A Biblical Worldview Primer:
Part 5 – A Biblical Worldview: Putting It All Together
by Gerald R. Thompson
AUTHORITY IS A PRIORITY WITH GOD
Authority vs. Power
1. God is the ultimate source of power and authority in the universe
– People refer to God as omnipotent, all-powerful, or as the Almighty. People are much less inclined to acknowledge God’s infinite authority. 2. All power and authority men have comes from God
– Jesus gave the twelve power and authority. (Lk. 9:1).
– Angels, authorities, and powers are subject to Christ. (1 Pet. 3:21b-22). 3. However, power and authority are not the same
– Power primarily refers to strength and the ability to act
– Authority normally signifies the lawful right to act
A God Of Authority
1. The Creator made not only the physical universe, but also all of its governing powers and authorities
– By him all things were created, in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. (Col. 1:16).
– For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Rom. 13:1). 2. There is no one greater than this God
– Christ is seated at God’s right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet. (Eph 1:19-22).
– Jesus is the head of all rule and authority. (Col. 2:10).
– And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Mat. 28:18). 3. There is no realistic way to fight this God. There is nowhere anyone can go to escape God’s laws, and no limit to His jurisdiction.
– Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. (Rom. 13:2).
– The Lord knows how to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. (2 Pe 2:9b-10). See also, Jude 8.
1. From the beginning, authority issues have defined the human condition
– The first word God ever spoke to mankind was a grant of authority. (Gen. 1:28).
– God doesn’t start off with, “Now it’s your job to love Me and also love each other.” Love’s got nothing to do with it. It’s not about trust or faith or belief. The only thing God tells His new creation is what they are authorized to do. 2. Now comes the proviso – “Don’t eat the fruit of this one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Gen. 2:16-17).
– What is that? A restriction or a limitation on the authority to eat plants originally granted. God defines and limits our authority. 3. The Mark of Cain (and the importance of authority)
– After Cain kills Abel, he is found guilty of murder. (Gen. 4:10-15).
– Cain objects. “Whoever finds me will kill me.” God responded, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain to protect him. (Gen. 4:15).
– Which begs the question – Why would God protect a murderer?
– Ans: At that time God had not authorized anyone to punish murder 4. A Fixed Order of Authority
– One of the strongest invectives against any nation in scripture is the criticism of the ancient Chaldeans, “whose own might is their god,” and whose “justice and dignity go forth from themselves.” (Hab. 1:7, 11).
– That is, the Chaldeans’ claim to authority originated with themselves.
– But that isn’t where true authority comes from. All true authority comes from God, according to a predetermined plan and structure.
1. God’s laws determine what is right and wrong. Man’s laws must conform to God’s.
2. It is never enough to know right from wrong. One must also determine to whom, and to what extent, God has granted enforcement authority.
– no one ever asks the second question
– the second question is more important to God than the first (Gen. 4 – example of Cain) – arguably seven times more important.
GOD’S LAWS OF AUTHORITY
The Delegation Principle (all human authority is delegated, not inherent).
1. All authority ultimately belongs to God.
– God’s authority even includes the right to destroy the creation which he made as a means of enforcing His word and His law.
– God’s authority is not limited to material things, nor are His laws or His governing authority limited to physical laws. 2. Some authority has been delegated to men.
– Since God is the only uncreated being in the universe, His is the only authority which is inherent. Everyone else takes by delegation.
– Primarily, these delegations have been made through the various covenants between God and men. 3. God reserves for Himself all authority which has not been delegated.
– As mere creatures made by God, people can never have the full scope of authority which God has.
– For example, God alone can read our minds and judge our hearts. This is both a statement of authority and capability.
The Limitation Principle (all human authority is limited, not absolute).
1. Human authority extends only to that which God gives him.
– Unless a specific authority has been delegated to us, we don’t have it. This is the universal principle of enumerated powers.
– No one could punish Cain for murdering Abel until God allowed people to exercise jurisdiction over the law of murder. (See, Gen. 4:8-15.) The authorization came 1650 years later (post-flood). (Gen. 9:6).
– No one could eat meat until God said they could. God wasn’t simply ratifying or acknowledging what people were already doing in Gen. 9:3.
– Saul lost his kingdom because he took it upon himself to offer a sacrifice he had not been authorized to make. (1 Sam. 13:8-13).
– Athaliah was put to death because she seized the throne of Israel by force, knowing only male heirs of the king could rule. (1 Ki. 11:1-16).
– Uzzah lost his life when he reached out to stabilize the ark of the covenant, because no one was authorized to touch it. (1 Chr. 13:9-10).
