Reading through material with a lot of information is hard work. I had a work out recently!
Kristen, who comments here frequently, has put together two articles on “biblical” authority. (The original articles by Kristen Rosser are at No Longer Qivering.) I want to learn her information well, so I jotted down a simple outline of her study. Please browse the outline, then if your spirit is so led, go over to the full articles to read her extended insights. Posted with permission.
1. The difference between authority and leadership
a. Authority is legal power, or a right to command or to act; power, rule, sway.
b. Leadership is the state of being the one leading or commanding.
c. This article is about authority, not leadership.
2. God is reluctant to establish authority structures in the Old Testament.
“God in the Old Testament seems so reluctant to establish authority structures in Israel, so careful to limit the ones He does establish, and so ready to overturn human assumptions about who should be in authority.”
a. The first mention of authority is in Genesis 1:26-28.
i. God gives mankind -male and female- dominion (authority).
ii. Humans have authority over animals.
b. The next mention of authority is in Genesis 3:16.
i. Right after the Fall, “God tells Eve then that the man will begin to rule over her, as part of the consequences of the wrong that has come into the world.”
ii. God does not tell the man to rule his wife. In contrast, God does tell the humans to rule over the animals.
iii. No legality of rule (authority) is established for man to rule woman.
c. The rest of the Pentuetuch is silent about God-given authority.
i. God chooses individuals to prepare a people who will birth His Messiah, but does not give them ruling authority.
ii. Curiously, God flips the world’s authority stucture on its head. Instead of choosing the firstborn son to continue His covenant, as was the way with ancient tribal society, God works with younger sons. (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David)
iii. Governing structure is addressed in Genesis 41:31-35, when Joseph advised Pharaoh to establish a “famine agent” with supporting officers. This was not God’s directive, but Joseph’s idea.
iv. Governing structure is also addressed in Exodus 18:23, when Jethro advised Moses to split his load between elders of the tribes. Jethro asks Moses to make sure God is okay with his idea.
d. Israelite government
i. God does establish a heirarchial structure among the priests and Levites. But, their rule (authority) is limited to worship. There is no priestly ruling class in Israelite society.
ii. God is reluctant to establish a monarchy in Dueteronomy 17:14.
iii. In 1 Samuel 8:7, God says Israel’s choice for a king equals a rejection of God’s rule (authority).
iv. God warns the Israelites that a king will oppress them. “God also limits the power of the king by making him subject to the law and forbidding him priestly powers.” 1 Samuel 13:10-14
e. God restrains human authority so the people will see His sovereignty.
i. Daniel 4:32 says, “The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whosoever he will.” Nebuchadnezzar is humbled.
ii. It is God who decides who gets to be in authority, not human structure.
iii. “In fact, God’s plan seems to be more about raising up individual leaders than setting up structures of authority (please keep in mind the definitions set forth earlier).”
iv. God denounces those who “have set up kings, but not by Me; they have made princes, and I knew it not.” Hosea 8:4
The next part will be contrasting the kingdom of the world to the kingdom of God.