Authority In The World

This probably isn’t going to be a very popular post in the little series I’m doing about how Christians relate to authority. Bible-believers like to ignore or debate around the verses that talk about how we’re supposed to respect  authority figures in the world. We’re pretty good at finding loop-holes so we can grumble about paying our taxes, complain about the President, and ignore as many “little” laws as possible (like the speed limit).

But I haven’t found any Bible verses that say it’s okay to say nasty things about people in power or rebel against earthly authority unless one of man’s laws conflicts with following God. I’m hoping in this post we can try to set aside our preconceived ideas and puzzle out what God’s instructions are and how to apply them today, rather than looking in scripture for excuses to keep resenting authority in the world.

Who Counts As Authority?

The key verses we’ll be looking at today are Romans 13:1-7, 1 Timothy 2:1-4, Titus 3:1-2, and 1 Peter 2:13-17. These verses talk about various types of human rules and rulers. Here’s a list:

  • Authorities — exousia (G1849). Authority, power, rule of government (Rom. 13:1-5; Tit. 3:1).
  • Rulers — archon (G758). Commander, chief, leader (Rom. 13:3).
  • Servant — diakonos (G1249). One who executes commands (Rom. 13:4).
  • Servants — leitourgos (G3011). Minister, a servant of the state (Rom. 13:6).
  • Kings — basileus (G935). Leader of the people, commander (1 Tim. 2:2; 1 Pet. 2: 13, 17).
  • All who are in authority — huperoche (G5247). Elevation, superiority (1 Tim. 2:2).
  • Rulers — arche (G746). Principalities, a person who is first (Tit. 3:1).
  • Be obedient — peitharcheo (G3980). To be persuaded by or obey a ruler/magistrate (Tit. 3:1)
  • Every ordinance — ktisis (G2937). Building, institution (1 Pet. 2:13).
  • Governors — hegemon (G2232). A leader of any kind (1 Pet. 2:14).

I think that covers pretty much everything. Those might not be the titles we use today, but the meaning is clear. These verses we’ll be looking at cover all types of worldly authority from your boss at work, to the lawmakers in your county, to the head of state. And we’re also told to respect the laws put in place by these people.Authority In The World | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Respect And Honor

Most of us (speaking from the perspective of a blogger in the U.S.) don’t even think about what it would mean to live in an honor-based society. We value individual freedom over the collective good. We cling to our right to express our ideas freely (a right which I’m using to post this article). We don’t like to think of people deserving respect or honor simply by virtue of their position. In fact, we often treat those with authority (or anyone who steps into the public eye) as fair-game for our nastiest comments. But God expects something different of us. Read more

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Being Under Authority In The Church

When we talk about authority, we tend to sort people into groups: those who have authority and those under authority. There’s also a good chance we think of friction between these two groups — one controlling and the other resenting. But that’s not how authority is meant to work in God’s church.

I’ve started a study on how true Christians relate to authority, and if you haven’t read last week’s post you’ll want to click here and do that before reading this one. In that post, we talked about Jesus’ saying His church will be run differently than the way authority works in the world. He is the only Lord and He has all authority. The people given authority under Him are supposed to act as servants. Some, like Paul, even gave up rights they could have demanded because serving the brethren was more important than proving they had power.

As we all know (many of us first-hand) church leaders don’t always wield authority in a right and godly way. But whether they’re doing what they’re told to or not, all of us still have to respond in the ways God wants us to. We’re responsible for our own actions. So how should we respond to authority in the church, whether good or bad?

A Responsibility To Peace

Firstly, we have to remember to treat those in authority the same way we do other brethren. God wants peace in His church and among all His people, regardless of what role they play in His church.

Make my joy full, by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; doing nothing through rivalry or through conceit, but in humility, each counting others better than himself (Phil. 2:2-3, WEB)

We’re to cultivate this kind of relationship with all our brethren, including those who are in some kind of authority position. Entering ministry doesn’t make someone fair game for your criticism or hostility. You’re still bound by the instruction, “If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18, WEB). Read more

The Right Way To Use Authority

There’s a young adult event coming up in a few weeks that I’m planning on going to. The theme is “How true Christians relate to authority in the world and in the church.” This is a topic that’s been nagging at my mind for some time now anyway, so with this event coming up I thought it would be a good time to start studying what God has to say about authority.

I’m going to blame American/Western cultural influence for why the word “authority” sometimes rubs me the wrong way. And I’m sure I’m not the only one with that reaction, even though the Bible, not our culture, is supposed to be what’s guiding how we respond to things. But just because authority might leave a sour taste in our mouths doesn’t mean it isn’t an important concept for Christians to understand.

Who Gets To Be Lord?

One thing Jesus made clear in His earthly ministry is that authority among His people works differently than in the world.

