What does the Bible teach about authority?

The Bible teaches that the world was created with an authority structure built into it. First of all, the Godhead has an authority structure with the Son under the Father's authority: "So Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise'" (John 5:19). The authority that Jesus has was given to Him by the Father (Matthew 28:18), and the whole world is under the authority of God. Daniel 2:20–21 says, "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding."

The Bible also clearly teaches that God is the one who gives earthly authorities their power. Since God is the one who has ultimately put them in authority, we are to obey them: "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people" (1 Peter 2:13–15). In Romans 13 Paul writes about what a Christian's attitude should be to government authority: "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" (Romans 13:1–3). God put human governors in place to create order and justice in the world. He designed this kind of authority on the basis of righteousness (Proverbs 16:2).

The Bible acknowledges the obvious discrepancy: very few human rulers are righteous. Peter addresses this issue: "Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps" (1 Peter 2:18–21). The Bible teaches also that we are to respect those who are working in ministry: "We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work" (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13).

While it may not be what we want to hear, God has put authority of various kinds in our lives for a reason. He works through these structures to bring justice and order to the world, and He expects us to walk in obedience and respect for those who are in authority over us.

Related Truth:

What does the Bible teach about honor?

What does the Bible say about being submissive? To whom are we to submit and why?

Are Christians subject to the laws of the land?

What does the Bible say about civil disobedience?

Why is it important to pray for our leaders? How should we pray for leaders?

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