[anzac] UNCOVERING the COVERING DOCTRINE

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From: "REVIVAL List" <prophetic@...>
Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2011 14:34:41 +1100
NOTE:  A very balanced look at an often-abused topic. We would
be interested in your comments on the below article, my friends.


UNCOVERING the "COVERING DOCTRINE" 
-by Cheryl MacGrath. 

In a number of the denominations I've been involved in, including at 
leadership level, a "doctrine of covering" was taught and accepted. 
And for many, many years, I never questioned this teaching. After 
all, everyone believed it; the leadership upheld it, so it must be 
right, right? It is only as the Holy Spirit has impressed me to study 
the scriptures more deeply on this teaching that I've had to come 
to terms with the fact that He NEVER originated it! In His infinite 
grace, He chose to wait patiently for a time when the Spirit of Truth 
would become dearer to me than the traditions of men.

The teaching on "covering" goes like this. Everyone needs to be 
accountable to someone who is spiritually his or her superior. This 
someone may be your cell group leader, the head of a church 
department or your senior pastor etc. In turn, these leaders receive 
covering from someone further up the line, for instance a 
denominational leader or a "recognised" apostle. The necessity for
this covering is based on the belief that believers need to be 
safeguarded from falling into error and/or sin. So covering is 
provided by those who are more spiritual than we to protect us 
from such error. At the top of this pyramid of covering there is quite 
often a well-known and recognised "name" but the chances of 
meeting or having any kind of relationship with that person if you 
are at the bottom of the pyramid are fairly slim. Currently, there are 
several networks offering this kind of covering to those in some 
form of church leadership or ministry, more often than not for an 
annual fee. The annual fee usually provides for the running of the 
network, and conferences where you can fellowship with others 
under your particular brand of covering. You may also be denied 
entrance from one of these networks because you don't have the 
appropriate credentials.

One of the strange things about this "covering" teaching is that 
rarely is anyone asked about their spiritual covering, until they step 
outside their particular church, denomination or network. However, 
the minute a believer shows signs of having something important to 
share with the wider Body of Christ, suddenly all and sundry are 
interested primarily in that one important question: "Who are you 
covered by?" It all sounds pretty reasonable except for one problem - 
it's NOT FOUND in scripture. In fact, the early church was taught 
to rely on the inner anointing to discern the spiritual source of 
potential ministers. (1 John 2:20; 1 John 4:1)

So, where did this idea originate that believers need to be "covered" 
in order to serve God and minister within Christ's Body? Are you, 
like many others, living your Christian life under the shadow of this 
fear that without "covering" you dare not minister, preach, pray or 
do a myriad of other things you're called to do by the Spirit of God, 
because you will somehow be ministering without protection?

The purpose of this article is to shed some light on this issue 
based on scriptural truth. To begin with, though, we need to 
understand that this need to be covered by a perceived spiritual 
authority, and the scriptural instruction to submit ourselves to 
God's delegated authorities, are NOT necessarily one and the 
same thing. Furthermore, New Testament authority as 
demonstrated by Jesus and the first apostles, is servanthood-
authority, upholding, strengthening, reinforcing and overseeing the 
Body from BENEATH, not DOMINEERING, CONTROLLING and 
RULING from ABOVE. Therefore, it is vital in examining this issue 
that we begin from a correct understanding of Biblical submission 
and Biblical authority.

'LET THIS MIND be IN YOU'

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, 
being in the form of God, thought in not robbery to be equal with 
God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the 
form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being 
found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became 
obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Phil. 2:5-8)

The current mindset we carry in much of the church concerning 
submission is quite unrelated to the submission taught and 
demonstrated by Jesus and the early apostles. There is a 
desperate need to return to the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. 
The scripture tells us that though He was equal with the Father, 
Jesus CHOSE to submit Himself, He CHOSE to humble Himself, 
He CHOSE to obey. This is the key to Biblical submission, and the 
model laid down for us by both the Father and the Son.

