reason for living

Authority and related matters

A study of authority, accountability, responsibility, submission, obedience, leadership and service.  For Christians.

Format of the study

We begin this study with a list of assertions. Supporting and refuting scriptures, proofs and texts will then be given for each assertion. A discussion of the material will be the next stage and will lead to any conclusions.


  1. Authority is always delegated down a line that ultimately begins with God.
  2. Accountability is down a line that ultimately ends with God.
  3. Authority exists for a purpose
  4. Authority is given by God to those who will use it to accomplish that which God has in mind.
  5. Submission is the correct response to rightful authority.
  6. The opposite of submission is rebellion.
  7. It is right to rebel against authority abused.
  8. The purpose for which authority is given is ultimately a purpose of God.
  9. God always acts to Glorify himself.
  10. God always acts justly and righteously.
  11. Authority is given for a purpose, the purpose is to achieve an objective, the objective is to glorify God.
  12. Submission to rightful authority glorifies God.
  13. Submission to wrongful authority that is believed to be rightful also glorifies God.
  14. Submission to authority known or believed to be wrongful does not glorify God and is sinful.
  15. The end does not justify the means - both end and means have a common objective which is to glorify God.
  16. God always acts to bring us closer to himself.
  17. Leaders have to lead somebody towards something or somewhere. 18. When God gives authority to lead we must lead people towards God and God will hold the leader accountable for his actions.
  18. In the beginning, God ...

Word references

Authority Accountability Responsibility Obedience Leadership Submission Service

Notes about Romans 13

In chapter 13, verses 1 to 7, of Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome Paul commands everyone to obey the state authorities. In the Good News Bible, the passage reads as given below.

Everyone must obey the state authorities, because no authority exists without God's permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God. Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God has ordered; and anyone who does so will bring judgement on himself. For rulers are not to be feared by those who do good, but by those who do evil. Would you like to be unafraid of the man in authority? Then do what is good, and he will praise you, because he is God's servant working for your own good. But if you do evil, then be afraid him, because his power to punish is real. He is God's servant and carries out God's punishment on those who do evil. For this reason you must obey the authorities - not just because of God's punishment, but also as a matter of conscience. That is also why you pay taxes, because the authorities are working for God when they fulfil their duties. Pay, then, what you owe them; pay them your personal and property taxes, and show respect and honour for them all.
Romans 13:1-7.  Good News Bible.

The passage can be summarised as follows:

The following points seem to be worth raising or highlighting before trying to decide how the passage and the above points apply to our lives:

Paul's own letters suggest that he was familiar enough with the Roman legal system to know that it was not based on universal justice combined with a love for the God of Israel and love for one's neighbour. To the extent that the Roman governing authorities failed in these matters they were falling below the standard set by God for his people. Nonetheless Paul says that it has been divinely ordained and therefore it must not only be obeyed, but also that its Pagan leaders and uncharitable acts must be supported by Christians by the payment of taxes.  Given the introduction of the letter to the Romans it is possible that Paul wrote this command specifically for the population of Rome at that particular period in history but this is not an entirely satisfactory position however because Paul gives no indication that it is to be so limited.  Additionally there is no broad concept in Christianity that would recommend submission to one Pagan authority but not to another in a different age an place.  Paul's command does however fit comfortably into the framework that we might call “right-order” or “divine-order”.  Such a framework states that there is a proper (in the sense of fitting or created) hierarchy to the affairs of the planet.  The Bible would appear to define the basic order as follows:

This order has been modified through biblical history.  First, the fall spoiled all but the last of these relationships so that the process of subjection, instead of being something that we all accept and take joy in, has become a source of resentment and is avoided as often as possible.  Second, as a consequence of the fall and God's subsequent selection of Israel as his chosen people, God added a layer of bureaucracy in the form of the priesthood to maintain the relationship between himself and the mass of people.  Third, other new levels have been added, though, as was the case with the kingship, not always with God's wholehearted approval.  This right order is not modified because of the competence of individuals.  It is not proper for a child (even as an adult) to dominate its parents even if the parents are bad parents and quite inept.  There are two forms of respect: One is the kind earned by individuals because they make themselves worthy of it.  Such respect can exist between any two individuals and it does not automatically give rise to any special behaviour or courtesy; it is felt by the person who holds the respect but not necessarily manifested.  The other kind of respect is that due to a person because of their position in relation to other people.  This second form of respect will usually be demonstrated by particular rituals or expressions; it is exhibited outwardly but not necessarily felt inwardly.  Thus all children should exhibit the second form towards their parents simply because they are their parents and without regard for any competence or liking.  This is right order.  Of course, all parents should also attempt to be worthy of the first form of respect from their children.  In the same way it is necessary for an individual to honour those in authority simply because their authority is given by God.  This too is right order.  The ability with which officials of the state discharge their duties does not change the honour due to them.  Ultimately those in authority must give an account of their headship to the God who bestowed it on them in the first place.  Likewise, wives must submit to their husbands simply because they are their husbands.  This is right order.  A wife's responsibilities in respect of her husband are not reduced by her husband's failure to perform in his responsibilities to her.  Husbands must answer to God for the authority they have been given and, like all others to whom authority is given, they would do well to use it wisely.

