In my last posted I noted that here I would address individual and corporate discernment in relation to Faith and Action. To do that we need to look at the authority structure in the church. In scripture Christ is the head, the ultimate authority (Ephesians 1:22, 5:23). That is without question. What we need to consider is how Jesus uses His authority as the head. It is clear in The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and His instructions to wait for the Spirit (Acts 1:4-5) that He expects us to obey Him. The important point is that He doesn’t use force or control. He will apply both to unbelievers when He returns and all of us believers will appear before His judgment seat under His authority (2 Corinthians 5:10). However, at present He exhorts and convicts, He does not force. The same is true regarding the role and calling of human leaders in the church, as represented in the passages below.
24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24–26 (NKJV)
17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. Hebrews 13:17 (NKJV)
1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. 5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:1–7 (NKJV)
Leaders who actually follow Jesus seek to lead others by example and teaching, not coercion. Once we recognize the scriptural importance of submission to authority we can make the connection to discernment, both individual and corporate. If we want to hear clearly and discern His leading, we need to submit to the leaders Jesus has appointed as we need come under Jesus’ authority through them. We see this in action in corporate discernment in 1 Corinthians.
26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (NKJV)
29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 1 Corinthians 14:29 (NKJV)
We see here the sharing by many of what they are receiving from Jesus and the submission of what they are hearing or receiving to others in the body. In essence our discernment is tied to our submission because Jesus designed us to need one another. If we are unwilling to come under spiritual authority we cannot expect to hear clearly in our walk with Jesus.
The context for 1 Corinthians 14:29 is corporate discernment. Through sharing what we are hearing from the Lord and letting others weigh the accuracy we demonstrate a willingness to submit to the spiritual maturity and authority of others. We see the same principle in Proverbs.
14 Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14 (NKJV)
22 Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established. Proverbs 15:22 (NKJV)
It is easy to see how corporate discernment is tied to our recognition of, and submission to, the spiritual authority Jesus has established in the church. The same principles apply to individual discernment. None of us are called to walk alone, we are called to walk with others in the body. Whatever we think we are hearing or think we should do, we discern best in the context of community. At times the Lord speaks to me about something, yet on important matters my habit is to submit what I hear to others. For example, I recently made a significant decision and had a sense of what I was to do. Yet I didn’t move ahead with my decision until I had a couple of friends pray about it for a number of months as the decision affected others. The Lord confirmed the accuracy of the decision so in theory I could have simply gone ahead with my original sense of His direction. Yet in having others weigh it there was confirmation from the Lord that was significant. This is important.
Some final thoughts. Over my years of walking with Jesus I have heard many people come up with novel ‘teachings’ that are not in line with scripture. Invariably it comes out that they are not anchored and submitted in His body, and by extension Jesus. Instead of doing that, let’s simply follow Jesus. When we do, we will find ourselves in fellowship with His people and find a place to weigh and test our spiritual discernment.