Submission is firstly a choice; a choice that can only ever be made 
by the giver. Biblical submission can never be demanded or forced. 
That kind of relationship is subservience, not submission. Jesus 
chose to subject Himself to the Father, but the Father "so loved 
the world that He GAVE His only begotten Son." Sacrificial giving 
and sacrificial submission are married to each other. In the Spirit, 
you cannot have one without the other. If you try, you will invariably 
end up with control, dependence and abuse rather than humility,
interdependence and grace.

The New Testament concept of submission, or subjection, is one 
of a totally voluntary attitude of giving, of yielding one's preference 
and deferring to another. In this way, Jesus as a child was subject 
to His parents, yet the scriptures record that He did not even 
consult them when He was "about His Father's business." (Luke 2:49,51)

"IT SHALL NOT be SO AMONG YOU"

"Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. Their work is to 
watch over your souls, and they know they are accountable to God. 
Give them reason to do this joyfully and not with sorrow. That
would certainly not be for your benefit." (Hebrews 13:17, NLT)

"But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "You know 
that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over 
them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it 
shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great 
among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to 
be first shall be slave of all." (Mark 10:42-44)

"Jesus got them together to settle things down. "You've observed 
how godless rulers throw their weight around," he said, "and when 
people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads." 
(Mark 10:42 The Message)

There is no question that the scriptures instruct each one of us to 
submit to God's delegated authority. It is the understanding and 
the application of that authority we often stumble over. The Bible 
records that Jesus taught the twelve this Kingdom authority as 
they walked along the road to Jerusalem. His face had been set 
toward the Cross, and it is certain He was keenly aware of the 
short time He had left with them. Perhaps He was conversing with 
His Father about what were the most important lessons He could 
impart to them during the time that was left. We know that He 
heard them disputing over who among them was the best
"leadership material". Perhaps Peter, having not long before 
witnessed Jesus' transfiguration, thought that gave him special 
status. Perhaps James and John felt they were more likely 
candidates for rulership than impetuous Peter. Shortly before, 
they had asked Jesus to give them special places of honour in
His Kingdom. Whatever had started their dispute, Jesus certainly 
knew how to end it!

"Whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave....." 
(Matt. 20:27).

The Lord was speaking to a group of people who had grown up 
under the rule of the Roman Empire. The Romans exercised their 
authority through forced subjection and harsh cruelty. In fact, the 
literal translation of the words Jesus used in reference to Roman 
rule mean "to be under the power of" and "to be subdued." Despite 
having witnessed Jesus using a very different kind of authority and
power, the disciples had not yet understood exactly what He 
would require of them. The Romans were, in the political sense, 
their masters. Yet here was Jesus stating that to exercise the 
authority He was going to invest in them they would need to 
become slaves to one another, and not masters. One might safely 
assume these weren't words any of them particularly wanted to 
hear that day!

Kingdom authority has nothing to do with titles, positions, 
educational qualifications or reputation. Kingdom authority is 
granted by the Lord according to the measure with which He can 
trust us to wield it with humility. The greatest authority in the 
kingdom is reserved for His bondslaves.

WHAT about ACCOUNTABILITY?

In today's church system we have confused the word "covering" 
with the need for accountability. Consequently many are holding 
themselves accountable to people with title and position, 
regardless of whether or not they are developing an ongoing 
transparent relationship with that person. In the Kingdom, it is not
possible to be truly accountable to those with whom we are not 
actively growing in relationship. How can I be trusted to call you to 
account righteously if I don't love you in Christ? How can you love 
me with Christ-like love and not call me to account?

Paul was able to correct the Corinthians because he had true 
relationship with them. He had travailed over them, nurtured them, 
wept for them and rejoiced with them. Therefore he was able to 
reprove them, for their edification and not for their destruction. 
(2 Corinthians 13:10)

When we turn to the scriptures for guidance on this issue of 
accountability, a startling fact confronts us. The News Testament 
mentions accountability ONLY in terms of the believer towards 
God. The scripture teaches that we will give accountability TO 
GOD ALONE in the following areas:

*stewardship (Luke 16:2)
*ourselves (Rom. 14:12)
*fruit (Phil 4:17)
*what we do in the flesh (1 Pet. 4:5)
*leaders shall give account for the souls they watch over (Heb. 13:17)

What then, DO the scriptures teach about how believers, as 
members of the corporate Body of Christ, are to relate to one another?

