Some Thoughts On Authority
By Jeff Klick
Authority, there’s a word that sends the heart of every rebel into spasms. Yet, the Scripture has a great deal to teach on the topic by direct command and inference. Submission to authority takes a great deal of faith and yet without faith it is impossible to please God. Voluntarily placing yourself under a God-given authority is an act of faith in the sovereignty of God.
Here are several New Testament verses that give a basis for Christian living and servanthood, next are the ones that deal directly with authority.
Col. 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (We are to have a different mindset than the world.)
Phil 2:3-4 - Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Romans 12:10 - Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. (It is not all about me.)
Romans 15:1-2 - We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
Gal. 5:13-14 - You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Heb. 5: 7-8 - During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered
Heb. 12:3-11- Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Heb 13:17 - Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Titus 3: 1-3 - Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
Romans 13:1-4 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
1 Timothy 2: I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior,
1 Peter 2:13-14 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.
It would appear that God esteems humility, valuing others above myself, and submission to authority. Biblically, there are three main realms of authority: Family, Church, and Government. Employers can come out of any of the three realms and have authority as well. Every authority is in submission to a higher authority and therefore is subject to correction and being overridden when in error.
The first authority structure everyone encounters is the family. God has clearly established a structure within the family and has commands for all members. There seems to be only three categories mentioned in the Bible, husband, wife, and children. There is no age limit mentioned in any of these passages for children. There is no category called “young adult,” or “single adult.” It would appear that children covers both male and female until they begin their own home or is delegated by the fathers to another authority.
1 Cor. 11:2-3 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings just as I passed them on to you. Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
Eph. 5:22 – 24 - Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Eph. 6:1-2 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother"--which is the first commandment with a promise-- "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."
Col. 3:18-20 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
1 Timothy 3: 4-5 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?)
Titus 2:1-6 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.
2 Timothy 3:1-2 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good.
Romans 1:28-32 - And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
While not as direct as the NT commands, the OT is full of principles that can be gleaned on this same topic. Of course the OT was a heavy patriarchal society where often fathers led the family for hundreds of years and usually directed/commanded adult children even those with their own families, but the authority principles still apply, and children were to submit to and honor their parents. And the NT has examples of adult daughters living at home. For example the deacon Philip had four grown daughters who were gifted as prophetess and still lived at home with their father. Also, the Bible has several examples of men being judged by God for not dealing with their adult aged children – see Eli, Samuel, King David, - 1Sam. 3:11-14, Deut. 21:18-21, Numbers 30:3-16.
Exodus 20:12 - Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
Lev. 19:3 - 'Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father, and you shall keep My sabbaths; I am the LORD your God
Deut. 27:16 -Cursed is he who dishonors his father or mother.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.'
Matthew 15:4 - "For God said, ' HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,' and, ' HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.'
Numbers 30 is an interesting chapter in relation to vows. A young woman still living with her father can be overridden by his word when she utters a vow. This also applies to a wife when she makes a vow, the husband as her authority, can over ride the vow. This applies to the young woman living with her father and of course the argument can be made that if she leaves his home then she is free to do as she wishes, but that sentiment is no where validated in Scripture either through example or inference, for where would she go? If she is married she is under her husband, if she moves into another home, then she is under that “father” and of course, moving in with a single male would never be condoned, so the woman will always be under some type of authority. If she leaves her father’s home without his blessing then she is in rebellion, which God never condones. The only way a young woman could leave her father’s house and take up residence in another family was with her father’s blessing and command to do so. There is not a single Biblical example of someway walking out of her father’s house in rebellion, anger, or in any other fashion.
Here is some wisdom from Proverbs as far as listening to parents –
Proverbs 1:8-9 Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.
Proverbs 6:20-23 My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life
Proverbs 15:5 - A fool spurns his father's discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence
Proverbs 30:17 - The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures.
Nowhere in Scripture is rebellion to authority praised or rewarded except in the case of resisting a sinful command such as in Acts where the disciples were commanded not to preach.
Bad or abusive authority is common and the Bible speaks clearly to this problem.
