Authority is central to the Kingdom of God

Jesus taught us to pray,

Your Kingdom come
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10).

This explains the Kingdom of God. It is God's will being done on earth. God's will is done when his authority is accepted. Every person living under the authority of God is part of the Kingdom of God. Every aspect of life which is submitted to the authority of God is part of the Kingdom of God. God's kingdom extends as far as his authority is acknowledged and obeyed.

Here is the test of the Kingdom of God.
Does the will of the person with authority align with God's will?


There are few real kingdoms around these days, so we don't understand what the word kingdom means. It may be better to speak of the "Government of God". We all understand the authority of the government. In a modern state, the government has very few limits on what it can do. It has absolute authority. The role of both the government and a king is to exercise authority. The government can pass any law, which will pass through the parliament or congress. There is no aspect of life for which it cannot legislate. A king has the same absolute authority in his kingdom. The Kingdom of God is the Government of God.

Authority is Everywhere

Authority is a concept that is central to the Kingdom of God. Since the charismatic movement and the growth of the Pentecostal churches, there has been considerable emphasis on the power of the Spirit. Christians have been keen to experience his power, and this is good. There has not been so much interest in authority, except over demons for deliverance. However, authority is even more important than power. God has created the universe to function in accordance with spiritual and physical laws. This makes authority very important.

Since we don't understand authority, we often don't recognise it. However, like the air, authority is everywhere; and it is very important.

Keep off the grass

Tidy your bedroom.

Give way

Sign here

OK / Cancel

Definition of Authority

Authority has three parts:

This pattern works in the following way. Someone exercises their will and decides what should happen. They then issue a command. Someone else or some thing acts on that command. What is done coincides with the will of the one in authority. Their will is done.

The centurion understood authority (Matt 8:5-10). He said that he could say to a soldier, "Go" and he would go and to another and he could say, "Come!" and he would come. This is the same pattern of decision, command and action. The centurion made a decision; he issued a command. The soldier obeyed and took action. The centurion's will was done.

The same thing happens when I drive a car. I choose to turn left. I issue a command by turning the steering wheel anti-clockwise and the car turns left. The car is under my authority, so my will is done.

I have authority over my body. I decide to raise my right arm. My brain issues an instruction to my arm, which rises up.

The yellow arrow represents Authority obedient to God.

Authority resides in people. When authority is delegated, it moves from one person to another. For example, when a manager appoints a supervisor, some authority is being delegated down. If that person does not exercise the authority delegated, another person might take it up.

Good and Evil

The great issue of our times is authority. Who has authority in any situation? Will that authority be honoured? Will it be exercised correctly?

Every area of authority is a battleground. Whose will be done?

If God's will is done, that area of authority is part of the Kingdom of God. The people and actions involved are part of the Kingdom of God. If man's will is done, then Satan's will is done as well, because his main goal is to foster rebellion against God.

Boundary of a Kingdom

A Kingdom extends as far as the authority of the King is accepted.

The boundaries of a kingdom are not geographic. They extend wherever the king's authority is accepted. Some of the nobles in a kingdom may not accept the authority of the king. If the king cannot control a noble, the people that the noble controls will not be part of the kingdom.

Likewise, there will be outlaws who live inside the kingdom, but who do not accept the authority of the king. Although they are within the geographic boundaries of the kingdom, they are not really part of the kingdom. They are outside the law and outside the benefits of the kingdom. Authority, not geography, defines the boundaries of a kingdom.

The Kingdom of God extends as far as the authority of God is accepted.

The Kingdom of God is greater than we can imagine. God is unlimited, so his authority can extend throughout the earth.

Above or Below

The way that authority is exercised is really important. Using authority in the wrong way to advance God's will is evil. The Kingdom of God is only advanced if authority is used for the right objective in the right way.

Authority can be exercised in two ways:

I call these two types of authority:

Authority can come from above or below.

The soldier obeyed the centurion because he knew that he would be punished if he disobeyed. The centurion had the coercive power of the Roman Empire behind him. This is authority from above. One person accepts another's authority because the other has the power to enforce his will. That power may be legal power, as is the case of the centurion. It may be the power of a gun, or simply be bigger fists. I call this Imposed Authority.