So, the right and proper order of relationship and authority is set within creation itself.  Because of the fall, this framework functions less well than it should.  Nonetheless this is how the earth was designed to run and we must individually perform as well as we are able — we are in no position to change what God created and substitute a new system of our own.  When those with authority over us abuse that authority then we should do as David did and appeal directly to the throne of God.  While he sorts the matter out in his own time we are required to continue to discharge our own obligations as best we can.  God does not seem to grant exemptions to his proper order.

Notes on Acts chapters 4 & 5

When the Apostles Peter and John resisted the Sanhedrin they did so by challenging the authority of the Sanhedrin to issue the orders that it had: The retort that they should judge for themselves implies that the Sanhedrin should already have known and understood that it was acting ultra vires. In chapter 5, the statement by Peter that "we must obey God rather than men" appears to be open defiance of the governing authority and a refusal to submit and obey. The passage goes on to relate however, that the Sanhedrin itself - under the guidance of Rabbi Gamaliel - came to understand that Peter and John could truly be messengers from God (vv 38-39). Thus the order given in verse 40 and disobeyed in verse 42 would seem to have been both given and received with the understanding that it was an order without authority or even any real purpose.

Notes on the book of Daniel

The refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to worship Nebuchadnezzar's gold statue appears to be disobedience plain and simple. It might be possible to interpret verses 16-18 as an acknowledgement on the part of the three friends that they could be wrong in this matter but this does not seem, to me at least, to be a very obvious or sensible interpretation. It is also possible, given that Nebuchadnezzar had already admitted that the God of Israel was the greatest God (chapter 2:46-47), that the three friends were attempting to remind the king of what he already knew. It might be pertinent to remember that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were themselves part of the government, and while this would not have put them above or beyond the law they might nonetheless have had some limited rights or duties to attempt to influence official policy. Given that Israel was a conquered nation in exile, it is possible that the three friends saw themselves primarily not as subjects of Nebuchadnezzar but as prisoners, and the Babylonians as friendly aliens to whom allegiance was required only for as long as necessary. In this case the three would have been rightly obeying their own governing authorities.

General Notes

Husband is to wife what Jesus is to church,

_ husband should lead wife as Jesus led church,

_ husband should be prepared to do for wife what Jesus did for church. So, what did Jesus do for his church? _ He taught, he led by example, he served (meeting needs, washing feet), he suffered, he died, he rebuked, he was patient, he ignored most of their faults, he prayed for them, he pointed them to God, he took the penalty of their sin1. _ He accepted praise and service.

Note 1:  Is it then possible: a. for an unbelieving wife to be saved by her husband's intercession and faith, or, b. for a husband to accept the penalty of his unbelieving wife's sin, and then perhaps nail it to the cross on her behalf, or, c. accept the penalty of her sin and die (spiritually, being eternally separated from God) in her place while she takes his salvation (to be eternally with God)?

Note 2:  There might be no direct intention to rebel against a human institution but this might happen as a side effect of some other desire — such as the desire to worship as a group in an atheistic communist state. The million dollar question is “what is the right thing (in God's opinion) to do in such a situation?”

Note 3:  David refused to attack or dishonour King Saul even though Saul was clearly acting contrary to the commands of God. Instead David trusted God to rectify the situation and in the meantime he kept himself out of reach of Saul while continuing to often do good for his own people when possible. He put himself outside the jurisdiction of the state yet remained faithful to that state and fulfilled his responsibilities as a citizen even though the ruling authority was corrupt and sought to harm him.

Special sections needed


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