— 53 —
Why do churches stress the
importance of authority?

We live in a time when people have a difficult time with the idea of authority, but we must understand that it's an institution of God. Authority means "the right to command and enforce obedience," and according to the Apostle Paul, all authority originates with God who has delegated it to mankind to maintain order in the world. The scripture says, "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" (Rom. 13:1-2 NIV).

Authority is something that must be understood by every Christian, since it is the entire basis of our relationship with Christ. God has ordained at least three categories of authority that we must submit to:

(1) Christ and the Church — When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord, this means that He becomes our "boss" and highest authority over our whole life (Rom. 10:9, Luke 6:46, Matt. 28:18). Christians are to submit to the headship of Christ, implemented through (a) leadership of His Spirit (Rom. 8:14), (b) the authority of His Word (2 Tim. 3:16), and (c) the authorities of the church (Matt. 18:17-20, 1 Cor. 5:4-5, Heb. 13:7,17).

(2) The Family — Children are to obey their parents (Eph. 6:10). The wife is to cooperate with her husband, which is the head of the family (Eph. 5:22-24, 1 Tim. 2:12), and the husband is to submit himself to Christ and love his wife (Eph. 5:23,25). God has established these as the "delegated" extensions of His authority. If we resist cooperation, we are in effect, resisting God's own authority and Lordship. This is why Paul even told wives to submit to the authority of their husbands "as unto the Lord" (Eph. 5:22).

(3) The State — We are to cooperate with those authority figures and obey the local and federal laws of the land (within the boundaries of God's laws). According to scripture, secular authority is intended to be a "minister of God for our good" (Rom. 13:1-4), and serves God's purpose of keeping law and order on the earth (1 Pet. 2:14-15). Again, Paul wrote, "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" (1 Pet. 2:13-14 NIV).

Just as all authority is related to other authority, all rebellion is also interrelated. It does not regard any class of authority. Rebellion is "the unwillingness to be ruled by any source other than self" — it is an indiscriminate contempt toward all authority. Our attitude toward Christ as our Lord, is directly associated with our attitude toward other authority, such as the pastor, our parents, or even civil authorities. Jesus Christ cannot be fully "Lord" over the person who harbors rebellion toward authority figures. The Bible says: "...he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves." (Rom. 13:2 NIV).

Just as God is the source of all authority, Satan is author of all rebellion. We may recall that the Devil (Lucifer), a former archangel, was originally cast out of Heaven because he led an insurrection against God (Isa. 14:12-15). Rebellion is the very spirit of Satan's attitude (Eph. 2:2), and if we permit it to dominate us it will infect and taint our attitude toward all authority, including God and His Word. The prophet Samuel said that "rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft" (1 Sam. 15:23). The Apostle Peter said that those who are corrupt despise authority (2 Pet. 2:10), and the Proverbs say, "An evil man seeks only rebellion..." (Prov. 17:11).

In the absence of Godly and moral values, sometimes there are abuses of authority and perversions in government. Such was the case when Peter and John were forbidden to preach the Gospel by the Jewish Sanhedrin. They replied, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge" (Acts 4:19). The only circumstance that disobedience to authority is ever justifiable by scripture, is if it conflicts with the laws of God.

Paul tells us to pray for all those in authority (1 Tim. 2:2). God can use our prayers to either change their heart or remove them from power entirely. God reserves the right of administering discipline and reproof to those who represent His authority (Rom. 14:4, Psa. 105:4-5, 1 Chron. 16:21-22).

This article is from the book, What People Ask About the Church, authored and copyrighted © by Dr. Dale A. Robbins, 1990-2015, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA - Nashville, TN. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982. You may download this article for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple use permission form. Many of our writings are also available as free pdf tri-fold pamphlets, which can be downloaded for reproduction from our Online Catalog. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain quantities of this title in other formats, email us. A newer revised version of this book is available from Amazon. If you have appreciated these online materials, help us reach the world with the Gospel by considering a monthly or one-time tax-deductable donation.