Excerpts From “The Waning Authority of Christ in the Churches” – by A. W. Tozer

“Let me state the cause of my burden. It is this: Jesus Christ has today almost no authority at all among the groups that call themselves by His name.”

“The present position of Christ in the gospel churches may be likened to that of a king in a limited, constitutional monarchy. The king (sometimes depersonalized by the term “the Crown”) is in such a country no more than a traditional rallying point, a pleasant symbol of unity and loyalty much like a flag or a national anthem. He is lauded, feted and supported, but his real authority is small. Nominally he is head over all, but in every crisis someone else makes the decisions. On formal occasions he appears in his royal attire to deliver the tame, colorless speech put into his mouth by the real rulers of the country. The whole thing may be no more than good-natured make-believe, but it is rooted in antiquity, it is a lot of fun and no one wants to give it up.

Among the gospel churches Christ is now in fact little more than a beloved symbol. “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” is the church’s national anthem and the cross is her official flag, but in the week-by-week services of the church and the day-by-day conduct of her members someone else, not Christ, makes the decisions.”

“Those in actual authority decide the moral standards of the church, as well as all objectives and all methods employed to achieve them. Because of long and meticulous organization it is now possible for the youngest pastor just out of seminary to have more actual authority in a church than Jesus Christ has.

Not only does Christ have little or no authority; His influence also is becoming less and less. I would not say that He has none, only that it is small and diminishing. A fair parallel would be the influence of Abraham Lincoln over the American people. Honest Abe is still the idol of the country. The likeness of his kind, rugged face, so homely that it is beautiful, appears everywhere. It is easy to grow misty-eyed over him. Children are brought up on stories of his love, his honesty and his humility.

But after we have gotten control over our tender emotions what have we left? No more than a good example which, as it recedes into the past, becomes more and more unreal and exercises less and less real influence.”

“The Lordship of Jesus is not quite forgotten among Christians, but it has been relegated to the hymnal where all responsibility toward it may be comfortably discharged in a glow of pleasant religious emotion. Or if it is taught as a theory in the classroom it is rarely applied to practical living. The idea that the Man Christ Jesus has absolute and final authority over the whole church and over all of its members in every detail of their lives is simply not now accepted as true by the rank and file of evangelical Christians.”

“In the conduct of our public worship where is the authority of Christ to be found? The truth is that today the Lord rarely controls a service, and the influence He exerts is very small. We sing of Him and preach about Him, but He must not interfere; we worship our way, and it must be right because we have always done it that way…”

“For the true Christian the one supreme test for the present soundness and ultimate worth of everything religious must be the place our Lord occupies in it. Is He Lord or symbol? Is He in charge of the project or merely one of the crew? Does He decide things or only help to carry out the plans of others? All religious activities, from the simplest act of an individual Christian to the ponderous and expensive operations of a whole denomination, may be proved by the answer to the question, Is Jesus Christ Lord in this act? Whether our works prove to be wood, hay and stubble or gold and silver and precious stones in that great day will depend upon the right answer to that question.

What, then, are we to do? Each one of us must decide, and there are at least three possible choices. One is to rise up in shocked indignation and accuse me of irresponsible reporting. Another is to nod general agreement with what is written here but take comfort in the fact that there are exceptions and we are among the exceptions. The other is to go down in meek humility and confess that we have grieved the Spirit and dishonored our Lord in failing to give Him the place His Father has given Him as Head and Lord of the Church.

Either the first or the second will but confirm the wrong. The third if carried out to its conclusion can remove the curse. The decision lies with us.”

* * *


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“The Waning Authority of Christ in the Churches” – online

4 Responses to Excerpts From “The Waning Authority of Christ in the Churches” – by A. W. Tozer

  1. jimpuntney says:

    “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than n that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
    Paul of Tarsus

    What foundation are you building on? This question warrants prayerful consideration. Many organizations derive their value by a spreadsheet, is this of Christ or the flesh?

    May we yearn for the sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, He will reveal Christ, and Christ will reveal His eternal plans for the Bride, His body, His House. Christs works are precious.

    “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”


  2. visionlion@yahoo.com says:

    Thank God it’s waning. Belief in Jesus is nothing more than greed, spiritual greed for an a-priori notion of Self. It is inner corruption.


    • David Bolton says:

      Ironically, we may share more common ground here than may first appear. “Spiritual greed” is a very valuable phrase and may indeed lead to “inner corruption.” “Belief in Jesus” can even feed into it, and that is what we actually do see in much of Christendom. Much preaching and Christian mindset is very “self” oriented, motivated by “spiritual greed” so, I get it.

      There is a paradox in Christ, however, in that, on the one hand, God created us to share in His unsearchable spiritual wealth, and on the other, for our “self” not to be corrupted by that abundance. “Spiritual greed” is what corrupted Lucifer in the beginning. He was not content with the abundance that God had given him, though it was great, and He lusted for more, even to be like God. He then, as a serpent in the garden of Eden, tempted Adam and Eve with this same “spiritual greed”: “In the day you eat of it, you shall be as God, knowing good and evil.” And so “spiritual greed” lies at the heart of all corruption, evil, spiritual darkness, and death.

      This is what Jesus actually came to deliver us out of in order to restore us to the purity and spiritual abundance that He created us for in the first place. His means of doing all of that was through His own self-emptying and death on the cross, and then calling us to follow Him in the same process: “If anyone would come after me, let Him deny himSELF, take up his cross, and follow me.” When “self” gets denied and then crucified, its “spiritual greed” dies with it. It gets purified so that the soul becomes God-centered, instead of self-centered. Only then is it prepared to receive the spiritual riches that God desires to share with it out of His infinite Love and Goodness.

      This is the way of truly following Jesus Christ, but, tragically, not the way of most of Christendom. Such a message doesn’t fill “churches”, whereas, feeding “spiritual greed” does. It is this lack of following Christ through self-denial and the way of the cross that has undermined the true authority of Christ in the churches, as Bro. Tozer has rightly identified in this article. Apart from His genuine authority, the churches are often marked by “spiritual greed” and its resultant corruption which unbelievers and critics can see right through and are turned off by. This leads to the utter rejection of Christ Himself and Christianity in general. Ironically, many of Christianity’s greatest critics are actually closer to the Kingdom of God than they appear, and make the greatest followers of Christ, when God actually shows them the true, and also the false for what it actually is. I know…I used to be one! 🙂

      (Your comment has actually been the first real “negative” comment that I’ve received on my blog in four years. It’s about time! I’m glad that you shared. I won’t approve foul language, or outright defiling comments, but strong opinion and honest discourse I can handle, and indeed welcome. If you are interested in some articles that will elaborate on what I’ve shared here, I would recommend: The Cross – The Unlevel Playing Field of Satan’s Defeat and A Copernican Style Revelation and Revolution)

      God bless you!


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