A Man Under Authority

“And he said, ‘I am a servant of Abraham.’”

(Genesis 24:34)

“‘And I am also a man under authority having soldiers under myself. I say to this one, “Go,” and he goes and to another one, “Come,” and he comes. And to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.’ And Jesus hearing this marveled and said to the ones following him, ‘Amen! I tell you that you will find no one with such a great faith in Israel.’”

(Matthew 8:9-10)

Rightfully, Eliezer begins by explaining that he is a servant, an emissary of sorts, sent by Abraham to meet with Nahor’s family. From the very start of this conversation, he makes it clear that he is not acting on his own authority, but under the authority of his master. All that he says from this stage out is said out of the context of that relationship — he is servant, Abraham is master. And a servant takes no liberties with the responsibilities that his master has given him.

Jesus, too, encountered such a man who understood the role of those under authority. A Roman Centurion sought to have a household servant healed but when Jesus offered to come to his home and do just that, the Centurion refused, stating that he was unworthy to have Jesus enter his home but that instead, if Jesus would speak the word, he knew his servant would be healed from afar.

The Centurion grounded his faith on the principle of submission. Because Jesus was God, the things in the world, by definition, had to be in submission to him. Jesus spoke and the storms were calmed. Jesus willed it and fish filled the nets of fishermen. Jesus blessed the fish and the loaves and they miraculously fed 5,000 men plus their families who were with them. Jesus cast out demons and healed diseases — he even raised the dead! Surely proximity means nothing to the God who can work all of these things. Surely the world was in submission to Jesus the God-Man. This, the Roman Centurion understood. The Centurion also understood that the reason he himself had authority over others (his servants and soldiers) was because he too was under the authority of one greater than he (Caesar) who had commissioned and sent him. Similarly, Jesus was under the authority of God the Father who sent him. This, Jesus commends over the faith of those around him in Israel.

Submission is not a popular term in our world today; neither was it a popular term in the Israel of Jesus’ day. Sadly, all degrees of sin have come from our unwillingness to submit to the authority and rule of God. C.S. Lewis used to say that one of the things that held him back from becoming a Christian was the realization that if there was really a God (as the Christians describe him) that God had the power to place expectation on Lewis’ life whether Lewis liked it or not. The fallen nature hates the idea that man is under the submission of a Holy God…yet we are.

Even in churches, we are used to people acting and speaking on the authority of men, not on the authority of God. Pastors often quote litanies of views by different commentators and theologians to make their point rather than standing on the authority of God. Church leadership meetings are often conducted along principles of pragmatism rather than Scripture. How often we find church business meetings that might begin or end with a few verses of scripture and prayer, but where 96% of the energy is spent debating on how money should be budgeted or spent? Is this faithful to 1 Corinthians 14:26? How often even pastors insist on their own agenda rather than speaking prophetically from the word of God (prophetically in the sense that the preacher’s role is to apply the Scriptures with directness of language and reason to the people in their own culture and era)?

While we like “doing our own thing,” as Christians we are called to be like the Centurion and the Servant of Abraham. We are called to be men and women acting in submission to God as he has revealed in His Word. It is then that we will begin to see God use us because it is only then that people will see God through our works and not us. One praises the master, not the tools in his hands; may we seek always to be sharp and ready for the master’s employment.

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