How do we submit ourselves to God? Do we need to submit to church leaders to be of God? The Church teach us to submit to God using James 4:7. Let us use it, understand it from a general context of the author.
Let us understand from the modified version with my emphasis.
James 4:1-10, NKJV
Pride Promotes Strife
4 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure [living in luxurious airplane, hotel, cars, huge houses ] that war in your members? 2 You lust [living in luxurious airplane, hotel, cars, huge houses ] and do not have [even do not have your own money]. You murder and covet [pretend to have billions of dollars in you pocket] and cannot obtain [ but now you can not easily get the money] . You fight and war [ you asked to pray for the enemy to fail as if you are in a holy war]. Yet you do not have [ you don’t really have anything from your own sweat] because you do not ask [ you do not know how to pray]. 3 You ask and do not receive [maybe you try to pray when you are alone], because you ask amiss [because what you pray is wrong], that you may spend it on your pleasures. [ you always spend through your luxurious lifestyle] 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! [uhmm I do not know anything about this] Do you not know that friendship with the world [being obsessed with all kinds of Guinness Book of Records, obsessed with having biggest arena in the world, obsessed with connections with politician, obsessed with luxurious properties and materials] is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
“God resists the proud [ proud of having all luxury in life, have all different kind of Guinness Book of Records, having build the largest dome in the world, being a leader],
But gives grace to the humble.”
Humility Cures Worldliness
7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw [learn how to pray] near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands [ask for forgiveness for what you have done in the Church], you sinners [members who follow the mark of the hand]; and purify your hearts, you double-minded [Are you of God OR of the owner of the right thumb?]. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
Words inside [ ] are mine.
Obey Your Leaders And Submit To Them
How we should obey the leaders? In the Iglesia Ni Cristo, this is one of the doctrine to obey the leaders, without questions. It is God who placed the administration in the Church and has given it the responsibility to watch over us. It is our obligation to submit ourselves and to obey it.
Let us test the spirit on the INC teachings of Hebrews 13:17.
Firstly, the verse does not mentioned Church Administration. In some bible translation it starts with “obey your leaders…”. In Hebrew culture the leaders were normally elders that met as a council not a hierarchical form of leadership. Secondly, the verse says “unprofitable for you”, there are no warnings of imminent spiritual danger or doom like you go to lake of fire if you do not follow. The Hebrews here are not warned that they face shipwreck or disaster if they don’t submit. If they don not, it is of no advantage.
Ray C. Stedman wrote the following in his commentary on Hebrews:
Several things should be noted about Hebrews 13:17 and 1Thess 5:12. The word “obey” comes from the Greek peitho, “to persuade.” The present imperative middle form, used here, means “permit oneself to be persuaded,” “yield to persuasion.” It definitely does not mean to blindly follow orders. The phrase those who are over you in the Lord should simply be “your leaders in the Lord.” There is no thought of being “over” anyone, or others being “under” a leader. The authority of a Christian leader is not command authority but servant leadership. A servant has authority, as Jesus said he had, because he awakens by his loving service a desire to comply. Or he is persuasive because of his logic or knowledge.
There is a clear instruction to obey leadership but that obedience stems from persuasion, not authority and the leadership in this context is not a hierarchy. They key difference between obedience to authority and obedience to persuasion is that the person doing the obeying still has the right and the obligation to be discerning. What are those to be discerned? They are also written in Hebrews chapter 13. Let’s go back to Hebrews 13:7
Notice that there are conditions in the verse. If we dissect the verse we can understand it better.
- who have spoken the word of God to you – Do you hear the true context of the scriptures in the Church worship services? When they teach the words of God, do they interpret them correctly or do they interpret according to their benefits?
- whose faith follows – Whose faith is followed inside the Church now? Is it our Lord Jesus Christ or “One with EVM”? The faith that we follow should be no other than faith in Christ
In fact, the passage says that a man is not justified by works – meaning no matter how much time you spent in the Church, it cannot be justified. Only through faith in Christ. If you do not believe that then you are likely following a selective teaching of the scriptures.
- considering the outcome of their conduct – Consider the conduct of the Church leaders. How are they living in their life? Do they show as good examples? How are things inside the Church now do members feel the holy spirit? Do the church leaders preach the gospel of peace ot do they preach how to obey, offer and obey? How do they treat the expelled Ministers and members especially family of the late Executive Minister?
Clearly Hebrews 13:17 speaks of obeying spiritual leaders but it is a persuasion not a command and there are conditions as stated in Hebrews 13:7.