"... all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with 
humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." 
(1 Peter 5:5)

In Galatians Chapter Two we read of a journey Paul took to 
Jerusalem. He states that he went up "by revelation", that is, at 
the instigation of the Holy Spirit, in order to confirm that the gospel 
he had been preaching was approved by the eldership of the 
Jerusalem church. He goes on to state that "those who seemed to 
be something, whatever they were, it makes no difference to me," 
had nothing to add to his teachings. He further adds that when 
James, Cephas (Peter) and John perceived the grace God had 
shown him, he was given the "right hand of fellowship."

At the instigation of the Holy Spirit, Paul had subjected himself to 
the Jerusalem eldership, including Peter, for the purpose of 
accountability. One may safely assume that Peter, having spent 
around three years day and night with Jesus, and highly regarded 
by the early believers, held very great authority in the church. Paul, 
however did not ask Peter to cover him. Instead, he did not 
hesitate in calling Peter to account when Peter was later swayed 
to go back on his word by the fear of men (Gal. 2:11-14). Bear in 
mind this is the same Peter who stated "We ought to obey God 
rather than men." (Acts 5:29)

These men understood the nature of relationship through the Holy 
Spirit; ALL of you be submissive to one another, ALL of you be 
clothed with humility. Each of us is accountable to one another, 
whatever our function in the Body, whether apostles, teachers, 
deacons or helpers. This is the church Christ is building.

To say that we are demonstrating accountability to a person or 
group of people we may briefly rub shoulders with at a meeting 
once or twice a week, or perhaps once or twice a year, is ludicrous. 
True accountability is about how we express Christ in us - our 
lifestyle, our character and our integrity in families, jobs and 
church community. This cannot be measured outside Godly 
relationships, and without a humble willingness to be in subjection 
one to another. Each one of us needs to seek out and submit 
ourselves to those in the Body the Lord has placed close to us to 
provide that accountability, regardless of their position, title or 
function. Each one of us needs to be willing, in humility and 
service, to provide that same accountability base for others in the 
Body. This applies to leadership equally as it does to the newest, 
most inexperienced member of the Christian community.

Sadly, what we see today in so much of the church, is a frenzied 
jockeying for position under the supposedly protective umbrella of 
some ministry name or reputation, in order to prove ourselves 
"covered". "WHO COVERS YOU?" has become one of the most 
frequently asked questions among Christians, and too often it is
the deciding factor in assessing a ministry's integrity or otherwise.
Consequently, an unsatisfactory answer to that question in some 
church circles can label you "outside the camp" and almost 
certainly not to be trusted. Christians are judging each other's 
worth and relationship with God on this issue of covering, and 
using it to justify self-righteousness and spiritual elitism.

In Part Two of this study we will talk about what is at the root of 
this distorted doctrine, and the clear choices that lie before us in 
order to be free from it.

Part TWO

".....then the LORD will create above every dwelling place of Mount 
Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and 
the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will 
be a covering." Isaiah 4:5

"He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt 
thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler." Ps. 91:4

IT'S about HIS NAME

"Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people 
in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and 
the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him and spoke to 
Him, saying, "Tell us, by what authority are You doing these 
things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?" (Luke 20:1-2)

As we see from this portion of scripture, the question "who covers 
you?" is not new. The chief priests, scribes and elders were not 
simply asking Jesus where His supernatural power came from. 
More than that, they wanted a NAME. "Who is he?' Come on, tell 
us Jesus, who is the scribe, who is the rabbi, who is the prophet 
who covers you? And no more of that over-spiritualised talk about 
your Father. We want the name of the person who said you could 
do these things!"

The apostle Paul confronted a similar problem in the Corinthian church.

