Authority and Ministry - RR272E09
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Let us begin with prayer. Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. O come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker, for He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. O God our Father, Whose holiness fills all heaven and earth, and Whose glory lightens our days, give us grace so to walk that we might know indeed that heaven and earth are filled with Thy glory; that Thy Word is truth, and Thy Word shall prevail, that every knee shall bow unto Thee and every tongue confess Thee, before Thy work on earth is finished. Therefore, we praise Thee, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and we come into Thy presence with joy and thanksgiving, knowing that this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Our God, we praise Thee. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is from the Gospel of St. Matthew, the 20th chapter, verses 25 through 28; Matthew 20: 25-28, and our subject: authority and ministry. “But Jesus called them unto Him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” [00:02:47]
The occasion of these comments by our Lord was when
The occasion of these comments by our Lord was when the mother of James and John, two of the disciples, came to Him to ask for enthroned places for her sons in Christ’s kingdom. Now, the mother of James and John, whose name was Salome, was our Lord’s aunt. As a result, she felt that she had a privileged position and, therefore, could ask for privileges for her sons. Our Lord had denied Salome her request; but when the other disciples heard what she had done, they were indignant. Our Lord called the disciples together to speak to them, and verses 25 through 28 give us His words. Now, the words that our Lord uses in verse 25, when He says “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them”—that word, dominion, is a particular word for a particular type of dominion. It is used in the New Testament only in an evil sense. For example, in Acts 19:16, it refers to the power of demons over men. In I Peter 5:3, it refers to evil elders lording it over others, over Christ’s people. And it is a combination of two words: “kuios,” lord or dominion; and “kata,” which means down, intensively so; so, the meaning is: lording it over someone. So, what our Lord is saying, “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles love to lord it over them, and that they that are great exercise authority upon them.” Now again, the word “authority” is different from the usual word for authority, because here again, instead of just “ousia,” there is the prefix “kata.” So, it means the authority to put down. It refers to something other than the godly exercise of authority: it refers to putting down people. So here we have the usage of two words not normally used for dominion and authority, which indicate lording it over others and putting them down; and, this, our Lord says, is what ungodly authority is all about. [00:06:39]
At the same time, our Lord says, ...
At the same time, our Lord says, “it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister.” The word “minister” is “diakonos”—our word, “deacon,” a servant, one called to minister. However, in the next verse, He says, “whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant”—“doulos,” which means slave—“you make it your life to minister under God to these people.” Then, in the 28th verse, when He says, “the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many,” He again uses the word “diakonos,” forms of it. Thus, our Lord differentiates between two kinds of authority: first, Gentile, or ungodly authority; and dominion, which is a putting down of people. It is a striving for power for one purpose: to lord it over others. It’s the kind of thing Orwell was talking about in 1984, when he described the goal of the totalitarian state: a boot stamping on a human face forever. Orwell caught the meaning of the words our Lord was here using, without knowing about them.
Now, this evil is all around us. Authority is equated with the power to put down people, and our Lord is clear: all ungodly authority and dominion means putting down people, not ministering to them. In the Triune God, authority and power are inseparable. Authority in the Bible is hierarchical, but ungodly authority is elitist, grounded in humanistic considerations. In fallen man, authority and power are not united, as they are in God. The more godly we are, the closer we bring them together; but in the ungodly, they are often far apart. [00:09:33]
In fact, men can hold godly authority in ungodly ways and on alien premises. We had a visitor this past week to illustrate this premise. He was a man who was an authority figure in the Benedictine Order. He was described by Otto after the meeting as the rudest man he had ever met and without a trace of courtesy. As usual, Otto was being very kindly. Very early, he (although the meeting was primarily to discuss a forthcoming book with David Rhodes, who is working on it—a very excellent thesis), he let us know that he regarded Aquinus as the greatest disaster in the church; and he let us know a little later that St. Paul did not know what he was talking about: this, he said three times. When I cited St. John on the definition of sin in his first epistle, he waved that aside and said that he didn’t know whether there was such a thing as sin, only ignorance. However, when I asked him if he were a universalist, he denied it. And it became apparent that he was ready to put churchmen into hell, but no one else, because he was ready to vindicate the French Revolution as necessary judgment on the church; he was ready to vindicate the Russian Revolution and, in fact, said he felt that Lenin was probably in heaven together with Hitler, but not Czar Nicholas II. He, by the way, let us know that we (he called us Calvinist Jansenists) were responsible for abortion in this country and much, much more. [00:12:05]
