What Does The Bible Teach About Authority?
The Bible teaches that authority is hierarchical, meaning there are different ranks and classifications of authority. In this hierarchy, God is the highest authority. All other authorities are under His sovereign rule. As believers, we are called to be responsible in our positions of authority and submissive to those whom God has placed over us.
The Hierarchy Of Authority
- God has authority over everything because He is the Creator of everything. He has the absolute right, according to His own will, to make decisions, give orders and carry out punishment for disobedience.
Psalm 24:1; 92:8; 93:1-2; 103:19; Genesis 2:16-17; 3:24
- God has authority over Jesus, but He gave Jesus all authority in heaven and in earth; therefore, obedience to Jesus’ commands is obedience to God himself.
1 Corinthians 11:2-3; Matthew 28:18
- Jesus has authority over man. Man has authority over woman. The husband is called to lovingly lead his wife and she is called to respectfully submit to him. The children are to obey both of their parents until they are old and leave them to start their own family.
Ephesians 5:22-6:4; 1 Peter 3:1–7; 1 Corinthians 11:7–12
- Jesus has authority over the church. Men are called by God to lead the church as pastor and deacons. They have authority over the church in spiritual matters.
Hebrews 13:7, 17; Matthew 16:19
- Government has authority over its citizens. They are to act as the ministers of God to mankind for good. Their purpose is to encourage good, discourage evil, and use force to accomplish this mandate.
- Mankind has authority over the earth and all the animals. We are to use this position to care for the animals and environment.
Genesis 1:28, 2:15
- Employers have authority over their employees. The employees are to be obedient to their employer, and the employer is to lead properly.
Ephesians 6:5–9; 1 Peter 2:18–25
The Authority Of The Government
- God has ordained the authority of the government so that mankind will have order and be protected from evildoers and their unjust causes. This means they will seek to preserve human life, property and justice. They are never given permission to do wrong. Therefore, if the government is carrying out the function that God has established for them to do, we who are under their authority should be subject to them. If we resist them, then we are resisting the ordinance of God.
Romans 13:1-2; Proverbs 21:1
- God has ordained the use of force by the government. The government has the right to make laws concerning what is right and wrong and its citizens are obliged to obey the law. The government has the right to reward those who do good and punish those who do wrong.
- God has ordained the collection of taxes by the government. Because the government serves in this position of authority, they have the right to justly tax their people so they can have money necessary to fulfill their duty.
Romans 13:6-7; Matthew 17:24–27; 22:15–22
- God has ordained the authority of the government to be in accordance to His will. No government is autonomous, but they are all under the sovereign rule of God. No government has the right to make a law that is contrary to the commands of God. Therefore, God is the foundation for knowing what is right and what is wrong, not man.
The Separation Of Church And Government
- The functions of the church and government are different. The government has been ordained to promote justice and punish evil. The church had been ordained to preach the gospel and be ambassadors of Jesus. Therefore, the government doesn’t have the authority in the affairs of the church, nor should it regulate its spiritual functions.
- The methods of the church and government are different. The church does not have the right to use “force” to carry out its mission. This is only the right of governing authorities. The church carries out its mission through the proclamation of the Word and living their life in obedience to it as a witness to all men.
The Believer’s Response To Authority
- Believers are to submit to the authority that is over them, like they are submitting to the Lord Himself. We are to be servants of God that are full of good works, honoring all men, loving the brotherhood, fearing God, and honoring the king.
1 Peter 2:11–17; Titus 3:1–7
- Believers are to obey their governing authorities (even if they are corrupt) because: (1) we will be punished by them if we don’t, and (2) because of conscience sake, we know that we are opposing God’s authority if we don’t obey. There is no perfect government because it is governed by sinful people.
- Believers do not have to obey the authorities over them if they are commanding them to do something that is contrary to what God has commanded. For example, your authority doesn’t allow you to teach in Jesus name, your boss wants you to be involved in fraud, or your friends and family want you to get an abortion.
Acts 4:19–20; 5:29
- Authority in the Bible is what?
- Who is the ultimate authority over everything?
- Who has ordained the authority of governments?
- What is the believer’s response to authority?
- What should a believer do if they are told to do something contrary to what God said?