Undermining Authority - RR272D7
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|This transcript is unedited. It was:|
|Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library|
|Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules|
|Posted by with permission.|
Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. The hour cometh and now is when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is the Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Let us pray. O Lord our God, Who art from all eternity; Who art greater than all things visible and invisible. We thank Thee that in Thy grace and mercy, Thou art mindful of us, Thy creatures. We thank Thee, our Father, that there is nothing too small, nor too great, for Thee. In this confidence we come, our Father, to cast our every care upon Thee, Who carest for us; and to rejoice in Thy works; to give thanks that all our yesterdays, todays, and our tomorrows are in Thine omnipotent hands. Bless us ever in Thy service. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Our scripture is from the Gospel of St. Mark, the 13th chapter, verses 32 through 37. Our subject: undermining authority. “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, and watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every one his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, watch.”
Over the centuries there has been a continuing war against authority, often openly, often as an undercurrent. We are speaking here of godly authority, not rebellion against ungodly authority. Man, being a sinner and in rebellion against God, is therefore in rebellion against authority, godly authority. However, open rebellion against authority is often less damaging than the covert rebellion, which hides under the mask of a seeming orthodoxy—a seeming respect for authority—but actually undermines it. Very often, covert undermining of authority comes with an insistence on greater authoritarianism. [00:03:36]
Let us begin with some obvious examples...
Let us begin with some obvious examples. Emanuel Swedenborg, whose influence in the English-speaking world began about 1788, has been very influential in Western history. His influence on English and American writers of the last century is enormous. Emerson very extensively shows Swedenborg’s influence. One almost needs to know what Swedenborg said, in order to decode Melville’s novels, with their highly-involved symbolism. According to Swedenborg, the whole of the Bible was a coded book; and he, only, had the key. And, so, in order to understand the Bible, you had to accept Swedenborg and his theory of correspondences—his decoding—as authoritative. He gave a symbolic meaning to every passage in the Bible and established himself as the only decoder. Thus, he established himself as the only mediator between God and man; this, of course, has been the mark of cultists over the centuries. [00:05:12]
Now, the sad fact is that all too many Catholic and...
Now, the sad fact is that all too many Catholic and Protestant scholars over the years have been guilty of a like esoteric approach. In the medieval emphasis, for example, there were four levels of meaning. Authority was thereby transferred from the Bible to the erudite commentators, so that unless you understood them and the original languages somehow, you were incapable of understanding the plain words of scripture. Granted, there are passages that are difficult to understand and difficult to translate, but there is no essential doctrine of scripture that is affected by those difficult passages. And what St. Augustine once said is still true, when he said the Bible was profound and deep enough to drown an elephant in, and shallow enough for a child to wade into. That was very true. Of course, we might throw in Mark Twain’s comment, when he said it wasn’t the parts of the Bible that he didn’t understand that gave him trouble; it was the parts that he did understand! Now, Protestant commentators have been no less guilty of this kind of esoteric approach, as though the Bible could not be understood, unless they were read and studied and followed. [00:07:09]
And you have today, for example, a school of symbolic...
And you have today, for example, a school of symbolic theology that rests upon the work of one Orientalis, in particular; and if these people are right, the real meaning of the Bible was undiscovered until they were born. Now, that’s quite a bit of arrogance. What it says, in effect, is that expert authority replaces faith; and the only way to describe that is to call it what it is: blasphemy.
Another subversion is pietism, both medieval and modern. The plain doctrine of scripture, and the authority of God and His Word are decried in favor of, what they call, heart religion. And they will accuse others of having it up here in the head, but not in the heart. Well, that’s nonsense: man is a unity, and to break him up that way is ridiculous. Moreover, pietism has led to a radical egocentricity. It makes the center of religion not God, but the individual soul, its salvation, and its experience. Now, our salvation is the necessary beginning of our life as Christians, but our salvation is not the be-all and end-all of faith. The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever; and our Lord said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” or a more modern word, His justice, “and all these things” that the Gentiles seek, the people of the world desire, “will be added unto you.” So that whatever it is we want, whether it be happiness, peace of mind—you name it; all these are byproducts, according to our Lord, to seeking first the kingdom of God and His justice! But pietism winds up always in pious gush, as though the be-all and end-all of religion was that you feel good in relationship to God. I don’t think it’s important to God that you feel good. It is important to Him that you obey Him. Our Lord, in facing the cross, prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” Pietism doesn’t have that spirit. It sets aside the plain law-word of God, in favor of emotional experiences; and it is, therefore, erosive of authority. [00:10:35]
There is a parallel movement in the modern age to pietism...
