BASIC AUTHORITY RANKING AS REVEALED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Posted by RJ Dawson
God has all authority. In His wisdom, He shares His authority through official delegation. Among people, there is an uncomplicated organizational order with spiritual authority ranking above secular rule.
NEW COVENANT AUTHORITY 101
The following chart reveals basic New Covenant authority and who ranks where. It is not complicated. There is no hierarchy. Like everything else in the New Covenant Scriptures this should be second nature for all Christians. But like everything else in the New Covenant Scriptures, the subject of authority has been shanghaied by interlopers and rewritten to suit themselves. Hey, if the Pharisees could do it regarding the Old Testament, and of course, they did, right in the midst of the Lord Jesus, with no reservations, what makes one think Christian Pharisees cannot do the same regarding the New Testament?
THE LORD JESUS:
He has all authority in heaven and earth. He is God. He is also Man. He is thus the Mediator between God and man:
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. [1Timothy 2:5]
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” [Matthew 28:18]
But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. [1Corinthians 11:3]
God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. [2Corinthians 5:19]
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” [Matthew 1:23]
“I and the Father are one.” [John 10:30]
THE COMMUNITY OF THE CALLED-OUT ONES:
The Lord Jesus shares His authority with those who have submitted properly and fully to His authority and places them in positions of spiritual authority. He set the example for this as a Man, the Last Adam, receiving spiritual authority from God. He was the first:
But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men. [Matthew 9:8]
Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. [Matthew 10:1]
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. [Galatians 3:26-29]
The Lord gives authority to those in legitimate positions of civil authority as recognized by Him who honor their positions appropriately and are generally supported by the people. As a check on civil authority by the Lord’s people, see Peter and John’s response in Acts 4:19-20. This proves the authority of the Lord’s Community supersedes governmental authority.
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good.
But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. [Romans 13:1-7]
Each individual has personal authority over his or her own life as granted by the Lord. Each person has the freedom to make his or her own choices, including whether or not to be delivered from sin, to be His disciple, and to possess eternal life. Where one ends up when this short life is over is strictly and fully up to the individual who alone has the power to make that choice. God has given every individual a free will to choose his or her own eternal fate.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” [Matthew 7:7-14]
© 2020 by R.J. Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
 Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Posted on August 24, 2020, in Teaching and tagged Authority, Choose For Yourselves This Day Whom You Will Serve, Community of the Called-Out Ones, Disciples, Early Church, Individual Rights, Jesus is God, Lord Jesus, New Covenant, Spiritual Authority. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.
I still find the governing authorities one confusing.
Thanks for reading and for the comment. From my perspective, the issue of governing authorities not seeming to fulfill what Paul writes about them in Romans is due to the abuse perpetrated by certain ones within the overall structure.
For the most part the people involved in government in general are likely not believers and this allows for a percentage of them to abuse their authority. So we need to look at it from an overall point of view. We understand the need for law and order because a portion of the population does not care about the rights and lives of others. The people in the world who do care about basic good living and try hard to fulfill being good citizens must therefore be protected from those who would harm them. If there were no governing authorities to invoke this protection the bad guys would have free reign to inflict damage and hurt others. Of course, some in this category do it anyway because they have no regard for others whatsoever nor do they fear penalties.
The bigger issue involves those governing authorities who abuse their authority. The resistance against their abuse must come from the abused. In other words, populations in general always dictate how far they will allow deviant authority figures to go. If they put up with it, it will never stop and only get worse. I am not talking about basic government which is a good thing. But government must be as small as possible and must be a servant to the law abiders, just as the ministers of the Gospel who get it right according to the Lord’s teachings are as servants.
Populations of strong, law-abiding people who strive to order their lives and treat people right should never have to put up with corrupt people in government. If the bad guys are there, however, it is because the people allow them to be. In countries where people have the vote, people actually vote for and support evil leaders. People are not supposed to have to submit to evil leaders. There are thus means also set in place by God to remove them. Such removal happens a lot though often not as fast as we would like. We often don’t know of the evil practices perpetrated by evil leaders until much later. We have to be more aware. People often support bad people in government simply because they are unaware of their abuse of power. This still makes the people complicit, however.
In the meantime individuals must still submit and do the best they can. It works much better if an individual first submits fully to the Lord, who can always be trusted and will never, ever abuse us. We can then ask Him to intervene on our behalf. We can ask Him to take authority over unrighteous rulers.
Christians have a great weapon at our disposal—prayer. Prayer works. If our attitude is right and we have no bad intent toward people but only want to be relieved of the abuse of authority, He will take care of it His way in His time. I believe, however, that most people who serve as “governing authorities” do their best to get it right and treat people right. They do well in fulfilling the intent of the Lord.
Blessings to you.
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Thank you for your further explanation which does make sense…and I assumed it was something like that.
However, what if you live in a cruel dictatorship (and generally they are cruel…I’m not sure if there have ever been any benevolent dictatorships) and not a democracy. It would seem to me that despotic governments are often got rid of by uprisings of the population, by violent force, or by the military who have got fed up. The other option I would think in those situations would be prayer for God to change things.