The other kind of authority comes from below. One person chooses freely to submit to the authority of another. They may respect the wisdom of the other, or expect to get some benefit. I call this Free Authority. For example, when we take up employment, we accept the authority of our employer in return for a wage or salary. We may submit a legal issue to a judge to get a wise decision.

The difference between a manager and a leader illustrates these two ways of exercising authority. A person becomes a manager when another person with authority appoints them (Imposed from above). A leader emerges when people freely agree to follow a wise person (Free Authority).

Free Authority

The main feature of Free Authority is that it is never enforced with power and coercion.  The person making the decision and issuing the command lets people decide whether they will obey the command or not.  People with Free Authority rely on the loyalty of people under their authority to get their will done.  Free authority is fragile, but it is the best kind of authority because it leaves people with their freedom.

Free authority is usually created when one person freely decides to submit to another.  Free Authority is created by “voluntary submission”.

Voluntary submission is powerful because it creates Free Authority.  When a group of people freely submit to another person, they create authority that did not previously exist.

Love and submission meet perfectly in Free Authority, so it flows to good leaders.  The disciples gladly submitted to Jesus because they knew he loved them.

Free Authority is voluntary and temporary.  It is voluntary, because the person with authority cannot demand it.  The authority is temporary because the people submitting can take it back at any time.  If they stop submitting, the Free Authority disappears.  Free Authority is controlled by the person who submits.  They specify the scope and term of the authority they are surrendering.

The authority of Christian elders is not an authority delegated by God, but comes through voluntary submission.  Christians submitting to an elder limit their freedom of thought and action, by giving authority to the elder.  When a disciple’s submission is withdrawn, the elder’s authority evaporates.

If an elder loses the plot, or a disciple does not like the elder’s advice, they can withdraw their submission.  Once they have grown a bit, disciples will want to stand on their own feet, so their submission will be reduced, and the authority of the elder is diminished.  Disciples can withdraw their submission at any time if they have chosen to sin.  An elder cannot force a straying disciple to submit if the disciple has chosen to ignore them.

Free Authority is fragile.  If a person exercising Free Authority gets too oppressive, it quickly changes into Imposed Authority.  People exercising Free Authority are accountable to the people who have submitted to them, so they must provide sufficient benefit to maintain their loyalty.  Employers must pay wages, or their employees will resign.  If the expected benefits are not forthcoming, voluntary submission can be withdrawn.

The Kingdom of God is based on Free Authority because God refuses to impose his authority by force.  This radically different approach to authority makes his Kingdom unique and special because it preserves human freedom.  If people freely submit to God because they love and trust him, they have given him authority over their lives.  However, they are still free, because they can take back their authority at any time.

The ultimate human freedom is submission to the Holy Spirit.  When we submit to him, we give him authority over our lives.  He loves Free Authority, so we gain all the wisdom of God, but continue to be free.  Rebellion against the Spirit destroys freedom because it gives the powers of evil authority in our lives.  They twist it into Imposed Authority and rob our freedom.  Voluntary submission to the Holy Spirit produces true freedom.

Authority from below is voluntary, never oppressive. When a person chooses to submit to authority, they remain free. They are free to step out from under that authority at any time. If people who freely submit freely to the authority of a leader, they lose nothing in prestige or dignity because they still have their freedom.

When people freely submit to a leader, they create authority that did not previously exist. This is why submission is important in the scriptures. When Christians submit, they are increasing the scope of authority and bringing greater order to life.

Free Authority has two sides.

  1. The one with authority must provide enough benefit to the people under authority to preserve their love or loyalty.

  2. The people under authority must willingly submit to the one with authority. They remain free to withdraw their submission at any time.

Love and freedom meet perfectly in Free Authority.

God Uses Free Authority

Although God could seize control using Imposed Authority, he has chosen to use Free Authority. For his will to be done, we must freely choose to submit to him. He will not use force to make us obey his will. He prefers people to obey him, because they have chosen to love him.

God is so reticent about using Imposed Authority that many people are not even certain that he exists. If he wanted to use that authority, he would make everyone on earth understand his holiness. He could reveal his majesty on earth and force people to obey him, but he has chosen a different way. The fact that many people do not understand his awesome nature proves that he is not using Imposed Authority.

