Exodus 20:12; John 19:25-27; Romans 13:1-7; Ephesians 6:1-4
September 9, 2016 (KSYC) • Download this article (PDF)
In recent weeks, major liberal journalists and social media have compared violent American flag-burning protesters to soldiers storming the beaches of Normandy — all while downplaying the leftists’ violence. These protesters, known as “antifa” (short for anti-fascist), advocate communism and even anarchy, and have even been listed as a domestic terrorist movement by New Jersey.
“Antifa” is made up of self-described anarchists — radical left-wing thugs who employ violence and intimidation to advance their beliefs. Persons associated with the movement have committed violent acts such as attacking police, damaging cars and other properties, stabbing a police horse, and beating people with rocks, sticks, bike locks and skateboards. They advocate various ideas such as open borders, no police, unrestricted abortion, open sex, and hate speech against those who oppose them. They promote anti-racism, but they’re actually racists; anti-hate speech, but they spew hate speech. In short, they’re anarchists, communists and fascists who use violence to advance their hate.
The Fifth Commandment in Exodus 20:12 says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” Most of us confine this commandment to honoring our parents. But when we read the Bible, this command includes honoring not only our parents but all kinds of authorities, such as government officials, teachers, police, and for members of churches, pastors and elders. The antifa and other violent protesters grossly violate this universal commandment.
God has placed authorities in this world. From creation, God has placed Adam as the head over his wife, as Paul teaches, “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior” (Eph 5:23). Paul says that women should not exercise authority over a man, because Adam was formed first (1 Tim 2:12-14). So from the beginning God has placed authorities in our societies. Those who are under authorities are to submit to those whom God has appointed over them.
So first we look at honoring our fathers and mothers. How do we honor our parents? There are many ways. We are to be grateful to our fathers and mothers for bringing us up from birth, through childhood, even to adulthood. We are to be obedient to them, for this is also our thankful response to them for their love toward their children. In their so-called “Golden Years,” they need our support. We are to praise them for what they have done for us. We are to encourage them and pray for them when they have problems, especially in their aging years. We are to learn from them, because they are wiser than their children.
All of these are ways of honoring our fathers and mothers. Paul says that this is the first commandment with a promise. What is this promise? He says, “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” (Eph 6:3). This is not an absolute promise, that those who honor their parents will always experience blessings and prosperity. It is generally true, but not in all cases. This promise points forward to the future, when Jesus returns, and takes all believers to heaven, where all will be well with them for eternity in the heavenly land. But the reverse is true. Those who do not honor their fathers and mothers generally have troubled lives. In the Old Testament, the penalty for dishonoring and disobeying parents is death. All of these – gratitude, obedience, support, praise, encouragement, learning – is summarized in one word: LOVE. Love your parents as you love yourself.
Second, we look at honoring authorities. How do we honor authorities? There are several Biblical examples, but I will cite only a few.
One is honoring the civil government. In the Old Testament, God’s people had kings. God appointed their kings. Even when they were evil, like King Saul, David did not dishonor him. The king wanted him killed, but when David had a few opportunities to kill him, he did not want to touch God’s anointed king.
Today, we have civil authorities. As believers saved by Christ, we are dual citizens: citizens of the kingdom of Christ first, then citizens of our nation. Paul tells us in Romans 13 that we are to submit to our civil authorities. Just as God established our parents as authorities to order our homes, he also established civil authorities to order society. They are servants of God. We are to be law-abiding citizens. We are to pay taxes truthfully and faithfully.
Since all human beings are sinful, they also have weaknesses and problems. So we are to pray for our government officials, so they may govern in integrity, wisdom and righteousness. We are to pray for others in authority, such as police officers who protect us and maintain peace and order. We can complain about their mistakes or abuses, but we are to complain using respectful words and actions. Therefore, we might not like government policies or traffic tickets, but even so, we are to give them their due respect. The antifa and other liberal celebrities and politicians are in gross violation of this Biblical principle.
Another example of authorities over us are our administrators at work. You might not like your supervisor because he is a slave driver, or he hasn’t promoted you, or you don’t get paid well. But the Bible often speak about relationships between employers and employees; in the ancient world, between masters and slaves. In Ephesians 5 and 6, Paul speaks of submitting to one another. His examples of submissive relationships include wives to husbands, children to parents, and slaves to masters. The highest submissive relationship is that of the church to Christ. We are to do our jobs diligently whether the boss is present or not. We are to treat our work as working for Christ, not for our boss or company. As we work, we are to think that we are slaves of Christ, not working for slave drivers.
And this takes us to another submissive relationship: that of students to teachers and other school authorities. This is a most difficult problem in our culture today. Rebellious children are almost the norm in our schools. The rebelliousness starts early in middle school all the way to high school years. School administrators and teachers are at a loss as to what to do. But the rebellion is rooted in the home. When parents do not discipline their children, they grow up rebellious. The other root cause of the lawlessness in our youth, such as the antifa, is the ultraliberal rebellious teachings in our colleges and universities.
Lastly, for those of you who are Christians and are members of your church, pastors and elders are authorities over you. The Bible speaks a lot about church discipline (1 Cor 5:1-5; 1 Tim 1:18-20). The writer of Hebrews commands Christians to obey and submit to their leaders, pastors and elders, who watch over their spiritual lives (Heb 13:17). However, today, many people reject church membership, because they do not want to be under the spiritual authority of the elders. Worse, they do not want to be accountable to anyone. Sometimes, they think that they are more knowledgeable about spiritual things than their elders. But this is far from the Biblical teaching about submitting and obeying the elders of the church.
Finally, I mentioned that since all human beings are sinful, authorities are also to submit to the final authority: God himself. And how do we know what God wants us to obey? The Bible, his very own Word. This is the final authority of all Christians. Notice that Paul’s commandment to obey our parents, he says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord.” If authorities over us command us to disobey God’s commandment, we are to obey God rather than man. This is what Peter said to the Jewish authorities when they were commanded to stop preaching Christ. Daniel and his friends did not want to worship the king’s image, so they were thrown into the fiery furnace. No authority, whether parents, civil authorities, supervisors, school administrators, elders in the church is above the authority of God’s Word. Their authority over Christians is limited by God’s Word.
Let us pray: Almighty God, we thank you for establishing authorities over your creation so we may live an orderly and peaceful live. We thank you for our parents who cared for us, for our government that maintain civility in society, for our employer who have given us jobs, for our teachers who patiently teach us, for our pastors and elders who love, counsel us to spiritual maturity. May all of us be mindful that you are the Authority above all, and your Word is final.