Who has the authority in the home, the church, the country and the world? It intrigues me how much concern there is about authority every where you look. Have you noticed all the arguments going on in our government over who has the authority? Congress is upset because they believe the President is taking authority from them and doing things unilaterally that should be done in coordination with them or should be done by them altogether. The President feels the inaction of the congress gives him the right to go ahead on his own and blames congress itself for his actions that they don’t like. But it certainly isn’t just in government that the whole authority question is a concern. In church there is a lot of discussion about who has the authority. Do women have any authority at church? Who is in charge, the elders of the church or the preacher? But we don’t stop there, we also struggle with the whole question of authority in the home and family. Who is in charge at home? Who makes the final decision? What if we can’t agree on something important? Who is the leader?
So, let’s think about the whole subject for a moment. First, Jesus declared, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). He is the head over all things to the church which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all and in all (Ephesians 1:22-23). Jesus is described as “king of kings” and “lord of lords” so there isn’t much to question with regard to who the supreme authority is in the church or kingdom of the Lord. Now it is important to remember even with all that, Jesus will ultimately turn all the rule and authority over to God the Father according to I Corinthians 15:20-28. When he comes again and the dead are raised Jesus the king gives all back to the Father that put all things under him to begin with. So, when it comes to the church, if all authority belongs to Jesus, how much is left for anyone else? I wouldn’t think there would be much, if he has it all. Yet he does put the apostles into a place of leadership in the church and even said the church was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets in Ephesians 2:18-22. Also, Paul said to Titus to “Preach and rebuke with all authority.” Evidently, when preaching the word of the Lord I am to preach with authority that comes from the Lord to me through the word preached. Also, elders in the church are to lead or guide in the church. In I Timothy 5:17 it says, “The elders who lead well are worthy of double honor.” Paul asked in I Timothy 3 how the elder could lead in the church if they weren’t leading at home. So, the teacher has authority when preaching the word and elders have authority when leading the church to follow the Lord. Also, in Acts 6:1-6 when the first deacons were set aside in the church in Jerusalem, it says they were put in charge of or “Over this business” of feeding the widows in the church. So deacons have authority over the given areas of the work put under their lead.
What about authority in the family relationship? I’m certain many are ready to point to Ephesians 5:21-33. It starts with the command to “Submit yourselves to one another in the fear of the Lord.” Then said that husbands are the head of the wife as Christ is of the church. It is powerful to notice that he immediately moves from the authority thing to a huge declaration about what a good husband does with loving his wife. He loves her like Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. He sanctified and cleansed her with the washing of water by the word that he might present her to himself as a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but she was to be holy and blameless before him in love. Most of the time when I hear men saying to their wives that they need to submit, they don’t go ahead and quote the part about how much they should love the wife and give themselves up for her.
But I want to point to a couple of other Scriptures that discuss the topic of authority in the home that we don’t focus on as much. In I Corinthians 7:3-5 Paul said, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have AUTHORITY over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have AUTHORITY over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so the Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” So in the husband and wife relationship the whole authority thing has some twists in it. The wife has authority over her husbands body and the husband has authority over his wife’s body. For either of them to arbitrarily withhold themselves sexually from the other is wrong. They may go for a season without sex in the marriage if it is by mutual consent and for a short time. Then it is imperative that you come back together or Satan will use the longings that are natural in both the man and the woman as a way to tempt them to sin. Do you suppose this whole thing of mutual authority over each other’s body is limited to just sex in the marriage or is it a principle of the whole marriage relationship? Since we are one flesh and belong to one another, it isn’t so much of one being over the other as it is each being over the other one.
One other text that I think is significant is I Timothy 5:14. Paul had been talking to widows in the church and the need to take care of them either by family if they have family to do it or by the church if they are widows indeed. Then he said, “So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and give the enemy no opportunity for slander.” The word here translated “Manage” is translated “Guide” in some translations and to “lead” or “rule” in others. Here is what is intriguing to me. The word Paul used in the original text was a double word. It would literally translate as “house despot”. It is absolutely the word that means she is in charge in the house. Her home and family is a place that God gives her authority.
So, just maybe the whole question of who is in charge may need a little more research. If you have always thought that the Bible was absolutely clear that man is in charge everywhere, you might ought to look a little more. As you study the subject, let me suggest you go back and read Judges chapters 4-5. What would it have been like to be the husband of Deborah? Was she a leader? Did she violate her rightful place? Or did God call her to her place and give her the spiritual gifts to do it?
What’s the point of all of this? It is that Scripture doesn’t normally line up as easily as we want it to. Does the Bible say the man is the head of the house? Yes, it does. Does it say he is in authority in everything in the house? No, it doesn’t do that. Submission goes in both directions as does honor and respect (I Peter 3:1-8). So often the real challenge is not to try to make an argument but allow God’s word to speak for itself.