There is a parallel movement in the modern age to pietism in the camp of humanism: it is romanticism. Romanticism is the exultation of feeling and of experience; and there’s always been a close connection between romanticism and revolution. In fact, as scholars have pointed out, before you had revolution and the beginning of the Age of Revolution (with the French Revolution, on to the present), you had the rise of the Romantic Movement. Well, now, that seems strange: romantic poets beginning the Romantic Movement; how could that lead to revolution? But it did with this. With the romantic poets and the romantic artists, generally, the whole emphasis of man’s life and the universe was centered on personal feelings; and this kind of emphasis led to the demand which we see around us today: instant gratification. And, in an age of instant gratification, you have what you see around us today: the drug culture, young and old, going for all kinds of drugs, because they want instant gratification. Now, that’s romanticism. Well, this romantic demand for instant gratification created the age of revolution, the undermining of all authority, because what did the romantic say when he went into politics: “If we do not get tomorrow the political order we want—no, if we do not get it today, we are going to destroy everything.” And every time, they’d wind up with something hellish, because they’re not ready to work. Instant gratification is anti-work in its outlook and its mentality, and hence, it’s radically destructive. And so, the Romantic Movement, with its emphasis on feeling and instant gratification, has led to the Age of Revolution: the age where junior highs today in our cities, and sometimes not even only in the cities, are heavily into drugs. [00:13:30]
One man who was converted and had been a drug pusher...
One man who was converted and had been a drug pusher said that there was not a single junior high in any metropolitan area where you could not get drugs from a pusher in a classroom; every classroom had them, beginning in junior high. Instant gratification: our culture promotes it. Therefore, it is a revolutionary age, and it destroys continually, because “if I don’t get what I want now, I’m going to smash everything.” That’s romanticism, and, of course, the romantic believes that his good will replaces the necessity for work. Of course, he assumes he has a good will; and he assumes that with his good will, he can create, if he’s only allowed to smash everything: paradise on earth tomorrow.
Now, this confidence in the will of man is shared by Arminian theology within the church. Thomas Boston, one of the great Scottish divines, whose dates are 1676 to 1732, in his Human Nature in Its Fourfold State writes sometimes with humor about this belief that men have that they’re going to get from here to Paradise, just by willing it; that, here they are, and they’re going to accept Jesus Christ; then suddenly they’re going to be, as it were, in heaven. And he said, and I quote, “And how is it that those who magnify the power of their free will do not confirm their opinion before the world, by an ocular demonstration, in a practice as far above others in holiness, as the opinion of their natural ability is above that of others? Or is it maintained only for the protection of lusts, which men may hold fast as long as they please; and when they have no more use for them, throw them off in a moment, and leap out of Delilah’s lap into Abraham’s bosom?” Well [laughing], there’s a great deal of thinking in religion, and in politics, and in economics that you can, as it were, leap out of Delilah’s lap into Abraham’s bosom just when you make up your mind to do so; but it doesn’t work that way. [00:16:41]
Biblical authority is eroded by false theologies of this sort; and theologies can be false not only in terms of bad doctrine, but in terms of the abuse of good doctrine. To believe in God’s grace is necessary. To believe in God’s regenerating power, sanctification, and in His providential grace is the foundation of the Christian life. But God’s grace is also energizing. It does not lead to quietism; it does not lead to egocentricity, but to godly activity.
