It is evident in scripture that God expects us to esteem, respect, fear those He has placed in positions of authority. The various accounts stemming from Moses’ life attest to this.
When Miriam, Moses’ sister, spoke against his selection for a wife and then his leadership in Exodus 12, she was struck with leprosy. Only after Moses mediated on her behalf was she healed—after seven days outside of camp to think about what she'd done.
- Numbers 12:1 Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman); and they said, "Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?" And the LORD heard it. (NASU unless otherwise stated)
We find other accounts of uprisings against Moses’ leadership each facing severe punishment:
- Numbers 16:1-3 Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, ...assembled together against Moses and Aaron…
The result was that these men, their families, and all their possessions were swallowed up by a sink hole or something of the sort.
In the New testament Paul’s reaction to the news that he had spoken harshly toward the High Priest is witness to his respect of God’s anointed:
- Acts 23:4-5 But the bystanders said, "Do you revile God's high priest?" And Paul said, "I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT SPEAK EVIL OF A RULER OF YOUR PEOPLE.'"
I believe that, taken in context, Paul’s words in Romans 13:1 are a reference not to secular government but to those God has place in positions of higher authority within the body of Christ.
- Romans 13:1 Let every soul to the higher authorities be subject, for there is no authority except from God, and the authorities existing are appointed by God, (Young’s Literal Translation YLT)
In Ephesians 2-6 Paul speaks to various levels of authority established by God starting with Jesus as the cornerstone, the levels of the five offices of leadership, the husband, and the slaveowner.
- Ephesians 2:20-22 Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
- Ephesians 4:11-12 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
- Ephesians 5:22,33 The wives! to your own husbands subject yourselves, as to the Lord, For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church...and the wife must see to it that she respects [Greek - phobeo - to reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience1] her husband. (YLT)
- Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
- Ephesians 6:5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters
The challenge, as I see it, comes within the body of Christ, the ekklesia. In our western culture positions/offices within the body are generally filled by election, however, the ekklesia is not a democracy. This may place us in a position where those that the Lord has selected and gifted for leadership are not those we’ve elected. In the event of such a scenario we could find ourselves acting in disrespect or insubordination toward the Lord’s anointed. This is especially difficult when the one elected acts disrespectful toward someone “under” them in the local body who is the Lord’s anointed.
I do not expect the earth to open up and swallow them, however, and at the extreme, Ananias and Sapphira showed disrespect and it was costly to them.
- Acts 5:3,9 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?...Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well."
Although this example of discipline was harsh, it can be expected that discipline in the form of hardships and/or maladies may result from acts of rebellion, insubordination, or disrespect toward those with higher authority. These hardships are given as discipline, not as punishment (read Fathered by God), for the purpose of correcting/modifying our misbehaviour.
- 1 Samuel 15:22-23 Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice...For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.
We see in 1 Corinthians 11 that some were abusive toward others in the way the conducted themselves during communion. The result was weakness, sickness, and even death (the big sleep):
- 1 Corinthians 11:30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.
When experiencing any form of hardship, our relationship to those around us should become one of the first places we look to in order to find a cause.
When she was a school teacher, my wife had an unruly student that she could not turn. I made the comment that she had not yet found the hardship that would encourage him to modify his behaviour. One day she smiled and told me that she found it and using it only once was sufficient. That student was no longer a problem.
You can be sure that Father knows exactly what type of discipline/hardship2 will encourage us to change our behaviour when we are disobedient, rebellious, insubordinate, or disrespectful toward Him, those He has placed in positions of authority, or toward those around us.
It has been rightly said that the theme of all the writings of the law and prophets involve proper relationship—how we are to conduct our relationships with others. This is especially true of those placed by Him into positions of authority over us.
- “Everyone is to obey those with a higher authority than themselves, because the only authority that counts comes from God and those having authority exist because God appointed them.” (my paraphrase of Romans 13:1)
Who then are those that has God selected for positions of authority and how do we identify them? This is a very important determination.
1 "phobeō" Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Complete and unabridged.
2 Hebrew 12:4-17, Revelation 3:19
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Dr. Steve Bydeley is the author of Fathered by God and with his wife Dianne, co-author of Dream Dreams and Dreams the Heal and Counsel. He has been a guest on the Miracle Channel, Trinity Television, and Crossroads Communication, and have taught internationally on various topics.