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III. THE "APOSTLE" ON AUTHORITY

Jim McCotter is listed in The Cause as a pastor in the GCI church in Silver Springs, Maryland. This does not, however, tell the fully story. Actually, McCotter is viewed by GCI to be its "apostle". As such he holds a position higher than any elders in the organization, and most, if not all, GCI elders have explicitly or implicitly declared their loyalty and submission to McCotter's authority. Therefore, he is the actual head of the organization. He is also listed as the Publisher of GCI's Potential and The Cause magazines.

McCotter has written two pieces for the "Joy of Justice". The one we will examine in this chapter is entitled, "Joy to the Righteous". In this article his intent is to show how the execution of justice within the church should bring joy to the righteous. He does, however, seem to wander from his topic briefly to give us a short essay on authority, a favorite subject of his.

In his comments on authority, he cites Romans 13, verses 3 and following. Verse 3 says:

"For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same."
It is from this passage that McCotter draws the following conclusions:

"...what does the Bible say? 'Then do what is right (emphasis his) and he will commend you.' And so will all (emphasis mine) authority - parental, civil, and spiritual, all of which are to be a reflection of God's righteous authority."1
At this point McCotter gets carried away with an overconfidence in authority, as well as an unfounded extrapolation from what the Holy Spirit is saying here.

This passage is clearly dealing with civil authority. No reference is either stated or implied to parental or spiritual authority in the context of Romans 13:1-7. Each of the authorities McCotter mentions has, given to it by God, its own distinctive realms, its own distinctive prerogatives, its own distinctive responsibilities, and its own distinctive limitations. It is unwise and dangerous to obscure the distinctions between each type of authority. Yet, McCotter seems inclined to do just that.

Always be Praises?

Another mistake McCotter makes with this passage is when he states that all authorities will commend you for doing right. Such a conclusion from this verse is groundless. The passage is speaking in a general sense. It does not use the word all or always. In general, authority will commend you for doing right. There are often exceptions, however, as we can see clearly throughout the Bible and human history. Consider Ahab and Elijah, Jezebel and Elijah, Pharaoh and Moses, Nebuchadnezzar and the three Hebrew children, Ciaphas and Jesus, Ananias and Paul, Caesar and Paul, Caesar and St. John, etc., etc.

It is foolish, unwarranted, and damaging to teach Christians to expect that they will always be praised by all authority for doing what is right. Such expectations will inevitably lead to crushing disappointment, confusion, and guilt when they find that, at times, they are not commended, but actually punished by authority for doing what is right. And this can happen just as easily with spiritual authority in the church as with civil authority in the society.

Don't Try to Escape

McCotter's over-confidence in human authority, and his insistence on unflinching submission to it, surfaces again when he says:

"Rather than trying to escape authority, we should do right, and our authorities will commend us. Blessing comes from being righteous within our situation, not fleeing from it."2
His statement would be good enough if authorities were always like God: just, righteous, and loving. But, they are not, and allowance needs to be made for that fact. Consider again our biblical examples: Elijah fled from Jezebel, Moses from Pharaoh, Paul from Jewish authorities in Damascus, Jerusalem, and numerous other places, etc., etc. Is there ever a time to "escape", in McCotter's words?

Tozer says:

"When confused sheep start over a cliff the individual sheep can save himself only by separating from the flock. Perfect unity at such a time can only mean total destruction for all. The wise sheep to save his own hide disaffiliates."3
In all of McCotter's remarks about authority, he completely overlooks the possibility of wicked or unrighteous authority, leaving us with the impression that authority is always to be submitted to, and that to do otherwise is rebellion. In a magazine devoted to justice and church discipline, this is a dangerous imbalance indeed!

1 McCotter, Jim, "Joy to the Righteous", The Cause, p 13, June/July 1985.
2 Ibid., p 13.
3 Tozer, p 48.

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