Where there is grace, there will be the fruits of grace, and it is this our Lord is talking about in the passage which we read. In particular, in verse 31; in verse 33, the word “watch” appears; again in verse 35, “watch and pray,” “watch ye therefore.” Now, the word “watch” in the Greek expresses not merely wakefulness, but the watchfulness of those who are intent upon a thing: the watchfulness of an active, working person, of someone who’s working on something and has to keep his eye on it, because he doesn’t want it to go wrong; who’s working, let us say, with a piece of equipment, and he has to keep his eyes on it, because that’s his job; and if he doesn’t pay attention, something can go astray. It’s a careful work. It’s a technical work. It’s something that requires his undivided attention. So our Lord says, “Watch; concentrate on it.” And then He says, “The Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his home, and gave authority to his servants and every man his work.” Authority is there “exousia,” the word which we dealt with previously, which means authority and power, both; and is sometimes translated “authority”, sometimes “power, sometimes “freedom”—the freedom of a person who has authority and power, and unites this: He gave authority and He gave every man his work, and the two are one thought. When Christ gives us a work to do, He gives us authority commensurate with the task, so the authority is related essentially to the work; and the word “gave” applies to the authority and to work. So when God gives us something to do, He gives us an authority in relationship to that. Take a very simple illustration: when God makes us parents, it is a work to do; and its an authority that goes with that task. The two are related. We cannot separate them. So that wherever we have a task, we have an authority, and the two are essentially related. [00:20:42]
Authority and power are undermined where a legitimate...
Authority and power are undermined where a legitimate calling is undermined. If you take away a man’s work from him, you take away his authority. And where you have an interference with a man’s freedom to work, you have an interference with that man’s authority. Where you have the federal or state government stepping in to an unwanted degree to interfere with a man’s work, there is an undermining of his authority. The same is true if the union or the employer does it, and treats him as though he were an incompetent boob. His authority is undermined, and his work is undermined. Is it any surprise that productivity on the job is decreasing throughout the Western world? It’s related to the fact that in every area, people are treating one another as though they were children to be controlled and manipulated, and so they have no authority. State officials lose authority as their work ceases to be useful, and becomes oppressive. They don’t have any real authority; they may have power, but not authority. Pastors whose teaching shows very little faithfulness to the Word of God undermine, thereby, their own authority, no matter how much they may seek to exalt it. There is a relationship between authority and work, an essential relationship. To separate one from the other is to harm both. The Lord makes this connection in this passage, as He speaks of His second coming. We are specifically told we cannot know the specifics of His return, and it is disobedience on our part to pry into this. That’s why rapture fever is dangerous, and wrong, because people are thinking about being raptured to heaven, when they’ve got a job to do, and they should be doing it. And there is a threat implicit in our Lord’s statement, a warning: watch. If they have not kept their watchfulness, their wakefulness, their concentration upon their task, they will find the Lord to condemn them when He returns. Thus, our Lord’s point in all this is not to be watchful for His coming in order to be ready with an impressive show, but that we be intent on the exercise of our authority and calling, because our Lord and Judge will surely return and will demand an accounting of our work. [00:24:21]
There’s so much nonsense that is preached and taught...
There’s so much nonsense that is preached and taught today that is really disrespectful of God’s authority, and of the dignity of His Word. I shall never forget when our Martha came home from Christian school one day, and they’d had somebody in chapel who’d gotten the children all worked up about the supposedly any moment return of Christ, and “what will he find you doing?” And this had the children in a dither: what if they were sitting on the potty when He came? [laughs] Well, Dorothy straightened out Martha on that in a hurry. What the Lord expects to find us doing is what we are to do day by day, meeting our responsibilities; and such teaching is nonsense, because our Lord does not want us to do anything but to use the authority and the work He has given us; to seek first the kingdom of God and His justice. If the church does not do its work, it has no authority. If a believer does not do his work, he, too, has no authority. When such is the case, the church faces the world, maybe as an important body with a lot of fine buildings and a great deal of money, but not as the bride of Christ; not as the instrument of the King of glory. Formal correctness does not make the man, nor the church. Human authorities are derived from God, and are conditional upon faithfulness to an appointed task. Our Lord said, “By their fruits, shall ye know them.” Anything which subverts that word undermines authority. [00:26:49]
Let us pray. Our Lord and our God, Thy Word is truth; and Thy Word speaks to our every condition. Give us grace day by day to know that we have authority from Thee in our appointed tasks, that our work is the source of our authority, and Thou hast given us work and authority as a single gift, and a glorious gift in Thee. Bless us ever in Thy service, and make us ever joyful in Thy Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen. [00:27:34]