Under Authority Before In Authority

Mark Driscoll » Church Leadership

This is a series on 11 Leadership Lessons from 12 Disciples, based on the recent sermon Jesus Calls the Twelve, on Luke 6:12-16.

Lesson #6: Under authority before in authority

In Luke 6:12–16, it uses two words: disciple and apostle. It says, "He took those who were disciples, and he commissioned them as apostles." A disciple literally means a humble follower, a servant. Jesus is teaching, they're listening. Jesus is commanding, they're obeying. Jesus is leading, they're following. They're under authority. And Jesus had a lot of disciples, hundreds, thousands of people come out to hear him. They're all part of the come-and-see, and he picks those who are under authority, and he appoints a handful of them into authority. And here's why this is so important: some people love to be in authority, but they don't like to be under authority. They want to boss other people around, but they don't take orders well. We've had this situation at various times at Mars Hill where somebody's like, "Okay, I'm a leader now. You can't tell me what to do." No, everybody's under authority—I'm under authority, everybody's under authority. We're all sinners, we all make mistakes. We all need to be under authority. God opposes the proud. He gives grace to the humble, so humble yourself. So the Bible says, "Come under some authority." Those who are above the law, those who are the exception to the rule, those who get to do whatever they want, they're dangerous. They're very dangerous. They like sheep, but they bite shepherds. They like being in authority, they don't like being under authority, and you've got to be good at both to be a leader, because when you go into authority, you still need to be under authority. Being under authority is something for everybody, including the leaders. And if you're going to be in authority, you've got to be under authority. So he takes those who are under authority, disciples, and he gives them a new title and job description and office. He calls them apostles—that means one who is sent. This is like an ambassador. The language here is like a king who rules a mighty kingdom, and he selects someone to be his emissary or his ambassador, and sends them on a mission into another nation, into another kingdom representing his authority and speaking on his behalf.

Apostle: office vs. gift

So let me explain "apostle." This is very important. First of all, Jesus is the apostle. Hebrews 3:1 says, "He's our apostle." So when God the Father wanted to send a representative, ambassador, emissary from heaven to earth to represent his kingdom, he sent God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He's our apostle. He's the sent one. That's why it says repeatedly, particularly in John's Gospel, "The Father has sent me." He's the apostle, the sent one. And then there's the office of Apostle. We'll call this capital "A" Apostle, and those are the twelve hand-selected by Jesus. So their number's fixed. Ephesians 2:20 says, "They set the foundation of the church with the prophets and apostles," that's who's at the foundation of the church with Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone. The apostles included Judas. He's going to betray Jesus and hang himself. Another man will be selected early on in the book of Acts. One of the requirements is that he would need to be an eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus. Paul is later added as an apostle, Jesus comes down and commissions him as an apostle as well. We see that the apostles are a set number of people hand-selected by the Lord Jesus, eyewitnesses to his resurrection, given a very special authoritative designation, some of them actually writing books of the New Testament. That's the level of authority they enjoy. To that degree, there are not apostles today like that. No one has that kind of authority. No one could say, "Well, you know, Peter and I, we're at the same level. John and I, we're at the same level of spiritual authority." No, you're not. But under the capital "A" Apostle, there's the lowercase "a" apostle and that's not the office, but the gift. And the gift of apostle is one that the Bible includes. You can read the gifts lists. It does list it, 1 Corinthians 12–14, Romans 12. It's listed in the various gift lists. It's a gift. It's a spiritual gift like serving or teaching or administration. It's a capacity. It's a capacity that God gives to men and women. God gives spiritual gifts to men and women, teaching, leadership, whatever it is. And there's a difference between the gift and the office. And so the gift of apostle includes a couple things, like the ability to do cross-cultural ministry, so he could go into another country and be a missionary, start a church plant, start a campus plant. Sometimes it's a movement leader who works across multiple churches, multiple pastors, writes, travels, preaches, speaks, teaches, sometimes internationally. This is one of my gifts. Okay, but just because you have the gift of apostle doesn't mean anything unless you qualify to be an elder or a deacon, because you can have a gift and not have character. You can have a gift, and not be qualified. So we hold the offices are different than the gifts, but the gift of apostle does exist. We believe in that. And then there are false apostles. The Bible talks about false apostles, people who are sent by Satan, not Jesus. They minister by the power of demons, not the Holy Spirit. They tell lies, not the truth. They lead people astray, not toward God. So he takes these twelve who are under authority. He positions them into authority. "You are now Apostles, and you're going to lead," and then there are gifted people under them that have the gift of apostle, and part of our job is to keep people from false apostles, leading people astray.

Under authority before in authority

Here's the big idea. Some of you bounce from church to church, ministry to ministry, because you just don't want to be under authority. You don't want anybody to know you, or what you're doing. You don't want to become a member. You don't want to join anything. You don't want to be held accountable to anything. You just want to live in this come and see, come and see, come and see. But let me tell you, it's an immaturity. It's an immaturity, and today I invite you to go and die, to settle in somewhere, to commit to something, to make it ours and yours, and to come under authority, and then grow and be trained, and maybe one day God would have you to be in authority. I mean, I can't tell you how many hundreds, there may be thousands of people at this point that I've met, they bounce from church to church to church, ministry to ministry to ministry, because they want to be in authority, and they don't want to qualify. They don't want to get trained. They don't want to prove themselves. They just want to walk up to the leader and say, "You need to do this. Obey me. I'm in charge." They don't say it, but they act like it. Really, you walk in off the street and start bossing people around? It doesn't work like this anywhere else in the world. You can't do this in the Marines. You can't do this in a college. Can't just walk up to your professor, "I disagree with the degree. We need to do it this way, now." No. Sit down, learn. Be under authority, prove yourself. If you demonstrate faithfulness, someday you can be in authority, and when you get in authority, you can make some changes. Some of you love the idea of being in authority. You resist the thought of being under authority. Please don't pursue being in authority until you've had a season where you've proven yourself under authority. To be continued.

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