them. If everyone on the line of authority obeys the person above them the whole team functions in an organized, profitable and peaceful manner. Everyone on the team benefits from the obedience and co-operation of every other member on the team. If you are obedient you receive the combined benefits of all the people that are above you and below you on that line of authority. If you are disobedient all of these benefits will by-pass you. The key to benefiting is to be obedient and submissive to the people on every line of authority that you are part of, regardless of where you are on that line.
“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Heb 13:17)