All authority comes from God. Whether that authority is dealt with righteously or unrighteously is in the hands of those who exercise it. A true key in understanding authority is found in a proper understanding of submission. Authority doesn’t give any individual their value. Authority simply equates to the responsibility given to an individual. More responsibility given and received equals more authority, but it does not equal more value. The value of every person is the same. God the Father paid the price of each person’s value when He gave His only begotten Son as a ransom for each one. The value of every person is the value of being a one and only. Each person is unique and each person is equally valuable. Authority is simply a measure of life given to a person whereby they can give that life to others.
The apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome that they were to be subject to the governing authorities of their day. The governing authorities of their day were not by any means operating in true righteousness.
Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
The Greek word for authority here is the word exousia. It is a word that means power or in essence it “is what it is”. An example of exousia would be that of the policeman having the authority to enforce the law. He does not have the authority to create new law. That would be the responsibly of a different governing body. He simply has the authority to enforce the law. A doctor has the authority to be a doctor, but he doesn’t have the authority to tell you where you take your vacation. He might be able to suggest a vacation, but he cannot tell you where to go. A pastor can give you godly principles for raising your children, but he cannot tell you how or what disciplines to put in place in your process as a parent. As long as a person stays within the boundaries of their God-given responsibilities we must submit to them.
We are not just to blindly submit to those who say they have authority. We are to recognize those who have authority in our lives and we are to submit to them as unto the Lord. We do not submit to them as being the Lord. We submit to them as unto the Lord. We put our submission to the lowest level as to the highest level. That highest level is God Himself. When we submit to authority as unto the Lord we open an effective door for God to intervene when authority crosses the lines to illegitimacy.
We must always relate to the lowest authority above us as though it is the highest authority. The lowest authority above us is our connecting authority, or the authority we directly relate to. In this is found a secret and a key to God’s kingdom life. When we relate to the lowest authority above us as the highest authority above us, we allow the highest authority above us (God) to see to it that the lowest authority above us is a righteous authority. If the lowest authority above us is not righteous, we give God the right and the ability to deal with that authority. God will either change or remove that authority. If we submit to the lowest authority above us as being itself, we get that authority and not the authority of God. The secret in this submission is a matter of faith. We must stay in the place of hearing God in the authorities of our lives. This type of obedience cannot just be blind obedience to the abuses of men. It must be a faith in our obedience to God. Faith is not something we fake or attempt to do as an obligation to control or to be controlled. Faith is the fruit of hearing God and it has a great power of life.
I will use a story in my own life to illustrate this principle. In my early years as a believer I became a part of a Christian organization that had many discipleship homes. I lived in such a home with many other young men. The man who oversaw the home was a lay pastor in the movement I was a part of. I saw God do many amazing things in the lives of many people. We went from being a small group of people to a huge number in a very short time. God was very present and there were many life-giving things that took place. I experienced God on a very personal level in many ways. I felt that God had led me to join this group of people and that I was there in His perfect will. I believe this to be true to this very day. Although the place where I found myself was a God-directed connection, there were abusive things at work that I was unaware of. The leader of the home that I lived in was battling issues of homosexuality and was in fact seeking to take advantage of the young men who lived in the home. I was naive to his agenda and submitted to him as my pastor as unto the Lord. The home that we lived in was on a piece of land that was several acres in size. There was about two acres of garden space and I was responsible to oversee the gardens. We supplied many needy people with produce from the various crops grown. One day the leader asked me to multiply the strawberries in the strawberry patch. I did as I had learned growing up, but when this leader came home he was furious as to how I had done the task. He exploded in anger and told me to leave. He said he never wanted to see my face again. I looked directly at him and I said, “Sir, I cannot leave! God told me to be here. What do you need me to do?” He gave me a task of raking pine needles on the land. I raked pine needles until the palms of my hands were both an entire blister. It was a huge abuse on his part towards me. I was young and naive. I would not have submitted knowing what I know today, but my act of faith toward God opened a door towards a miracle. I know there were other things in play as well, but I believe that God saw my submission that day as unto Him. It was just a short period of time after that the whole issue of the man’s homosexuality was exposed and everyone in the home was rescued from disaster. The church authorities stepped in and brought order, healing and redemption to the whole situation. I have even found out decades later that the pastor bound to the deception has walked a path of repentance and has a restored life in the kingdom of God. I am not for a moment condoning the behavior of that pastor in the situation, but I am saying that God can do miracles when submission is unto Him. The secret is in the faith toward God in the midst of the situation.
