The Christian and Authority, part 1
One of the most difficult subjects for Christians to be honest about is the subject of authority. The reason for this struggle is because of our innate sin nature that desires no authority but our own. We do not want anyone or anything else telling us what we can and cannot do, what we should and should not do, what is off limits and what is acceptable, or what honors the Lord and what does not.
What fuels this innate sin nature is the devilish mastermind, Satan himself. This is an Edenically-rooted problem. When Satan tempted Eve, he deceived her into believing that God’s authority was not good, true, or even necessary. Among other things, this first temptation was a challenge of authority. Ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden mankind has fought every kind of authority God has set in place.
The bible speaks of four general realms of authority. The first is God’s authority over his creation established by virtue of his being creator of all things (Genesis 1-2). The second realm that of the family, established by God in Genesis 2. The third realm is that of human government, which was established by God in embryonic form in Genesis 9, but further elaborated upon with the nation-state of Israel in Exodus 19ff, and even more so with the Kingly office established in 1 Samuel 8ff. The third realm is that of the church, established by Christ in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost.
Realm #1 – God’s Authority Over Creation
God’s authority is real, and all-encompas
sing, but mankind has rebelled against this authority, as first seen in Genesis 3, and carried out throughout the rest of the Scriptures. It is this rebellion that necessitated the atoning work of Christ. Mankind’s rebellion brought an estrangement from God, and Jesus Christ died and rose again to make reconciliation with God possible (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). This is the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, which every Christian is responsible to not only maintain, but also to proclaim to the nations (Matthew 28:18-20).
Christians are a people who have been reconciled to God. Therefore, this realm of authority is under control and in proper order, at least theoretically. While we are positionally reconciled to God, we still struggle with the remnants of our rebellious sin nature. This is where the process of sanctification comes into play, where God seeks to work in us the change to be like Christ that we so desperately need (Philippians 2:12-13).
Very often for Christians, it is the human realms of authority that we emphasize and struggle with. However, our struggle against human authority is only representative of our struggle with God’s authority. If we struggle with submission to God, we will struggle with submission to human authority. The difference, though, between human realms of authority and God’s authority is that any human authority is going to be flawed, while God’s is not.
Christians may falsely accuse God of wrong-doing, or of being aloof, or silent, or uncaring, but all of these accusations are based on our own false ideas, not God’s character or actions. For all that God does is good because he is good (Psalm 119:68). It is therefore up to us to be taught his ways and to esteem them all of what he is, all of what he does, and all of what he says to be right (Psalm 119:128), even when we do not understand as well as we would like. Our understanding of God and his ways should not be what unlocks the door to our submission. God’s ways and thoughts are not like ours. They are “higher” than our own (Isaiah 55:8-9), for which we should be thankful. We have a God who is able to think and do infinitely more than we ever could. Why should we think we will understand everything he does or says? It is not always necessary for us to understand why God is doing something. Just ask Job. It is, however, always necessary for us as God’s children to submit to him, willingly, completely, immediately, and lovingly.
At other times, what God says and does is not something that we “like.” Yet when has God ever said that we only should do things that we like? “Liking” something is a purely superficial and artificial gage of whether something should be followed, obeyed, or submitted to. Any emotional response to God must be fueled not by whether or not we “like” it, but whether it pleases the Lord. When we know what God wants, and do what God wants, we will enjoy it (John 13:17).
Christian friend, any sinful struggle with human authority is rooted ultimately in our struggle with God’s authority over us. We need to accept that principle. God is not only our Savior (Luke 1:47) but also our Lord (Revelation 4:8). The servant is not the lord over his master. How foolish of us, then, that we try so hard to be ruler over God. Our submission to God must be our motivation for biblical submission to human authority.