God – The Author of Authority
One of the major impacts of the Reformation – in the recovery of the Gospel – was that of an emphasis upon personal salvation. The need, and call to be – “born again.”
The recovery of the realization that as individuals we’re are born alienated from and enemies of God, and the need for reconciliation to Him through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary.
But with that recovery, can come a danger: The thought that salvation is entirely personal and individual, leaving out the aspect of the fullness of Christ’s redemptive work in the whole of the cosmos, ant JUST the individual.
Our study in 1st and 2nd Peter reminded us of that aspect in looking forward to Christ’s return, but backing up to see this more particularly might be of real help. That is where I hope to go this week and next – God willing.
God is a God of order: Creation displays it everywhere.
You cannot read the 1st 3 chapters of Genesis without seeing over and over how it is God is meticulous in His arrangement of things – both in terms of the natural creation and beyond.
The word most often translated “WORLD” in our Bibles is the word “kosmon” = which means an order or arrangement. We get our word cosmetics from it – to adorn and put in right order.
When God created the physical universe, He did so bringing everything into a certain order – an order which demonstrates proper relationship between things higher, things lower, and things equal.
Kuyper: Sphere Sovereignty’ (1880) – God ordained distinct domains of being and action. Each has its own area of delegated sovereignty or authority, which is not to be violated by others.
If each one stays in its own area without trying to meddle in other’s – HARMONY! When this breaks down – DISASTER!
And it doesn’t take much. The more delicately and precisely things are made, the more one little thing out of order impacts the whole. “Let’s eat grandma vs. Let’s eat, Grandma”.
The Bible sets out a number of these “spheres” most often by incorporating the word: “OBEY”.
Someone or something has a responsibility to obey someone or something else. This is the structure of Authority & Submission or obedience.
Spheres may overlap some – but each has its ordained responsibilities from God.
I want to try and unpack the big concepts about God’s order in Authority this morning, and then bring it down to the practicality of it next week. So bear with me.
SPHERE 1. God & His will (Commandments) culminating in Christ Jesus.
God’s authority is absolute – none can challenge it. And all the others derive their authority from His appointment.
D.A. Carson: “God, the unauthored Author of all, is the primal and final authority.”
In creation, all of physical creation simply comes into being and responds to His voice: “And God said”. i.e. He willed it, and it was so.
As Creator, He has absolute rights and authority over His creation(s).
Dan. 4:34-35 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
We need to note here that since God alone has absolute authority, all others are not only derivative, but limited. We’ll see what that looks like as we move on. It’s sufficient to say here that no one in any sphere has the right to require anything of anyone else that is contradictory to God’s commands and rights.
No one can require anyone else to do anything that is immoral, illegal, contrary to their conscience or unjustifiably dangerous – war might require justifiable commands to enter into danger. But this is never at the mere whim of another. It is under the larger structures.
As I said above, God’s absolute authority finds its final expression in Jesus Christ: Matt. 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore 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 that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
SPHERE 2. Nature: Created order. Man & 2 ideas.
- Man OVER nature – Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Genesis 2:15 “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
Adam shows his authority in naming the animals, and then is given a wife who is his equal, and yet he names her as well. So there is an order set up in the home from the very beginning.
- Man as PART OF AND UNDER nature – Romans 1:18-27 We’ll come back to this next week, but at the very least we learn in this passage that when we as human beings under God’s authority, try to circumvent the sphere He ordained in nature – there is always a price to pay. So it is no one can safely defy the law of gravity or of inertia etc. No one can live apart from food or water or air. Nature has its God given laws and we are bound by them.
SPHERE 3. Home: Parents (and designees), husbands and wives in order among equals.
SPOUSES: Eph. 5:22-24 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Col. 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Since husbands and wives have a shared sphere, and one belonging to each of them, sometimes, proper negotiations will have to be worked through: 1 Cor. 7:3-5b The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time…
CHILDREN: Eph. 6:1-4 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Col. 3:20-21 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged
SPHERE 4. Governments & Civil authorities: We see this emerging especially after the Flood, which came about at least to some great degree due to the fact: Gen. 6 – Each man was simply following the dictates of his own evil intentions.
