Covering and Authority
©2005, Lani Wiens
a fresh flowers original
These days we seem to get hung up on semantics (the meaning of words). Not long ago I read a comment on someone’s blog (web log) about covering, challenging someone to show him where it comes up in the Bible. That got me to pondering because we talk a lot about covering/authority in our church. I asked God to show me what that was all about, I figure He’s got the answers to all the questions and would leave out anyone else’s opinions. This is what He showed me.
The only inferences to ‘covering’ that I could think of were about head coverings and the imagery in Psalm 91 about Jesus’ covering us with his feathers as a hen covers her chicks. This was supported by my concordance. The imagery in Psalm 91 is about protection. When I looked up the word cover in the dictionary it said; protect, shelter, screen. However, there are some other definitions that are a little more forceful such as “supporting force protecting another from attack” and “protect from a commanding position”. Being ‘under cover’ means “to be hidden or protected by, with outward show of friendship.” These definitions alone makes me desire to be under another’s covering. But as was mentioned, the Lord does not command us to come under cover. It does however command us to come under authority!
Here’s where things got very interesting. As I pondered the word cover and the challenge to see that in scripture I heard the Lord whisper to me, “Change the word cover to authority and then take a look.” When I did that the Bible practically exploded with examples of God setting up and taking down authority, commanding us to come under authority, showing authority structures and the benefits of submitting to them. If you look up the word authority in the dictionary you will find this definition; “power or right to enforce obedience; this power as delegated”. Now if someone who is in authority is ‘covering’ you, they are your supporting force protecting you from attack. They have the right to enforce obedience but they are also covering your back, protecting you, shielding you, taking the hit for you. They are the one who will give an account and will take the blame if something goes wrong, they carry the responsibility. That is not a bad place to be at all. The opposite of that would be, no back up, in no man’s land with no one watching out for you, as in, “You’re on your own kid!” I don’t particularly like that picture.
Now let’s take a look at scripture. Right in Genesis God begins setting up authority/leadership/rulers starting with Adam. He was to have dominion, or rule, over all the earth. He was to take care of it. God set up authority throughout the Old Testament: kings, priests and judges. He told the people that they were to submit to these authorities unless they were in direct conflict with him (i.e. Daniel). In Zecheriah 9:10 it shows God deposing authorities and declaring His dominion from sea to sea, Revelation shows the last days and the new rule and reign of Christ. Moving on to the New Testament we are familiar with Jesus commanding his disciples to ‘give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s’. In Colossians 1:16 it says that Christ created and established all rulers and authorities. I looked up ruler and leader as well, their definitions were, respectively; “person exercising government or dominion” and “one who gives guidance by going in front”.
Further to this reference is made to children obeying parents, husbands being the ‘head’ of the wife, Christ being the ‘head’ of the church, master/slave relationships and submitting to one another. There is no question that authority and covering all over the scriptures, you cannot get away from it. But just to make sure that we don’t miss it, I will write out for you Romans 13:1-7, it reads as follows:
“Everyone (this means you and me) must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servant, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.”
Now just in case you think that all this applies only to civil governance, read Hebrews 13:7 and 17, “Remember you leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
There you have it. I am no great theologian, but I like to let God show me what He’s thinking about things. If something in this bit speaks to you and helps to clarify the confusion then it has done some good, it certainly did that for me. Perhaps you will need to go and repent to those God has put in leadership over you. I realize that not every church leader is perfect but God doesn’t actually make much allowance for that, we’re told to respect them anyway (check out David’s respect for Saul and his admonish to his men to respect Saul, even those he was demonized and the spirit of the Lord was no longer with him). Perhaps God will call you to be in leadership, give you authority to rule or lead, do you want people to follow you? You need to provide them with a good example to follow (go back to Hebrews 13:7). Let’s see if we can get this thing right.
Note: I used “The Oxford Dictionary of Current English” and the NIV translation of the Bible.