Authority and Ministry

(A modified repost from the sci-fi blog.)

Systematic Theology – Authority
Authority and Ministry
Professor: Rushdoony Dr. R.J.R.

Let us begin with prayer. Our help is in the name of Lord who made heaven and earth. Oh come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker for He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. 

So begins a reasonably decent and godly Christian prayer.

  • A plea for help,
    • in the Name of the Lord
      • who made heaven and earth.
  • We should worship
    • and bow down
      • and kneel before the Lord our Maker
  • He is our God
    • the people of His pasture
      • the sheep of His hand

A couple of points:

The authority of the Lord is directly tied, not so much to armies or fleet control or economic dominance or media direction (as it is with human authority), as it is with being the Maker of heaven and earth, as well as ourselves.

By and large, Powerful Men quietly resent this. So, it is natural for them – and their many, comfortably paid mouthpieces – to insist that there is no Maker, no logic or reason or intelligence involves in the fabric of creation… regardless of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

So, if there is no Creator, who will impose order and meaning to the universe? Who will Save the People?

This is where Powerful Men – Military, Corporate, Collectivist, Pure Racial, Mystic Philosopher, Pious Priest, whatever – steps up to his flimsy, hilarious imitation of the Divine Throne.

Our Scripture this morning is from the gospel of Saint Matthew, the twentieth chapter verses twenty-five through twenty-eight. Matthew 20:25-28 and our subject Authority and Ministry.

“25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Aggressively Christian societies tend not to be monarchies.

“We already have a king, and dislike the bloated, self-serving imitations you send to replace Him.”

True enough. But it’s more than that: Christian societies tend to be uppity societies, pointedly willing to challenge priests and pastors, scientists and experts, generals and admirals, politicians and academics, Party Chairmen and Secret Policemen.

“You aren’t God! Who gave you the right to tell me what to do?”

People with Authority don’t like this uppity attitude much.

Now, leaders who serve face rather lower levels of hostility. But, as slaves and servants to many individuals – each with their own goals, and their own brand of justice – Christian leaders receive power as a necessary burden, a duty.

Christian leaders, by and large, work very, very hard to transform this burden on their backs, to a burden on the backs of the Inferiors. Such men may for a while gain the authority they thirst for over their pitiful tiny kingdoms, but God sees to it that they are eventually ground to cultural irrelevance and a public laughingstock.

As we can see today, all around us.

God simply will not tolerate these worthless shepherds to carry His Name, or wield His Authority. Not for long.

And once the Holy Spirit is gone, He doesn’t come back.

It’s not just the might of the Catholic and Protestant churches that is so much dust, but also the might of the kings. (Sorry-not sorry, Strephon.)

The Communist and Nazi and Fascist groups are now but unpleasant historical curiosities for most. (Never fear: China’s turn is coming.)

As for the authority of the expert, be it economic or medical or technological? Their fall has already started, but it may well take a few decades, even a century or more, before their claims of authority is ignored by all. Just like the claims of the King and the Priest and the Party Leader.

God does not call His people to be yet another band of drooling power-seekers. We are to serve others. Only with worthwhile service to others — especially to the powerless, the weak, the poor, the lowly, the stranger — is Divine authority and Legitimate, Lawful power granted in Christ’s Name.

