People in Authority, Government, and Leadership

How should we relate to people in authority, government, and leadership? Should we give them our unconditional obedience and support? Or should we refuse to submit to them because only Jesus is our Lord?

While God is undeniably the ultimate authority—and Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16)—God has made it clear that He has set up earthly structures of leadership with legitimate lines of authority. Though imperfect, these authorities fulfill His purposes, generally to provide protection for the people to live in peace (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Tim. 2:1-2). The Bible tells us to live in a posture of obedience and respect toward our governments and their leaders, and not to cause trouble for ourselves and others by being unnecessarily oppositional (Titus 3:1-2; Heb. 13:17). We should give God what He is due, and give also to our earthly leaders what they are due (Luke 20:20-26). Yet if our earthly leaders ever tell us to do what would be disobedient to God, we must maintain our allegiance to God as our highest King. We must obey God rather than people (Acts 5:29).

God holds high standards for leaders. With authority comes responsibility. God desires righteous rulers, and the biblical writers and prophets did not hesitate to call out and condemn injustice (Deut. 16:18-20; Proverbs 28:3, 29:4; Isa. 10:1-2). Modern civil rights activists have used biblical principles (such as Matt. 5:38-48) to awaken the conscience of oppressors and bring justice to the oppressed.

No matter how high our rank, God is still our master (Eph. 6:9; 1 Pet. 5:2-4), and in God’s kingdom the highest honors go to those who seek the lowest place (Mark 9:35). Whatever our position in the church or in the world, we must carry out our responsibilities with a servant’s heart and seek the good of those in our care. This is the example of Jesus: who “did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matt. 20:28).

For a deeper understanding of the issue involved, we suggest people go to the following link: