Pavel Zhelnovakov. Authority in the Church


Today we will continue the discussion about the wonderful condition of growth in our faith that has a direct concern that we call “the authority.” We will continue our discussion which we have started under the general name “Faith and Authority”.Unfortunately, during the atheistic and communist propaganda and blood revolution in Russia, the idea of authority was vulgarized and became dirt in people’s minds. Authority was given to certain people, after which it was easier to deceive people.

When the idea of authority was completely vulgarized, and as a result of it, we have a society of people who say four letters words, spit, and misbehave everywhere. 

Children disrespect teachers at schools, and we see the same situation at Universities and Institutes.

We see that the institution of the authority, which was established by God, is violated everywhere.

We have already talked about God’s authority and the personal relationship with this Authority. We have, also, talked about the authority in the family and the power of the family.

Today we will talk about the authority in the church. Does it really exist? What are the borders of that authority? What is the power of the church in this world?

We, often, do not understand why our faith does not grow. But the Bible insists on the growing of our faith. It says that we have to go “by faith from first to last” (ROMANS 1:17).

We need something so that our faith will grow as the faith of our forefather Abraham: “…his faith was made completely by what he did”. We know what this blessed man left in the history of mankind, thanks to his faith.

We go to church for years, and we cannot understand why our faith is not growing. And, sometimes, when we think that our faith is very strong, the slightest temptation causes us to falter.

Our relationship with God depends on our faith. If there is something wrong with our faith, then all our hopes are in vain, and we are not able to receive the blessings that He has for us.

It is impossible to please God without faith. “… Because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him”. (HEBREWS 11:6).

People seek Him and ask for something from Him. They pray but their faith, for some reason, is not strong and they do not receive the answer from God.

I want to draw your attention again to the verses from LUKE where the connection between faith and authority is revealed. A correct attitude towards the authority will result in a high appreciation of great faith from Christ.

“There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you to do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, Don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go’, and he goes; and that one,’Come’, and he comes. I say to my servant,’Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.” (LUKE 7:2-10)

In my opinion, the most serious reason that faith does not grow is an incorrect attitude toward the institution of the authority that was established by God. I do not mention that the main reason is the lack of communication with God or in studying His Word. We know that faith grows from the hearing of God’s Word.

Many Christians read the Bible but their faith still does not grow. What is the reason for that? They have an incorrect attitude toward authority. If they do nothing to change it, their faith will not grow.

Let’s look together at the principle of God’s Authority that He established for the church and in the church itself. Then we will see how it can work for this world through the church.

Unfortunately, the church is loosing its authority in this society. The Church has to prove its truth by competing if we can say this way. The church can win in this competition only if it will be able to express its attitude to the authority.

What is the institution of authority that was established by God? Is there hierarchy of the authority and what is it?

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” (EPHISIANS 4:11-12)

According to God’s Word, there is a certain institution of authority established by God, and it has one feature called creative process.

The fact is it is very easy to compromise the authority in people’s eyes. A commercial with suspicious character and several anecdotes on Central TV, probably, and some untruthful articles in the “yellow” newspapers will be enough for the compromise to begin.

A man, who has never liked authority, including God’s, can cross over the borders and start to humiliate it. It will cost much for him, but who thinks about it?

When we speak about the authority we mean the creative processes. If it is a destructive process there is either an imposter or something else. Sooner or later such society will be judged by God.

The distinguishing feature of the authority that is established by God is the creative process. As we have just read in the respect of the church organization: “so that the body of Christ may be built up”. It means that the Church is building up so that it grows and changes for the best.

It can happen only by the correct understanding of the hierarchy of the authority established by God in the universe. We partly spoke about that at the first meeting when I spoke about God’s authority. Now I will just remind you of some verses.

“And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (EPHISIANS 1:22-23)

“Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.” (COLOSSIANS 2:18-19)

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.” (ROMANS 1:1)

Apostle Paul puts everything in order immediately: “Jesus is the Lord” which means the One who has a right of possessing a person or a thing. Jesus has absolute authority. We have already discussed that. What does it have to do with the church?

The church can be the institute, where there is a clear structure of God’s creative authority helping the society and certain people, when it has built its relationship with God correctly.

If a church ignores the institution of authority in its relationship with God, it can be compared with a horseman without a head. Probably, this church will build its own church life in an interesting way, but it will contradict God’s principles. The church that ignores authority will contradict the main principle that was established by God for all society. Apparently, there are many such churches.