And what about, say, someone like Hitler..there were a few assassination attempts Also, take the Suffragette movement Many of the leaders of the movement advised against civil disobedience, but many of the protesters smashed windows and all sorts to try and alter things. And protestors still often do these kinds of things…or at least very unhelpful things, turning others against their cause in the process (even if it is a good cause) Personally, I don’t think it is right to cause this kind of mayhem, at least not in a democracy where there are other ways and means…not least of which is, as you say, seeking God and praying for His ways and His deliverance etc..
Thanks. For starters, those who are attempting to root out unrighteousness violate their own cause when they lower themselves to the level of the unrighteous. The otherwise righteous, at least by their initial outer appearance and rhetoric, become, by adopting unrighteous actions, the effective unrighteous, and thus not really much different than those they attempt to overthrow. In this scenario we should consequently see that the respective fight regarding these two forces is not necessarily one of darkness and light but darkness and darkness. It can simply be two gangs vying for turf. There are not necessarily any good guys because the good guys are identified by righteous words and righteous actions as defined by the Lord’s teachings.
Regarding evil tyrants, their presence is usually due to the existence of an opening due to a breakdown somewhere of initial proper government and a lack of accountability, which the bad guys take advantage of and flow into. Again, the people at large are somehow in part responsible because they allow it. It does not take many righteous to overthrow the unrighteous. One must consider the Gideon paradigm when God started out with 32,000 projected warriors to fight off the evil Midianites but then whittled His chosen fighting force down to an otherwise mere 300. And what did the 300 use for weapons? —Clay pots, torches, and trumpets. These are allegorical of the weapons of righteousness and spiritual warfare.
Whatever method the Lord may use to eliminate corruption in government, He will only do it, and possibly can only do it, if enough people, whatever that number may be, rise up in righteousness to serve and honor Him first and present themselves as worthy of good government. One sure way to do this is submit to Him because He embodies good (perfect) government. Again, it only takes a relative few fully awakened and consistently spiritually strong to wake up the rest and bring victory.
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Thank you for such an excellent breakdown of the levels of authority, according to Scripture. I like your statement, “The Lord Jesus shares His authority with those who have submitted properly and fully to His authority.” The phrase “properly and fully” is where we can, at times, stumble in a given circumstance. I also believe that many Christians today tend to reverse levels two and three, especially in the United States, where laws are passed that stand in clear opposition to God’s word. Great post!
Thanks Darryl. I appreciate it. It has been a very sad thing to see so many Christians lay down over the last few months and surrender without a fight. With reference to what you stated about reversing numbers two and three on my chart, such Christians and Christian leaders who do are obviously confused at best, or at worse, failing to live up to their standing in the Lord. For perspective, the original believers fully submitted to their governing authorities but never when it meant they must disobey the Lord. The governing authority that the Lord has instituted respects the rights of His people, especially as it pertains to living for Him and spreading the Gospel. He would never institute something that violates the rights of His people or honest, law-abiding people.
The problem then, arises from the abuse of power. Christians must not stand for any abuse of power. However, because we are instructed to love people even if they act as our enemies, and this also includes people in government, and because we are also instructed that the spiritual fight is not against people but against unseen demonic forces, the abuse of power must be dealt with His way.
Yet, when it comes to such a clear cut abuse of government power in a supposedly free country with the constitutional rights of freedom of religion and assembly, the Christian leaders who failed to figure things out last spring and are still accepting the false narrative are proving that they are either not real Christians at all or are extremely weak and unaware Christians. It is good that a few well-known ministers are finally taking a stand. There have undoubtedly been many not so well-known who have been doing it right all along. Some of these were abused even further. If Christians in general allow for abuse and accept it, they are willfully also allowing for the abuse of the Lord Jesus instead of standing up for Him. Hopefully, all these people will wake up soon.
The devil will not give up. Of that we can be assured, especially when he has so many on the ropes. Through the many and diverse spiritual weapons at our disposal given by the Lord, it is high time American Christians in general start fighting back spiritually with all they have and put an end to the overall gross abuse of power and assist in restoring the Republic.
The Lord is on our side.
Blessings to you.
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Thank you…yes. But another couple of questions arise. There are countries, notably China and N Korea where believers have to be underground. I daresay they pray and do ‘spiritual’ warfare to overthrow their Godless leaders. But it seems to me that miracles would have to happen to change things in those countries (leadership/government having encounters with Christ?). Because in those of places Christians (and no doubt adherents of other religions) get stamped on hard. They all have to toe the Party line…what a nightmare.
The other thing is, what of wars? Is it OK to defend one’s country when being attacked? And on an individual level, if someone came into one’s house and tried killing wife/husband/children, does one defend oneself even to the point of injuring/killing that person? In the UK one does have a right to defend oneself but with as little force as necessary. If one does accidentally kill a person in the process then it has to be proven that one has used as little restraint as possible.
The thing is, Jesus was able to live on earth without having to physically defend Himself (until He had to go to the Cross which he submitted to.) But what would He have done had he had wife/children/whoever whom someone was trying to rape/beat up/kill? Would He have stood aside or what?
