Submission to Authority

by Heath Rogers

We have discussed the need for authority in religious matters, the proper source for authority, and how to establish Bible authority. In this article, we will consider the importance of responding properly to God’s authority.

Authority is defined as “the power or right to give commands, enforce obedience, take action, or make final decisions” (Webster’s New World Dictionary, page 94). Note the word obedience in the definition. If one has the legitimate power or right to give us a command, it is our place to respond in obedience. God has all authority. His will is revealed in the Bible. We must respond to His will (expressed by statements, commands, approved examples, and necessary inferences found in the Bible) with obedience.

Submission to authority is a difficult topic for many people in various aspects of life. We don’t like to yield ourselves to the will of another, but this is exactly what is called for by the word authority. Jesus asked, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). The term “Lord” is a title with a specific meaning. It is translated from the Greek word kurios which means “supreme in authority.” Why would we acknowledge Jesus as being supreme in authority over us and not respond in obedience to His authority?

In Matthew 8:5-13, Jesus healed a Roman centurion’s servant. This centurion made a statement that showed he understood the proper way to respond to authority. “The centurion answered and said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, “Go,” and he goes; and to another, “Come,” and he comes; and to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it’” (Matthew 8:8-9).

This centurion understood what it meant to be “under authority.” Before he learned how to give orders, he had first learned how to take orders. When he told a soldier under his command to “go,” “come,” or “do this,” they responded in obedience. Although he was a commander in the Roman army, he still had commanding officers over himself. When they told him to “go,” “come,” or “do this,” he responded in obedience. When God’s word tells us to “go,” “come,” or “do this,” we must respond in obedience.

Brother Kyle Pope has penned the following words on this passage in his commentary on Matthew:

“Those who would follow Jesus today must recognize that as servants of God we are ‘under his authority.’ No, we do not hear the voice of Jesus directly commanding us, but as his servants we are given instruction through his revealed word in Scripture. His word is as powerful today as it was when it was first spoken. This word guides us through all it contains, in its direct statements, its descriptions of what pleased God, and in the truths that it infers. To presume to direct our own steps in matters or worship, teaching, or lifestyle is to reject the authority of God. To respect God’s word is not legalism but a gesture of humble obedience and faith in the one who authored that word” (Truth Commentaries, Matthew, pp. 256-257).

Before His ascension into heaven, Jesus gave the Great Commission to His apostles. He began this commission by stating, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). With this supreme authority, Jesus told the apostles to go and make disciples of all the nations. These baptized disciples were to be taught to observe all things that Jesus had commanded (vs. 19-20). Our duty as disciples of Christ is to observe the things commanded by Him through His apostles.

The study of Bible authority is a waste of time if we aren’t willing to make the proper application to our lives. As our Creator, God is in a position of supreme authority over us. He further appeals to us with His goodness as our Sustainer and Savior. When these facts are honestly considered with a humble heart, we will submit to His authority. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

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