Authority. The first thing most people do when they hear the word is cringe or prepare to reject it at all costs.
Rejecting authority is our natural reaction. It has been ingrained in us since the beginning. Our first parent’s Adam and Eve rejected God’s authority for their own, leading us to do the same ever since. So it is only natural we buck at the idea of authority.
Everyone is Under Authority
While that is our natural reaction, God tells us everyone is under authority.
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God (1 Cor. 11:3).
God’s authority structure is arranged so that:
- The head of every man is Jesus Christ.
- The head of every wife is her husband.
- The head of Jesus Christ is God.
Immediately, upon reflecting on this list, some, especially those in the feminist movement, look at this structure and say, “God thinks woman are less valuable than men because they are subjected to them.” But that is not true. God’s structure isn’t based on worth, it’s based on roles.
Tax season ended several months ago. I don’t know about you but that is one of two seasons I don’t look forward to — summer in Texas being the other. But, as we all know, those are two seasons you can’t avoid, because they come back year after year.
When you finally sit down to fill out those dreaded tax forms, one question that appears on your form is: Are you the head of the household?
When the IRS asks that question, they don’t mean to imply that your children, or even your spouse, is of lesser value than you. They simple want to know the role you play in your family.
In a similar way, God’s authority structure is also based on the role we play in our family, which means men are not of greater value than women, they just play a different role. A role assigned by God, as the head of the family.
Digging Deeper Into the Structure
As we dig deeper into God’s ordained structure, we learn:
(1) Men must submit to Jesus
Men are not given absolute authority. Instead, men must act under Jesus’ directive because He is our head.
With Jesus as our head, we must allow Him to guide us, to lead us. As well as we must exercise our role of authority as Jesus would.
A good example of how Jesus exercises His authority is found in Ephesians 5:25-30
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” (Eph 5:25–30)
Ephesians 5 teaches men several things about leadership – how we are supposed to lead and what our role as the head of the family looks like.
According to Ephesians 5, men are to love, sacrifice for, provide for, care for, and protect their families, their wives. We aren’t to dominate them with a heavy hand. Nor are we to abuse, or use them. Instead, we are to love them as Jesus loves the church, giving of ourselves for them. We are to do everything in our power to care for them, protect them, and provide for them. We should also nourish them with the Word of God, leading them spiritually.
We should do all this, while at the same time allowing Jesus to lead us. He should continually be our example of headship, as well as our leader.
(2) Wives must submit to their husbands
I am fully aware that this is a controversial statement, especially in this day and age. But we are going to tackle it anyways.
What does it mean for a wife to submit to her husband?
Let me start with what it doesn’t mean, because I think that will clear up some misunderstanding.
- It doesn’t mean you are to be dominated by your husband.
- It doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with or even challenge your husbands ideas.
- It doesn’t mean your husband can use and abuse you and you must take it willingly.
- It doesn’t mean you can’t call your husband out on his sin.
- It can’t mean any of those things because a husband is supposed to lead like Jesus.
Instead, what it means for a wife to submit to her husband is that:
- She willingly accepts her God give role as her husband’s helper.
- She willingly allows him to lovingly lead her, as Jesus is leading him.
- She willingly accepts his decisions, as he seeks to do what is best for his family both physically and spiritually.
We know this is what it means for a wife to submit to her husband because her submission is based on Jesus’ submission to His father.
A wife’s submission is modeled by Jesus
Even though Jesus is equal with the Father and God Himself, He willingly accepted His position as the Son, submitting to His Father. In doing so:
- He accepted His role as Christ — the One who died for the sins of mankind.
- He willingly allowed the Father to lead and guide Him, even to the cross.
- He willingly accepted the Father’s will, allowing His decisions to be final.
Just as a husband is to be led by Jesus as he leads his family, a wife is to be led by Jesus as she submits to her husband. We are to live in obedience to the roles we are given in God’s authority structure.
Submission As A Reflection of the Gospel & God’s Wisdom
When both husband and wife submit according to God’s good design, two things happen.
(1) We Reflect the Gospel – by sacrificing our will for God’s will, just like Jesus sacrificed His will and His self for us.
(2) We Reflect God’s Wisdom – by showing the world that things go well when we function within our roles.
Before I accepted my first full-time pastorate, I worked for a staffing and recruiting company based out of Atlanta.
Relatively early in my tenure, I had the opportunity to move to Dallas and help open the companies first satellite office. When we moved, the owners did something I would never do. They didn’t appoint a manager for the office. Their thought was that a leader would naturally rise to the top that others in the office would follow. When that happened, they would promote that person to office manager.
In theory, that sounds good. In reality, it didn’t work. The result was an unproductive work environment that kept the office from thriving.
No one knew who “really” was in charge, who they were supposed to take orders from, or even their own role. The result was chaos, conflict, and an office that didn’t run as a well oiled machine.
Likewise, there is chaos and conflict in the family, when individual family members operate outside their God given roles. On the other hand, when we function within our God given roles, things run smoothly.
When we really think hard about it, we realize authority isn’t such a bad thing, it is instead a good thing that shouldn’t be despised, cringed at, or rejected. It’s something that should be embraced as a means of grace by which God provides for His people.
Question for Reflection
- Do you think of God’s authority as a means of grace?
Post adapted from my recent sermon God’s Authority Structure, which can be listened to in its entirety here.