When we submit ourselves to the authority of God, and when we submit ourselves to the authority of God as it is expressed in the authority structures of this age, we position ourselves to learn obedience and to be formed into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).
In Hebrews 2:10 we see that the Father perfected Jesus through sufferings, and in Hebrews 5:8 - 9 we read, “Although He [Jesus] was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect He became to all who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.” In Philippians 2:5 - 11 Paul writes that Jesus “...humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even on a cross.”
The writers of Hebrews and Philippians are exploring the Incarnation and the mystery of God becoming a man; as they draw back the veil they tell us that Jesus engaged in a Divine - Human process of maturation, Divine in the sense of God acting upon humanity, Human in the sense of responding in obedience to the Divine.
In Hebrews 10:5 - 9 and Psalm 40:6 - 10 we see that God prepared a body of flesh for Jesus and that Jesus came, according as it was written in the Divine book, to do the will of God. We also see in John 17:4 that Jesus fulfilled the Father’s will while He was on earth - as Philippians says, even to death on a cross.
One of the points of the above is that Jesus didn’t do what He whimsically wanted to do; He didn’t do what was convenient, He didn’t go with the flow; Jesus lived a life of deliberate and intentional obedience to the Father and this often entailed suffering - in fact Jesus is described as a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” - for He took the sorrow of the world upon Him.
Another point is that it was through His obedience and suffering that He was (humanly speaking) made mature and perfect. While I don’t pretend to understand this incarnational mystery, I do know that we are called to participate the the Divine Life in Christ as His life is lived in us and through us in obedience to the Father, which necessarily means that we live subject to earthly authorities.
To be sure there are myriad tensions in all of this, or at least there should be. If someone is living a life under authority without tension then most likely he or she is asleep and simply going with the flow - after all Jesus, even though He is a Son, learned obedience by the things which He suffered. If we are always seeking to remove ourselves from difficulties, or if we live lives of acquiescence to the ways of this age, or lives in rebellion against authority - we are removing ourselves from a place where the Father can transform us into the image of the Son. We are called to live intentionally obedient lives to the will of God.
To go back to the previous post in this series, what was it that the centurion recognized about Jesus (Matthew 8:5-13)? The typical answer is, “He saw that Jesus had authority.” That is incorrect. The centurion says to Jesus, “For I also am a man under authority.” The centurion understood that legitimate authority is derived from beyond the person in a position of authority, and that legitimate authority is under authority. When the centurion spoke to his soldiers the Emperor was speaking. The centurion saw something in Jesus that caused him to know that Jesus was not a loose cannon, that Jesus was not out doing His own thing, and that Jesus was living a life of accountability under authority. The centurion may not have known exactly who Jesus was or what Jesus’ mission was, but he knew that here was a man under the authority of a particular nature, and so unusual a nature that the centurion knew that all Jesus had to do was to speak the word and his servant would be healed.
An element of being under authority is the willingness to bear the consequences of disobedience when we disobey earthly authority in order to obey heavenly authority. A danger is that when a conflict arises between earthly and heavenly authority that we use the conflict to justify our own rebellious and ungodly attitudes - if we cannot obey earthly authority because it conflicts with the will of God, our focus should be on obedience to God and a sensitive witness to others, including those who we cannot obey. We must ask God to guard our hearts and minds in these things lest we become people of vitriol and rebellion and assume the cloak of the those who pull down and destroy.
Conflict between good and evil, right and wrong, light and darkness in the workplace provides the Christ-follower with an opportunity to share Christ with others. It gives us an opportunity to think things through and to hopefully engage others on the problem. How can we help others think about the consequences of their actions? Can we show them another way? Can we appeal to their God-given sense of right and wrong? If we cannot obey or endorse an action or way of thinking, how can we respectfully and thoughtfully communicate our decision? We are not called to shut doors on relationships but to considerately engage others. How is God using difficult circumstances to form us into the image of Jesus Christ?
Living under the authority of Jesus Christ means obedience to Him and service to others. When we must disobey the authority of man, that disobedience must be not disobedience to man per se, but obedience to God in service to both God and man...whether others see this or not.
We are not our own, we are bought with a price..