These can be “historical” churches- it is modern to call some churches like that. These can be contemporary and super, modern churches that ignores God’s principles in the relationship.

The church is strong only when leaders in the church, every elder and every member of the church, accept the authority established by God. If this does not exist, then we will represent a very sad church society which is easier to call “a horseman without a head”, because it does not recognize Christ as the Head.

Please do not think that they won’t talk about Christ. No, they will talk a lot about Christ but without respect, love and obeying Him. Demons also believe in God. They even trembled! The devil believes that God exists too, and it talks about God a lot but how?!

If they talk a lot about God at a church, but without respect, without obeying Him and without expressing love, then it will sound like the “yellow” press that also talks a lot about nothing. These are all very awful.

So when we talk about the institution of authority that is established in the church, first of all, the hierarchy of authority should be seen. If it does not have it, the church will look like a social club. There, people will follow modern fashions, music and some political intrigues. For example, a new music appears and they will have it, a new book- they will have it, the President said a new word, and they will use it correctly and incorrectly. Why? Because where we look is what we see. If a church looks at Christ it will see Christ but if it looks at the new trends then it will be like the waves of the sea-always tossing back and forth, but useless.

The institution of authority is supposed to depend on God. As soon as it disappears, anarchy comes and that leads to boundlessness.

We will not hinder the “dirty spots” of church history, regardless as to whether it was the Orthodox, Protestants or Catholics. Somebody has to answer for the inquisition, for “hunting the witch” and somebody has to answer for persecution the Jews. Yes, no matter how sad it is, it is still “hunting”. That was done by believers or those who called themselves believers. The church authority, silently or openly, approved that and, sometimes, did it itself. This is disgusting.

So, first of all, the institution of authority in the church depends on God. If it does not, the church looses its authority. The church can, then, achieve the power and become a dictator while using its bad influence for enslaving people. This church will not get its authority. God will reject that church because He does not need it. This is “the salt looses its saltiness” which “to be thrown out and trampled by men” (Matthew 5:13)

Coming to the conclusion, we can tell you exactly that this is the most important: Jesus is the Lord.

Now, let’s go back to what the Lord has established for the Church.

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists. And some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (EPHESIANS 4:11-12)

“so that the body of Christ may be built”- this is what the authority of the church is meant to do. The pastor ship is a vivid ministry of the authority in the church.

The pastor should serve to build the body of Christ, for teaching the other elders and for serving people. I want to draw your attention to the question of serving: who is supposed to serve who? In general, it is very easy to be misled and to form a false conception as to the pastor ship. The devil tempted Jesus, saying that He would be given everything if He would worship it (devil). And it received a very decent answer.

Sometimes I observe some groups and even churches and see something that reminds me of the tall story where a cook and a coo praise each other. It is awful in God’s eyes when the Church praises the pastor and on the contrary.

The Lord said: “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God” (JOHN 5:44) In this case, it is impossible to have faith. It is indecent in our Lord’s eyes.

So, there are certain ministries that were established by God. They are united and represent the theology that it calls Pastor ship. “he gave some to be pastors…”

My dear friends, if we protest what God does, then we should ignore everything. Let me remind you the story of the young man David who was appointed to be the king in Israel. He had not become the king yet, but he had already been appointed by the prophets from God. The society had not accepted him as a king yet, but Saul, who was rejected by God, still reigned in Israel. At this time, Saul persecutes David, thinking that all the tragedies of his house are because of David. Two times God put Saul’s life in David’s hands. David’s people told him “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.” (SAMUEL 24: 4). And two times David gave them the decent answer: “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.”

So, the institution of the authority established by God is, “It was he who gave…” There is not any discussion whether we like it or not. Our wishes, that are sometimes very dangerous, are on the second plan.

We can like or dislike something in the government but if it is approved by God it will be a sad ending of those who are against God’s order.

It is the same here. If God created a special structure of the authority in the church, we have to accept it and give thanks to God.

How can acceptance and disapproval of authority be expressed? How can our wrong attitude to the authority be expressed? Or how can it be shown? We have to look at that very carefully.

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers- not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 PETER 5:1-5)

I am asking all pastors, and leaders of Bible Studies to read this word carefully. If a pastor does not have the correct attitude toward the authority, it is a big tragedy for the church.

