Divine Authority

This section, like the others within the "Doctrine" section, in no way intends to represent exhaustive exposes on a respective topic.  It does, however, attempt to demonstrate how divine authority was applied and utilized within the Kingdom.  Each of these attributes have evolved with time, both as to their interpretation and application since Frank Sandford first introduced and applied them in the early days of the movement.  Divine authority is no exception. 

For an exhaustive discussion on the topic, go to

Below are two excerpts from Shirley Nelson's "Fair Clear and Terrible", explaining how the chain of command, as it were, came to be on the Shiloh hilltop.   Ed.

The questions at stake for Sandford were these: Should he, or should he not, as the spokesman of God's purposes, expect to be obeyed, instantly and without question? And ought he to expect loyalty and trust, even in the face of evidence that seemed to cast doubt on his reliability?

If the answers turned out to be negative, what would happen to Shiloh? Others in his shoes might have been able to envision a future for the movement that exactly fulfilled its original purpose, the evangelization of the world and the restoration of God's Kingdom on earth, without the necessity of unquestioning obedience to a single human being. Sandford saw that as disaster. Though he had been training warriors who could be Gideons in their own right, though he believed that the Holy Spirit could empower the humblest and most ordinary in his following, if the perceptions of the movement and his personal role were mistaken, if he had not been chosen for that role of leadership, there would be no Shiloh, for there would be no God-given authority. It was the old dilemma of the antinomian.

On the night of September 24, (1899) in crowded Selbourne Hall in Liverpool, Sandford stood to preach in "billows of anguish," fearing that God himself had turned away his face. His text was Psalm 118:27, "Bind the sacrifice with cords, even to the horns of the altar." As he spoke he suddenly saw himself as a lamb-one as helpless as the hundreds whose feet he had helped to bind back on the farm in Bowdoinham- to the altar, "an inert mass utterly unable to extricate myself from the answer to my own prayers. . . ." That lamb was bound "to entire conformity to the will of God, the Word of God, and the providences of God." His vow to obey at any cost had been drawn to the fullest demonstration. It was settled; there was no escape, no release, no running away, even though he knew with a dreadful stab of certainty that what he had suspected all along was true-his martyrdom was to be the consequence. His will and God's were in absolute unity and he himself was nothing, his future destiny of no personal importance.

But there were two ways to be nothing, and therein lies the double image, the two outlines only a hair apart. Another person than Frank Sandford might understand the "letting go" as a breakthrough into a fine broad plain, a great release, the willingness to be unimportant in the scheme of things by customary standards, without specific authority, without autonomy or control, willing to be led to another model for the work, and to trust the Almighty to fulfill His own purposes through other people and other means.

But this was not the nothingness Frank saw. "I knew it was done," he said in his description of the experience. "I knew my prayer had prevailed and that it was utterly impossible for the devil to keep that prayer from being answered." At that moment God said, "Dance!" Behind the altar Frank "sobbed and shook" with the "most wonderful joy" he had ever felt. He had been affirmed and confirmed for all time as the agent of God's ultimate purposes. He who had now burned behind him all possible bridges to self-indulgence and was willing to go all the way to hell if that was where God led him-could and must require the same abandonment of others. The swamp of uncertainty was gone forever. From this point on he must assume that when he was "in the spirit" his words and decisions were synonymous with God's. The lines of the double image separate, or rather one disappears from the screen entirely and forever. From now on "nothing" meant "everything."

No one has ever explained what happened to the gathered body of people Sandford had been addressing in the hall, but that night he and Eliza talked until almost dawn, and "finally agreed that while as a man [as a human, that is] he did not deserve any special confidence, she could have confidence in the Holy Spirit to control him.  In other words, if she trusted God, she could trust Him to do His work in her leader. The basis of their confidence, hers and Sandford's, was the shed blood of Jesus that made them "perfect in every good work to do His will." They followed the truce by cooperating in a month of meetings in Scotland.

Two significant questions appear not to have been asked. Was Sandford expected to have confidence in Eliza when she was in the Spirit? If so, what if her leadings differed from his? If Eliza entertained those questions, she yielded to an odd logic in finding their answer: She must indeed be "controlled" by the Spirit just as much as Sandford, but the evidence of that would be her recognition of his special role as God's agent. Therefore, though he would, as always, carefully consider her insights, ultimately she must accept his authority She conceded, and both of them thought this was the end of the matter. It was not. (p. 131-132)

Sandford's ecstasy lingered on for the remainder of the year. It seemed to him that his "spirit stood on eternity-swept heights," the past, present, and future laid out before him. He was conscious of a fellowship "with Moses, Elijah and Melchisedek, and such men as had known God face-to-face." The commission to "Remove the covering cast over the face of the earth" lost its formidable onus and appeared to him "as no more than when a father asks his son for some trivial service. (p. 133)

As the fall convention began on September 25, (1900) an official chain of authority at Shiloh, level to level-from God the Father to God the Son to the "prophet" whom God had chosen to order the affairs of this age. The ordained ministers were directly subordinate to that prophet, with other workers subordinate to the ministers. Families provided a parallel system, with women and children in obedience to the husband and father. "Obedient children, Obedient wife, then the thing passes on to the husband."

Just days before this announcement, Sandford explained, he had seen the "whole plan of God's church swing out in all its beauty."

"I saw that as the woman took her place, obedient at every point and turn to her husband, and as the woman and man took their places obedient to men of God, and as the men of God took their places, obedient to my Lord, that my Lord took the whole company of us and stepped in behind His Father, obedient at every point."

This company was completely "safe" because it was obedient, "each carrying out the orders of the one next above, and the whole company with God to the front was facing the devil, and it was a battle no longer between this man or this woman and the powers of darkness, but it was a battle between the Almighty and Satan."

Disobedience, then, at the lowest level, was actually disobedience to God the Father, with all the ramifications that could entail. What had begun with Eliza Leger in England had now become incorporated as a system of management.

Nathan Harriman called it an "exquisite order," in a series of rapturous articles about Shiloh which seem absolutely quixotic in the light of his ongoing argument with Sandford. At the very time of Harriman's writing they were only weeks from their "fourth quarrel" over matters of authority. Yet, Harriman insisted, he found order everywhere at Shiloh, even in the "wildest charges [of prayer] in the most intense meetings." There was "perfect order, perfect protection, perfect safety, on the Shiloh hilltop," for "the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the Providence of God, determine everything. When these speak, no thinking, theorizing, reasoning, imagining, or guessing are tolerated. . . . It is exactness; it is reality." Exact obedience brought liberty. The "humblest member" was "just as much respected and honored as Mr. Sandford." In the submission to authority there was "no servility".

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