I know these are long-debated ethical/moral/spiritual questions…but perhaps because we are still not ‘perfect’ we find these things hard to deal with. And because we live in a fallen world, there seems to be with many issues, lots of grey areas….if a six year old gets raped and becomes pregnant for example, I perfectly understand why an abortion might be obtained (I am basically against abortions…but when things like this happen there are so many ifs and buts and the most dreadful potential knock-on effects.
Sorry I’m going on at some length here but the world is it seems to me, basically a cesspit (with a lot of gold and silver threaded through). I find when I pray that it is quite overwhelming. And yet, through prayer, things are achieved, even if individually in very small ways in one’s own locality…and of course when one is prepared to listen to and obey God’s leading
Thanks. Big questions. It appears that on the surface there are no possible solutions. One thing I have found helpful, regarding world events and current international realities, is to research the origins of nations and governments. It takes a lot of work but much of the basic information is readily available. Much of the more detailed variety is available also but harder to find. Part of this is because history is written by the victors, so to speak. There is also a lot of disinformation and obfuscation to wade through and deal with.
It is much more often the case than people realize that outside forces invade countries stealthily and set up governments of their own making. It looks like one thing on the surface but is entirely different behind the scenes. The presence of the outside forces is purposely hidden. The world as we know it is still about geography in our minds, but is actually about economic forces. We see borders on maps differentiating countries but such is deceptive. Let me put it this way as an example:
America was originally composed of separate colonies, each with its own respective administration. During the American Revolution, and immediately after, the separate colonies, since they were no longer under British rule after independence was declared, became independent sovereign states held together only in a loose confederation with a common goal with no actual predominant federal government. When the American Constitution was ratified seven years after the fighting ended, an official federal government was created but the states were still sovereign entities. All this changed with the Civil War when the federal government made a huge power grab, essentially violating the Constitution, and each state was no longer a sovereign entity, at least not nearly as independent as before. Since then the individual states have become mere parts of an overall whole with the federal government gaining the much greater part of ruling authority in which it dictates to the states. The sovereignty that each state once possessed was taken through various means and degrees over time and absorbed into one dominant entity ruling over them.
Now, picture this happening to the world at large but only through economic power, in which the real rulers are the few with the money and who control the money and set up puppets as the face of government. We then get a better idea of who is in charge, why things work the way they do, and why the enemy has essentially become invisible. For example, China only became the great force it is due to outside money and influence. Who was originally behind the origin of Communism in China? Do we think it is any different with NK? This is a book length subject but suffice it to say that the Lord taught that one must choose to either serve God or serve money. Those who serve money, no matter how powerful the great economic international power brokers have become, are operating on a lower level of authority than those who serve God.
Returning to our example of China, after Mao died in 1976 the country began changing rapidly as the West financed its economic rise. But also, a spiritual Awakening began. The Chinese people had been under the dominance of Mao and hard core Communism for roughly thirty years and yearned for freedom. They also, thus, expressed this freedom spiritually. The Chinese Christian Awakening began growing and in a relatively short time grew into a massive movement. I’ve lost track of the current numbers but I do recall a rough figure of 100 million. It is likely much more. The 100 million, an otherwise impossibly large figure, started with a mere few and grew inside a Communist country in which real Christianity was illegal. And this was truly real Christianity, as per the Book of Acts.
As the movement grew, the “government,” which is actually the economic forces (remember, God and money), fought against it all the more but it continued to grow anyway. To some degree it appears that maybe the movement has been somewhat compromised by the great wealth that now exists there. But the point here is that those Christians took authority and operated in their God-given spiritual authority and still do. You never read about it in the MSM but they are there and have powerful spiritual influence. One wonders if God is blessing China because of their presence. The end of the story there has not yet been written, of course, but if the spiritual course continues China will eventually become a Christian country.
Cannot this same dynamic occur anywhere else in the world? Especially in “Christian” nations? Of course, the long view tells us that over the last 120 years or so, there has been a powerful Christian spiritual Awakening worldwide to various degrees in various places. Again, you generally won’t find this news in the MSM, which has long since been purchased by the economic forces who control the news. It will take more research than most people are willing to do but the facts are out there.
As a final part of understanding this dynamic concerning spiritual and secular authority, we need only look at the original Christians and the Roman Empire. The former started with ONE MAN and then a mere 120 in the Upper Room while the RE was growing toward its height, achieved about a century later. Though impossible according to the perspective of that time, the great Roman Empire eventually died out and ceased to exist in the late fifth century but Christianity continued growing by leaps and bounds and remains a powerful force in the world today. This was spiritual authority (God) greatly outperforming and surpassing government authority (money). When Christians get their priorities right, the Gospel works as it was intended.
Thank you very much again for the great reply. And of course you are right about economic forces. I think the points you raise are at least part of why so many (including me) were/are against the EU. I certainly believe that the EU arose through insidious means and I have always distrusted it.
Again, thank you for taking the time to give me your very considered replies..You have made some things a little clearer for me.
You are welcome. Later.
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Great piece of writing!
Thanks. Blessings to you.