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
(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,
(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..."
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).