SBC Life Articles

Honoring God’s Authority

It was a bitterly cold night in early spring. I was a college student serving as a "summer missionary" and for that week, a camp counselor in northern Maine. Before I opened the door to the bunkhouse I could hear the bedlam taking place inside. It was a free-for-all, and I was about to bring it to an end.

"Lights out!" I shouted. "Everyone get in his own bunk! Nobody gets up or goes out! And nobody is to say another word." For a moment I believe we were all surprised by the immediacy of the response. It became perfectly quiet … but only for a moment. Out of the darkness came the recognizable voice of one of my problem kids, "Are you asking us or telling us?" he queried. "I'm telling you!" I blasted back in return. "That's all I wanted to know," he said, rolling over and soon going to sleep.

His question was telling. In it there was rooted the basic issue of authority. "Who's in charge," he was asking, "and what does he expect of me?"

The first of the Seven Pillars in the Kingdom Family Commitment addresses the issue of authority. God, as Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all, holds ultimate authority over His creation. By establishing the family, God has provided a unique setting in which each individual should come to properly understand and respect authority. I will glorify God by surrendering every area of my life to Him and by offering godly respect in all my earthly relationships, starting in my family.

An Issue to Be Settled

From the very outset, any couple contemplating marriage should determine that God will be the authority in their family, and His Word will serve as the standard for their behavior. He will be the "glue" that holds them together — not their sensual passion (or lack of it); not their signatures on a paper authorized by a nation which, one day, may cease to exist; not the strength of their arguments for marriage; not the convenience of finances (or absence of them). It must ultimately be God and God alone who certifies their union, binds them together, guides their behavior, and blesses them. Again, it is imperative that this issue is settled.

When God delivered the Ten Commandments through Moses, He began with a reminder and a command: I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:2-3). Apart from our understanding and acceptance of this simple command, the other nine are scarcely worth stating at all. It is an all or nothing proposition. It must be God, and God alone, who is the object of both worship and allegiance. He must be the ultimate authority in our lives.

The Kingdom Family Approach to Authority

But where is this proper understanding and reverence for God to be learned? Is it the responsibility of the church? The school? Yes, to an extent…but not primarily. God intends for the family, His first institution, to be the primary setting in which each of us is to come to a proper understanding and respect for Him and for the various authority figures He places in our lives.

When it is established in the home that God is the Ultimate Authority and that His Word is an authoritative revelation of His will, many issues which might seem complicated and difficult to resolve are immediately simplified and settled. Finding direction and making decisions for your life and family become a matter of seeking His will as revealed by His Spirit through His Word. Instead of confusion and delay, there will be clarity and decisiveness.

When it is established in the home that God is the Ultimate Authority, the exercise of godly discipline replaces a mere outburst of "punishment." Discipline communicates value and a sense of future possibility. It is meted out with the knowledge that God is both the audience and the One to Whom a parent must ultimately give an account. It must, therefore, be approached in the same manner that God disciplines His children. It will be both resolute and full of grace.

When it is established in the home that God is the Ultimate Authority, respect for others — especially those in positions of authority — is seen as a matter directly impacting our relationship with God. Refusing to honor a parent, for instance, is also refusing to honor God. After all, it is in His Word that we discover the importance of obedience and right-hearted submission to authority.

God: The Ultimate Authority

God, as Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all, holds ultimate authority over His creation are the beginning words in the Kingdom Family Commitment. This is an affirmation of the first commandment, You shall have no other gods before me.

Some years ago, I sat listening as a man, caught in immorality and unfaithfulness, spilled out what was obviously a carefully crafted confession. There was no remorse, no tears, and no real desire to be reconciled with his wife. It was obvious that he had made some critical choices and did not intend to turn back. Visiting with the pastor was just the final stage in accommodating his wife's desperate attempt to put their marriage back together. It was his final words that got me somewhere deep inside and provoked a visceral reaction which shocked us both.

"I know what you're thinking, preacher," he said with a slight nervous grin. "You're thinking I'm probably not a Christian and that I don't love the Lord. But you see, I really do love the Lord with all my heart."

"No, you don't love the Lord with all your heart," I replied tersely and in a tone so loud it had surprised us both. "Time will tell if you're a Christian because if you are, God will treat you like one of His kids who is deserving of discipline. But one thing is certain, you don't love the Lord."

"You see," I continued, "if you love the Lord, you do what He says. But what you are saying is that you do not intend to do what He says. You are bent on leaving your wife and family and living in an immoral relationship. Say what you will, but you do not love the Lord."

We live in a generation which has developed a remarkable ability to "segment" or "compartmentalize" life. On occasions I have used the children's program Sesame Street as an example of this phenomenon. Throughout the program there is an amazing assortment of information delivered in a rapid-fire assault on the senses. One minute, it's about a number, the next, about a vowel sound, and the next, is about a character quality, an attitude, or a social problem to be solved. After watching the program for only a brief period of time, you develop a capacity for jumping from one issue to the next; you easily isolate or compartmentalize your thoughts.

Unfortunately, the capacity to compartmentalize the various aspects of our lives can have incredibly negative moral consequences. We used to talk about "Sunday Christians," folks whose lifestyle on Monday was not commensurate with their church attendance on Sunday. But that was "kid stuff" compared to what is happening today. We have developed a generation that literally sees no connection between what happens in church on Sunday morning and what happens in a motel room or in front of a TV on Sunday afternoon. The connection is never made.

Unless, of course, you have come to grips with what it means to love God above all, to have no other gods before Him. When that happens, it changes what you do. Think of Joseph who, under some pretty serious temptation by Potipher's wife, said, "How could I do this great evil and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9). While conscious of his position and of his master's trust, his main concern was what this behavior would do to his relationship with a holy God whom he loved, trusted, and served.

Honoring God's Authority

It is little wonder God's initial commandment was stated in such a powerful form; a negative, in fact. You shall have no other gods before me. It is only when that principle is established in your thinking, embraced in your heart, and endorsed by your behavior, that you can fully enjoy what it means to be part of God's Kingdom Family.

Adapted from Unbreakable: The Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family by Tom Elliff, published by Broadman & Holman.

Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family

Honoring God's Authority
(Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 10:31; Eph. 5:21; 6:1-4)

Respecting Human Life
(Ex. 20:13; Psa. 139:13-16; Prov. 16:31)

Exercising Moral Purity
(Ex. 20:14; Job 31:1; Matt. 5:27-30; 1 Cor. 6:18-19)

Serving My Church
(Matt. 16:18; Eph. 4:11-16; 5:25; Heb. 10:25)

Using Time Wisely
(Deut. 6:6-7; Psa. 90:12; Luke 18:16; Eph. 5:15; 2 Tim. 3:16-17)

Practicing Biblical Stewardship
(Gen. 1:28; Prov. 3:9-10; Mal. 3:8-11; Luke 6:38; 12:48; 1 Cor. 4:2, 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 9:7)

Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ
(Matt. 28:19-20; John 4:38-39; Acts 1:8; Rom. 1:16; Rev. 22:17)

    About the Author

  • Tom Elliff