Now, I cite this man, because he had institutional
Now, I cite this man, because he had institutional, but not theological, authority. He had not even read the Bible, by his own admission. Now, this is the separation of authority that is commonplace. Just yesterday, I finished reading a book by a very prominent Lutheran scholar, and again, dealing with a critical issue of our time never once invoked any godly authority, any biblical premise. From beginning to end, his book was essentially pragmatic. Now, this separation of authority from God and its reduction to a purely institutional authority is very commonplace, and it leads to the kind of Gentile lording, common to every area of life. To the academic world, the ecclesiastical sphere, the political, the scientific, and so on, such men hold position and power, but they lack godly authority. They are preeminent only because our culture and our churches see authority in the same terms. Men resent being on the receiving end of such authority, but they want it for themselves. Otto Scott was citing the other night his Irish grandmother’s proverb, “Put a beggar on horseback, and he’ll ride you down.” There are a great many beggars on horseback all around us. Long before Orwell and his description of power as a boot stamping on a human face forever, Genghis Khan spoke in the same way about what he liked to do. At one time, he said, for example, concerning his greatest joy, and I quote, “The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies and chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth and see those dear to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses and clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.” Now that was the goal for Genghis Khan, and for his men. It’s not surprising that the mongols made no positive contribution to civilization. They brought economic ruin and disaster wherever they went, because they epitomized the Gentile conception of power, lording it over others. And the modern state is increasingly manifesting, with a growing nakedness, that same ideal. The Soviet Union and Red China most certainly manifest it; and every modern state, as it gains in power, gains correspondingly in its lust to lord it over others. [00:16:25]
The Gentile doctrine of power, lording it over others
The Gentile doctrine of power, lording it over others, is thus common to history. The lust for power is present oriented. It is not interested in ministering, but in using others. Then, second, our Lord says that Christian greatness is in ministering to others and being members, one of another, as St. Paul put it. Such a doctrine is neither self-centered, nor present oriented. Our Lord says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”—or justice. One seminary scholar, J. J. Davis, has commented, with regard to South Korea, which is predominately a Christian country; and he says, and I quote, “When Kim Kyang Won, secretary general to South Korea’s president, was asked about the reasons for his country’s progress, he replied, ‘It’s the culture of discipline and postponing immediate satisfaction for the future—even for posterity.’ Such character traits have encouraged a national investment rate of 25-35% of the Gross National Product, twice the U.S. rate.” Did you catch that emphasis? That was once very, very common to this country—postponing immediate satisfaction for the future, even for posterity. [00:18:38]
When I was a boy, I can still recall older men saying
When I was a boy, I can still recall older men saying that they had done this and that for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who were not yet born, in some instances; that they had established this farm, or built this house, or developed this business, with an eye to the future, building for the future, postponing personal satisfaction. Or consider the fact of John Dagg: two years ago on Memorial Day, a descendant of John Dagg was with us, Beth Sutton, a most gracious and very charming young woman. She was the sixth generation descendent of John Dagg. What had John Dagg done with his life and with his prayers? Thought about the future and prayed that to the end of time till the second coming of Christ, every descendant of his would be in the faith. And that said, she was a sixth-generation descendent, and she did not know of a single one of John Dagg’s descendants who was not in the faith. Now, that’s a remarkable fact. This is postponing immediate satisfaction for the future, even for posterity, and this is what our faith is about. We live, not only for today and tomorrow, and immediate satisfaction; we live, not only in terms of seeing what we want realized now, but realized after we’re gone. And this is what builds a culture. This is what creates a future. The ungodly seek power here and now, the power to lord it over others. The Christian uses authority and power to minister to others, to know that all things are in the hands of God, and to leave them there in faith, knowing that we cannot see one minute or second ahead. But God can, and known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the earth. And so we love and serve in Christ, and we wait in patience for His results. [00:21:56]
When the Bible speaks about love, it sets love in this
