limits of authoritySubmission is a matter of the attitude of the heart, but obedience is a matter of conduct. Obedience addresses behavior but submission deals with the state of the heart. Disobedience inappropriately touches the holiness of God while rebellion inappropriately touches the throne and the authority of God.

We must always submit ourselves to various levels of human authority, but we don’t always have to obey them. Only God is the object of unlimited obedience. Obedience to men is always limited. If the representative authority gives a clear command against God’s commands, we must not obey it. That is why Jesus said that He came to bring a sword, and that whoever loves his father or mother more than Him is not worthy of Him (Matthew 10:34-37). For we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). In order to do this, sometimes we must displease men.

God has established a hierarchy of authority that is organized in the following order:

•     The sovereign authority of God

•     The authority of the Bible

•     The authority of our conscience

•     Delegated authority

Any delegated authority must be submissive to the three higher levels of authority, besides being limited to its own area of responsibility. Whether it is in the family, in the church, in the government or at work, we must not obey any authority that commands us to sin against God, the Bible or our conscience. We must also observe the following points:

All delegated authority has its limits

An employer can only give orders within the sphere of work. Pastors, leaders or any other authority are limited to the sphere for which they were delegated. No human authority can decide with whom I should marry or interfere in my professional or domestic life.

Not all authority is permanent

Some authorities are temporary and we need only submit to them for a limited amount of time depending on the circumstances.

Traditions and customs imply some real authority

Within the parameters of the Word of God, we must submit ourselves to the customs and traditions of society or the church wherever we are.

Some types of authority are basically functional

•   Authority based on natural aptitude

•   Authority based on instruction

•   Authority based on experience

•   Authority based on the anointing of God