To Whom The Lord Commends

Having the capability to perform or carry out an action does not necessarily mean that one has the legitimate right to do so. Neither does having the desire to do it mean you are authorized to do so. Furthermore, the authority for you to undertake a task is not based upon the irresponsibility of someone else. Assumed responsibilities do not always equate to authorized responsibilities. Many problems have arisen because of assumed rights based upon these very reason. Having the right to do something depends upon authorization from the proper source.

One of the most obvious examples of assumed responsibility is seen from the action of King Saul in 1 Samuel 13. The prophet Samuel had earlier instructed Saul to go to Gilgal and “wait seven days until I come to you and show you what you should do.” We find in 1 Samuel 13.1-7 that the Philistines had come out against Saul and the army of Israel in great numbers. The appointed time came, yet Samuel had not arrived. The army of Israel began to scatter. Saul’s desire was to entreat the favor of Jehovah. But his motivation was fear of the Philistines, not reverence for Jehovah. So he forced himself to offer a burnt offering (1 Samuel 13.8-12). Finally, Samuel came and said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which he commanded you” (1 Samuel 13.13-14). Saul had been given responsibility and authority to act in the capacity of king, not as priest! Although he had the capability and desire, he did not have the authority to offer sacrifices. That authority and right belonged to the Levitical priests. In his desire to do Samuel’s responsibility, Saul also failed in his responsibility as king.

It is also important to recognize the relationship between authorization and responsibility. A person can be a responsible person in the sense that he or she is reliable and trustworthy. However, being responsible does not entitle one to self-authorization. Again, apply this to the situation of King Saul. No matter how honest and sincere, no matter how strong his desire to keep the people united was, Saul, being a Benjaminite, would never be given the right and responsibility of performing that which was given to the Levites: the priesthood.

The apostle Paul dealt with those who sought to be regarded as apostles. In 2 Corinthians 10-12, Paul wrote at length in defending his apostleship against false charges. One such charge was being unskilled or rude in speech. (Side note: Even if this rudeness would have disqualified Paul, it did not make someone else qualified to take his place. Such rationale has been used by those who seek to justify women to usurp authority over men in the matter of public teaching, praying, and in preaching the gospel on the basis that “men won’t” or that there is no man available or qualified.) Again, desire and capability to act, or the failure of another in being faithful to his or her responsibility does not give permission for self-authorization. Authority simply cannot be self-imposed. Authority must come from God in his word (1 Timothy 2.8-15).

Another “disqualification” charged to Paul was, of all things, his refusal to take support (2 Corinthians 11.7-8). Paul had the right (authorization) from God to do so (1 Corinthians 9.14-16). He explained why he refused this in 2 Corinthians 11.12: “So that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting.

The matter of self-imposed authority is the seed that will sprout the fruit of division in every facet of society. For example, in regard to a most vital God-ordained relationship — marriage — it is often entered into without any consideration of God’s word as to whether one has the right to marry, as well as who one has the right to marry. The decision is generally based solely upon one’s desire, or upon an assumed personal right to act as he or she chooses.

The same thing is often true in regard to becoming a parent. Becoming a parent obviously requires reproducing, and God made man capable of such. But becoming a parent without regard for why God made man capable of reproducing has consequences both for the parent and the child. The decision to both marry and start a family needs to be made in view of man’s purpose for existence (cf. Ecclesiastes 12.13).

God gave authority and responsibility in the home, then government, and in the church. These three institutions are separate and distinct. Negligence of a spouse or a parent does not authorize the government nor the church to take over the responsibilities God assigned to the home. Let us remember Paul’s admonition: “For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10.18).