When the Bible speaks about love, it sets love in this context: of service of ministry. Love in the Bible is not a substitute plan of salvation, but an expression of our life in Christ. Instead of lording it over others, Christians seek to minister in love. As our Lord said, whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant. In other words, greatest is in terms of service. The quest for Gentile power is a mark of reprobation. Even if the power structure is built in the name of Christ, it is a mark of reprobation when people seek power to be able to lord it over others. They may seek power in the name of the people, a very common pretext today; or in the name of freedom, or in the name of economic justice. But it is self-glorification they are after. Our Lord says something very plainly and simply, “By their fruits shall ye know them.” Now to deny the validity of that is to question Christ. To know what people are is not a difficult thing, our Lord says: “By their fruits shall ye know them.” And if you say, “Well, I don’t know the heart of any man,” the Lord says, “You do.” And if you then say “Well, I’m not going to judge,” you’re saying our Lord didn’t know what He was talking about. He gave us a handy easy one-sentence criterion: by their fruits shall ye know them, and that we are not to be as the Gentiles, who love to exercise dominion, to put down people. [00:24:31]
And, third, our Lord in this incident declares Himself
And, third, our Lord in this incident declares Himself the example of authority and of power, and of ministering to others. He came to give His life, a ransom for many. Now we are not called to make an atonement, but we are called to exercise a ministry. We are to separate ourselves from false authority, and exercise godly authority. The disciples, beginning with Salome, the mother of James and John, were all exercised and greatly concerned with gaining Gentile, or false, authority. This is still all too often true of the church and of churchmen; but such a goal leads to a confusion of God’s kingdom and man; and again and again in history, the two have become all too confused. I recall reading some years ago a medieval document, a history, in which the bishop who wrote the history said with no small grief that kingdom of man—the kingdom of evil—and the kingdom of Christ had become so intermeshed that, he said, sometimes I wonder where the one stops and the other begins. We see this sort of thing all too often; and all too often we have men attempting to further the confusion by acting as though they have no right to judge, which means no right to separate good and evil, no right to protest against confusion, no right to draw the line clearly. The issues between good and evil are clearcut. We cannot confuse them. God and Satan cannot be confused; neither can Gentile power ploys and Christian authority. There is a difference, and our Lord tells us what the difference is. [00:27:37]
Let us pray. O Lord our God, we thank that Thy Word, which is truth, speaks to our every condition. Cleanse from us, O Lord, all Gentile authority, and make us ministers of Thy kingdom and of Thy truth, with a desire not to lord it over others, but to minister unto them, and to serve them, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Make us mindful, O Lord that this is our calling, and that we have the great pattern of our Savior, Who came not to lord it over us, but to serve us. How great Thy ways are, O Lord, and how marvelous. We praise Thee. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Are there any questions now concerning our lesson? Yes?
[Questioner] I’ve seen this in the church that we have been normally attending, this sort of tension between a democratic individual power and authority versus a clamoring for a king for the power and authority divested in the pastor, for example. This tension seems to be a real impediment to a postmillennial, theocratic, godly, dominion-oriented view catching on. Where’s the starting point for educating Christians in this: in dwelling on the lordship of Christ initially, say; or what’s the best foundation that we can use? [00:29:42]
[Rushdoony] Well, first of all, both the democratic
[Rushdoony] Well, first of all, both the democratic authority and a pastoral authority can be Gentile: it can be a lording over people. And all too often today the idea that because something is democratic it is therefore fair is prevalent. The democratic situation can be as intolerable as a monarchical or a pastoral one. Both are evil, if they are separated from the authority of God and from the fact that they are called to a ministry. So, the only cure for that is that there must be a recognition of the sovereignty of God and the priority of His Word: take that away, and you have every man spouting his own opinion. You have the condition of the Book of Judges: “In those days, there was no king in Israel”—that is, they did not recognize the Lord as king—“and every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” We have the same condition today: every man is an instant authority, and he feels that his word is as good as anybody else’s; and where God doesn’t agree with him so much, the worse for God. So, this is the problem: who is the Lord, they or Christ? And they need to be told that, that they’re putting themselves in Christ’s place.
Yes, John? [00:31:41]
[Questioner] Do you think also that, in part, also
[Questioner] Do you think also that, in part, also, the problem he just raised over here is due to the fact that very few modern Christian theologians have really sat down and dealt with the form of government in the church; that this tension between pastors, democracy, and everything else, you think maybe that could also be partly resolved by a reemphasize, again, of teaching a church what the proper form of church government should be?