"For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by 
those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you. 
Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of 
Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ." Is Christ divided? 
Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptised in the  name of 
Paul?" (1 Cor. 1:10-13)

The Lord is jealous over us concerning His Name. We were bought 
and paid for by His Blood, and His Name is the only Name by 
which we are to identify ourselves. When believers choose to find 
their identity in another name other than His, the Spirit is grieved 
and His Name is dishonoured.

IT'S ABOUT the FLESH

"Don't ever let anyone call you `Rabbi,' for you have only one 
teacher, and all of you are on the same level as brothers and 
sisters. And don't address anyonehere on earth as `Father,' for 
only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. And don't let anyone 
call you `Master,' for there is only one master, the Messiah. The 
greatest among you must be a servant." (Matthew 23:8-11, NLT)

The Corinthians were apparently separating into factions according 
to whom they considered was the most authoritative teacher. They 
were following after men, and for that reason Paul took issue with 
them. Further in his letter he goes on to challenge them by 
describing this kind of mindset as carnal and fleshly rather than 
spiritual:

"For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you 
not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, "I am 
of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not CARNAL?" 
(1 Cor. 3:1-4)

Finally, he instructs them:
"Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: 
whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or 
things present or things to come-all are yours. And you are 
Christ's, and Christ is God's." (1 Cor. 3:21-23)

The Corinthians had become so obsessed with the attributes of 
certain teachers they were idolising them. They wanted to regard 
particular individuals as their "master", "father", or "teacher", but 
Paul wanted them to understand that in doing so they were falling 
short of their full inheritance in Christ. He wanted them to see that 
all of these teachers, belonged to them as servant-ministers, and 
not the other way around.

IT'S ABOUT a SUBSTITUTE KING

At the heart of the Corinthians' idolatry was the age-old desire for a 
ruler, a king. The flesh would much rather fear man than fear God. 
The flesh would much rather submit to the control of law than 
submit to the freedom of the Spirit. This principle is seen 
throughout scripture.

Afraid they would die, the Israelites begged Moses to be God's 
messenger to them, rather than hear His Voice for themselves.

"Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning 
flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and 
when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then 
they said to Moses, "You speak with us, and we will hear; but let 
not God speak with us, lest we die." ( Exodus 20:18-19)

God desired for the people to hear Him for themselves, but they 
refused. Effectively, the Israelites were elevating Moses as their 
mediator. The entire nation had been called as a kingdom of 
priests, but their preference was to be ruled by one man. (Exodus 19:1-9)

Many years later, when the prophet Samuel officiated as Israel's 
judge, Israel's carnal desire for a man-king surfaced again.

"Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to 
Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, "Look, you are old, and your 
sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us 
like all the nations." But the thing displeased Samuel when they 
said, "Give us a king to judge us." So Samuel prayed to the Lord. 
And the Lord said to Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all 
that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have 
rejected Me, that I should not reign over them... However, you 
shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behaviour of the 
king who will reign over them." So Samuel told all the words of the 
Lord to the people who asked him for a king. And he said, "This 
will be the behaviour of the king who will reign over you: He will 
take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots... And 
he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest 
young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will 
take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you 
will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have 
chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day."
Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and 
they said, "No, but we will have a king over us..." (1 Samuel 8:4-22)

The key to Israel's demand for a human king, rather than the direct 
reign of Yahweh over them, was "that we also may be like all the 
nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and 
fight our battles." They wanted a name and a face that could "go 
out before" them. They wanted someone visible they could show 
the other nations. They wanted a symbol, a token leader who 
could take responsibility for how they would live and conduct their 
lives. They wanted someone with a reputation they could identify 
with. They wanted to be like the world. They wanted human "covering."

You see, friends, there is a place for governmental leadership, 
there is a place for accountability within the Body, there is a place 
for submission to legitimate God-delegated authority. All these are 
valid and in order, but only insofar as they are not permitted to 
substitute for the direct rule of God in our lives. And only insofar 
as they are not sought out as a counterfeit for the sovereignty and 
rulership of the Holy Spirit within each believer.