Jesus summoned them, and said to them, “You know that they who are recognized as rulers over the nations lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you, but whoever wants to become great among you shall be your servant. Whoever of you wants to become first among you, shall be bondservant of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45, WEB)

In the nations, rulers exercise authority and lord over people. The word “lord over” is katakurieuo (G2634). It comes from kata (G2596 — preposition meaning down, which acts as an intensive) and kurieuo (G2961 — lordship/dominion). The compound katakurieuo means having mastery over others or putting them down in subjection. Peter uses this word when telling elders how not to behave. Read more

Becoming One Flesh With Jesus Christ

Today’s post is something of a continuation to last week’s post, The Bridegroom’s Pledge. As Jesus Christ’s bride, the church is supposed to be getting ready for a marriage that will take place when He returns. If this were a human wedding, preparations for it would include things like picking a date and venue, mailing out invitations, and hiring a caterer. But none of those things are any use in preparing for a wedding to Jesus. He needs us to focus on something different, something that will strengthen a relationship He intends to last into eternity.

Diversity In Oneness

He who loves his own wife loves himself. For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord also does the church; because we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones. “For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, and will be joined to his wife. The two will become one flesh.” This mystery is great, but I speak concerning Christ and of the church. (Eph. 5:28-32, WEB)

In these verses, Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 about the husband and wife becoming one flesh. The Hebrew word for “one” is echad (H259). It’s the same word use in the Shema: “Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God. Yahweh is one” (Deut. 6:4, WEB).

While echad can mean the number one, in these verses “It stresses unity while recognizing diversity within that oneness” (TWOT entry 61). A husband and wife don’t literally merge into a single being. And God (Elohim) consists of two Beings. But they can be called one because they’re united. That’s the sort of relationship we’re supposed to be developing with Christ. Read more

Be Of The Same Mind: God’s Intention For Peace In His Church

If God says He hates something, is it a thing we should be doing in the church? Of course not! Those who love God do things that are pleasing in His sight (1 John 3:22). We don’t always do that perfectly, but it’s supposed to be our goal. And when we miss the mark, we repent and change and try again.

One of the things the Lord hates and considers an abomination is “he who sows discord among brothers” (Prov. 6:19, all scriptures in this post are WEB version). In Hebrew, “sow” is shalach (H7971), and it means to send out or shoot forth, as in a growing plant putting out leaves. God hates it when someone plants and spreads strife or contention (medan, H4090) among those who are metaphorical or literal family (ach, H251).

So what does it say about us as a church body when there are divisions, disagreements, and rifts in our relationships and beliefs? In some cases, we can disagree on things that are open to interpretation and still fellowship peaceably, which is the right thing to do (Rom. 14). But all too often, when people in the churches disagree they start attacking or ignoring each other rather than working through their issues, resolving doctrinal conflicts, and seeking peace and unity as God intends.

Be Of The Same Mind: God's Intention For Peace In His Church | marissabaker.wordpress.com
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Strife Does Not Come From God

The greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love you neighbor as yourself. In contrast, strife is stirred up by hatred, not love (Prov. 10:12). And the people who spread strife are called perverse, lovers of disobedience, greedy, and angry (Prov. 16:28; 17:19; 28:25; 29:22). Those aren’t the sort of things God wants to see when He looks at the people in His chruch.

Now the deeds of the flesh are obvious, which are … hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envy … of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom. (Gal. 5:19-21)

More than half the things in this “works of the flesh” list have to do with discord and disunity. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is things like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). Those are the things that stop arguments before they even start.

This Goes Beyond Not Fighting

Scriptures make it quite clear that God puts a high value on peace. Though He warns us that following Him will set people against you (Matt. 10:34-36; John 15:18-21), there should be peace in the church among God’s people.

So then, let us follow after things which make for peace, and things by which we may build one another up. (Rom. 14:19)

On your part, you’re supposed to do what you can to live peacefully with everyone you meet (Rom. 12:18; Heb. 12:14). This is especially important in the church, where it’s an attainable goals because all the believers are supposed to be working toward peace (1 Thes. 5;13). God intends for there to be unity in His church. Read more

What’s The Church Supposed To Do?

If you ask the church that I’ve spent most of my life in what their mission is they have a ready answer: preaching the gospel and preparing a people. I can’t speak for your churches, but I imagine many (perhaps even most) of them would also point to some version of what we call The Great Commission as their mission statement.

Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:18-20, WEB)

Is this a commission? yes, it’s “an instruction, command, or duty given to … group of people.” Is it great? since it came from Jesus and involves a responsibility given His disciples, yes. But is it really meant as the defining mission statement for the entire church from Jesus’ resurrection to His return? I’m not so sure.

What's The Church Supposed To Do? Looking At Scriptural Mission Statements For People Following Jesus | marissabaker.wordpress.com
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A Sobering Warning

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were the group He spent the most time criticizing and correcting. They professed to follow God’s highest standards but were in reality hypocrites. They did righteous looking things just to get attention (Matt. 23:5). They went to great lengths to convert people only to pervert their faith (Matt. 23:15). They placed too high an emphasis on money received as tithes and offerings (Matt. 23:16-19). They neglected the “weighty matters” of God’s law and instead followed their own traditions. They even turned the temple itself into a marketplace where they exploited people coming to worship God (John 2:14-16).

The scary thing is, these people honestly thought they were the most righteous God-followers out there. That serves as a warning today that church leaders and organizations have to be very careful where they place their focus. And so do we as individual members of Christ’s body.

A Greater “Commission”

We certainly shouldn’t ignore Christ’s instruction to go, disciple, baptize, and teach. But we need to make sure we’re thinking of that command from Matthew 28 in its proper context. Because there are two other commissions that Jesus plainly told us are His greatest commands. Read more