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Biblical Examples Of Authority

If we visit other churches, we often discern different attitudes about church authority. As we enter into conversations with people about various practices of those in authority, do we do so with opinions based upon Bible principles? This subject is probably the most contested subject in the church, next to the calendar. There seem to be adherents ranging from not challenging anything a church official states to not believing there should be any authority by anyone.

Today I want to discuss with you the subject of authority by discussing various aspects of authority which are based upon Biblical principles.

To do this, I want to structure this sermon around about forty commonly referenced scriptures describing different categories of authority. These categories include:

Miscellaneous or undefined authority, Church authority, Employment authority, Family authority, and civil-governmental authority.

I will attempt to give an explanation and its source for each scripture which might be questioned.

We will spend more time and give more supporting detail to the category of church authority, but only because that is an area of major concern throughout the church. One example of scripture dealing with authority is:

1 Cor 11:3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

This is a metaphor(i.e. resemblance) of the authority between God and Christ, between Christ and the believing man, and between man and his believing wife.

Periodically, we will quote lexicons for better understanding of the meaning of the word in the original language prior to translation. Let's look at more examples of general authority.

(1 Sam 15:17-23) 17 So Samuel said [to King Saul], "When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel?
18 "Now the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, 'Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.'
19 "Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the LORD?"
20 And Saul said to Samuel, "But I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
21 "But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal."
22 Then Samuel said: "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king." [Does this also describe the rioters we see on the news?]
Gal 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore [G739] such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

G739 means to complete thoroughly, i.e. repair (literally or figuratively) or adjust:--fit, frame, mend, (make) perfect.

(Gen 2:24) Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
(Luke 9:11-27 NKJV) But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing. {12} When the day began to wear away, the twelve came and said to Him, "Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here." {13} But He said to them, "You give them something to eat." And they said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people." {14} For there were about five thousand men. Then He said to His disciples, "Make them sit down in groups of fifty." {15} And they did so, and made them all sit down. {16} Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude. {17} So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them. {18} And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" {19} So they answered and said, "John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again." {20} He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered and said, "The Christ of God." {21} And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, {22} saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day." {23} Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. {24} "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. {25} "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? {26} "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels. {27} "But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God."
(Psa 27:10) When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the LORD will take care of me.

H622. 'acaph, aw-saf'; a prim. root; means to gather for any purpose; hence to receive, take away, i.e. remove--assemble, bring, consume, destroy, fetch, gather

(Psa 31:3) For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name's sake, Lead [H5148] me and guide [H5095] me.

5148. nachah, naw-khaw'; a prim. root; to guide; by implication. to transport (into exile, or as colonists):--bestow, bring, govern, guide, lead (forth), put, straiten

5095. nahal, naw-hal'; a prim. root; prop. to run with a sparkle, i.e. flow; hence (trans.) to conduct, and (by infer.) to protect, sustain:--carry, feed, guide, lead (gently, on)

(Psa 75:6-7) For exaltation comes neither from the east Nor from the west nor from the south.

7 But God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another.

(Rom 8:28-30) 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Due to God's actions, not man's calling. This is further proof of predestination.

(Titus 2:11-15 NKJV) For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, {12} teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, {13} looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, {14} who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. {15} Speak these things, exhort [G3870], and rebuke [G1651] with all authority [G2003]. Let no one despise you.

Now let's look at some of the translations used:

G3870. parakaleo, par-ak-al-eh'-o; from G3844 and G2564; to call near, i.e. invite, invoke (by imploration, hortation or consolation):--beseech, call for, (be of good) comfort, desire, (give) exhort (-ation), intreat, pray

G1651. elegcho, el-eng'-kho; to confute, admonish:--convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove.

G2003. epitage, ep-ee-tag-ay'; from G2004; an injunction or decree; by implication authoritativeness:--authority, commandment

Notice what verse 15 says. Speak these things (verses 11-14). Exhort your listeners to pay attention. Rebuke counter arguments. These are all verbal. It does not give the speaker authority over other's lives. It only makes powerful points to the audience. These are pointers for people giving sermons too. It does not describe government.

Now let's address the relationship of church leaders with the flock.

(1 Pet 5:1-3 NKJV) The elders [G4245] who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: {2} Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; {3} nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;

G4245. presbuteros, pres-boo'-ter-os; compar. of presbus (elderly); older; as noun, a senior; specifically. an Israeli. Sanhedrist (also figuratively a. member of the celestial council) or in Christianity a "presbyter":--elder (-est), old.

(1 The 5:12-13) And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you [G4291] in the Lord and admonish [G3560] you,
13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. Be at peace among yourselves.

