Submission to Authority

Part of the series Feedback
Written by Léo Gaumont, published on 2014-02-03.

A question was asked: As Christian men when should we fight and what does it look like, in view of the biblical reference to submit to authority?

We do not claim to have all the right answers but based on our present understanding of the scriptures, we will do our best to bring a little clarity to your queries.

Bible Reference: Rom. 13:1-2

There are actually three issues in this question. The question of when we fight is based on the definition of authority which then requires a clarification on what this should look like. All are very difficult questions to answer and ones that have troubled me for many years. I have opinions about this based on a lot of thought in light of my understanding of scripture.

Taken literally, the question of submission to authority found in Romans would indeed suggest that if someone or something is in a position of authority, we must acknowledge this authority and submit to it. However, to submit to an authority that normalizes or advances what scripture clearly states as wrong creates a dilemma for believers who hold the Bible as authoritative. In another scripture (1 Cor. 15:24) where the Apostle Paul is addressing end times prophecy, he refers to a time when Christ delivers the Kingdom to God the Father who “puts an end to all rule, all authority and all power”. Now I don’t claim to be an expert here, but it would appear to me that if God puts an end to all rule, authority and power, He would effectively put an end to Himself as He is all Rule, Authority and Power. More insight is obtained, if we consider the possibility that there could be two types of rule, authority and power. When considering that the biblical narrative clearly states that there are two sides to everything, such as right versus wrong, heaven versus hell, or more generally, being for or against Him, it does make sense that rule, authority and power can also come in either a true or a false version of each. Since putting an end to all rule, authority and power cannot mean God putting an end to Himself, it only makes sense that He puts an end to all false rule, false authority and false power.

Therefore, when the question of submission to authority comes up, it is reasonable, actually imperative, that one questions whether the claim being made to authority is a legitimate, true claim or an illegitimate, false claim. Are there false authorities in this broken and fallen world? Yes. Do these false authorities know they are false authorities? Maybe, but not necessarily. That is why the admonishment to submit to all authority is difficult to understand and often a point of contention. I personally believe that we do, indeed, have to submit to the authorities that God has ordained, but even here we must be wise and discerning as I also believe that if we unquestioningly acknowledge and submit to all claims to authority, we inadvertently agree, enable and empower false claims to authority. We have been advised to “render onto Caesar, the things that are Caesar’s and onto God the things that are God’s”. Good counsel as long as we can distinguish what belongs to whom.

To Be Continued, next week.

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