Many questions are raised in relation to the subject of authority, such as, who has the final authority? How much of church life do leaders decide? Does the membership have anything to say? How binding are the Decrees for to Keep? Is there more than one standard? and many more. The Bible has the answers to these questions and shows us the basis for all aspects of authority.
Following are a number of steps of authority outlined in the Bible.
1. God Himself is the source of all authority. “There is no power but of God” (Rom 13:1). “With whom took he counsel?” (Isa 40:14). From these Scriptures and many more, we see that all delegated authority has its roots in God as the supreme authority.
2. Jesus Christ as the Son of God has been given authority from God (John 5:27; Matt 28:18). Christ’s teachings were in sharp contrast to the teachings of His day, in that He taught with authority. The difference lies in the fact that Christ as Truth is the basis of authority (Matt 7:29).
3. The Word of God is the revelation of God’s will and is the established rule of conduct for all men in all ages (Heb 4:12). Wherever there is a disregard for the authority of the Word, there is a continual decline from that which is right in every area of life.
4. Jesus Christ upon leaving the earth, delegated authority to the church (Matt 16:19, 18:18, 28:18-20). The church has been chosen by God through Christ as the channel through which His will and Word are upheld through all time. In Acts 15, we have a pattern given to us of how this is to work. When issues arise, the leadership is to take the oversight (1Pe 5:2). As men under God’s authority vested with authority, they should arrive at a decision based upon the Word of God. upon presentation of such a decision to the congregation, the membership should see not men or personalities, but God at work through the church. Whenever this can be seen, there will be acceptance of the decision as the authority of God rather than the opinion of men (Heb 13:7,17).
In order to have respect for authority, we first of all need respectable authority. Where respectable authority fills their place under God’s direction, we can expect the same results as are seen in the early church. After presentation and acceptance, there was rejoicing and consolation (Acts 15:31).
5. Another integral aspect of authority is the home (Eph 5:21; 6:4). This Biblical pattern calls for a specific order of headship. This does not mean that the wife is inferior to the husband, but rather it is God’s method of keeping order. Where everyone is left to do that which is right in his own eyes, it produces anarchy and confusion.
God’s design of the husband as leader of the home to whom the wife is submissive, formulates the best example to children and the world of the relationship of Christ to God and the church to Christ. Joyful acceptance of this pattern constitutes a good atmosphere for the rearing of children.
6. Civil government is another form of authority ordained by God (Rom 13; 1Pe 2). Since the ultimate end of unregenerate society cannot be the same as that of God’s people, God has designed that those in authority use measures necessary to suppress evil. While the church and state are two separated and distinct institutions, there are several ways in which the one can benefit the other by each filling their proper sphere.
Following are a number of purposes for these various aspects of authority.
Authority counteracts Satanic influences (Eph 6:12). Whenever human nature is left to itself, the natural tendency is to do evil. God in His wisdom established an authoritative source to withstand these influences so righteousness can prevail.
Authority helps to maintain the purity of the church (1Co 5). Whenever issues arise where the spirituality of the congregation is in danger, it is the responsibility of those in authority to maintain purity. If there are those who are unresponsive to the Word of God, this Scripture says they are to be put out of the church.
Authority promotes unity (Acts 16:4,5). When leadership has the attitude of being in authority under authority (Luke 7:8), unity will be promoted whether in the home or church. Whenever the laity sees the decisions reached as the application of Biblical principles, there should be no hesitation of acceptance.
Authority helps the immature (Rom 14:15). There are always those among us who need help. While it is important to help such, it is also important to notice how help should be given.
Authority produces a desirable atmosphere (Pro 29:2). Wherever the lawless are setting the pace of action, it will produce disaster. It is an established fact that the place of true joy and satisfaction is within the confines of established authority.
While all authority has its roots in God, there are nevertheless many threats which will try to undermine the desired products of Biblical authority. Carnality in all forms, dictatorship, apologetic procedures, brow-beaten leadership, and so forth may in a sense undermine Biblical authority. However, in the truest sense, Biblical authority stands regardless how people relate to it. The Bible teaches us the seriousness of modifying or subtracting from the authority of God (Rev 22:18-19).
Everyone is affected by this subject, whether those given authority under God or those submitting to those who are in authority. May all of us rise to our God-appointed place so the blessing can be ours for time and eternity.