We want to consider in this study, whether the matter of submitting to authority in our home or in our office or in the church is an essential thing; when we should submit and when we shouldn't. It is a very relevant topic to the decisions we have to take in our daily life.
When we look at the origin of sin (we have looked at this in our studies quite a while ago), we find that sin originated in the universe when a created angel rebelled against God's authority. Lucifer was the head of all the angels. He decided that he is not going to submit to the authority of God as creator, and he rebelled against that authority. As soon as he rebelled, he was cast out of heaven and he became the devil. So we find that the question of submission to authority was something that arose way back in the beginning of creation. The great controversy there was: shall I submit to authority or not. And throughout the ages, this has been the greatest question that has caused problems in every area. When do we submit to those whom God places over us, and when can we say no? Are we to be slaves without any opinion or is there anything that we can do on our own? Are we to just blindly do what other people tell us to do?
Well, first of all, let me quote you this verse from Acts 5:29. This was when the apostles stood before the High Priest who was questioning them. They said to him, "We must obey God rather than men." Now there are no two ways about that. We must obey God rather than men. If it is a question of, 'shall I obey God or shall I obey any man,' the answer is clear, 'I have to obey God.' So, if a man tells me to do something contrary to what the Bible says, I never have to listen to him, even if he is an authority over me at home, or in the office, or in the church, or anywhere. But it must be something that God has clearly spoken in the word. For example God has said, 'We should not bow down to idols.' If somebody tells you to bow down to idols, you can say, 'I am sorry sir, I can't do that.' Or, if you are a wife, and your husband tells you to go and murder somebody or to give your body in adultery, you can say, 'no, I am sorry I won't do it. I am not going to submit to you in that area.' These are examples where a wife can say no to her husband. Even a child can say no to his parents.
When I say what God has told you, I don't mean what you feel God has spoken in your heart. The reason is, in some of those things, it maybe just your own feeling. You say, 'Well, God has told me to go here.' That is not in scripture. If you are under some authority that God has placed over you, you better submit to that authority. And if he tells you not to go there, don't go there, even if you feel like going in your heart. If that person is an authority over you, you must submit to his authority. It is the other way around too. If he tells you to go somewhere and you don't feel like going, if he is an authority over you, you have to submit to him.
When Jesus came to earth to undo the works of the devil, God kept him under the authority of Joseph and Mary for 30 years, not for 1 or 2 weeks, but for 30 long years, as a child, as a teenager, as a young man in his twenties. We read in Luke 2:51 that Jesus continued in subjection to Joseph and Mary at Nazareth. That is the way the 30 years of His life is described. He came to undo the works of Satan. Satan is the author of rebellion. He rebelled against authority. He teaches children to rebel against parental authority.
There are basically three areas where we have an authority structure. One is in the home, where parents are an authority over their children. The other is in society, where we have the government or the police or secular authorities, and in your place of work, your boss. These are all secular authorities in the society placed over you for things to be conducted in an orderly way. God has planned that in society, as much as He has planned parents in a home. And it is your duty to submit to those authorities. The third area is the church, where God places elders to whose authority you need to submit. In all these areas, if you rebel against the authority that God has placed over you, you are going to be in fellowship with Satan. Because he was the first person to rebel against authority and he is the one who instigates people to rebel against authority even today. He instigates children to rebel against parents, students to rebel against their teachers, workers to rebel against their bosses and employees to form trade unions to go on strike and to fight against the management and many things like that. Now to ask for your legitimate rights, as a worker in a factory, it is perfectly right, even if it is asked through a trade union. But to rebel against authority, that is wrong.
So, we need to see that rebellion is of Satan. When we see that Jesus subjected Himself in Nazareth to Joseph and Mary, we could ask ourselves this question: 'Who was perfect in that home in Nazareth?' Were Joseph and Mary perfect? Neither of them was perfect! They were just an Old Testament couple who had their struggles and problems like all married people have. Joseph and Mary must have lost their temper at each other, like all married couples do. They must have had their disagreements and their tension, and the days when they didn't speak to each other and so many things like that. They were far from perfect. They were an Old Testament couple, living in a time where victory over sin was not even promised. When you look at New Testament couples today, the way they live, you can imagine how an Old Testament couple lived. That was not a perfect home, far from perfect. Don't think that Joseph and Mary were saints. That is a delusion that Satan has put upon a lot of people. They were ordinary people who needed a saviour.
Jesus was perfect. He never sinned. Joseph and Mary sinned and yet Jesus lived in subjection to an imperfect authority over Him, for 30 years. Everything they said and asked Him to do were probably not absolutely perfect, but He did it. If it was not contrary to God's will, He did it. Maybe they called Him to do something at a particular time when He was very tired; He still got up and did it. He did not sin. He probably was tempted like all children are too. Felt it was not fair but He still did it. He was tempted in all points like we are. And He didn't do that just when he was 5 or 6 years old, He did that to the age of 30, till the time He moved out of His house.
I want to say to you young people, as long as you live in your parent's house dependant on them, follow Jesus' example. You cannot do better than that. Those are the first steps towards being a spiritual man or a woman. Children, honour your father and mother. Obey your parents. Do what they tell you and it will go well with and you will live long on the earth. Your example is Jesus Himself. It doesn't matter if your parents make mistakes. Jesus' earthly parents also made mistakes. But He still obeyed them. God does not ask us to submit to perfect authority.There is no perfect authority in the home, in society, in the church, or anywhere in the world. Everybody is imperfect. But He tests our humility by asking us to submit to imperfect authorities.
It is the same in society. The Bible says in Romans 13:1, 2 - "Every soul should be subject to the higher powers, to the governing authority, for there is no authority except from God. And those, which exist, are established by God. So He who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God. They will receive condemnation." And He goes on to say in verse 4 that a ruler is a servant of God. Again in verse 6 that those who collect your taxes are servants of God. So pay your taxes to them. People who don't pay their taxes are rebelling against authority.
It is the same thing in the church. In the church God has appointed elders and the Bible says in Hebrews 13:17, "Obey those who rule over you and submit to them, for they keep an account and watch over your souls as those who give an account to God." This does not mean that we have to submit to some religious leader, who sits in our church and calls himself our priest or pastor, but he is not a spiritual man. That is, if he is not the one who is accountable for your soul? With parents you have no choice. With your government you have no choice. But, when it comes to a church, if you feel that the church you are in where the leadership is not spiritual, then God doesn't ask you to stay there. You can move out and find another church where the leadership is spiritual. But when you find one church like that, you must submit to the leadership. This is very important.
The principle of submission to authority has been demonstrated by Jesus Christ. That is how salvation came. Let us learn that from Him.