What the Bible says about
Authority, Submission to
(From Forerunner Commentary)
God says that if this judgment does go 1) to the main judge and 2) to the ecclesiastical authorities around the Tabernacle (i.e., the priests and the Levites), and when they make a decision, then everybody (the authorities and all the parties involved) is to accept that decision. And God says, "Be careful to do according to everything that they order you." This is the same sort of thing that He tells us about following His law. We are to go neither to the right hand nor to the left.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
What if a ruler, the one to whom we are to submit, is an oppressive person? What if he is just incompetent or stupid, and we know better how to do the job that he is supposed to be doing? What if the person is sexually immoral or financially greedy? Does God still want us to submit? What protection do we have in these kinds of circumstances?
Abomination that it is, those in authority often do evil. They might have serious character flaws that catch their victims in the effects of their flaws. What is so maddening is that they justify their ways—seeing them as good—and they will turn around and blame the innocent for the evils that occur.
For example, the proverb says that "all the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes." The incompetent man does not think to himself, "I'm really dumb, stupid, idiotic, and shouldn't even have this job." The sexually immoral person does not see himself as perverse. Most prostitutes will say, "Yes, I'm doing wrong according to the law, but I am providing a needed and wanted service. If it weren't I would have no customers." They justify themselves; they are pure in their own eyes.
Consider the enemies of Jesus. They felt justified in taking His life on the grounds that He was stirring up the people. No one on earth has ever been more innocent, yet they justified what they were doing because the people were being stirred up by Him. They accused Him of being a revolutionary, a threat to community stability.
If we are in a position like this—under an oppressive ruler who justifies the way he is doing things, and we are suffering the effects of his actions—we feel like powerless pawns being taken advantage of. We feel that he is denying us the liberty to do what we want. Should we submit or rebel?
To know what to do, we must look at what Jesus did in a similar circumstance. This is not an occasion in which the authority figure demands submission, and in submitting, we must break the law of God. The situation does not involve being forced to sin, but simply submitting to one who is unreasonable and oppressive.
John 19:10 is part of Jesus' trial for His very life before Pilate, and occurs after He was scourged: "Then Pilate said to Him, 'Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?'" He could choose to do either. Pilate was a corrupt official. His record, according to secular history, was not at all good. The Jews despised him for his harsh ways.
"Jesus answered, 'You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin'" (John 19:11). His response is very meaningful. It clearly shows His attitude, His approach, to every circumstance of His life.
To be in the same frame of mind, we must ask ourselves, "Do we see God?" Is He really a part of our lives? Is He really running this creation? Is He really sitting at the controls of things? Is He really aware of us as individuals? Does He have every hair on our heads numbered? Are we really the apple of His eye? Are our lives really in His hands? Have we really given them to Him, or are we holding part of ourselves in reserve?
"You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above." Jesus saw life very clearly and simply: that God was in complete control of everything going on in the universe. Not that everything was being directed by Him in the sense that He was causing it to occur, but that Jesus believed with every fiber of His being that God was with Him all the time, everywhere, and at every moment. He knew that His life was in His Father's hands and that Pilate could do nothing against Him unless God allowed it.
Would God have us submit, or be faced with submitting, to somebody who was cruel, hard-hearted, incompetent, sexually unbalanced, perverted, stupid, or financially greedy? Would He have us live and work under such a person? He put His own Son in that position! Everything at Jesus' trial and crucifixion looked as though it was totally stacked against Him. Carnally, it seems as if He had every right to rebel. He could have replied, "Do you not know to whom you are doing this?" Instead, He says, in paraphrase, "You would not have the power to do anything except that My Father passed on this. And He is now looking at Me to see how I am going to respond. Will I submit to the authority that He has permitted to be over Me right now?"
Do we see God in our lives like this? We have to begin to look at ourselves differently than the way people in the world look at themselves. We must decide whether we are in God's hand or not. Do we have the faith to trust that we are, and that these constituted authorities are also in His hand? Do we believe that He is aware of what is going on and that He deeply cares about what we will do in each situation? As He did with Abraham, He must know what kind of witness we are going to make (see Genesis 22).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)
The person who sat in Moses' seat had a measure of authority, and Jesus said it was to be respected. Apparently, the majority of those seats were occupied by Pharisees and scribes. However, Jesus took great exception as to how they used their authority. They said, and they did not. It is clear they used their authority to abuse, to elevate themselves and put others down, and to burden the people in ways Jesus did not agree with.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 25)
1 Corinthians 11:3-15
Did Paul teach the early New Testament church of God that women must wear a hat or veil to church services? To obtain a clear picture of what the apostle meant by these statements, we must understand these verses in the context of his entire discussion of head coverings. This topic begins in verse 3, giving the underlying principle for his decision: "But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God."
