“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.” – Lk. 22:25,26
One person told me that this verse shows how little authority Elders have since children and slaves have no authority. If that’s the case, then Jesus’ statement that “unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” means that no one is in charge in a Christian home. Obviously Jesus was not telling the Apostles that they would have no authority (See 2 Cor. 10:8-12, cf. 1 Thess 2:6). Let’s explore a little before deciding what Jesus meant.
The King of kings and Lord of lords is like a child. Isaiah the prophet predicted the coming of the Messiah and the ushering in His Kingdom where peace would reign. In this kingdom, its leaders would have a different spirit.
And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. – Isaiah 11:6
Isaiah’s prophecy of the Christian age depicts it as having peace as when a lion and a lamb could lie together. More literally, it is a time when people from all nations would submit to the “root of Jesse”. It would signal the end of rebellion so that there is not need for dictatorial or ruthless leaders. The leader, who was called Lord and Master, would be kind and innocent as a child.
Slave owners and rulers had authority. The erroneous position that says Elders have no authority would also mean that Christians in other positions of authority, government, business, or a slave owners, would also have no authority. Paul did not deny these people’s authority, but only that they were to exercise their authority differently. He said, “Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.” (Col. 4:1; cf, Eph. 6:9).
A father has authority in his own home. Those who reject the Biblical role of the Elders try to make their case by pointing out that no where does it say Elders have “authority”. Winford Claiborne addressed this error in a 2006 lecture at Freed-Hardeman University, pointing out that it also doesn’t say anywhere that fathers have authority over their children, but they do. Paul wrote to Timothy that Elders and Deacons must “rule” or have a hold of their children and homes. The Scriptures don’t have to specifically say that Elders have authority because it is clearly implied.
A shepherd has authority over his flock. To say that Elders have no authority over the church is as ridiculous as saying that shepherds have no authority over their sheep. The spiritual leaders of the church, the Elders, must have authority to lead the flock of God.
All Christians, including leaders, are to become as children. Though it is true that the children have no natural authority over their parents, there is something desirable about children. Jesus taught that we all must become like them. Talking to the twelve, Jesus says that whoever leads must be as a servant or a child. He means that godly leaders are not flawed with a carnal desire to dominate others. It is the child-like qualities that the twelve Apostles, the Shepherds, and all Christians must strive to immitate. Child-like leadership is without pride, it is not oppressive, and is without an ounce of pretense. There are no hidden motives or agendas in a child-like ruler. Child-like leaders are blameless before God. They do not crave to have authority over you. It is their humility and spirit of service that makes them more like their Master who called them.
So what did Jesus mean when He said the greatest will be as a child or a servant? In Luke 22:25,26, Jesus is contrasting the mentality of ungodly leaders who lord it over others. Being under a worldly leader can be fearful thing since they are prone to dominate, control, and take liberties from others (“Masters…give up threatening”, Eph. 6:9). Like the hypocrites, “They say and do not do.” This is not the spirit of a godly leader who is more like a slave and a child. What Jesus was saying is that their style of leadership would be different from the norm. Jesus illustrated the difference between undesirable worldly leaders and godly leaders who exercised their authority with child-like faith and humility.
Leaders who have become like children and slaves can be trusted with the authority granted to them by God.
Why are some Christians trying to diminish the authority of godly men in the church? It may be that rebellion is at the heart of it, but it is not necessary to assign a motive. Whatever their reasons, be it ignorance or something sinnister, they should remember the words of the Hebrew writer: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17). The inspired writer is referring to the Elders when he speaks of those who “keep watch over your souls”. God will be displeased if the Elders over the flock are not obeyed.