Later we are told: Romans 13:1–7 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
SPHERE 5. Church: Heb. 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Matt. 23:1-3 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. 1For they preach, but do not practice.
SPHERE 6. Employers: ; Eph. 6:5–8 “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.”
Colossians 3:22–25 “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”
Which authority by employers is not seen as absolute – for in each passage, the employer’s responsibility before God and giving an answer for how they exercised their authority is noted.
SPHERE 7. Conscience: Acts 23 & 24 – Paul notes how he was very careful not to violate his conscience.
Rom. 13; 1 Cor. 8 & 13 address people not violating their consciences, since it appears the conscience – however marred, is left over from our being created in God’s image and having an innate sense of right and wrong – which passages also show the conscience can be informed and improved.
SPHERE 8. Self: Authority over self or what is better known as – Self-control.
This in fact is where we will come back to in the 2nd session.
For in our redemption, the chief place of restored order and authority within the human being is in this area: Having authority restored over self.
Thus Gal. 5 – S/C is a fruit of the indwelling Spirit.
2 Tim. 1:7 “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
1 Cor. 9:24–27 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
There may be a few other spheres such as is hinted at in 1 Cor. 15:24 & Eph. 1:21; 3:10; 6:12 etc. – Angelic orders with which we have nothing to do.
- These spheres of authority overlap in places. Living in godliness will require our thinking through how this works – and ordering our lives accordingly.
For instance: A man has authority over his wife – but not absolutely. She has a primary responsibility to God’s authority OVER her husband’s, as do children over their parents and people in general above the State.
John 19:8-11 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” (Caiaphas?)
Acts 5: saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.
Daniel 1:8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. 9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs.
Hanaiah, Azariah & Mishael refusing to worship the image.
None can usurp God.
None can usurp outside of their own restrictions.
No one has the authority to require you to do something God specifically forbids in His Word, nor forbid anything He requires.
No circle of authority is absolute but God’s alone.
All others are derivative and limited.
2. In those places where WE exercise authority over others – it is to be done with the eternal good of the person(s) in mind before God – not according to our personal desires.
Romans 13:8–10 “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
What does that look like? 1 Cor. 13:4–7 “
Love is patient [BECAUSE LOVE IS] kind;
love does not envy [SO IT DOES NOT] boast;
it is not arrogant [SO IT IS NOT ] rude.
It does not insist on its own way; [SO IT IS NOT] irritable or resentful;
6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, [BECAUSE IT] rejoices with the truth.
7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
This is the nature of Love – love seeks the best of the other party before God – not for our own pleasure, or according to our own whims. We want them to see, know, and if at all possible experience the goodness, grace, mercy and lovingkindness of God through us!
For we can give no other person anything higher than to give them the blessedness of God Himself. We lead them to HIM – not to our own desires.
This will temper what spouses require of each other, what employers require of employees, what Church leaders require of congregants – etc.
3. God’s main way of exercising authority is via persuasion. He publishes His clear and unambiguous will via The Word!
Isaiah 66:2 “All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”
And then, through His Spirit to work in the heart and mind to incline us toward what is better. INCLINE – not FORCE.
Philippians 2:12–13 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Psalm 110:3a “Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power.”
Psalm 119:36–37 “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! 37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.”
4. What happens when we do not function within the order God has created?
The Fall: And such “falls” always incorporate 2 aspects of violating God’s order of authority.
- Refusal to submit to God’s authority.
“Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”
- Abdication of authority.
“Eve took” – Neither Adam nor Eve took their rightful place over the serpent – but took their cue from him instead.
Chaos, death and destruction.
Christ saves us in part, to reverse these very things.
And so it is worthwhile to ask ourselves – Where it is we refuse to submit to God’s authority and authority structures in our own lives?
And where is it we might be abdicating our own derived authority in our sphere?
Wherever either or both – and I would argue you cannot have one without the other – you will have chaos, disorder and destruction.
But there is one area which first and foremost God graciously calls us to recover a proper authority structure which will inform all the other spheres in which we function – and that will be the subject of my next session.
5. Restoring order to God’s appointed authority spheres is part and parcel of Jesus’ work of redemption. Revelation 11:15 “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”