I am not advocating that anyone remain in an abusive situation. I am simply saying that when we have faith, God can do amazing things. When we submit to the lowest authority as unto the Lord we give God the access to change that authority. There are boundaries to authority. An abusive husband loses authority by violating the Holy Spirit, the conscience of his wife, and his own delegated responsibility as a husband. A wife is not required to submit to her husband outside of his true authority, but God can and will intervene when the heart of those in submission call upon Him in faith.
There was a time in my life when I was in the process of being called by God into the ministry. I was spending most of my days praying, reading God’s word, and even ministering to people on the street of our city. During this time I was still working a secular job putting in anywhere from forty to sixty hours per week. It had come to the point where I was spending about forty hours per week in ministry and up to sixty hours per week at my job. This took me away from home while my wife had to deal with our three children and all of the responsibilities of the house. We lived in a log house and had no electricity, only a generator that we ran every three days to run the washing machine and charge the batteries for our DC electrical system. This was not just a simple process. The generator had to be fueled and it was in a location outside of the house. It wasn’t just a matter of flipping on a switch or turning on a key. It was inconvenient and a lot of work. The house was heated by firewood and there were a lot of extra chores such as hauling in wood, cleaning up the mess, and making sure the fire was always lit. My wife was left to deal with these things in my absence. She never complained, but the added responsibilities were beginning to wear on her. One day she went to God and voiced that it was not fair that she had all of the added responsibilities due to my absence. When she did, God simply told her, “That’s right, you do have all those things”. Instead of despising me for my absence, she willingly accepted the responsibility even though it was not fair on her part. She submitted to me as unto the Lord and it was only a short time after that God presented me with a choice between my secular job and ministry. I chose ministry. My choice of one gave me more time to fulfill my responsibilities as a husband. My wife’s submission was a key to God’s intervention in the situation. She didn’t submit to me as being her lord, she submitted to me as unto the Lord and the Lord in turn spoke to my heart to change the situation. I believe her faith moved God and allowed me to hear what God was saying.
The story of Abigail in the Scriptures is a wonderful story. It is recorded in 1Samuel, Chapter 25. Abigail’s husband’s name was Nabal. He was a very wealthy man and had plenty of provisions to spare. Although he was blessed by considerable means, he was a harsh man and evil in his doings. One day King David sent his men to receive supplies and provisions from Nabal. When David’s men arrived at Nabal’s house Nabal sent them away and gave no provisions to King David. When the men returned to David and told him of the situation David rode to destroy Nabal for his rejection of those David had sent. While in route to Nabal’s home, Abigail the wife of Nabal met David and his men along the rode and gave them provisions, pleading for King David to spare her husband Nabal for his ignorance of honoring the King. King David received her gift and spared her husband’s life. Immediately after God struck Nabal with a heart attack and within a week he died. When King David heard of it he made room for Abigail in his own palace and she lived as David’s wife. Abigail did not despise her husband. She covered him by giving provisions to the King on his behalf. God in response removed the unrighteous authority of Nabal in Abigail’s life.
When we submit to authority we must submit as unto the Lord. No person is a lord in our lives, but the authority they represent comes from the Lord. When we submit to authority as unto the true source we receive the blessings, protection, and benefits that come from the true source. God is good and generous in His ways. He can come to our rescue and change the circumstances we find ourselves in when we have a right heart in our submission.
Food For Thought,
Ted J. Hanson