IT'S OF a DIFFERENT SPIRIT

"You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you 
were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in 
the midst of fiery stones." (Ezekiel 28:14)

Many Bible scholars agree that God's rebuke to the "king of Tyre" 
recorded in Ezekiel 28:1-19 is prophetically addressed to Satan. 
In it, we find that originally this fallen angel was called the 
"anointed cherub who covers". Some scholars believe he was 
especially anointed to cover the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies. 
In the Presence of God, he walked back and forth in the midst of 
the fiery stones. The passage states that when iniquity was found 
in him he was cast out of God's holy mountain, and removed from 
the midst of the fiery stones.

This Hebrew word "to cover" means "to hedge, fence about, shut in, 
block, overshadow, screen, stop the approach, shut off, cover" (H. 
"cakak" Strongs 05526 ). It is a word than can be used either in 
relation to defence or oppression.

Beloved, Satan still desires to walk back and forth in the midst of
God's living, fiery stones. He still desires to be the covering cherub 
on God's holy mountain, but the covering he offers is oppressive, 
designed purely to hinder believers and rob them of the freedom 
and full potential that is ours through Christ.

The doctrine of covering is an old lie with a new name. It is 
fundamental to the maintenance of a false hierarchical religious 
system controlling many Christians in this day. Without the power 
of this erroneous mindset, it is even doubtful that some sections 
of the "church" could survive.

"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond 
of peace. There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were 
called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one 
baptism; one God and Father of all, who is OVER ALL and 
THROUGH ALL and IN ALL. (Ephesians 4:3-6) The scriptures 
plainly state that it is God alone who is OVER all. Only God can 
cover His people, and only the Holy Spirit can unite them. The 
most disturbing aspect about the covering teaching is that it subtly 
encourages believers to look to men and women rather than 
develop their own deep relationship with God through the Holy 
Spirit. It upholds a man-made church built on hierarchy rather than 
a spiritual temple built through the unity of the Spirit. It promotes a 
class system of rulership by title, human appointment and 
personality, and DEVALUES the PRIESTHOOD of every believer. 
It negates leadership by the Holy Spirit and discourages believers 
from hearing the direction of the Spirit for themselves. It is a 
DOCTRINE OF DEMONS being used to deceive and bind 
countless believers.

Now, about that freedom we were talking about at the beginning of 
this article! Don't, repeat DON'T, use your newfound liberty as a 
licence for rebellion against authority. If you have been trapped in 
this covering doctrine be wise in how you appropriate your freedom. 
There are many, many humble and faithful men and women 
overseeing and serving the Body of Christ with humility and 
devotion, and it may well be that whoever has been "covering" you 
is one of them. If you are blessed enough to be aligned with a 
servant-leader who demonstrates true Biblical authority, honour 
them, support them, and submit to them. But don't expect them 
to cover you - that's not theirs to give.

False doctrines are mindsets and beliefs that can only be cast 
down by the Spirit and the Word together. And ultimately, our walk 
in the Spirit is not the responsibility of leadership; it is our own
responsibility. It is time for each one of us to choose - do we want 
the rulership of kings, or do we want the rulership of THE King?

Finally, let me leave you with these thoughts:

1) Who covered Philip when He went down to Samaria and started 
a revival? (The apostles heard about it and sent Peter and John 
down to check it out!) (Acts 8:4-8)

2) Who covered Philip when the angel of the Lord directed him to 
the Gaza desert? (Acts 8:26-40) (There's no record of the 
Ethiopian eunuch asking him for his "covering" credentials!)

3)Who covered Ananias when he was sent to pray for Saul? (He 
went to pray for aknown enemy of the church and didn't event get 
permission!) (Acts 9:10-18)

4)Who covered Apollos when he taught boldly in the synagogue, 
even though he had not yet received the full gospel? (Acts 18:24-25)

5)And who covered Aquilla and Priscilla when they took Apollos 
under their wing to instruct him further? (Acts 18:26)

6)Who covered Agabus when he travelled down from Judea to 
deliver a prophetic word to Paul? (Acts 21:10)

The answer is the same in each instance: The Holy Spirit covered, 
protected, led, and enabled. He is the only covering we need. The 
real question is this: is He the only covering we want?

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