– At no time was a perceived necessity sufficient to overcome the lack of an express delegation. Necessity alone grants neither rights nor powers. 2. Human authority is limited by the terms of the delegation.
– People tend to imply and infer things that are unsaid. But these only ever go in the direction of expanding our authority, never shrinking it. When in doubt, assume more. Better to ask forgiveness than permission.
– However, this is not the way God operates. Things unsaid are ungranted. – Thus, for example, the Dominion Mandate confers no authority for people to rule over each other. Dominion authority is limited to animals, plants and the ground.
– The jurisdiction to rule over people must be derived from some other express delegation, such as the consent of the governed. 3. No one defines the extent of his own authority.
– Any recipient of a delegated authority is not free to define the scope of his own authority. The recipient is not greater than the grantor.
– The scope of any authority we exercise in our human existence is always defined not by us, but by the one who gives us authority.
– The unauthorized assertion of authority is a serious offense. See, for example, Deut. 17:9-12 (re: judging one’s own cause).
The Diffusion Principle (human authority is diffuse, not concentrated).
1. God distributes authority to many people at a time, not just a few.
– Specifically, the authorizations contained in the Adamic and Noahic covenants apply to every person alive today.
– These authorizations include procreation, dominion over animals and the earth, the right to eat plants and meat, and capital punishment. 2. God hasn’t given any person total authority.
– God has not given all human authority to any one individual or group of people, nor has He granted authority to some people more than others.
– There are no concentrations of power among people whom God has authorized. Equality is the rule among the beneficiaries of His covenants. 3. The diffusion of powers is the rule.
– God has spread His delegations of authority around so that everyone has some God-given authority, but no one has it all.
– In other words, no one is in charge of the authority which God grants to men. Human authority is diffuse and disparate by God’s design, and no one has the right to say otherwise.
– There are absolutely no exceptions.
GOD’S JURISDICTION vs. MAN’S
Morality vs. Law
– The duties men owe to God (which God reserves jurisdiction to enforce) are moral obligations, whereas the duties men owe to other people (which God has delegated to mankind to enforce) are legal obligations.
Jurisdiction over the heart and mind is moral only
1. Authority over the heart and mind is God’s alone.
– Only God can accurately examine the heart or mind of any person.
– Further, He has reserved the exclusive right to make this examination. 2. No secrets from God
– God’s authority over the heart and mind is complete. Jer. 11:20.
– God reserves the right to change our hearts and minds. Prv. 21:1. 3. No human jurisdiction over the hearts of others.
– People have neither the ability to examine the heart or mind of others, nor the right to judge the heart or mind of others. Mat. 7:1-2. 4. Citizenship in God’s kingdom
– A person’s citizenship in God’s kingdom (a matter of the heart) is outside the jurisdiction that God has granted to mankind to determine.
Jurisdiction over acts of love is moral only
1. The law of love
– Love originates from the heart. 1 Tim. 1:5.
– A chief duty of the law of love is to love your neighbor as yourself.
– This duty is owed directly to God, and only indirectly to the recipient.
– Love cannot be claimed as a right, earned by the recipient, or coerced. 2. The jurisdiction of love.
– In a sense, love undergirds all of God’s law. Rom. 13:8.
– However, love also governs some areas of human conduct exclusively. 3. Charity and gifts.
– Any act of charity, such as a gift (charity is another word for love) is among the actions governed exclusively by the law of love
– Any gift or act of love (“grace”) must be voluntary and undeserved (not a matter of “works”), or it is not love at all.
– Therefore, neither love nor charity can be compelled, nor can the failure to love be punished by men.
MAN’S LIMITED JURISDICTION
Teaching Authority (or, the limited authority to teach)
– No one has the right to instruct the heart or mind of another unless it has been expressly given by God.
– Jesus declared that the realm of truth was under His kingdom, and that He expected His disciples to teach others the truth. Jn. 14:6; Mt. 28:20.
– God has also made it plain that parents have the authority to teach their children. Dt. 6:7.
– The authority to teach is simply the right to submit ideas for the consideration of another, but that each person retains the authority to decide for himself whether to accept or reject the submitted ideas.
Spiritual Authority Then and Now
1. All sacramental authority in ancient Israel was exercised by the Levitical priests, who conducted all religious service
2. However, in the Church, human priests were the very people God went to some lengths to eliminate from any further spiritual service
3. Of necessity all the special priestly things O.T. priests did would also have to be kept out of the Church. Therefore:
– There are no special feast days or holy days. Rom. 14:5; Col. 2:16.
