If you want to get a good argument going, all you have to do is bring up the topics of authority and submission. Trying to discuss the importance of authority and submission in today’s culture is sure to ignite a lot of healthy and not-so-healthy debate. Yet, it is important to have a biblical understanding of these two words if any marriage, organization, or society is going to be able to survive. In fact, the reason we are such a divided country and why there is so much crime, corruption and mistrust in all aspects of life is because we have rejected all forms of authority that are necessary for a civilization to survive.
People in authority are viewed with skepticism and suspicion. The very mention of the need for “submission” to authority is met with hostility and resentment. The concept of submission to authority is always looked at from a very negative viewpoint and anyone who is in a position of authority is seen as being power-hungry and merely wanting to control and, even, enslave others. However, authority and submission are biblical principles that are a reflection of the very nature of God.
God is authority and exercises it over everything. The concept of submission is seen within the Trinity before any of this universe was ever spoken into being. When God created man in His image, God gave man “dominion” over the earth. This means man had God-given authority over the earth and all living things on the earth.
To get a glimpse of the wonder and beauty of the principles of authority and submission, one only has to look at the life of Jesus. As God, Jesus, had authority over the seas when He commanded them to be still. He also had authority over sickness and disease; for He healed many who came to Him by simply speaking a word. Jesus exercised full authority over demons by casting them out of tormented people and sometimes not even allowing these spirits to speak. Of course, we also know that Christ showed ultimate authority when He commanded Lazarus to come out of the grave — a man who had been dead for four days.
Even though Jesus had great authority, He is also a beautiful picture of submission. Consider what Jesus said on several occasions about His desire to submit to the Father’s will.
And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. Matthew 26:39
He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. Matthew 26:42
For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. John 6:38
And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:28
Who [Christ], being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:5-9
From these verses it can be said that both the reality of authority and submission to authority is not something that is negative and, therefore, should be avoided at all cost. But these realities are actually divine in nature. If this is the case, why do people bristle against the concept of authority structures and literally rebel at the notion of the need for everyone to submit to someone else? The answer is found in what took place in the Garden in Genesis 3. As Christians, we refer to this as the Fall.
Before the Fall, man lived in perfect harmony with God. Man lived in full submission to His authority as sovereign Creator of the universe. This all changed when sin entered the picture. In fact, the actual sin that Adam committed was the rejection of God’s authority in his life. By eating of the fruit that God had forbidden him to eat, Adam was rebelling against God’s authority to tell him what he should and/or should not do. In reality, all sin is some form or another of man’s refusal to submit to the will of God. It shows that man is determined to live his life by, in the words of Frank Sinatra, doing it MY way! (emphasis mine).
From Genesis 3 till the end of life here on earth, every person is born with a sin nature that demands autonomy. No one should be able to tell me what I am supposed to do or not do! I have my rights! It is my life and I will do with it what I want to! These are all things we hear people boasting about every day. I think we would agree that the first thing most children learn to say is NO! We want to be in control period!
Here are just a few examples of people in Scripture who rejected God’s authority in their lives and refused to submit to His will. In each case, the consequences were disastrous.
- Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit
- Cain refusing to bring an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord
- Israel’s unwillingness to enter the Promised Land
- Israel wanting a king so they can be like other nations
- Pharisees rejecting the Messiah
- Prodigal demanding “his” inheritance
- Elder son refusing to celebrate his brother’s return
- Judas’ betrayal of Christ
If we are going to raise up future generations that will live their lives in ways that will glorify God and impact and expand His kingdom here on earth, we must not only understand the biblical principles of authority and submission but, more importantly, embrace these two principles in all areas of our lives.
There are many things that we need to understand and re-introduce into our lives, our families and, even, our churches about authority and submission. However, there are only two things that I will mention in this post. Here are some truths that have helped me understand and respond properly to authority and submission.
- God ordains all authority. Most of us can probably list Scripture passages that make this point very clear. The reason this is so important is because it also means that every time anyone in history has refused to submit to his/her authority, he/she has, in essence, rejected God’s authority in his/her life. This is specifically stated in Scripture when Israel demanded a king. God told Samuel that the people weren’t rejecting Samuel but were rejecting Him.
- Authority isn’t about importance and status. It is only for function. Someone who is placed in a position of authority, especially in alignment with Scripture, isn’t more important than any other person(s). Authority is a God-ordained structure to ensure that people function properly. This is true for a family, a school or other organization, a church, or a community/society.
In future posts, we will discuss some specifics about the functioning of authority structures and what God expects out of all of us when it comes to authority and submission to it. In closing, here are some questions we all need to ponder.
- Do you have a negative image of people in authority and/or the idea of submission to authority?
- In what ways do you reject/resist someone in authority?
- Are there areas in your life, your family, work, etc. where you struggle with submission?
- What kind of an example are you to your children/youth/students when it comes to exercising authority and/or submitting to it?
Your comments are important so please share your thoughts on this topic below.