[Rushdoony] No, not what the form of church government should be, but what the authority in the church is, you see. You can have varying forms of church polity or government, and still have godly authority, if the priority of God and His Word is recognized; and you can have a very, very ungodly church with any kind of polity. In fact, one of the problems is that when you look at churches, they emphasize, even in their names, their form of government, rather than their faith: they are Episcopal, or Presbyterian, or Congregational. All of these emphasize a form of government, and that hasn’t kept any of them from going sadly astray, because the key is the Lord. It is theological.
Yes, Bob? [00:33:40]
[Questioner] Then, there’s our forefather
[Questioner] Then, there’s our forefather. Specifically, this father of the Constitution makes a very fine definition in the Federalist Papers No. 10 on just exactly what he thinks about a democratic type of government. He doesn’t mention God as being the head, but it certainly aims at right in that direction and denounces anything else.
[Rushdoony] And the Constitution, itself, has both worked and failed, depending on the character of the people. It’s an abysmal failure today, because the people are failures.
Any other questions? Yes?
[Questioner] I would like to know where you go in the library to find quotations from Genghis Khan. [Laughs]
[Rushdoony, laughing] Well, when you read incessantly, things stick in your mind, so that when you come to a subject, you remember those things.
[Questioner] Of course, there are many places in the King James Bible where, apparently, the translators, the people who wrote that version, used words that are not fair to us, like dominion. Now, dominion, apparently, is used—the same word—has two different meanings –
[Rushdoony] Well, different words are used.
[Questioner] – but now, you say there’s dominion, that you were talking tonight; but dominion is also used in a godly way.
[Rushdoony] Yes, it’s another word, and we only have the one word in English. However, it’s very clear here that our Lord distinguishes between a Gentile exercise of dominion. Now, the Greek is subtle enough to have a different word there. It is true that every time there is a translation of the Bible into a language, there are problems, especially because languages that are totally new to the Bible do not yet have some connotations of meaning that the Bible does. However, a Bible translation reshapes the language and gives it a new character, and a new meaning. The King James is an excellent translation—not that it’s perfect—but here, I think it still comes through when He distinguishes between the Gentile exercise of dominion, plus that which is a ministry. So, we do have grounds for differentiation. [00:36:54]
[Questioner] It’s not as clear as it could be, though
[Questioner] It’s not as clear as it could be, though. If we …. You have to put it in context.
[Rushdoony] It’s not as clear as it could be, yes. Some modern translations do render it that “the princes of the Gentiles lord it over them,” which does help and is a very literal rendering of the Greek.
[Questioner] I’d just like to add that there probably isn’t one person in five hundred million who could tell you the difference between one republic, which—all countries are a republic—they’re not stupid; they’re going to set that constitution up to suit themselves. But there is a forum that could differentiate between—out of five hundred thousand, I have hardly ever met any that could tell you the difference between our Republic and another one.
[Rushdoony] Yes, but you see, it isn’t a question of knowledge—it’s a question of character.
[Questioner] True, but then our Republic, at first, puts the resistance of God, first; individual responsibility, second; limited government, third; and private property, fourth. And no other constitution in this world had that aim. [00:38:18]
[Rushdoony] Yes, but when the character of the people
[Rushdoony] Yes, but when the character of the people changed, there was no constitutional guarantee possible to protect the future against the change of character. That’s the key. A new concept of authority entered in. When you consider that men like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson would go from inauguration to a boarding house to eat, and nobody got up for them because the president wasn’t that important—the federal government wasn’t important—and they could walk down the street and nobody turned to look at them, because what was important was what was going on in the churches and in the business houses, and in the streets and the lives of the people. Today, because the federal government is everything, they could never function as presidents did then. Then, they had their proper place. The important thing was the people and their character, their faith, their work; and that’s what made the country work.
Well, our time is up. Let us bow our heads now in prayer. O Lord our God, we give thanks unto Thee that all things come from Thee, that all things shall fulfill Thy glorious purpose. Give us grace to walk day by day in the confidence that Thou doest all things well; that our times are in Thy hands, and that our labor in Thee is never vain. Great and marvelous are Thy ways and provisions, O Lord, and we thank Thee. And now, go in peace. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always. Amen. [00:40:43]