The occasion of these comments by our Lord was when the mother of James and John, two of the disciples, came to Him to ask for enthroned places for her sons in Christ’s kingdom. Now the mother of James and John whose name was Salome was our Lord’s aunt. As a result she felt that she had a privileged position and therefore could ask for privileges for her sons. Our Lord had denied Salome her request, but when the other disciples heard what she had done they were indignant. Our Lord called the disciples together to speak to them and verses 25-28 give us His words. Now the word that our Lord uses in verse twenty-five when He says “Ye know that the princes of the gentiles exercise dominion over them.” That word dominion is a particular word for a particular type of dominion. It is used in the New Testament only in an evil sense. For example in Acts nineteen verse sixteen it refers to the power of demons over men. In First Peter 5:3 it refers to evil elders, lording it over others, over Christ’s people. And it is a combination of two words; “kyrios” – Lord or dominion, and Kata – which means down, intensively so. So the meaning is “Lording it over someone.” So what our Lord is saying, “Ye know that the princes of the gentiles love to Lord it over them, and that they that are great exercise authority upon them.” Now again the word authority is different from the usual word for authority because here again instead of just ousia there is the prefix kata; so it means the authority to put down. It refers to something other than the Godly exercise of authority; it refers to putting down people. So here we have the usage of two words, not normally used for dominion and authority, which indicate lording it over others and putting them down and this, our Lord says, is what ungodly authority is all about. At the same time our Lord says “it shall not be so among you but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister.” The word minister is diakonos, our word deacon, a servant, one called to minister. However in the next verse he says “whosoever will be chief among you let him be your servant – doulos,” which means slave. You make it your life to minister under God to these people. Then in the twenty-eighth verse when he says the son of man came not to ministered unto but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many he again uses the word diakonos, forms of it.

Imperial Romans – especially the Aristocracy – liked to call themselves benefactors of the people.

Jesus Christ explicitly orders His people not to follow their example.

Thus our Lord differentiates between two kinds of authority; first gentile or ungodly authority and dominion which is a putting down of people. It is a striving for power for one purpose, to Lord it over others. It’s the kind of thing Orwell was talking about in 1984 when he described the goal of the totalitarian state, a boot stamping on a human face forever. Orwell caught the meaning of the words our Lord was here using without knowing about them. No this evil is all around us, authority is equated with the power to put down people. And our Lord is clear, all ungodly authority and dominion means putting down people, not ministering to them. In the triune God authority and power are inseparable. Authority in the Bible is hierarchical but ungodly authority is elitist, grounded in humanist considerations. In fallen man authority and power are not united as they are in God, the more Godly we are the closer we bring them together. But in the ungodly they are often far apart, in fact men can hold Godly authority in ungodly ways and on alien premises.

“Authority is equated with the power to put down people.”

There are quite a lot of ways to put down people, in a complex society.

  • There are the old, but still quite effective ways of simply shooting them in the head, driving a sword through their heart, or slashing their throat open with a knife.
  • There is the various flavours of conventional and nuclear warfare. Or NBC warfare. Or siege warfare, insuring that food and water or electricity does not enter the targeted city.
  • There are also economic methods, from trade embargoes, to corporate warfare, to government prohibitions or regulations or demands for bribes, implicit and explicit.
  • There is public slander, or simply reporting on just the Correct side of a controversy, or other forms of information control (read: “sophisticated lying.”)
  • Nationalism, racism, religious hated, ideological hatred… all these can, with ease, become tools of power. Ways of putting down people, for the power, wealth, and pleasure of the Aristocracy of the era.
  • And who can forget the subtle and not-so-subtle put-downs, petty jealousies, social maneuvers and snubs, feuding cliques, ostracizing, personal slights, and snide social insults of high-level society?

Now this is the separation of authority that is common place. Just yesterday I finished reading a book by a very prominent Lutheran scholar, and again dealing with a critical issue of our time never once invoked any Godly authority, any Biblical premise. From beginning to end his book was essentially pragmatic. Now this separation of authority from God and its reduction to a purely institutional authority is very common place, and it leads to the kind of gentile lording common to every area of life; to the academic world, the ecclesiastical sphere, the political, the scientific, and so on. Such men hold position and power, but they lack Godly authority. They are pre-eminent only because our culture and our churches see authority in the same terms. Men resent being on the receiving end of such authority, but they want it for themselves. Otto Scott was citing the other night his Irish grandmother’s proverb “put a beggar on horseback and he’ll ride you down.” There are a great many beggar’s on horseback all around us. 

Christians are enslaved to their enemies, because they secretly (or not so secretly) agree with the premises of the Lord’s enemies.

  • “Power first, Justice whenever.”
  • “Political pragmatism far, far above Divine Principle. Assuming the latter even exists.”
  • “My security and comfort trumps your ethics and liberty. Always and everywhere.”

