Vol.XV No.VII Pg.3
September 1978

The Rulable Spirit

Dan S. Shipley

Nothing is more fundamental or needful in serving the Lord than possessing a rulable spirit. Basically, Christians are people who have willingly placed themselves under the rule of their Lord, Jesus Christ. They are the citizens over which He reigns as King; body-members over which He is the Head; sheep over which He is the Good Shepherd. As the one with all authority (Matt. 28:18), Christ alone has the right to rule. This is among the very first lessons to be learned by His disciples — and one never to be forgotten. The ruled must recognize the authority of the ruler! As Bernard Ramm has put it, "A properly constituted authority assumes an authoritative importance to a person only as that person subjectively recognizes it." (The Pattern_ of Religious Authority, p.13) Not, of course, that one's accepting or rejecting is grounds for determining authority, but, as Ramm points out, the Scriptures can function as an authority only to the believer.

In Bible terms, recognition of divine authority is perhaps best expressed in the terms "love", "fear", and "faith". To love the Lord with all the heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22: 37) guarantees submission of my will to Him in all things. That's why Jesus says, "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments" (Jn. 14:15). As John writes, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments..." (1 Jn. 5:3). Nothing demonstrates the rulable spirit more than faithful obedience. In fact, John says this is how we can really know if we know Him (i.e., know Him effectively and not just intellectually. 1 Jn. 2:3).

In like manner, fear also characterizes the rulable spirit. This is the fear of reverence, awe and respect toward God that carries with it "a wholesome dread of displeasing Him" (Vine). As the apostle Peter puts it, he that fears God and works righteousness is acceptable to Him (Acts 10: 34). A similar statement is found in Eccl. 12:13: "Fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man".

Such fear is really an attitude of life in which one sees his own humble submission to God's will as the greatest compliment to be paid Him. The God-fearing man is a God ruled man, but God cannot rule where He is not respected.

We have said that faith also has a place in the rulable spirit. And it is most likely the preeminent place, especially if love and fear be considered as effects of faith. And why not? What is more fundamental than faith in the scheme of redemption? "He that cometh to God must believe that He is..." (Heb. 11:6) — and not only that He exists, but that He has existence in the way set forth in His word. That is, that He exists with all power, all knowledge; that He is righteous, just, sovereign, absolute truth and immutable. Many conceive of a God beset with all kinds of limitations. No wonder they are reluctant to be ruled by such a God! True faith sees God as He is and trusts in Him to do what He says; to "reward them that diligently seek Him". Nothing more influences one's rulability than His concept of God; his faith. When some seem more rebellious than rulable, it is likely the age-old problem of unbelief (Heb. 3).