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Monday, November 19, 2012

A Brief Word on Authority...

I tried to write a longer blog post for today, but after I wrote it, I felt it was too long and involved.  It seemed to belong in a scholarly journal somewhere, not this blog. I might revise it and bring it out later, but for now, I needed to get back to the basics.

Stepping back from it all, I realized that the biggest point I was trying to make is that the basis of all authority comes from God, who in His very nature established a dividing line between sin and righteousness, truth and lie.  This is not changed or dimmed by the authority He has given to earthly kings, lawmakers, teachers, parents, etc.  Here's the text I'm studying (Romans 13: 1-5) :
 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
When the Bible says that Christians are to submit to the governing authorities that God has established, it is not saying that those authorities should replace God as the final authority in our lives. It is also not suggesting that we respect the governing authorities to the extent that we reject God's authority.  Rather, by continuing to do right, even if those in authority do what is wrong and allow others to do what is wrong, we hold ourselves to a higher standard of respect for authority--respecting the highest authority, which is God. In essence, we go beyond what is required by lesser authorities and stay well within the boundaries of their laws.

When this passage calls governing authorities "agents of [God's] wrath," it is not to say that the governing authorities always share God's feelings about sin; however, they are sometimes used by God to bring punishment on those who reject authority and law.  This is not to say that lawmakers go around randomly punishing people without even knowing why they are doing it. We are talking about natural consequences, when doing things "our own way" eventually puts us at odds with those in authority over us.  There is a reason why God called certain things wrong in the first place, and even the most lenient of lawmakers agree with God's ideas at some point along the line.

Do you have more to add?  I'd love to hear your insights in the comments section.