There are a great many sincere Christians that wholeheartedly desire to follow God’s will because we want to be like Him and enjoy the full benefits of knowing a God that loves us. Where we differ with the proponents of covering theology is the best way to discern God’s will? Is it through “governing authorities” or is it through the whole body of Christ? Biblical submission is part of this process, but who do we submit to what does it look like?
The best way to discern God’s will is to seek his direction together. God did not design his church so that he would lead through just one person. The Spirit can speak through anyone at anytime.
1Co 12:6 And there are different results, but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.
1Co 12:7 To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all.
1Co 12:8 For one person is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, and another the message of knowledge according to the same Spirit,
1Co 12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
1Co 12:10 to another performance of miracles, to another prophecy, and to another discernment of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.
In any church we recognize that some people will have leadership gifts and we intentionally give them the place and the room to exercise those gifts so that we all may benefit. Those leaders should be respected and we should open our hearts to be persuaded by their leading, wisdom and knowledge. However even the most gifted among us doesn’t get carte blanche acceptance. Paul called on the Corinthians to evaluate what the prophets spoke.
1Co 14:29 Two or three prophets should speak and the others should evaluate what is said.
Evaluation necessitates questioning and independent critical thought!
The threat of heresy and abuse is always there. Every major author warns us to be vigilant about false teaching, other gospels and “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
Mat 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves.
Paul to the Corinthians
2Co 11:4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus different from the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit than the one you received, or a different gospel than the one you accepted, you put up with it well enough!
Paul to the Galatians
Gal 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are following a different gospel —
Gal 1:7 not that there really is another gospel, but there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ.
Paul to the Thessalonians
2Th 2:1 Now regarding the arrival of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to be with him, we ask you, brothers and sisters,
2Th 2:2 not to be easily shaken from your composure or disturbed by any kind of spirit or message or letter allegedly from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here.
2Pe 2:1 But false prophets arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. These false teachers will infiltrate your midst with destructive heresies, even to the point of denying the Master who bought them. As a result, they will bring swift destruction on themselves.
2Pe 2:2 And many will follow their debauched lifestyles. Because of these false teachers, the way of truth will be slandered.
1Jn 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Jas 5:19 My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone turns him back,
Jas 5:20 he should know that the one who turns a sinner back from his wandering path will save that person’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
How can we watch out for false teaching and false brothers and sisters if we don’t question leaders?
Paul gives us some great instruction on how to understand the will of God. In Eph 5:6 Paul warns “Let nobody deceive you with empty words” and goes on to talk about the deeds of darkness and the light. He then contrasts this what it takes to avoid such darkness and disobedience.
Eph 5:17 For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is.
Eph 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit,
Eph 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord,
Eph 5:20 always giving thanks to God the Father for each other in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Eph 5:21 and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
There are a couple of notable items on this list:
- Be filled by the Spirit
- Speak to one another
- Give thanks for each other
- Submit to one another
Knowing God’s will and avoiding darkness requires the whole body to minister to each other. Notice “submit to God’s delegated authority” is absent from this list. In fact there is not one verse in scripture that comes close to saying that.
Why should we submit to one another? Because of our reverence for Christ! Some older translations use the word “fear” but given the reality most translations have changed it that rendering might be too strong. We honour, respect and revere God by submitting to each other because he just might be speaking through through our brothers and sisters. This is why leaders need to submit to people who aren’t leaders. We respect that God can work through and speak through anyone. Therefore we must all be willing to let God speak through us.
Compare that with Bevere’s words:
“We should not take upon ourselves the pressure to discern beforehand whether leaders are right nor not. Nor should we judge after the fact. This is not our burden, but God’s He alone knows and can change hearts as he so desires (Bevere 147).”
We must always recognize that we are not perfect. We can easily be deceived and easily deceive ourselves. Which is why need each other to speak to us and call us to account when we make mistakes. Covering theology cuts leaders off from the ministry of the body and short circuits the proper functioning of His church.
Bevere, John. Under Cover. Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 2001.