God has sufficient power to impose authority from above. He created everything and everything belongs to him, so he is entitled to establish his authority over it. Despite his position, God does not demand Imposed Authority. When he had created the universe, he immediately created man and gave all authority over the earth to him. He chopped his authority up, pushed it down and spread it around to all who would live on earth, and then hid out of sight.

Imposed Authority

Imposed Authority exists when a person with authority has the power to enforce their will on others.  That power might be the military power of a mighty empire, as in the case of the centurion.  It may be the power of a gun, or simply bigger fists.  Most human authority is Imposed Authority, maintained by coercion and enforced with physical power.  The greater the physical power, the greater the authority that can be imposed.

Caesar Augustus gained his authority by winning wars.  His military victories gave him authority to impose his will on the entire Roman Empire.  The Roman centurion could impose his authority because he was backed by the physical power of Rome.  The soldier obeyed the centurion because he knew that he would be severely punished by Rome if he disobeyed.

Human kings use Imposed Authority.  Every king needed a powerful army of loyal soldiers to impose his authority.  They punish anyone who refuses to obey his decrees.  If a king cannot defend his kingdom from internal rebellion and external attack, he will lose his kingdom.

A king had to be physically tough to keep the respect of his soldiers.  If he showed any sign of weakness, a strong soldier might start a rebellion and seize control of the kingdom and establish himself as king by force.  Imposed Authority is the basis for most kingdoms and many modern governments.

The devil is an expert on Imposed Authority.  He uses spiritual power to force those who belong to him to obey his will.  Strangely enough, his authority began as Free Authority.  He gained his power when Adam and Eve freely submitted to him the authority that God had given to them.  They submitted to the devil because they were deceived into expecting a benefit.  Once they had freely given him their authority, he twisted it into Imposed Authority.  Freedom became slavery to sin and death.

Freedom and authority are connected, but freedom is not the absence of authority.  Freedom is absence of Imposed Authority because Imposed Authority destroys freedom.  I am free when no one can impose their will on me.  I can decide what I will think and do.  If another person can force me to do things that I do not wish to do, they have authority that limits my freedom.  If they gain total authority over me, I am a slave.

A free person has authority over their life.  They can choose what they will think and how they will live.  No one can impose their will on them.  They cannot be forced to do things that they do not wish to do.  Imposed Authority destroys freedom, whereas Free Authority preserves freedom.

Restrained Authority

When a person with authority chooses not to enforce their decisions and commands, their authority is restrained.  In the world, people with authority often do not have sufficient power to enforce their authority.  Their authority is restrained by lack of power.  Authority in the Kingdom of God is different because it is restrained by choice.  A person with authority will often choose to leave it inactive and unenforced.

God created everything and everything belongs to him, so he is entitled to impose authority over the earth from above, but despite his enormous power, he has opted for Free Authority.  When he had finished creating the universe, he created humans and immediately gave them all his authority over the earth.  He surrendered his authority to the people he created.  He did not give partial authority by keeping some for himself.  He gave all his authority on earth to those he created.

God has more than enough power to impose his control over the world, but he is so reticent about using it that many people living on earth do not even realise that he exists.  If he wanted to impose his authority, he could reveal his holiness and majesty on earth and force people to obey him, but he has chosen not to because he is a God of love.  This is Restrained Authority.

Jesus is the best example of Restrained Authority.  When he was arrested, Jesus rebuked the disciple who drew his sword.

All who draw the sword will die by the sword.  Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels (Matt 26:52-53)?

Jesus had authority over the angels.  He could have ordered twelve thousand to come and rescue him, but he refused because he knew that coercion leads to more coercion and force.  He demonstrated Restrained Authority by rejecting the use of force because he knew that force harms the gospel.

Delegated Authority

People with Imposed Authority usually try to accumulate more authority.  The scope of Imposed Authority can be expanded by creating a hierarchy of delegated authority within an institution.  The person at the top of the hierarchy holds the power and is the source of the authority.  He delegates authority to people below him in the hierarchy he controls.

According to the dictionaries, “delegated authority” has the following meanings:

delegated authority is an authority obtained from another that has authority.
empowering someone else to act for you.
assignment to others of the authority for particular functions and decisions
authority assigned to another.

When a person with authority assigns some of their authority to another, that person has delegated authority.  This is real authority, but it is not held in its own right.  The person has authority because someone has delegated it to them.  If the person who delegated the authority withdraws their mandate, the person with delegated authority is powerless.  Ultimate authority always remains with the person at the top.

The centurion exercised delegated authority.  He was a very ordinary man, but his commander had given him absolute authority over a hundred men.  The Rome Empire had given him authority over a district in Judea.  This delegated authority gave the centurion authority to make people do things against their will.  He had authority to force Jesus to carry his pack.

The centurion had probably never met the Roman Emperor, yet he was under his authority and required to carry out his directions.  As authority is passed down through the organisation, its scope is narrowed so that the person at the bottom has very little freedom of action.  The centurion’s authority was limited to the hundred soldiers under his command and the town to which he had been assigned.

Most institutions use delegated authority.  In a large organisation, Imposed Authority can be delegated down through dozens of layers.  Bureaucracies are big users of delegated authority.  Bureaucrats are ordinary people without any natural authority, but they can force people to obey regulations and pay taxes because the government has delegated authority to them.

Most delegated authority operates under Imposed Authority.  The person with delegated authority must obey the person who has delegated authority to them.

Constrained Authority

Delegated authority is Constrained Authority.  A delegation of authority will include a definition of the scope of the authority that is assigned.  It will usually be limited to a specific area of control.  There will be delegations and rules prescribing how the authority should be exercised.

A person exercising delegated authority is not free because the person delegating authority to them dictates how it will be exercised.  The condition for receiving the delegated authority is submission to the one delegating it.  The centurion had absolute authority over his soldiers, but he was constrained to the purposes of Rome.

Christians must be careful about accepting positions with delegated authority because they should be wary about losing their freedom.  If they accept delegated authority, they will have to comply with the rules and delegations that come with it.  They might think they can use their authority for good, but they will be constrained by the guidelines and instructions from the person they submit to.  If there are too many limits on their ability to obey Jesus, they would be better to reject the delegated authority.

Delegated authority is often contaminated by evil spiritual power.  We should not submit to worldly authorities to get delegated authority, because we must avoid being unequally yoked.  When we submit to someone, we also submit to the spiritual forces that control them.  We should be careful about submitting to someone who is controlled by evil principalities and powers, even if we hope to use the delegated authority for good.  We should only submit to people delegating authority if it is authority that God has a plan to use.

Joseph is a good example of how to get authority because he learned wisdom as a servant, but he is a bad example of how to use authority.  Pharaoh had Imposed Authority backed by immense military power.  Joseph exercised authority delegated by Pharaoh so it was constrained authority.  Although he had authority over the entire nation of Egypt, he continued to be a slave of Pharaoh.

Pharaoh did not care about his people.  He cynically used the wisdom that Joseph gained from God to empower and enrich himself.  When the famine was over, Pharaoh owned all the land of Egypt and all the Egyptians were his slaves. Joseph exercised constrained authority, so he had no choice but to go along with Pharaoh’s schemes.

Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh.  The Egyptians, one and all, sold their fields because the famine was too severe for them.  The land became Pharaoh's, and Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt to the other (Gen 47:20-21).
Slavery is the ultimate form of Imposed Authority.  Slaves have lost all freedom.  The person who owns them has absolute authority over their lives.  Joseph enslaved a nation because his authority was constrained authority.

Imposed Authority needs Force

Imposed Authority is usually enforced with physical power. Most authority that comes from above is backed by force.

The spiritual powers of evil use Imposed Authority. They force those who belong to him to obey their will. They use force to maintain their authority. They gained their initial authority on earth from below. Adam and Eve freely submitted to the deceiver because they were deceived by his promises. They handed the authority that God had given to them over to him.

Once the spiritual powers of evil had received this Free Authority, they twisted it and turned it into Imposed Authority. Once Adam and Eve had submitted to them, they could not opt out, as they would be free to do, if it had remained Free Authority. The spiritual powers of evil continue to force people to do their will, even when they are unwilling.