– There is no physical temple, no segregated class of temple workers, and no financial system in place to support those workers (i.e., tithing)
– No one in the Church stands in the shoes of the O.T. priests.
Equal Spiritual Authority in the Church
1. All believers derive equal authority from the Great Commission
– Thus, all believers have equal authority to carry it out.
– Only God can limit what God has authorized. But there are no words of limitation in the Great Commission (or elsewhere) as to who may or may not carry out its tasks. 2. Thus, every Christian has equal authority to administer whatever religious rites or sacred rituals are a part of the life of the Church.
– There is no hierarchy of spiritual authority with respect to Church sacraments, including without limitation baptism and communion.
– Thus Paul encouraged believers to exercise self-government in the observation of the Lord’s Supper. 1 Cor. 11:17-34.
1. God distributes gifts to believers not equally, but severally. Rom 12:3-6. That is, believers don’t all receive the same gifts.
2.Do the spiritual gifts have an inherent authority structure?
– Many of the gifts (such as healing, generosity, mercy, etc.) have no possible ruling authority or leadership role attached to them.
– A gift of service (or ministry) relates to the function of a subordinate. You don’t call someone a subordinate, then treat them as being in charge. 3. What about the gifts of leadership, or administration?
– A person may have the talent to lead or administer, but that’s not how authority to lead or administer is acquired. Authority must be delegated. 4. Where does authority come from? There are only two options:
– If from God, then it must come via a divine covenant. But Jesus never put any specific persons or offices in charge of His Church.
– The other option is the consent of the governed, (i.e., people). But men cannot confer true spiritual authority on anyone, can they? 5. So, there is no structure or hierarchy of authority inherent within or among the spiritual gifts of the Church, or gifts for ruling others. 6. Note: None of the spiritual gifts relate to performing baptisms, administering communion, hearing confessions, dispensing forgiveness, or performing weddings and funerals.
1. The Nature of Spiritual Offices.
– Like spiritual gifts, they are appointed by God, not by men. You cannot aspire to them, and men do not elect or appoint any of them. Eph. 4:11. 2. Description of the offices:
– Apostles plant churches; Prophets proclaim the word of God.
– Evangelists spread the Gospel. (Not every Christian is an evangelist. Some are appointed … Do I have to explain everything?)
– “Pastors and teachers,” or “pastor-teachers”? One office or two?
– Pastors ostensibly shepherd believers; Teachers instruct the faithful. 3. The Authority to Rule
– Does scripture anywhere grant any of the spiritual offices the right to govern or to rule over others, or suggest a hierarchy? No, it does not.
– Consistent with the Diffusion Principle and the priesthood of all believers, all spiritual offices are equal in authority => no hierarchy.
THE SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS
Fixed Fundamental Purposes
1. Of the institutions created by God, each has been delegated a certain sphere of authority in which to operate.
2. This delegation was made either by divine covenant, or by the law of nature (being the will of God impressed in the creation).
– Two delegations made by divine covenant are the Dominion Mandate (Gen. 1:28 – Adamic covenant) given to families, and the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20) given to the universal Church.
– The one delegation made via the law of nature and merely summarized later is the Greatest Commandment (Mat. 22:36-40) given to individuals.
– Civil power (but not a form of government) was first given to people as part of the Noahic covenant (i.e., the authority to execute murderers).
– Thereafter, when nations were formed, people delegated civil power to their respective forms of civil government by the consent of the people. 3. Each of the institutions created by God has essentially two main purposes which are fixed and immutable.
– For individuals, there is the love of God (morality and piety – or freedom of religion and freedom of the mind) and the love of our neighbors (which covers a whole range of human interactions including torts and crimes).
– Families have the twin purposes of child-bearing (including family interrelationships, sexuality and education), and dominion (including economic rights, property, contracts, occupations and stewardship).
– Nations have the dual purpose of punishing those who do evil (not including punishing good deeds, nor doing good things), and praising those who do right (historically understood as securing individual rights).
– The two purposes of the Church are to evangelize the lost and to teach all nations the commands of Christ (laws of God). 4. These tasks are not optional, but each institution is under a divine duty to carry out the authority God has delegated to it. 5. And the duty of each as well is to refrain from carrying out any of the authority delegated to the other institutions.
Co-equal, Non-overlapping, Non-hierarchical
1. The institutions operate concurrently, that is, everyone is governed by multiple legal institutions at the same time.
– Thus, a person cannot generally be a member of any one legal institution to the complete exclusion of all the others.
