1 Peter 4:10-11
“As each one has received a gift, employ it for one another…in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion…” (I Peter 4:10-11, RSV).
It seems strange that God who graciously shared his very nature with us, creating us in his moral image and who by his Spirit works to restore that likeness, should also share his incommunicable attributes as well – his authority, his wisdom, his power. Only he distributes those qualities among his people in what we have called the gifts of the Spirit.
What wisdom! There is no limit to his intention for us to advance in holiness. The Spirit’s goal is to make us just like him, all of us. But he never intended any single person to arrogate to himself those incommunicable attributes. So he distributed them – he gave gifts to each as he willed. His purpose was that through us corporately, together, the congregation, we could do his (supernatural) work in this world.
How sad, then that we, while pursuing holiness, to be sure, also reach in unrighteous pride for his incommunicable attributes, especially his lordship. Perhaps that is why God says several times in slightly different ways, “I resist the proud but give grace to the humble.” And following Satan’s rebellion we are in danger of falling, of losing it all – both the powers we sought and the holiness we neglected. So what should we do about it?
The first part of the solution is for the leader to demonstrate personally an example of yieldedness to God, obedience to him alone, brokenness over and hatred of sin, openness with the brethren, and unaffected acceptance of the servant role.
Just as important is for the leaders to hold before the people constantly the lordship principle. This must not be preached as a doctrine merely, but discipleship training in this relationship with the head of the church must characterize the life of the congregation.
Each member must also be discipled in her or his role as a member of the body, recognizing one’s own gift and esteeming the gifts of others. “Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given” (Romans 12:3, Phillips).
An essential element of demonstrating that Christ is indeed Lord in a congregation is a heart attitude of humility and love. We must submit in love and humility to the authority above us. We are to be subject to one another (Ephesians 5:21), in honor preferring one another (Romans 12:10), giving honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7). Those who lead must do so in love and humility, first by example, those for whom they are responsible. The brother or sister’s welfare – not one’s own – is master of the spiritual leader. Paul says his freedom of choice is freedom to make himself the servant of all. In humility, the leader must count others better than himself (Philippians 2:3), in honor preferring the other (Romans 12:10), not lording it over the flock (I Peter 5:3).
We note how organizational structure may adversely affect the lordship principle. One way to ameliorate such negative impact is to follow the biblical pattern of a plurality of elders. Whatever the structure, if the New Testament model is to be followed, the authority and responsibilities of leadership will be dispersed among several, not reserved for a single leader. Another practical measure for promoting the lordship of Christ is to promote interpersonal ties with many people rather than maintaining exclusive relationship in spiritual authority with the pastor alone. It may be hard on one’s emotions or ego to find people dependent on other members of the congregation or holding them in high esteem as spiritual leaders. So it may be difficult to permit it, let alone plan for it. But by the same token it is essential. This means a division of labor so that all who are gifted as teachers have ample opportunity to teach, all whom God would gift in counseling would have ample opportunity for a pastoral ministry, and so on throughout all the spiritual ministry of the church.
We have noted the general malaise of the church and some ways to cure it, but we must return to the initial truth that God does indeed exercise his authority on earth through human leadership. This delegated authority, whether in the home, society, or church, is not absolute, to be sure, but it is real – authority not merely to give benevolent advice or to enforce obedience to the ten commandments. It is an authority to make rules and to supervise conduct for the benefit of all members of the group. All human authority is limited by human finitude and warped by human sinfulness, but God has chosen to accomplish his purposes in the world through people in authority. When it comes to church, what that authority should look like may come as a surprise.
But it may surprise us to discover that the role-model for making him Lord is the Lord Christ himself! We take our cue from one whom some have called the first prelate, the prince and lord, the pope of the Church – Peter, whom we shall discover did not arrogate to himself those lordly titles. In his first letter, Peter spells out the pattern of godly or God-like leadership:
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder…: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under you care, serving as overseer, 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… Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but give grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore under God’s mighty hand… (1 Peter 5:1-6)
 1 Corinthians 12-14, especially 12: 11; 29, 30
 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23; Romans 14