G4291. proistemi, pro-is'-tay-mee; from G4253 and G2476; to stand before, i.e. (in rank) to preside.

Vines Dictionary of New Testament Words defines proistemi as "to lead, to direct, attend to" with reference to the church.

G3560. noutheteo, noo-thet-eh'-o; from the same as G3559; to put in mind, i.e. (by implication.) to caution or reprove gently:--admonish, warn

(1 Tim 5:17 NKJV) Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.

Again, G4291. proistemi, pro-is'-tay-mee; from G4253 and G2476; to stand before, i.e. (in rank) to preside, or (by implication) to practice:--maintain, be over, rule.

Vines Dictionary of NT Words defines proistemi as "to lead, to direct, attend to" with reference to the church. In the meaning of today's vocabulary, we would question whether Queen Elizabeth rules the United Kingdom, but she certainly is the monarch. Perhaps a question which could be asked about this argument is, "Is this the result of philosophical confusion over the functioning of democracy, or simply the result of evolution of the language?"

1 Tim 5:1-2 Do not rebuke [G1969] an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, {2} older women as mothers, younger as sisters, with all purity.

G1969. epiplesso, ep-ee-place'-so; from G1909 and G4141; to chastise, i.e. (with words) to upbraid:--rebuke

Here is the difference between a Christian's involvement in war and a non-Christian's:

(2 Cor 10 NKJV) Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ; who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you. {2} But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. {3} For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. {4} For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, {5} casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, {6} and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. {7} Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ's, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ's, even so we are Christ's. {8} For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority [G1849 - exousia], which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed; {9} lest I seem to terrify you by letters. {10} "For his letters," they say, "are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible." {11} Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present. {12} For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. {13} We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us; a sphere which especially includes you. {14} For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ; {15} not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men's labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere, {16} to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's sphere of accomplishment. {17} But "he who glories, let him glory in the LORD." {18} For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.

G1849. exousia, ex-oo-see'-ah; from G1832 (in the sense of ability); privilege, i.e. (subjectively) force, capacity, competency, freedom, or (objectively) mastery (concretely magistrate, superhuman, potentate, token of control), delegated influence:--authority.

The bottom line in terms of authority seems to be that God gave Paul the authority to build us up, not tear us down. See verse 8. This is not an authority over people, but the authority for the apostles to teach. This may all be the result of metonymy (me-ton'e-me) - the substitution of a suggestive word for the name of the thing meant. In my view, that is the case. The Jewish New Testament reads "For even if I boast a little too much about the authority the Lord has given us - authority to build you up, not tear you down - I am not ashamed."

(Acts 4:19) But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.

We must please God more than religious leaders.

(Acts 5:1-11 NKJV) But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. {2} And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet. {3} But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? {4} "While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." {5} Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. {6} And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. {7} Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. {8} And Peter answered her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?" She said, "Yes, for so much." {9} Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." {10} Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. {11} So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.

They were punished by the spirit of the Lord, not Peter, for lying to God.

Heb 13:7 NKJV Remember [G3421] those who rule [G2233] over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.

G2233 hegeomai, hayg-eh'-om-ahee; to lead, i.e. command (with official authority); fig. to deem. The word is mistranslated "rule" in the KJV, but means to lead or guide according to Vines Dictionary of NT Words, and Young's Concordance. "Guide" is also shown in the margin of the KJV.

G3421. mnemoneuo, mnay-mon-yoo'-o; from a derivative of G3420; to exercise memory, i.e. recollect; by implication. to punish; also to rehearse:--make mention, be mindful, remember.

Heb 13:17 NKJV Obey [G3982] those who rule [G2233] over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

G3982 peitho, pi'-tho; a prim. verb; to convince (by argument, true or false); by analogy. to pacify or conciliate (by other fair means). The word is mistranslated "obey" in the KJV, but means to persuade or win over according to Vines Dictionary of NT Words, and Young's Concordance. Also see Luke 16:31 which uses the same word.

G3982 means to have confidence in your guides - submit to them G5226

(Luke 9:1-6 NKJV) Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority [G1849] over all demons, and to cure diseases.

Again, G1849. exousia, ex-oo-see'-ah; means to have privilege, i.e. (subjectively) force, capacity, competency, freedom, or (objectively) have mastery --authority, jurisdiction, liberty, power, right, strength.

{2} He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. {3} And He said to them, "Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece. {4} "Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. {5} "And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them." {6} So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

(Mat 20:20-28 NKJV) Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. {21} And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to Him, "Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom." {22} But Jesus answered and said, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They said to Him, "We are able." {23} So He said to them, "You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father." {24} And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. {25} But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority [G715] over them. {26} "Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant [G1249]. {27} "And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave [G1401]; {28} "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

Now let's investigate the meaning of the words used in verses 25-28.

