Not only does the Lord come to us by way of his holy Word; He also enters our lives through different agents. God comes to us by way of different people whom He puts in authority over us. We need to understand that. By the same token, the one who is in a position of authority needs to understand that as well. And he had better not abuse his authority. From the Word of God we can even say: Woe unto that person who abuses his or her authority and who thereby hurts the one under their authority. We will write more about that in a future issue—about the abuse of authority. But let the warning ring out now already that it will not go well for those who abuse their authority and hurt a little one. If he does not repent, it would better for that person to have a millstone hung around his neck and for him to be cast into the deepest part of the ocean.
But we have gotten well ahead of ourselves. This issue's topic is "agents of authority."
Basically, there are three spheres of authority that God calls us to place ourselves under. They are: our parents, the church, and the state.
The first persons in authority you came across in your life were your parents. Your mom and your dad. They were given the task, the responsibility to raise you, to teach you, to discipline you. Children are to submit to the good instruction and discipline of their parents. The LORD God even had something to say about this in the Ten Commandments. The Fifth Commandment says: "Honour your father and your mother." There are many places in the Bible that teach children to obey their parents.
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul mentioned this as well. In Ephesians 6 he said: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother…'" In this context, he had a special word for the fathers. He added: "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."
We can also think of the beautiful summary of what the Bible teaches about this in Lord's Day 39 of the Heidelberg Catechism:
104. Q. What does God require in the fifth commandment?
A. That I show all honour, love, and faithfulness
to my father and mother
and to all those in authority over me,
submit myself with due obedience
to their good instruction and discipline,
and also have patience with their weaknesses
since it is God's will
to govern us by their hand.
(The next post is about how the church is an agent of authority.)
This series of blog posts were originally presented as a speech at the October 1998 Ontario Women's League Day in Ancaster, Ontario. Much of the spoken style remains.