There are so many people who dream of receiving a crown of glory. I also dream of it. Listen, this is a good opportunity: “… When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” I address all elders now. God insists on elders and ministries, who are appointed, to respect God’s principles and watch after the Lord’s church doing God’s will.

Let’s recall how a pope was presented in fairy-tails. Our culture is different in having fairy-tails where people mocked at the church. Unfortunately, sometimes, it was the truth. For instance, the pope came to visit somebody from his congregation. When he left that person, he left with a goose in one hand and a piece of ham in another. Very often the pope was presented as a user. I do understand that part of it is just talk, but part of it was truly real.

People’s gossip drew users who tried to gain because of material advantage. The Bible uses the word material advantage toward pastors who are not decent. It is disgusting to God when He sees how somebody, using the church authority, leads His people: “they all turn their own way, each seeks his own gain.”

God insists on pastors to have a godly attitude toward authority like this: they have to do God’s will in the church willingly and without any hint as to its own gain.

Apostle Paul, at the end of his life, said: “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing”. He did not take anything; he did not use his position and power in the church. To be shepherds of God’s flock means a lot.

Now let’s see how people should express their attitude toward authority in the church: Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older.”

In my opinion, it is very dangerous to be a pastor, because he has to deal with disobedience that has cult’s roots. One time, when I was in the States I was told that some American insurance companies do not want to work with pastors. I took an interest in it. They told me that pastors look 65 years old when they are only 45. They have a job where they have to work with many people who do not want to obey and have many “whys”. At the end, disobedient people would tell what they would think about it. Today, there are so many who are “thinking”, but God has also thought something about their destiny.

There is the hierarchy or the principle of relationship: “Young men, be submissive to those who are older.”

Dear friends, I know what you can tell about it: “O Pavel. You say that because you are a pastor yourself”. I accept that such an opinion exists but I am not interested in it. I teach only what is written in the Bible. I am not interested in what someone thinks about me. I want to depend only on what is written in the Bible because this is the only blessing for us.

There are some more verses from the Bible:

“The elders who direct the affaires of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” (1 TIMOTHY 5:17)

I am a preacher and I am not afraid of reading this verse in God’s Word. The phrase “The elders who direct the affaires of the church well” is about the structure of the authority. “…are worthy of double honor”. Only do not think that I express dissatisfaction. I just want to inspire you to follow God’s commandment.

How do you consider the word “are worthy”? Those, whose work is preaching and teaching, are worthy of double honor. In what way does it express? I understand that vulgarized institution of authority is pointed at the church structure as well. That is why it is difficult to listen sometimes.

What does “double honor” mean? What do we think about pastors? How do we speak about them? Preachers are not half of God. They are ordinary people that live in the same society, use the same transportation and breathe the same air. But God determined a certain attitude was with them.

Growing of the faith depends on attitude to the authority.

What do we think and what do we say? Maybe “double honor” is when someone spreads the gospel about preachers? There are such people. This is also “double honor” but with negative meaning.

Somebody, probably, imagines it differently. Maybe it should be expressed in putting a lot of money in front of the elders as I saw in one church. I could not have had the strength to stand there. My prayer would have been: “Lord, take me before they try to give this to me or lead me not into temptation.” I was not raised that way.

In what way should the attitude toward authority be expressed? This is the main question that a man ought to ask when reading the Bible.

“Elders are worthy of double honor” means to give a different honor than for other people: by words, thoughts and help. I am thankful to God that He allowed me to work with many of you. My family and I hear a lot of kind words, respect, love and understanding.

I inspire you that this word becomes firmly in our lives because our faith starts growing from that.

My dear friends, sometimes my speeches are very strict. It is not because I like it or this is a certain feature of preachers. No, No.

The Bible says that sometimes we are in need of strictness. We are in need to bring everything in order.

That is why Apostle Paul gives this advice to Titus: “Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.” (TITUS 2:15)

The devil’s plan is very simple. It tries to get a person in a disrespectful position, and then this reflects on all system of authority. The result of that is that the society becomes corrupted.

The same strategy works in family, government and church.

“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (HEBREWS 13:17).

I want to inspire you to pray for preachers with this Word. You can see there is a clear picture of interrelation. If a preacher does his work without joy because he is worried or he remembers a person who is very stubborn, then God’s Word warns: “that would no advantage to you”.