Long before Orwell and his description of power as a boot stamping on a human face forever, Genghis Kahn spoke in the same way about what he liked to do. At one time he said for example, concerning his greatest joy, and I quote “the greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies and chase them before you. To rob them of their wealth and see those dear to them bathed in tears. To ride their horses and clasp to you your bosom their wives and daughters.” Now that was the goal for Genghis Kahn and for his men. It’s not surprising that the mongrels made no positive contribution to civilization. They brought economic ruin and disaster wherever they went; because they epitomized the gentile conception of power, lording it over others. And the modern state is increasingly manifesting with a growing nakedness that same ideal. The Soviet Union and Red China most certainly manifest it, and every modern state as it gains in power gains correspondingly in its lust to Lord it over others. The gentile doctrine of power, lording it over others, is thus common to history. The lust for power is present oriented; it is not interested in ministering but in using others.

The lust for power is pleasurable, for the same reason why stolen bread is sweet.

But that is the way for God’s enemies.

Not His friends.

Then second our Lord says that Christian greatness is in ministering to others, in being members one of another as Saint Paul put it. Such a doctrine is neither self-centered nor present oriented. Our Lord says “seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, or justice.” 


This is postponing immediate satisfaction for the future, even for posterity; ad this is what our faith is about. We live not only for today and tomorrow, and immediate satisfaction. We live not only in terms of seeing what we want realized now, but realized after we’re gone. And this is what builds a culture; this is what creates a future. The ungodly seek power here and now, the power to Lord it over others. The Christian uses authority and power to minister to others, to know that all things are in the hands of God and to leave them there in faith knowing that we cannot see one minute or second ahead. But God can; and known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the earth, and so we love and serve in Christ, and we wait in patience for His results.

Patience is a pretty sharp divide between the wrong sort of Noble, and the right sort of Noble.

It isn’t infallible, or perfect: evil yet patient people really do exist.

But most evil people have little or no patience: they want what they want Right Now.

In contrast, most God-obeying people have patience, as they model both the Father and the Son, who exhibit a LOT of patience in the face of fallen Christians who repent.. then slide back, then repent… then trip up.

The quest for gentile power is a mark of reprobation. Even if the power structure is built in the name of Christ it is a mark of reprobation when people seek power to be able to Lord it over others. They may seek power in the name of the people, a very common pretext today. Or in the name of freedom, or in the name of economic justice, but it is self glorification they are after. Our Lord says something very plainly and simply “By their fruits shall ye know them”.


He gave us a handy, easy, one sentence criterion “by their fruits shall ye know them” and that we are not to be as the Gentiles who love to exercise dominion, to put down people. 

You can guess what present-oriented Darwinians, who explicitly deny any transcendent value other than the need to survive (read: the thirst for power), have to say about superstitious babble about “by their fruits shall ye know them.”

I wouldn’t worry about their opinion too much. In a century, the Darwinian cultures in the world will be aging out. Fast.

(Also, growing more and more impoverished. Also rapidly growing rapidly demented and violent and oppressive and ignorant and lawless and incoherent.

Well, what did you expect from following the snake? Honour and Power forever?)

The future belongs to the Christians.

Well, those Christians who actually fear and obey God, anyways.

Then third our Lord in this incident declares Himself the example of authority and of power and of ministering to others. He came to give His life a ransom for many, now we are not called to make an atonement, but we are called to exercise a ministry. We are to separate ourselves from false authority and exercise Godly authority. The disciples beginning with Salome the mother of James and John were all excised and greatly concerned with gaining Gentile, or false, authority. This is still all too often true of the church and of churchmen. But such a goal leads to a confusion of God’s kingdom and mans.

Quite a large number of Churchmen love to confuse Godly and Ungodly authority.

They no more like serving others than any prideful academic or politician or expert or magnate.

But God separates what His enemies would confuse and confound. And if He needs to kick the churches and the denominations to the curb, powerless and irrelevant and forgotten, to insure the victory of the Kingdom of God?

Not a problem.

He’s done it before, after all.

<Points to the burning Second Temple, ground under the heel of Pagan Rome.>

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.