The nature of authority can be changed, regardless of its source. This authority came from God as Free Authority, but once it passed into the hands of the spiritual powers of evil, they twisted it and transformed it into Imposed Authority

The spiritual powers of evil continue to seek more Free Authority. They are still deceiving people into submitting to them. However, whenever they get authority, they immediately transform it and twist it into Imposed Authority.

The Kingdom of God

Imposed Authority has no place in the Kingdom of God. He is totally committed to Free Authority and will not use Imposed Authority to force people into his kingdom. God will not accomplish his will by forcing unwilling people to do things they do not want to do, so coercion and control have no place in his Kingdom.

God's kingdom operates in a totally different way from any other kingdom. Jesus condemned the rulers for using authority from above. They "lord it over" their people and use force to get them to do what they want.

The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them (Matt 20:25).

They maintain their position using domination and coercion. Their kingdoms are based on Imposed Authority.

The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors (Luke 22:25).

The rulers of the Gentiles call themselves benefactors, but they control the people in the kingdom by force.

The Kingdom of God is totally different from any other kingdom. All authority in the kingdom comes from below, as people freely submit to people that love them and serve them.

But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves (Luke 22:26).

People gain authority in the kingdom by serving those they lead.

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant (Matt 20:26).

A servant cannot force the person they are serving to do things they do not want to do. A servant cannot control the one they are serving. They cannot use force or coercion to get their will done.

Freedom and Service

All authority in the Kingdom of God is based on freedom and service. This seems like a mystery, but it makes the kingdom of God unique. Jesus demonstrated how servant authority works. He lived amongst the people and served them. Many responded to his love by choosing to become his disciples. He had great authority over his disciples, but no one was forced to obey him. They obeyed him because they loved him. Every disciple was free to withdraw their submission at any time. Judas demonstrated this freedom when he withdrew his submission to Jesus and submitted to the Jewish leaders.

In the Kingdom of God, people gain authority by serving. Parents gain authority in their family by loving their children. Elders have authority because they serve the Christians in their care. People take disputes to judges because they recognise their wisdom. This submission is voluntary, so the person under authority can choose to ignore the one they have given authority to if they stop serving. If a judge starts making bad decisions, people can stop taking cases to them. The bad judge will lose his authority. Those with authority in the Kingdom of God must serve others. They must never use coercion to get their will done.

The Church has failed to understand the importance and power of Free Authority. The temptation to advance the kingdom using power from above is strong. The church has yielded again and again by forming an alliance with political rulers to strengthen the position of the church. This always leads to compromise because sacrificial love and political power do not mix.

The Kingdom of God cannot be advanced using authority from above. God rules his kingdom using Free Authority, so when the church uses Imposed Authority, it moves outside the kingdom of God and into the world. A church that uses Imposed Authority becomes part of the world.

Christians must not use the political process to gain authority from above. Jesus does not want his people "lording it over" the rest of society, so we cannot use political power to advance the kingdom. Those who use coercion to advance the kingdom are actually serving the spiritual powers of evil because they are the masters of Imposed Authority.

The Kingdom of God advances as the gospel is proclaimed in the power of the Spirit. When people accept the gospel and surrender to Jesus, they enter the Kingdom of God. When Christians demonstrate a willingness to take responsibility and carry risk, authority will flow freely to them. See Tens and Hundreds.

The spiritual powers of evil use Imposed Authority. The world uses authority from above. God's way is totally different. He is totally committed to using Free Authority. Imposed Authority has no place in the Kingdom of God.


The devil created the first hierarchy and introduced the concept to the world.  He is an angel, not a god, so the only way he could expand his influence throughout the world was to delegate authority to the spiritual forces aligned with him.  He created a huge hierarchy of spiritual power in an attempt to control his empire.  The devil is confined to one place in space and time, so he has to communicate and implement his decisions through a hierarchy of demons and evil spirits (Eph 6:12).

The problem with the devil’s hierarchy is that many of his supporters are deceitful and rebellious.  They disobey him frequently, so his will is not always done.  When reporting events in the world, they often lie, so he is often in the dark about what is happening.  This weakens his control and makes him insecure.

