Authority and Submission in the Church

1. Definition

1. The power to enforce laws, exact obedience, command, determine, or judge. 4a. An accepted source of expert information or advice: a noted authority on birds; a reference book often cited as an authority. b. A quotation or citation from such a source: biblical authorities for a moral argument. (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by the Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.)

2. The Biblical Witness

Authority of the Bible

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Authority of God - this Bible reveals that God is to be obeyed

Acts 5:29 But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men."

1 John 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.

Authority of Earthly Government / Political Leaders

Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

1 Peter 2:13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

Authority of Family Leaders

1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives- 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 22 Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.

Authority of Church Leaders

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

3. Reasons we reject authority.

    · demanding / asking something we do not want to do
    · we love our "freedom"
    · others.

4. The one valid reason to disobey an authority.

Acts 5:17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 "Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life." 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council and all the senate of Israel and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, 23 "We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside." 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25 And someone came and told them, "Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people." 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us." 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."

33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!" So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

The only time a Christian must disobey an authority is when that authority commands an action that requires the Christian to either; a) Not do what God has commanded them to do, or b) Do what God has prohibited them to do. (For another concrete example, see Daniel 3.)

Key to this discussion is basing our disobedience of the authority on the clearly revealed will of God - the Bible. It is not good enough to answer something like, "I do not think this is what the Lord has for me right now." We must be able to defend our disobedience on clear, unambiguous Truth as it is taught and presented in the Word.

5. Attitudes toward authority.

A. We must have a proper attitude toward the authority that we hold:

Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

1 Peter 5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Mark 10: 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

B. We must have a proper attitude toward the authorities over us.

1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

Proverbs 21:1 The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.

C. We must have a proper attitude toward the Creator of authority!

A key to this kind of submission to authority is a clear grasp of God's absolute divine sovereignty. This is what Paul appeals to in Romans 13 when he writes, "For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed." and consequently, resists God Himself.

Our obedience to earthly authority ought to reflect the same genre as our obedience to Jesus. We do not seek to get away with as much as we can with Jesus - we seek to do all that He wants and commands - even when those commands are against the grain of our comfort or abilities. Similarly, our attitude toward ALL earthly authority (political, familial, ecclesiological) should be to do all that the authority commands - even when those commands are against the grain of our comfort or abilities.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

6. Practical Theology

    · Should you obey your boss when he asks you to do something you do not like to do?
    · Should you use legal means to pay as little tax as possible?
    · Should you be involved in politics?
    · How would you respond to an employer who asked you to falsify a document when NOT doing so might cost 10 people their jobs?
    · If your unbelieving husband tells you to not take the kids to church, what should you do?
    · When does a child get old enough to not obey his mom or dad anymore?
    · Should a pastor have any right to tell you what to do with your life?

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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