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  • Writer's pictureRick LoPresti

Two views of authority

One of the main themes if not the main one of the Bible is authority. The scriptures continually pose the question, “Who is in charge, God or man?” Of course, the Bible affirms that God is ultimately in control of everything. However, God also gave man the power to make choices, even from the beginning (Gen 2:9-17, Deut 30:15-20, Josh 24:15). This power is not unlimited like God’s is, and our choices have consequences in this life and the next (Rom 14:10, 2Cor 5:10, Rev 20:11-15).

Jesus Christ is rightfully Lord over all. He owns us twice over. He is our Creator (Jn 1:1-14, Col 1:13-19), and He purchased our souls from sin with His own blood (Rev 5:9). He desires to rule over us, not out of some perverted need to be a control freak, but because He is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6). He is the good shepherd who gave His life for the sheep (Jn 10:1-16). There is no other who is righteous in himself (Rom 3:10-23, Rom 7). He is holy, and we all have a tainted, sinful nature. We need Him. He wants us but does not need us. He was alone in eternity and was the I AM (Ex 3:14), the self-existent One.

God created us for His pleasure (Rev 4:11). We should not see this through our own sinful hearts, but rather in light of His perfect nature of holiness, truth, and love (1Pet 1:15, 1Jn 4:8). His pleasure is not evil or selfish. He loved us so much He manifested Himself in the flesh and died for us (Jn 3:16, 1Tim 3:16). God has nothing to gain from us. He is God (Ps 50:7-15). He is complete within Himself and cannot be any more or less. It is us who benefit from Him. However, God desires for us to participate with Him. That is why we pray. Prayer is not for informing God. He already knows (Mt 6:32-33). It is not for getting God to do our will, but for us to do His will. Yet in His grace He considers our requests.

God is the only source of authority, but He delegates authority to man. He makes the man the head of the family (Gen 3:16, Eph 5:22-33). He designates various roles of spiritual authority including that of pastor (Eph 4:8-13, Heb 13:17). He also places limited authority in human government including the death penalty for murder (Gen 9:5-6, Ex 21, Rom 13:1-7). When God was establishing the Mosaic covenant, He knew the heart of man seeks his own control to his own destruction. He foresaw that Israel would desire to set up a king like the pagan nations (Deut 17:14-20). However, He placed some rules on who could be king and what the king could and should not do. He was to be a believer who read and kept the scriptures every day. He was not to seek riches or undue power. His heart was not to be lifted up above his brethren.

This day did not come until about 400 years after Israel entered the promised land. In the interim, God raised up judges to deliver them from their enemies and to lead them. The last judge was Samuel. When he was old, the Israelites saw that his sons were sinners and not fit to lead, so they asked him to appoint a king (1Sam 8). Samuel felt rejected even though he had been faithful. God told him it was not his authority they were rejecting, but God’s. They were right that Samuel was old and his sons were not fit to lead, but they were wrong in seeking human authority to replace God as their king. Samuel warned them that the king would oppress them, but they refused to listen. So, God told them that when they got what they asked for and they cried out to Him, He would not hear. This happened at the beginning of the reign of the fourth king, Rehoboam (1Ki 12). It directly resulted in the division of the kingdom into two, and they never recovered from it until both parts were destroyed (2Ki 17 and 25).

There are two views of human authority. There are those who understand that all authority comes from God. Thus, we are only stewards of God’s authority and are directly accountable to Him for what we do. There are others who want their authority to be independent of God. This is described throughout the Bible, and it is perfectly encapsulated in Psalm 2. This will ultimately be fulfilled by the antichrist (2Thes 2, Rev 19). Those who think their authority is their own without God seek to overthrow Him. This sounds like insanity, and it is. This is the heart of Satan. This is what the serpent convinced Adam and Eve to try (Gen 3:1-7), and man has been trying to do it and failing individually and collectively ever since. Every man, nation, and empire that has tried to establish its independence from God has failed, including Israel. Everyone that humbles himself under the mighty hand of God can hope in His mercy (Lk 14:11, Jam 4:1-10).

When the founding fathers of the United States drafted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they took into account the perfect nature of God and the sinful nature of man. This was the first form of government outside of Israel and the church to do so. The secular governments of the past and those of today took power by force and presumed absolute authority over other people. The government the American colonists sought independence from had the doctrine of the divine right of kings. They took the belief that all authority comes from God far beyond its meaning. They removed all the elements of restraint we read of in Deuteronomy 30. The form of government prescribed in the U.S. Constitution was a huge departure from the norm of the world, and it only works when those in government are submitted to the principles of the Bible. A departure from the scriptures is manifested in a departure from the Constitution’s principles, because they are based on the Bible. George Washington, the first U.S. president, said, “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.” John Jay, the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, said, “Providence has given to our people the choice of their ruler, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” Although the Constitution is technically still the founding document of America, the departure from following it we now see is only a reflection of the departure from God and the Bible that accompanies it. American and the world do not need a change in human government. We need to get under the government of God. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Mt 6:33).” The world is preoccupied with trying to fix the symptoms of it own unbelief on its own without God. The real solution to the underlying problem is found only in the Lord. Man cannot save himself. “I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour (Is 43:11)”. “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:11-12).”

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