There is a real problem in America today, and it largely centers on authority. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard someone say, “You can’t tell me what to do,” I would be far better off financially than I am today. The Bible teaches that authority does exist, and with that authority comes responsibility; for the person who has that authority: to use it correctly, and for the one over whom he has authority: to submit to it.
Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines authority in this way: “The power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words states that it is: “the ability or strength with which one is endued, the right to exercise power.” Therefore, when one considers the term “authority,” deliberation must be given to those who have the power to make decisions that affect our lives.
The government has authority over its citizens. The Scriptures teach that one who seeks to do that which is right will submit himself to the government under which he lives. Paul wrote, “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” (Rom. 13:1). God ordained the creation of government for the use of maintaining true law and order, that there would be a way to effectively punish the evildoer and protect the innocent. Although there are many things governments do with which we would not agree, man still has the obligation to give them their due submission (Mat. 22:21). Christians are commanded to pray for our government that it might be possible to lead quiet, peaceable lives in service to God (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Therefore, it is our responsibility, as long as the government does not give dictates that inhibit our ability to serve God as he has commanded, to fulfill its edicts to the best of our ability.
Parents have authority over the home. It is deeply disturbing to see the trend in our society for parents to want everyone else to be responsible for raising their children. Parents are using the education systems, day-cares, government programs and benefits, and various other programs, as the foundational training tools for their children. They are passively turning their responsibilities over to others when it comes to providing for, and training, those entrusted to their care.
However, the Bible teaches that the parents are to be the final authority in the home, not those on the outside. Parents are to, “train up a child in the way he should go” (Pro. 22:6). That training stems from the authority vested in parents. They are to teach, not just lawful behavior, but righteous living in service to God (Deu. 6:4-9). This authority also includes the responsibility to protect our children from the dangers, lies, and temptations of Satan. This is by no means a pleasant task, and it is one which can cause great anguish in the hearts of the parents and children, but it is a necessary use of parental authority.
If God had desired the government to raise children, he would have established such a system with the children of Israel. God left the authority of the home in the hands of the parents, and our parents need to love God, their children, and each other enough to use that authority correctly.
Jesus has authority over all things. Even though it is the case that God has bestowed upon man some measure of authority to make decisions for himself, his family, and his nation, God is still the ultimate authority. Jesus is the one who holds the final authority to make decisions on what is right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable. Paul wrote, “For he hath put all things under his feet” (I Cor. 15:27), and again, “Which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:20-21). Therefore, Christ is the supreme authority. His guidelines and commands are the ultimate authority governing the lives of every man in every word and deed.
If we are to recognize and submit to authority, we must do so in every aspect of life. National governance is authorized to the government: we must respect it, and keep its laws to the best of our ability. Family governance is authorized to the parents: we must fight to keep that authority where it should be and take seriously the responsibilities that authority delivers. But in all things, no matter who we are or what position we hold, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the one with the final authority; for it is his covenant that will hold us all in judgment on that final day (2 Cor. 5:10).