– Anyone living in civil society will necessarily be subject to multiple legal institutions at the same time (self-gov’t and civil gov’t, at a mimimum).
– No one has the right to declare himself free of all institutional attachments merely by virtue of a self-declaration.
– God’s institutions do not fractionalize society into separate groups of people, some of whom are “the family,” “the Church,” “the state,” or individual “freemen.” 2. The institutions are legally discrete, that is, non-overlapping in their authority, purposes, and organizational structures.
– God did not give the same authority to more than one institution at the same time. For example:
– The authority to bear children and take dominion was not given to the Church or to civil government, but solely to the family.
– The authority to evangelize and disciple people was not given to the family (which can teach and discipline its children) or to civil government, but solely to the Church.
– The authority to punish (kill) wrongdoers and to secure individual rights was not given to the family (which can punish its children, but not to the point of death) or to the Church (which can only excommunicate its members), but solely to national polities. 3. Accordingly, people who rule over others for one purpose may be ruled by others for another purpose.
– An individual’s authority depends not on who they are, but the purpose for which their authority is given 4. God’s institutional plan has no legal conflicts.
– In constituting the legal institutions the way he did, God did not create any inherent jurisdictional conflicts.
– Among the legal institutions, none is superior compared to the others.
– God never delegated legal authority to any institution to enforce His law concerning any other institution.
– If two institutions claim authority over the same people for the same purposes, one of them is a jurisdictional usurper and is legally wrong.
No Default to Civil Government
1. There are in fact five major players in society, not two.
– Casting social policy debates in terms of church vs. state, is generally misleading at best.
– If a generalization must be made, go with Caesar vs. the private sector, made up of individuals, families, churches and all voluntary associations.
– But nobody is in charge of the private sector – it is composed of equal and independent institutions and associations which act autonomously and each has full authority within their respective grants of authority. 2. The private sector includes, but extends far beyond, churches and matters of religion.
– A tacit assumption of many Christians is that the vast bulk of the non-religious private sector (especially business and commerce) belong to the jurisdiction of Caesar because they are not religious in nature.
– However, the biblical injunction to “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s,” (Matt. 22:21) makes no assumption that the non-religious private sector belongs to Caesar, nor that God’s jurisdiction is limited to religious matters.
– Quite the opposite: only specifically defined purposes and powers belong to Caesar (punish wrongs, secure rights). 3. Thus, if God didn’t expressly grant a particular authority to Caesar, then either: a) He must have granted it to the private sector; or b) God reserved it for Himself. This is the default position.
– At no point does civil government pick up the leftovers (i.e., any authority beyond what has been expressly delegated).
– And it matters not one bit how laudable or desirable the social goal is.
Stop Expanding Civil Powers
1. Business and commerce are the province of the private sector (vis-à-vis the Dominion Mandate).
– Civil government can eliminate barriers to commerce and to some extent regulate international trade, but it has no business deciding who can go into what kind of occupation, regulating private employment, or imposing regulatory burdens on what are otherwise lawful commercial activities.
– Also, civil government has no right to go into business itself, to invest in particular businesses, or pick winners and losers in any field of commerce (such as by granting licenses to do business to some but not others). 2. There are, of course, many other things God left to the private sector which civil government should stay out of, among them education, child care, charitable works, social services, health care, insurance, and too many other things to mention. 3. And then there are things God has not authorized anyone to do, such as punishing hate or hate crimes, judging hearts and minds, trying to achieve perfect justice, creating a utopia, and providing a remedy for all possible wrongs, redistributing wealth, reversing global warming, saving the planet, minimizing our carbon footprint, etc. 4. The mere fact that there is some persistent evil in society (such as religious or racial prejudice) does not mean that if the private sector is unable to restrain or eliminate that evil, it defaults to civil government to undertake the task. 5. Society’s job is to let God deal with some persistent evils as He sees fit, not for us to intervene, and most certainly not to expand the role of civil government so that public officials can unlawfully wield more power.
NO ONE IS IN CHARGE
Diffusion Among Institutions
1. Individuals and families are co-equal with the Church and nations.
– One of the remarkable beauties of God’s system of authority is that none of the delegations to individuals, families, nations or the Church overlap with each other.
– If the various delegations of authority are read narrowly (i.e., without implied or self-defined powers, or with a strict construction) then they never conflict.
– If you have ever read anything about “sphere sovereignty” before, you have probably seen Venn diagrams of overlapping circles showing, ostensibly, areas of intersection and/or overlap between the various “spheres,” i.e., individuals, families, nations and the Church – or something similar.