The spiritual forces of wickedness are divided and envious.  Most of the time, they are fighting with each other and attempting to undermine each other’s authority.  The only thing that holds this motley kingdom together is hatred for Jesus.  They bury their differences and unite to oppose him.  The devil is a liar and destroyer, so his kingdom is full of hatred, bitterness, envy, anger, violence and strife.  He sits at the top of a large unstable empire.

God and Hierarchy

Large human organisations need a hierarchy to transmit information and to direct activity.  Messages and instructions pass down through the hierarchy to the people at the bottom.  Reports go back up in the same way.  The person at the top sets general policies, but delegates simple decisions down the hierarchy to an appropriate level of responsibility.  Difficult or important decisions are delegated back up to the top.

God is not constrained in this way.  He is omniscient, so he knows everything that is happening, everywhere in the universe, all the time.  He is not dependent on reports up a hierarchy.  The Holy Spirit can speak to any person in the universe whenever he chooses, so he does not need to speak through intermediaries.  Once everyone is living and walking in the Holy Spirit, hierarchy will be unnecessary.

Hierarchical structures are dangerous for the church.  The pastor-leader or bishop sitting at the top of a large hierarchy has very little spiritual protection.  This leaves them vulnerable to spiritual attack, which explains why so many good leaders have fallen from grace.

No hierarchy exists among the angels loyal to God, as they can all listen to him directly and do his will without needing other angels to tell them what to do. An archangel is not a status in a hierarchy, but a specialist function: dealing with earthly rulers.

Sovereignty using Free Authority

Christians often speak about God’s sovereignty as if he directs events on earth by remote control. That is a mistake because it would be a breach of his gift of authority to humans and would turn us into puppets. God has the power to control people, but he limits himself to influencing people into freely choosing to do his will. He uses a variety of means to get people who do not want to obey him to do what he wants.

God never controls people. He accomplishes his purposes by superior wisdom, and the ability of the Holy Spirit to influence people, despite their hostility, and often without their knowledge. God's sovereignty works out through Free Authority.

Domains of Authority

  1. people
  2. institutions

1. Authority and People

People are the basic unit of authority. We each have authority over our own life. God created us free to obey or disobey. This gives us authority over our own lives. The other word for this is free will.

The will is a great battlefield. Every person makes thousands of decisions a day. The question is,"Whose will will be done?"

Whose authority will be accepted?

In the beginning, Adam and Eve lived under the authority of God and had authority over all the earth (Gen 1:28). Although they were under God's authority, they were free to obey or disobey his authority. This was Free Authority. At the fall, they chose to reject God's authority and act on their own authority. They rejected God's authority by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Sin is rejection of God's authority).

They quickly realised that they were passing from being under the authority of God to being under the authority of Satan. There is no neutral ground. As Bob Dylan sang, "You have to serve someone". The choice is between the authority of God and the authority of Satan. This is a choice between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness (the world).

The spiritual powers of evil maintain their authority by force. It is Imposed Authority.

Jesus changed the nature of the battle. He defeated the spiritual powers of evil on the cross. He paid the penalty for sin (Heb 2:14,15; Col 2:14,15). He gave us the power to be born again into the Kingdom of God. When we accept Jesus as our Lord, we are accepting his authority over all our decisions. We are passing from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of God. (Being born again is the only way a person can enter the Kingdom).

The spiritual powers of evil do not give up their authority in individual lives easily. They have a different kind of authority: it is authority from above. Those who belong to the kingdom of darkness are not free to accept or reject their authority; they are slaves. The spiritual powers of evil often have to be forced out of their lives. This is why deliverance is often associated with conversion. The spiritual powers of evil are liars and cheats; they will only give up authority, when forced. Therefore, the Christian life is a spiritual battle.

The life of every human is a battleground between two kingdoms. Every decision is a choice about whose authority will hold sway. When we accept the authority of God, we come under the government of God. When we reject it, we come under the authority of the spiritual powers of evil. Authority is neutral in itself. The quality of authority depends on the quality of the person exercising it.

Authority is everywhere. It resides in people. However, authority can move from one person to another. If people do not exercise it, it does not go away; it just moves to another person or is diffused among different people (Jud 21:25).

