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

Beware Leavened Doctrine

“Every word of God is pure,” but the same can’t be said of all the words human beings say about God’s words (Prov. 30:5, KJV). This is one of the problems Jesus called attention to in His earthly ministry. The religious leaders of His day bound heavy burdens on their followers, got distracted by seeking recognition, shut the kingdom against God’s people, greedily profited off the offerings made to God, misrepresented the truth, and focused on minutia while ignoring weighty matters of the law. In short, they were hypocrites (Matt. 23).

In Matthew 16, Jesus told His disciples, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6, KJV). The disciples were confused at first, but after some discussion they realized He wasn’t telling them to “beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:12, KJV).

How Leavening Works

The New Testament speaks of leavening representing hypocrisy, malice, and wickedness (Luke 12:1; 1 Cor 5:8). And when we consider the physical affect of a leavening agent like yeast, we see leaven as something souring, spreading, fermenting, and puffed-up.

Matthew Henry suggests that the warning “take heed and beware” in Matthew 16 is given because disciples are especially vulnerable to this type of deception. We can easily fall victim to those like the “Pharisees, who are great pretenders to devotion, and Sadducees, who pretend to a free and impartial search after the truth” (MHC on Matt. 16:5-12).

We’re not talking about a corrupting influence from outside the church. These people operate within, corrupting the doctrine that came direct from God. Read more

You’re Not “A Temple of God.” You’re Part of The Temple Of God

We’ve probably all heard that Christianity is about your individual relationship with Jesus. I’ve said that myself. But while God is very much concerned with the state of every individual heart and wants a relationship with you, Christianity is not an individualistic religion. We get that idea from Western culture, not from scripture.

The Bible is written for all peoples and all cultures. But it was also written by people living in a Middle Eastern society, and those of us in the Western world can miss some things Biblical writers took for granted. It rarely occurs to us that Americanized Christianity might not be the same thing as Biblical Christianity, but our culture does color how we read the Bible and in some cases it leads to inaccurate assumptions.

When I was reading Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien, one of the misconceptions that really stuck with me had to do with the verses about spiritual temples. We tend to read the verses that say “you are a temple of God” and think the “you” is singular” and treat “temple” as plural, assuming that we are each one of God’s temples. But we’re wrong.

Confusion of Plurals

There are three passages where Paul talks with the Corinthians about them being God’s temple. They’re 1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19; and 2 Cor. 6:16. Richards and O’Brian only talk about one of these, but I checked the others in the Greek and their point holds true for all three. They write,

Biblical Greek could differentiate between you singular and you plural, but we miss this in our English translations. … We typically understand the singulars and plurals in this verse backwards. In the original Greek, the you is plural and temple is singular. Paul is saying, “All of you together are a singular temple for the Holy spirit. God doesn’t have millions of little temples scattered around. Together we make the dwelling for the spirit (p. 108)

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