Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to walk through the book of Titus and learn what the Lord would have to teach us through this great book.

titusheader2Titus 2:15, “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

“Declare, exhort, and rebuke” are three verbs that identify the need for proclamation, application, and correction by the Word of God. Authority to command people in the spiritual realm comes only from God’s Word. Paul’s point here with “Let no one disregard you” is that rebellion against the truth has to be dealt with” (Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:9-13; 2 Thess. 3:14-15).

Titus must never grow weary in his duty. He must continue to do what he has been doing all along. He must constantly talk about the glorious life of sanctification as a thank-offering presented to God for His wonderful grace in Christ. He must urge it upon the people, doing this whenever the occasion presents itself, admonishing those who are in need of special admonition, and even reproving those who have merited reproof. All this he must do “with all authority,” the authority of Christ whom he represents.

“Let no one disregard you”. Titus must conduct himself in such a manner that no one will disregard or ignore Titus, thinking, “Never mind what he has said about this or that matter.” Though this command is addressed directly to Titus who must take it to heart, it will also indirectly help him in the performance of his duties, namely, when it is read to the various presbyters and congregations. Let’s now look at seven ways the Bible speaks to the issue of authority.

  1. All authority on the human plane is delegated authority.

All authority on earth comes from the Sovereign of the universe. Romans 13:1-2: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” Paul goes on to talk about government authorities, but his statement shows that all authority comes from God.

The Bible makes the same point in Daniel 4, where God humbles the proud Nebuchadnezzar. The chapter emphasizes (Dan. 4:17, 25) “that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes.” All authority is delegated from God and those in authority are accountable to God. This means that no person, no matter what office he holds, is above rebuke if he strays from the ultimate authority of God’s Word. Daniel had to tactfully, but directly, confront the proud Nebuchadnezzar about his sin. Later (Daniel 5), he directly confronted Belshazzar with his sin. John the Baptist confronted King Herod with his sin of taking his brother’s wife.

In the local church, the Bible states that elders are not to lord it over those allotted to their charge, but rather to be examples to the flock (1 Pet. 5:3). Therefore, if a pastor or a group of elders disregard God’s Word and lord it over the church, they need to be confronted in line with biblical guidelines (1 Tim. 5:19-20). If they do not repent, they should be removed from office and put under church discipline. Only obedient men, who acknowledge that they are under God’s sovereign authority, are in a position to exercise biblical authority in a local church.

  1. All authority is vested in a plurality of men on the local church level.

Whenever the New Testament refers to the elders of a particular local church, it always uses the plural. A plurality of elders over a single local church is God’s way of protecting the church against the abuses of authority that may easily happen if a single man runs the church. The elders must submit to the Lord and be accountable to one another and to the church.

Ray Stedman put it this way, “The task of the elders is not to run the church themselves, but to determine how the Lord in their midst wishes to run his church.” He points out that much of this has already been made known through the Bible. Thus, “In the day-to-day decisions which every church faces, elders are to seek and find the mind of the Lord through an uncoerced unanimity, reached after thorough and biblical discussion. Thus, ultimate authority, even in practical matters, is vested in the Lord and in no one else.” The Lord delegates that authority to a plurality of men in each local church so that no one man can play God.

  1. All authority is designed for our blessing and protection.

When authority is abused, it hurts those under authority. In such cases, God ultimately will judge the abuser. But when it is exercised properly, authority blesses and protects those under it.

God has instituted several spheres of authority. Romans 13 establishes the authority of civil government, which is supposed to punish lawbreakers and protect those who obey the laws. The government should protect its citizens by passing and upholding just laws. When the government fails to do its job, the citizens suffer.

Another sphere of authority is the local church. In that sphere, a plurality of elders are to uphold God’s standards of holiness and sound doctrine, to correct those who stray from the truth, to remove from the flock those who refuse to repent so as to protect the rest, and to bless God’s people by instructing them in His ways. Paul’s words (Titus 2:15), “declare,  exhort, and rebuke” indicate that different approaches are needed with different people. With some, just a word is all that is needed to get them back on the path. Others need stronger exhortation. Others need to be convinced or convicted of their wrong (“reprove”; see also, 1 Thess. 5:14).

Another sphere of authority is the family. Husbands are to love their wives and children, leading them into godliness by example and instruction. Wives are to submit to their husbands as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22) and children are to obey their parents, who are to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:1, 4). If a husband is abusive to his wife or children, he should be confronted, first by the wife. If he continues, the elders of the church should get involved. If he is violating the civil law, then the government should be called in to protect the family. In whatever sphere, authority is designed for the blessing and protection of those under authority. It is never to be used for the advantage of the one in authority.

  1. Authority does not imply superiority.

Feminists who bristle at the thought of a wife submitting to her husband contend that to submit implies inferiority. But note 1 Corinthians 11:3: “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” (See also, 1 Corinthians 15:27-28.)

If subjection means inferiority, then it would mean that Jesus Christ is inferior to the Father, which is heresy! The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are equal as persons in their eternal deity, but to carry out the divine plan of redemption, the Son submitted to the Father and the Spirit submitted to the Son. But the Son and the Spirit are equally God along with the Father.