2. Institutions

Society consists of various institutions, the family, businesses, schools, churches, courts, voluntary associations and the civil government. Apart from the church, and perhaps the family, these institutions are often seen as irrelevant by Christians. They are just places we can go to share the gospel to win people for the Lord. They are seen as neutral. (This is the result of two false dichotomies.)

Wrong! Institutions such as the family, businesses, schools, churches, courts and the civil government are full of "authority". Therefore, they are totally relevant to the Kingdom of God. The question is always the same. Whose will will be done?

An institution is created when a group of people pool or give up their authority for a common goal or purpose. People create institutions by surrendering up some authority over their lives or things to a group (this is Free Authority). Other institutions are established when a few powerful people impose their authority on others. Sometimes the people in the institution take the authority by legal or physical force (this is Imposed Authority).

God prefers institutions that use Free Authority. Consider some examples:

  1. School

    When parents place their children in a school, they give the teacher authority over part of their children's lives. They give up their authority over their minds and six hours a day of their time. However, the parents can always take the children out of the school, so it is Free Authority.

    Sometimes the authority of the school comes from above. The state uses legislative power to take authority and responsibility for educating children from parents. The state then delegates that authority to a school board, who delegate it to the teachers.

    However, whether it comes from above or below, a school cannot function unless someone gives it authority over the children. When children go to school, their authority over their children does not disappear. It just moves from the parents to the teachers.

  2. Couple

    When a man and a woman get married, they become one flesh. However, something else happens if they submit to each other (Eph 5:21). This means that they give up authority over their own lives and give it to themselves acting in unity. They agree not to do anything important unless they both agree. This creates a new entity, a couple. Authority that they used to exercise independently of each other is transferred to that new entity. They make this transfer of authority in return for the joy of marriage. This is Free Authority, because at any time, they can go back to being selfish and independent.

  3. Business

    A business starts when some people, who have spare assets, give authority over them to a business organisation. Some of the assets may be intangible like knowledge or patents. People give up this authority because they think they can earn more income in dividends from the business than they could earn using their assets themselves. The Board of Directors have authority over the business. The authority over the specified assets is transferred to them by the shareholders. The Board may delegate their authority to a managing director for effective governance.

    At the same time, the staff of the business give authority over forty hours a week of their lives to the business. They give up this authority (from below), in return for the wages they will earn. This is why some people prefer to be self-employed. They do not want to give up authority over their lives (freedom).

    A business exercises considerable authority. It is not new authority. The authority is transferred to the business by shareholders and employees. However, pooling their authority in this way increases its power. This is Free Authority, as shareholders are always free to sell their shares and the staff are always free to resign.

  4. The State

    The State uses Imposed Authority. When it creates laws and makes regulations, all citizens must obey them. If they refuse to surrender to the authority of the state, they will be forced to submit. The only way to escape is to move to another nation. This is not really an escape because before entering the new nation, the person will have to submit to the government of their new state.

    The power of the political state is always enforced by military or police power. People who refuse to recognise the authority of the state will eventually be thrown in prison and forced to accept the authority of the state.

    Democracy does not change the nature of political authority. The political leaders of democratic systems usually claim there is a social contract between them and the population they govern, but this is just to give an illusion of Free Authority. The reality is that voters give their political leaders a blank cheque and cannot opt out of any decisions made, so they are not free. All political power is Imposed Authority that can be traced back to military or police force. The authority of the state comes from above.

Pooling authority increases its effectiveness. An institution has more authority than the sum of authority surrendered to it by the various people who belong to it. A business has more authority than its shareholders would have if they kept control of their own assets. A family in unity has more authority than two individuals alone. This means that institutions should be important to Christians. They can expand their authority by participating in various institutions.

The function of an institution does not determine whether it belongs to the Kingdom of God.  The question for any institution is who has authority and whose will is being done.  If God’s will is not done, the institution belongs to the world.  If God’s will is not done, the institution belongs to the kingdom of darkness.

The section is developed more fully in my book called Kingdom Authority.

The ultimate fulfilment is described in the book called Government of God.

Next Page

Return to the Kingdom of God.