The real subject under discussion is subjection to authority! Paul shows that, under God's government, there is a chain of authority. A woman is subject to her husband, who is subject to Christ, who is subject to God the Father (see also Ephesians 5:22-24).
In verse 4, Paul relates this matter of authority first to a man's head covering. Paul explains that a man should not have his head covered because a head covering symbolizes subjection. To wear a head covering would dishonor his God-given position as the head of his wife. The apostle explains this principle further in verses 7-10.
As God has appointed the roles of men and women, a man stands in a similar position toward his wife as Christ does to men. Thus, Paul says, a man who is a godly example of loving authority "is the image and glory of God." Likewise, a woman stands in a similar position as man does to God, in subjection. Therefore, Paul concludes, a woman must appear in her God-designed role as a submissive wife (Genesis 2:18; 3:16). Her submissive appearance renders glory to her head, her husband.
For further proof that this is what God intends, Paul recalls that God created a man first, then He formed a woman out of the man (I Corinthians 11:8). To him, the order of creation is significant, showing who was to be in authority. He then uses the fact that Eve was created as a helper and companion for Adam (verse 9), rather than vice versa, as a final proof for his conclusion that a man should not cover his head.
Paul immediately explains that the head covering a woman should wear symbolizes her submission to the man (verse 10). The covering on a woman's head is a sign of her willingness to be in subjection to a man. It also acknowledges that she has a special need for protection by angels that a man may not need.
In verses 11-12 the apostle cautions us not to go to extremes in these God-given roles. Men and women need each other and can teach each other many things. In these verses, Paul seems to be recalling Genesis 2:24: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall be one flesh." If a husband and wife work together "in the Lord," they can produce the godly character that God desires in us. God has made us what we are, so we should, as "one flesh," strive to fulfill His purpose for us.
What is this covering that Paul is saying a man should not wear but a woman should? In answering this unspoken question, Paul asks, "Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?" (verse 13). He immediately answers his own question: "Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering" (verses 14-15).
All along, Paul has been writing, not about a hat or veil, but the length of one's hair! He is not saying a woman should wear something over her hair, but rather she should wear her hair long enough to be recognized as feminine. This wearing of her hair long shows her submission to the man.
Thus, in verse 5, Paul is saying that if a woman prays or prophesies while wearing her hair short like a man, she is dishonoring the man. She is not showing a willingness to wear the symbol of submission to the man's authority. Further, for a woman to wear her hair short like a man is just as dishonorable as if she had her head shaved like a fallen woman! Verse 6 means that if a woman has the wrong attitude about this matter, she might as well go all the way and have her head shaved!
The issue under discussion, far from being a matter of wearing a hat or veil, involves the length of men's and women's hair. Paul's "head covering" is the actual hair that grows on our heads, and his teaching is that a woman should wear long hair and a man should wear short hair.
Because Paul specifies that a woman should wear long hair, some wonder, "How long is long?" Some have gone so far as to believe that a woman should never cut her hair. However, Scripture does not specify uncut hair, but long hair. Others have confused shorn hair with cut hair. Shorn hair is hair that has been closely clipped in a mannish hairdo.
Paul is making the point that a woman should wear her hair long enough so that she looks feminine and honorable. This is why he says in verse 15, "If a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her." A woman should pay particular attention to her hair and make certain that it is long enough and properly groomed and styled to enhance her appearance and femininity.
On the other hand, men must not follow modern fads and styles and wear their hair long like women. Long hair brings dishonor upon a man. God intends that we make a clear distinction between men and women in both grooming and dress (Deuteronomy 22:5). The length of one's hair is a most important line of distinction to God.
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Men and Women, Hats and Hair
There are two ways to submit. Both of them are good, but one is better than the other. It is better to submit grimly, even with resentment, than not to submit at all. But it is far better to submit as cheerfully and sincerely as we possibly can. We do it, not because the other person is better, not because we are cowards, not because we are weak - we do it because, in our mind's eye, we see God on His throne.
Our submission is always a response to Him. So we can do it with a smile, with gracious courtesy, and with determination. God makes the point very clearly that, even though a person has done wrong in abusing us, we do not have the right to retaliate. God expects us to submit cheerfully as an act of faith.
There is another reason why God wants us to do this. When a person retaliates, his mind is never pure. There is revenge and anger in him, even vindictiveness. And contrary to the saying, revenge is not sweet; it is a poison that breeds war! If an injured or abused person does not lower his standard to that of the abuser, God is free to work-the oppressor might even be changed to the high standard of the oppressed.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)
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