So, there is a certain balance: on one hand, God does insist that the preacher do his work well because they will give a report. Preachers will be asked a lot according to the task that was given to them. It is evident that to those who much has been given, much will be demanded. These are Jesus’ words.

On the other hand, God insists on double honor for these preachers so that their lives are a joy and not a burden, otherwise it would be of no advantage to society.

Let us see how the church power gets established in this world. If Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth, as Matthew says, then the certain part of that authority is given to the church, as well, because it is His body. Where is this authority directed? The church, as well as social history, tells us that sometimes the church used its power incorrectly or intervened where it should not have. Sometimes the church tried to get into spheres of law though it was not her privilege. God put other people in this world to be responsible for the order and security in the state. Sometimes the church took a right to be a legislation or executioner. This list of dramatic mistakes can be continued. That is why we see many awful things in the church history.

There is one horrible episode in the history when Roman Papa wrote a letter to the king of Frank on behalf of Apostle Peter. He wanted to get to the bottom of this situation with this unsuitable king. The letter included “blessings” and threats with curses. How crazy a person would have to be to promise or to threaten on behalf of Apostle Peter? This is the case when they seek their own gain.

When we talk about the authority of the church in this world it starts from Christ’s words: “All authority has been given to me”. God also said about the church: “therefore go” which proves the church’s authority. But in what sphere?

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (MATTHEW 28:19).

That is the sphere of the church’s authority in the world.

This is not political, economical or financial authority. This is the authority to teach people to obey God’s Word!

Notice that as soon as the church looses this right or the government takes this right away from the church, then the government has problems.

When the United States took religion out of the schools and the prayer was banned at school, a war in Vietnam started in a short period of time. It took 30 years for America to get them out of that.

America did not think of that and in time, the teachings of religion were banned in the school. It is called “separation of church and state.” Therefore, the country has been suffering a lot. At the beginning, the church itself gave a reason to do that.

That is why I want you to pay serious attention to this: the church has a right to teach, baptize and to insist that people live by God’s principles using all available means for that: a word, speech, article, sermon… This is the church’s sphere.

If we have started talking about prayer, there are some verses in the Scripture:

The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commandments of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.” (DEUTERONOMY 28:13)

God promised to those people, who live a decent life, a great blessing: “The Lord will make you the head, not the tail”. The Church that follows God’s commandments, and respect the institution of authority, will be respected in this world!

I do not say that it will be respected with a desire. Maybe it will be authority that is born by fear or something else but it will be the head, not the tail. Alleluia!

There are so many true principles in the sphere of education, but nothing can replace the church. Academies of science and institutions of research can not replace the church.

At the same time, we do not belittle any of these institutions of secular education. The authority of teaching is given, first of all, to the church and after that to others. You have to remember that all the time, Dear Church.

How do we manage it? We say to the Lord that we want to be the head in this world, to be the authority but, sometimes, we forget to study ourselves.

When we have to study, we do not do that. How will we teach others if we do not study ourselves? This is what I tell all Christians.

That is why to say that the church “Philadelphia” or any other church will occupy a serious place in this world is too early. We, ourselves, in some degree, ignore the education.

Let us look at some other points of the church’s authority. You can have different opinions about the next information that I am about to give you, but sometimes God puts some prayers of authority into people’s hearts. This is one of them that are offered to the holy people of the Old Testament:

“Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds.

May the praise of God be in their mouths and double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them. This is the glory of all his saints. Praise the Lord.” (PSALM 149:5-9)

Dear friends, this is not about the revolution, terror organizations and other events that are threatening some countries today. This is about Christians whose minds and hearts are with God and who respect God’s order. These will be able to understand mockery and disorder in this world.

Then they will be able to pray and ask for judgments upon those structures that dare to step over some borders. These judgments will be accepted and approved by God. The church also has the right of that.

This is also an honor and not everybody has that honor. Only those saintly people that have learned to respect God’s commandments are honored to do this. At the same time, this is the challenge for the church during this last time. It is not a secret that many things will be happening because one can always go around the law or interpret them as he wishes.

In this case, the church has to intervene.

Church, do you hear this challenge? Are you ready for that?


The Senior Pastor of the 
Church “Philadelphia”
P. I. Zhelnovakov


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