Authority is God’s Design

January 17, 2013

This post was adapted from my book Authority: The Leader’s Call to Serve. Scheduled to release mid-February. 

Like it or not, authority is God’s design, modeled after his own nature.

We love authority if we’re the ones that have it, but despise authority when we’re under it. Ever since the Garden of Eden, humanity has been on a hell-bent quest to eschew all authority—God-given or not (Genesis 3:1-6).


I struggle with authority like everyone else. I’m selfish and want to make my own decisions. I want to be my own sovereign god, having control over every detail possible. This shows up in some amusing and revealing ways.

For instance, I hate potlucks. I don’t know who cooked the food. I don’t know how clean their kitchen is, or if they have cats (is there hair in that chocolate cake?). I can’t control what other people bring, so I eat what my family brings. Or I go for the fried chicken because it was fried. I don’t love to relax and trust others—even in something so trivial.

A potluck is just a simple example. Behind my desire to architect the perfect meal, is really a heart unwilling to submit to authority, to anything that strips me of control—even a meaningless potluck.

Authority is not the problem. Our stubborn hearts are the problem. Our response to authority is rebellion, made all the more devastating because authority is actually a beautiful gift. Both authority and its corollary—submission—emanate from the core of God’s character. To exercise authority and submission is to image God. Theologian Bruce Ware goes so far as to say, “An authority-submission structure marks the very nature of the eternal Being of the one who is three.” (page 21, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)

Within the Trinity, God both exercises and submits to authority with perfect joy. He invites us to do the same. This means that leaders need to be both in and under authority. Willing to take the lead and willing to follow. How are you resisting authority in your life? Where is submission a challenge for you?

Find out more about Authority: The Leader’s Call to Serve.


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