What Does the Bible Have to Say about Being Subject to Authorities?

Posted: August 18, 2014 in Random Bible Musings

Are we as believers living subject to authority? Should we? If so, why? What does the Bible have to say on our relationship to our authorities?

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” –Romans 13:1-2

Every individual lives under some sort of authority. We ultimately answer to God, regardless who we are- Christian or non-Christian. Philippians 2:9-11 says, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

To have God as our authority in this life, we must first accept God’s free gift of salvation. Without it we are not a child of God but rather of the devil as Jesus Christ points out in John 8:44.

Now we as Christians ought to be subject to the authorities that God has placed in each of our lives individually.

As I thought of this subject, I remembered the story of a teen in an unsaved family who became a Christian and began bucking her parental authority. Over a period of time and counseling, she decided to get back under her parental authority, telling her parents sincerely, “I want to trust that God will lead me through you.” The unsaved parents became concerned, wanting to lead her in the right way, and started reading the Bible. As a result they were saved because of the teen’s choice to place herself back under God’s ordained authority.

In speaking on authority, the apostle Paul describes the different outcomes of those who subject themselves to authority and those who refuse to do so. Clearly, the former is the best way to go- not only for results but because of the following four reasons. But before we look at the reasons, let’s ask ourselves, “What does it mean to be subject to authority?”

The word “subject” as used in Romans 13:1 comes from the Greek 5293 “hoop-ot-as’-so”, meaning subordinate, reflexively to obey, be under obedience, submit self unto, put under.

Being subject is…

• Not bucking at commands or orders given by authority, but being obedient unto them (inside what we as Christians can obey of course- we obey God over man) not with just the outward compliance but with a Godly heart attitude.

• Not being complacent in our Christianity, but being obedient and living by God’s Word daily in every area of our life.

You may ask, “Well, who is my authority?” Let’s look at some examples.

God– Romans 14:12 says, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

Parents– Ephesians 6:1-3 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

It is relevant to note that Jesus, the Son of God, God robed in human flesh, was subject to his earthly parental authority. In Luke 2:51-51 we read, “And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

Government officials (president, state, local, law officers, etc)- Romans 13:1-2

Your Pastor– Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”

Your Boss– Ephesians 6:5-7 says, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.”

 1 Peter 2:18-19 also says, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.”

Any delegated authority (ultimately, these are God-ordained)

For a wife, the husband– Ephesians 5 (this is a team effort here- a topic for another post)

Now with this basic foundation of authority laid in our minds, let’s take a look at 4 reasons why Christians ought to live subject to authority.

1. The Authority Is God-ordained– Romans 13:1-2 says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”

God has put our authority in the position they are in. “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.” –Psalms 75:6-7

God does not make mistakes and nothing takes Him by surprise. Therefore, we should not take matters into our own hands, but rather trust God to work through that authority. If you think about it, resistance to human authority is ultimately resisting God.

Ask yourself the following questions: “Who put my authority in that position?” “When I’m complaining about my authority, who am I ultimately complaining against?”

In 1 Samuel 8:7, God told Samuel that Israel’s resistance of Samuel was actually a resistance of God. It says, “And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”

When we resist our earthly authority, we are resisting God’s authority in our life because it is God who placed them where they are. True, we may not agree with the person, but we are to still respect their office and submit accordingly. Why?

God has a purpose. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.”

Look at Pharaoh! He had the Israelites enslaved in Egypt, but in all of that God’s hand was present as Romans 9:17 declares, “For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.”

When we realize authority is God-ordained, it drastically changes how we see life.

2. Not Only for Wrath But Also for Conscience Sake– Romans 13:5

Our obedience should move beyond the aspect of fear because obeying for wrath’s sake will not last; it will not take care of inward obedience. We will be trying to get away with as much as we can when they’re not looking… but have we forgotten that God is always watching? If we live in constant realization that God is always present, how will our lives change? Is this change coming because we are afraid of God or because we love God? We need to be love driven. David demonstrated this in 1 Samuel 24:6 when he had the chance to kill King Saul- the man who had been hunting for his life-, but he would not kill Saul because he would not touch the LORD’s anointed. Because of David’s love for God, he obeyed. God wants inward obedience.

Outward compliance + inward refusal = disobedience

In the story of the prodigal son, the elder son may have been serving his father all those years, but REALLY, by his bitterness seen, did he have inward obedience or was he doing all the actions? Was he doing the actions because he loved his father or because he had to do them?

Jesus said in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Doing what is right will be a natural by-product of loving Christ. But if you don’t love Christ then don’t bother with the commandments because what will happen is you will mar the name of Christ.

3. To Live a Quiet and Peaceable Life in All Godliness and Honesty– 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”

When you pray for those in authority, pray in realization of Proverbs 21:1 that, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” What a glorious assuring truth to grasp a hold of that we can give our burdens to God and have peace because we know Who directs our authorities! No more will we need to “…be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. (Romans 13:3b-4a)” Our peace will be both spiritually and physically.

Let’s see the spiritual implication though: David was subject but he was being hunted by King Saul for his life. Is this a contradiction? No, because spiritually David was still living a blameless life in submission to his authority when the opportunity was there to kill his authority. Inside he was free.

The progression thus far: Realize authority is God ordained; therefore, we submit not only for wrath but for conscience sake. NEXT, we pray for those in authority because (knowing #1 & #2) for God to direct and live a Godly life in subjection. Next we see the 4th step/results.

4. To Bring Glory to God and Draw People to Christ– 1Timoth 2:1-4 says, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

Notice in this subjection passage (see also Titus 2:9-11) that some of the biggest salvation verses in the Bible follow right after the command for Christians to be subject to authorities. Wow! This is so cool, and so important to realize because, think about it… “How will Christ shine through me when I am not subject to God but in disobedience his clear command?” Christ admonishes believers in Matthew 5:16 to, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

This is our Purpose as Believers. God didn’t leave us on earth when we got saved to do nothing. Had that been the plan, He could have just taken us to heaven. God wants us to live for Him and daily yield to His leading- in subjection to the Him. (Galatians 5:16). God directs us through the authorities He places in our lives to shape us into the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29).

It is WHEN we submit to God’s authority that we can do great things for God. We need to die to self. Remember John 12:24? It says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” As a believer, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)”

So in conclusion, we have seen we are to submit to our authorities because they our God-ordained, for conscience sake as well, so we can live a quiet and peaceable life, and to bring glory to God and draw people to Jesus Christ.

This simple question of “are you living subject to authority?” will be answered by your thoughts, words, and actions throughout everyday of our life.

The question is, “Are you marring Christ’s name by refusing to submit to your God-ordained authority? Or are you applying these Biblical principles and living in subjection to authority with the right heart attitude so that the lost can be drawn to Christ?”

Friends, it is your choice. God does not force you. But God does lay down what is right and acceptable. Your choice will make an impact that you may never imagine can be so big. So don’t delay if things aren’t right with your authorities. Get it right with God, and purpose by God’s grace to live right.

Let’s live subject to authority. (:

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