1 Peter 2:13 –21 - Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
God is not nearly as concerned with what we go through as He is with our response to what we go through. In all He allows us to experience, His chief concern is that our attitudes become Christ like.
God repeatedly instructed people to bear up under bad or even abusive authority in order to accomplish a greater goal. For example, Hagar, King David with Saul, Joseph served a wicked Pharaoh, the prophets served wicked kings, Daniel was a leader in a wicked government, Jesus said to render unto Caesar (not exactly a nice man) what was his, Jesus also said to do what the religious leaders said, but do not imitate their actions, Paul said you should not revival a high priest (even a corrupt one) and also wrote all those submission to authority texts while in a Roman prison.
Those under authority have the God-given right to appeal and then to go over the authority’s head to God with any decision they feel is unjust. Daniel and his three friends appealed to the king for an exception to his law. Esther approached the king to plead for her people’s life (and this was at the direction of her uncle that raised her as his own daughter) and…
Proverbs 21:1 - The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD ; He directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.
We can ask God to change the authorities heart as He desires. We can have faith that the Almighty, Sovereign God can change any circumstance in an instant when He desires and if He has not changed it, then He has something else for us to learn.
When do I outgrow the need to submit to authority? Never.
1 Peter 5:5 - Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Eph. 5:21 - Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
The bottom line issue is one of the heart. Am I willing to submit to someone other than myself. Am I willing to allow God to work in my life and the life of those in authority to accomplish His plan and purposes, or will I demand my way and perceived rights. Will I be willing to bear up even under an unjust authority for the sake of the Gospel or will I demand my rights to my will and pleasure?
By demanding my way I will cause damage to multitudes of people and God still will have to work on my selfishness and pride. If my authorities are not in agreement with my actions and desires then I need to wait and submit to them until they are in agreement or my desires change.
Being under authority takes great faith in God, not the authority, for the authority gets that authority from God and God can change them, remove them, or harden them at His command.
Selfishness and demanding my rights are not a fruit of the Spirit, but humility and submission are a very good reflection of our spiritual maturity.
If I will humble myself and submit to authority (in all areas of my life) then the Scripture teaches that:
Things will go well with me - Eph.6: 2-3
I will have a longer life - Eph. 6: 1-3
I will be a delight to the Lord - Col. 3:20
I will avoid fear of judgment and condemnation – Romans 13:3
I will have a clear/good conscience – Romans 13:5
I will have a good testimony - Hebrews 13:17
I will receive God’s inheritance – Col. 3:23-24
I will bring glory to God – 1 Peter 2:18-19
God’s name will not be blasphemed – 1 Tim. 6:1
I will receive clear direction – Proverbs 6:20-22
I will be protected from evil – Proverbs 6:23-24
I will gain discernment – Proverbs 15:5
I will receive praise – 1 Peter 2:13-14
I will escape destructive pride – 1 Tim. 6:2-4
One of God’s primary tools to shape us and change us is the authorities in our lives. God has placed them and allowed them for His purpose. With humility we can walk through any difficulty. Ultimately how we respond to the earthly authority is an excellent picture of how we are responding to our Heavenly authority.
In regards to selection of a life partner for marriage I have yet to meet anyone that did not regret their decision to rebel against their parents and if they could do it over again, they would not have done so. I have worked with hundreds of people that do regret their foolish choice and they wished they could go back and change it. Even if their marriage is successful, they live with a nagging regret that they did not have their parents blessing on the union. Often though, their marriages are riddled with guilt and difficulties stemming from pride and arrogance not dealt with by their reaction to their parents. Many times parents have God-given insight into the difficulties that the marriage will encounter and any couple that is trying to follow the Lord will want their parents blessing on that marriage. Pushing ahead without their consent will dishonor them and make for a very rocky marriage. This also is a confession of unbelief for God is simply unable to change the authority in your direction so then you must take action.
If you have violated these verses in your life, please take a moment and deal with your heavenly Father and repent of your actions. Then, make whatever efforts you can to get right with those whom you have sinned against. You will never regret it!