One of the purposes of marriage is that a husband and wife would reflect the divine image and also, the relationship between Christ and the church (Gen. 1:27; Eph. 5:32). The divine image includes the equality of the Father and Son as persons, but also the submission of the Son to the Father for the purpose of function. There is no competition or striving for superiority between the Father and the Son. There is infinite mutual love between them, and voluntary submission on the part of the Son. The same relationship should prevail in the Christian home.

  1. Authority does imply responsibility and accountability.

We often see authority as a perk, but not as a serious responsibility. A lot of men try to operate as the boss in their homes, but they don’t accept the responsibility and accountability of authority. The key concept of delegated authority is not that I’m the boss, but rather that I’m responsible and accountable. If a business owner hires a manager, the manager has authority to run the business, but the main thing he needs to keep in mind is, it is not his business and he must give an account to the owner.

To be in authority in any sphere means that someday you must give an account to God, who entrusted that position to you. If you use your authority to abuse those under you for your own advantage, you’re going to be in big trouble someday. If you use it to seek to accomplish the Master’s will by blessing and protecting those under your charge, you will be rewarded (Luke 12:42-48; 20:9-16).

But you can’t blame those under your authority for your own lack of godly leadership. If a seaman runs a destroyer into the rocks while the captain is sleeping, the navy will discipline the seaman. But, also they will call the captain on the carpet for not running his ship properly. The same principle applies to both the church and the home. If a church refuses to follow God’s Word, each member will answer to God. But also He will hold the elders accountable. Why didn’t they confront the errors and lead the church into obedience? If a family drifts away from the Lord, each member will answer to the Lord. But, also the husband will be called to account if he didn’t exhort and correct and set a godly example.

One of the main problems in Christian homes today is that husbands are spiritually passive, while the wives excel in Bible knowledge and spiritual maturity. In a business, if a manager has an employee who knows more about some aspect of the business than he does, if he is wise he will follow that employee’s advice and he will scramble to learn about that aspect of the business. But, he will not abdicate authority to that employee.

The same principle should apply in the home. If a husband realizes that his wife has more biblical understanding than he does, he would be foolish to go against what she says. But, he should not just abdicate spiritual authority to her. Rather, he should remember that he will answer to God for the spiritual direction of the home. And he should get busy studying the Bible and walking with God so that he can manage the home in a biblical manner.

Also, the way authority works is that if the one (or ones) in authority sin, those under authority will suffer for it. When David sinned with Bathsheba, David’s family and eventually the entire nation suffered the consequences. When he later sinned by numbering the people, thousands died as a result. As a husband, one of my strongest instincts is to protect my wife and children. But, if I don’t deal with my own sin I am exposing my family to the enemy’s attacks.

Thus the concept that authority implies responsibility and accountability should strike fear and trembling into the hearts of everyone in authority. We should be careful to confess and repent of all sin, so that those whom we are supposed to bless and protect do not suffer and so that we can give a good account when we stand before the Lord.

  1. Authority concerns character primarily and position secondarily.

In the world and, sadly, often in the church, these get reversed. A man seeks the position of authority, but he lacks the character to lead. Once he secures the position, he doesn’t command respect, so he asserts his authority by lording it over others (Mark 10:42-45). They finally get fed up and rebel.

When Paul tells Titus (2:15), “Let no one disregard you,” he did not mean that Titus was to assert his authority by letting people know that they couldn’t push him around. Rather, he meant, “Titus, be such an example of godliness and good deeds (2:7-8) that people will not be able to disregard your message because they know that your life backs it up.” It is the same thing that Paul said to Timothy (1 Tim. 4:12), when he told him not to let anyone look down on his youthfulness. How was Timothy to do that? Was he to let people know that he had authority because Paul had put him in charge? No, Paul says, “but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”

Thus character is the primary thing in authority, because godly character commands respect and a man with respect has authority. But, there is also a secondary aspect of authority, namely, the authority of position or office. Hopefully, the man who fills the office graces the position with godly character. But even if he falls short, we need to maintain a certain respect for the office.

When Paul wrote Romans 13, the supreme authority in Rome was the godless emperor, Nero. He was an immoral, cruel madman, but even so, Paul commanded believers to submit out of respect for the God-ordained position of authority. In a similar manner, Peter told slaves to obey unjust masters and wives to submit to unbelieving husbands (1 Pet. 2:18-3:6). Why? Because we must respect the position of authority, which God ordained. This does not mean that someone who is abusing his position should not be confronted and, perhaps, removed through proper channels. But even such confrontation must be done with respect towards the God-ordained position of authority.

  1. Authority is exercised in the local church through teaching and correcting with God’s Word.

Sometimes (hopefully, rarely) the elders must take correction to the level of public church discipline. When that happens, the church must submit to the discipline by breaking fellowship with the sinning member (1 Cor. 5:1-13).

But, for now note that the man of God must teach the Word of God with all authority. This does not mean beating people over the head with dogmatic views on minor issues. But it does mean that when the Bible clearly commands something, the preacher must not dodge the command or teach it as a helpful hint for happy living. It is the Word of the living God, and it must be preached as His commandment, not as an optional opinion that you may want to consider. Both the preacher and the congregation are under the same authority of the Word. If it steps on your toes, it probably stepped on mine while I was studying the text for the message. We all must obey God’s Word.