Pop Quiz: The Authority Test

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Tests communicate who we really are. They're about refining our character, and the authority test is no exception! This test comes to reveal our attitude and willingness to submit to God-given authority even when we disagree. Before we can be good leaders, we must learn to be good followers.

The first words that a child says always seem so cute. I remember when my kids said “Mommy” or “Dad” (It was always dad). However, there is a word that children learn to say that’s not quite so cute. Do you know what it is? “No!” As children grow older we might overhear them say to an older brother or sister, “You’re not my boss.” A little older they’ll say things like, “I can’t wait until I get older, so I can do what I want to do.”

Sometimes it seems like we never quite grow out of that attitude. I believe it’s a by-product of the sinful nature we fight against. It seems that there is something deep down inside all of us that wants to say, “You can’t tell me what to do! It’s my life and I want to do what I want!”

Throughout Scripture we find how we’re to respond to people in authority over us. In fact, Paul wrote, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves,” Romans 13:1-2. 

Our authority figures are given to us for a purpose. God tells us that there are consequences for a rebellious attitude, and a position and attitude of rebellion is a position of opposition to God. Ouch! This verse tells us to submit ourselves to the “governing authorities?” hat’s easy...if you agree with them. It's easy if they make decisions that are right and moral and fair. But what if these governing authorities aren’t “good” men? What if they make decisions I can’t agree with? What if they what if they’re NOT righteous and moral and fair? What if they’re mean and dangerous? What if they’re like King Saul?

In 1 Samuel 20-26 we see that King Saul had not been a “good” man. He’d been disobedient to God - and because of his disobedience, he had been plagued by an evil spirit. And later, when Saul realized the people loved David and were singing his praises, several times he sought to kill David.

How, do you “honor” a governing authority like that? How do you “submit” to something that wicked and terrible? We can all be grateful that we don’t have a boss like that- openly trying to kill us. It would be like working for Darth Vader! 

What did David do?  

Because of the repeated attempts on his life, David fled from the presence of King Saul and spent the next few months living in caves and fields. ing Saul found out David’s location and gathered an army of 3,000 men to pursue him. As he was searching through this desert, Saul went into the very cave where David and his men hiding. King aul was distracted and David’s men saw this as an opportunity, and urged him to kill Saul. So David slipped up quietly and cut off a corner of the royal robe, but didn’t kill the king.

When David returned to his men, he was so overwhelmed with shame that he had committed this small offense against the king. He said this to his men, "The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD," 1 Samuel 24:6. 

How should we respond to authority? What did David do? He submitted to King Saul’s authority. Here are two things to note about David's submission: 

  • David’s submission to King Saul did not include giving the King what he wanted. Saul wanted David dead, but David didn’t comply– he didn’t allow King Saul to take his life.

Submitting to those in authority does not mean that you always give them what they want. If what a person in authority wants is immoral or illegal or just plain wrong, we are NOT obligated to obey them in those matters. 

Submission is: a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility and carrying a burden. “Submitting” to those in authority over us does not require that we give them everything they ask, but it does require us to speak respectfully of them and to them. We are not allowed to curse, insult, or belittle them (Acts 23:5).

  • David's submission to King Saul was based on the position, not the person. All authority is from God, but not all authority is Godly. David's words reflected his submission and respect for Saul's position as King. There were no insults...no put downs...no name calling. He had meditated on the Law of God– day and night. In that Law was this command from Exodus 22:28: "Do not Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people." David was a man after God’s own heart and wasn’t about to curse King Saul. Choose to see beyond the individual's behavior and honor the authority given to them through their position.

Here are four areas of where we each will face the "Authority Test": 

1. Family/Parents

“'Honor your father and mother'— which is the first commandment with a promise— 'so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth,'" Ephesians 6:2-3 NIV.

This verse promises success and health for honoring our parents. Society trains us to dishonor our parents. We often see entertainment depicting children treating their parents disrespectfully. The dad is usually a doofus, and the mom is overbearing. But we are called to live differently. 

2. Social: Bosses/Coaches/Teachers/Etc. 

"Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people,  because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free," Ephesians 6:6-8 (NIV). 

Remember that you're not working for the man, but you ARE working for THE MAN (God). 

3. Church: Small Group Leaders/Departments/Pastors/Board Member/Etc. 

"The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching," 1 Timothy 5:17 (NIV). 

4. Civil: Police/President/Congress/Etc. 

"Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves," Romans 13:1-2 (NIV). 

Next time you get stopped speeding, don't bind the devil! Pay your taxes– remember, you're working for God. Show respect and honor for all. 

Here are four practical ways to honor authority: 

1. Love them unconditionally (I Peter 4:8).

2. Submit to them cheerfully (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 2:13-17).

3. Serve them gladly (Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 6:5-8; 1 Peter 4:10).

4. Challenge them righteously (Matthew 18:15).

  • Pray over the alleged offense and get God’s perspective. Then go to them privately, without speaking to anyone else first. Approach them with an attitude of honor and respect. 

There will be times when I disagree with my authority, but my submission to authority (a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility and carrying a burden) means that I respect the authority figures, speaking of them honorably, and working with them as if I am working with God! 

Pastor Justin Werven  |  New Life Worship Center - Beulah Campus Pastor