G715. katexousiazo, kat-ex-oo-see-ad'-zo; from G2596 and G1850; to have (wield) full privilege over:--exercise authority

G1249. diakonos, dee-ak'-on-os; prob. from diako (to run on errands; comp. G1377); an attendant, i.e. a waiter (at table or in other menial duties); spec. a Christian. teacher and pastor (technically. a deacon or deaconess):--deacon, minister, servant. The KJV incorrectly translates this application of diakonos as "minister". The NKJV, NASB, RSV, and NIV correctly translate diakonos as "servant"in this verse. Christ also clarifies this in verse 28. When reading the KJV, it is important to separate the noun "minister" from the verb "to minister", which denotes serving.

G1401. doulos, doo'-los; from G1210;a slave (literally or figuratively, involuntary or voluntary; frequently therefore in a qualified sense of subjection or subserviency):--bond (-man), servant

We cannot continue without some additional information regarding the Greek word "diakonos" which we encountered in verse 26. Diakonos is found in 28 NT scriptures, two of them twice. In the KJV, diakonos is nearly always translated as "minister"; only a few scriptures translated diakonos as "servant". The NASB translates it as "minister" only seven times, the rest being translated as "servant". Vines concurs that either "servant" or "deacon" is the correct translation. The use of the word "minister" is a carryover from English practice and implies civil authority. The practice of titling church leaders as "ministers" is another carryover.

Now let's look at employment relationships as prescribed in the Bible.

(1 Pet 2:18-20 NKJV) Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. {19} For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. {20} For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.
1 Tim 6:1 Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.

This verse refers to honoring employers.

(1 Tim 6:2-4 NKJV) And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. Teach and exhort these things. {3} If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, {4} he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions,
Col 3:23-24 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,
24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
Eph 6:9 And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

Now let's look at Biblically defined family relationships.

1 Cor 11:3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
1 Cor 14:34 Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive [G5293], as the law also says.

G5293. hupotasso, hoop-ot-as'-so; from G5259 and G5021; to subordinate; reflex. to obey:--be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.

The law referred to is Gen 3:16 so they are to be submissive and obedient to their husband, not some official of the church..

(Gen 3:16 NKJV) . . . . . Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you."
1 Cor 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.
Col 3:18 Wives, submit [G5293] to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

This is the same Greek word we just referred to in 1 Cor 14:34.

Col 3:20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.
(Eph 6:1-3 NKJV) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. {2} "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: {3} "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."
Prov 15:5 A fool despises his father's instruction, But he who receives correction is prudent.
(Prov 6:20-24 NKJV) My son, keep your father's command, And do not forsake the law of your mother. {21} Bind them continually upon your heart; Tie them around your neck. {22} When you roam, they will lead you; When you sleep, they will keep you; And when you awake, they will speak with you. {23} For the commandment is a lamp, And the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life, {24} To keep you from the evil woman, From the flattering tongue of a seductress.

Lastly, let's consider our responsibility to the authority of civil government.

1 Pet 2:13-14 NKJV Therefore submit [G5293 again] yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, {14}or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.
1 Sam 24:10 NKJV "Look, this day your eyes have seen that the LORD delivered you today into my hand in the cave, and someone urged me to kill you. But my eye spared you. But my eye spared you, and I said, 'I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord's anointed.'

This verse refers to David's opportunity to kill King Saul. As this verse and the following scriptures indicate, we must not attempt to destroy civil leaders. They may very well have been appointed to their position by God. Our duty is to peaceably obey their laws.

Prov 21:1 NKJV The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.
Rom 13:1-5 NKJV) Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities [G1849]. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. {2} Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. {3} For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority [G1849]? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. {4} For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. {5} Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake.

Again G1849. exousia, ex-oo-see'-ah; from G1832 (in the sense of ability); privilege, i.e. (subjectively) force, capacity, competency, freedom, or (objectively) mastery (concretely magistrate, superhuman, potentate, token of control), delegated influence:--authority, jurisdiction, liberty, power, right, strength.

Titus 3:1 NKJV Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities [G1849 - exousia], to obey, to be ready for every good work, {2} to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.

According to Vines, G1849 in this verse refers to a civil magistrate.

So, we have looked at many examples of biblical statements and principles about authority. How do they compare with your opinions and practices? Do you have to change some of your opinions and practices to comply with biblical principles? Please review what is written in your bible and change your actions where necessary.

Sermon given by Wayne Bedwell
November 16, 2013
Copyright 2013, Wayne Bedwell

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