– To say otherwise is to deny and thwart God’s revealed will concerning who has authority to deal with these things.
– When conflicts arise, it is inevitably because someone has assumed (i.e., usurped) authority they do not actually have.
– When, as is common today, civil government and political society are stepping all over everyone else’s toes and interfering in matters not divinely entrusted to them, it is an indication that society is moving backwards, not forwards – regressing, not progressing.
– But chiefly, God’s principles of authority show that I stand (individually) before God shoulder-to-shoulder with all other holders of divine authority.
Diffusion Among Individuals
1. All self-governments (that is, all individuals) are also co-equal with each other.
– God gave each individual person co-equal authority and no person has any legitimate claim to an inherent right to rule over other individuals.
– Commonly, we would say that all men are created equal, or that all men are born free (meaning equally free from being ruled by others) 2. The Dominion Mandate gave mankind authority over the earth, all the fish, all the birds, and all the animals (literally, every thing that moves on the earth, with emphasis on thing).
– In the lexicon of the Bible, a man is not a thing, but a being (Gen. 2:7), since people are made in the image of God, but animals are not.
– So when we look at the Dominion Mandate, no dominion (or the right to rule) over other men (or beings) is granted.
– The conclusion is that no human has the inherent right to rule over another human, because such an authority would require an express grant from God, and He gave none.
Diffusion Among Families
1. Similarly, all families have co-equal authority compared to each other, and none can rightfully claim familial supremacy over another family.
– Biblically, there is no centralized clearinghouse for getting permission to marry, to have children, or to take dominion.
– There is no overriding patriarchy or matriarchy built into society.
Diffusion Among Nations
1. When God created the nations post-Tower of Babel, He did not put them in any kind of hierarchy.
– No nation had any more (or any different kind of) authority than any other nation.
– No nation had the right to rule over any other nation.
– There is no right of conquest, per se, and no right of nation-building in the laws of nature and nature’s God.
– No nation has the right to dominate any other nation either by outside force or internal struggle. 2. The opening clause of the Declaration of Independence (1776): “When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them …”
– What is that statement, if not a claim that this new nation being formed will, at its creation, stand on an equal footing with the most powerful nation on earth at the time (Great Britain)?
– And, that this is an inherent right conferred on all nations by the laws of nature and nature’s God.
– Therefore, small nations are co-equal in authority with large nations, new nations are co-equal in authority with old nations, and all ethnic lines and nationalities are co-equal in authority as well.
Diffusion Among Churches
1. The new covenant in Christ was not given only to one person, because there were eleven people who first heard the Great Commission, and they all stood in equal position and authority with respect to each other when it was given.
– Further, if the covenant was limited only to those who first heard it, that would result in a very short-lived Church, i.e., the Church would have died when the last of the eleven disciples died. 2. Neither can the Church covenant be considered applicable solely to the physical descendants of any of the initial eleven apostles.
– Participation in the Church covenant is not something that can be passed from one person to another as an inheritance or via family lines. 3. The initial eleven apostles are merely representative of all individuals who join with Christ as a matter of faith/choice.
– Each person is responsible for his own sin and his own salvation.
– Similarly, the appropriation of God’s grace and the redemption He provides is profoundly individual.
– Unless the authority granted by the Great Commission is also delegated to people solely on an individual basis, nothing makes sense.
– Thus, if you become a Christian as an individual, then you receive the authority of the Great Commission as an individual – without exception.
Who is in charge of the Church?
1. Jesus Christ is exclusively the head of His body, the spiritual Church.
– But Jesus is not here on earth at present. He is the Head of the Church in heaven, but on the earth He is absent.
– So although the universal Church is one body spiritually under the headship of Christ, it is limited to the spiritual or heavenly realm. 2. Thus, the earthly or visible church is decentralized in its temporal or earthly government. No man or group of men has been placed as the head of the visible church by God.
– All visible churches (or, local churches) report to Christ, and none report to each other by divine command.
– Which is the same as saying that all churches are co-equal, and no church has the right to rule over or dominate other churches. 3. In reality, the visible church (every local church) is just a group of voluntary associations governed by consent and not by Christ at all.
Intro: A Biblical Worldview Primer
Part 1: Creation Laws: The Laws of Nature: The Lex Non Scripta
Part 2: Human Conscience: Moral Awareness
Part 3: Jesus Christ: The Living Word: Christology 101
Part 4A: Bible as Law: The Divine Covenants: The Revealed Law
Part 4B: Bible as Government: Four Great Commands: God’s Laws of Authority