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Submission to Authority – Part II

      In the previous article, I addressed the biblical teaching that God is the supreme Ruler of His creation and that He has established human governmental authorities to promote law and order. In order to accomplish this, God has delegated authority to persons and groups who serve as administrative overseers to others. As Christians, we are commanded to submit to those God has placed in authority over us. However, Satan has his counterfeit leaders in the world, and their primary objective is to lead people outside of God’s will. In this article, I will address Satan and his counterfeits, to which the believer is not to submit. Like all my articles, this one is subject to revision as I consider the subject more and more.

     Rebellion against God’s authority ultimately originates with the fall of Satan (Isa. 14:13-14; Ezek. 28:12-17), who convinced many angels to follow him (Rev. 12:4), and created a kingdom of darkness (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13). Satan sits as ruler over his kingdom of darkness and has organized his fallen angels into various ranks. Paul addresses this when he writes, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Satan’s kingdom firsts consists of his governance over those angelic beings in the spiritual realm that have aligned with him in defiance against God; however, his kingdom of darkness was expanded to include people, and this expansion occurred when he convinced the first humans, Adam and Eve, to rebel against God and follow him (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:1-7).

     The historic fall of Adam and Eve was contrary to God’s original plan, as He intended to rule the earth through them, as His mediatorial administrators, to whom He delegated His authority. The record of this delegated authority is found in Genesis, where God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26). The rulership was given both to Adam and Eve, as the text states, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). The text then repeats their assignment to rule, stating, “God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen. 1:28). However, through an act of rebellion against God (Gen. 3:1-7), Adam and Eve subordinated themselves to Satan and transferred their rulership to him. As a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, Satan’s kingdom was expanded, and all people are born into a world of darkness (John 12:46; Eph. 5:8), into Satan’s kingdom (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13), born in Adam (Rom. 5:12, 1 Cor. 15:21-22), born in sin (Ps. 51:5; 58:3; Eph. 2:3).[1]

     Since the historic fall of Adam and Eve, Satan has had dominion over this world and is called “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30; 16:11), “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), and “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). Satan’s scope of influence is universal, as he is described as the one “who deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9), and who deceives “the nations” of the world (Rev. 20:3, 8). When tempting Jesus, Satan offered Him “the kingdoms of the world” (Matt. 4:8-9), and they were his to give. Jesus rejected Satan’s offer and stuck with the plan of God. Jesus began the process of reclaiming the world through His obedience to the Father and the work of the Cross, “that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). After the cross, Jesus told His disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). As a result of Jesus’ work, Satan has been judged and sentenced (Gen. 3:15; John 12:31; 16:11), and in the future will be cast out of heaven (Rev. 12:7-9), confined to prison for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3), and eventually cast into the Lake of Fire forever (Rev. 20:10). However, until Satan and his company are finally removed from this world, he will continue as a subversive who seeks to destabilize God’s order of governance over mankind (to learn how Satan accomplishes this task, read my article on Satan’s World System).

     As we realize this, we must not lose sight of the fact that God always remains in sovereign control of this world (Ps. 103:19; 135:6; Dan 2:21; 4:34b-35; 5:21; 1 Chron. 29:11-12), and that He permits Satan a limited form of influence for a limited period of time, always restraining him and his forces, both demonic and human (Job. 1:6-12; 2:1-6; 2 Pet. 2:4). God permits good and evil to coexist for a time, and Jesus explained this in His parable of the wheat and the tares. Jesus described the world as a field in which the “Son of Man” has sown “good seed” which are “the sons of the kingdom” (Matt. 13:37-38a). These “sons of the kingdom” are children of God who have believed in Jesus as their Savior and who are to bear His light to others as a source of truth, goodness and love. But Jesus also explained that an enemy has sown tares in the field of wheat, and these tares are identified as “the sons of the evil one” (Matt. 13:38b), and “the enemy who sowed them is the devil” (Matt. 13:39a). These “sons of the evil one” are those who belong to Satan and whose values and practices align with his. The wheat and the tares will grow together until the time of harvest, which will occur at “the end of the age” (Matt. 13:39b).

     Jesus’ parable addresses the reality that there are evil people in the world and that Christ Himself will deal with them in His time. Christians are never directed to resolve the problem of evil, as though it were within our ability to fix it. Rather, we are to advance to spiritual maturity by learning God’s Word (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:14-17; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18), and living His will (Rom. 12:1-2); and part of His will, at least within the discussion of this article, is being obedient to those whom God has placed in authority over us (Rom. 13:1-5; Tit. 3:1 1 Pet. 2:13-14), whether it is the president, a state governor, local city officials, police officers, employers, teachers, or parents. But human authority is limited to the will of God. In one sense, the Christian is to regard and obey the laws handed down through governmental authorities as a part of God’s system; however, there are times when lawmakers—both believers or unbelievers—operate outside God’s laws and create laws that are contrary to His character and Word. Furthermore, they demand that those under their authority abide by their unjust laws, to which Christians must refuse because obedience would place them outside of God’s will. There are biblical examples of believers who refused to obey unjust commands, such as the Jewish midwives who refused to execute Pharaoh’s command to kill Hebrew children (Ex. 1:22; 2:1-9), when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to obey Nebuchadnezzar’s command to bow and worship a golden statue (Dan. 3:1-18), when Daniel refused to obey the command from king Darius that everyone was to pray to him for thirty days (6:1-10), and when Peter disobeyed governmental authority when he was commanded to stop preaching in the name of Jesus (Acts 5:27-28), to which he respectfully replied, “We must obey God rather than men” (Act 5:29; cf. Matt. 28:18-20). When Christians disobey governing authorities, we are not rejecting authority per se, but only those unjust perversions which have crept in. The general rule of Scripture is that when human authority commands us to disobey God, then we have not only the right, but the duty, to disobey that unjust law. In these instances, the believer is submitting to God’s authority above all.


     Rebellion against God’s authority started with Satan, an angelic creature who, at an unspecified time, led an angelic revolt against God and created a kingdom of darkness. Afterward, God created Adam and Eve to serve under His authority, as mediatorial administrators who cared for the earth. However, God permitted Satan to tempt Adam and Eve to rebel against His authority, and when they agreed to follow Satan, his kingdom of darkness was expanded and he became the temporary ruler of this world. According to God’s wise plan and sovereign will, He sent His Son into the world and the Son added humanity to Himself, lived an absolutely righteous life in obedience to His Father and went to the cross and died for sinful humanity. At the cross, Jesus reclaimed this world and pronounced judgment and sentencing for Satan, who will eventually be cast into the Lake of Fire forever. Until that time, Satan continues as a subversive living in God’s world, and he has many followers who are used by him to subvert God’s will on earth. These enemies of God seek to infiltrate governmental systems and command people—both saved and lost—to disobey God. Though Christians are commanded to obey human leaders, we can never obey a command that is contrary to God’s will.

Steven R. Cook, D.Min.

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[1] Everyone is born into Satan’s slave-market and helpless to save themselves (Rom. 5:6-10; 6:6). Jesus is the only Person in the history of the human race to be born free from the taint of sin and the bondage of Satan’s kingdom, and Jesus lived His entire life without sinning (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb., 4:15; 1 John 3:5). As a free Person, Jesus went to the cross and died a death He did not deserve, in order to pay our sin debt and liberate us from Satan’s realm of darkness. We accept Jesus’ offer of liberation when we turn to Him as Savior, believing He died for our sins, was buried and raised again on the third day (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Once we believe in Jesus as Savior, we are forgiven all our sins (Eph. 1:7) and given the gifts of eternal life (John 10:28) and imputed righteousness (Rom. 4:5; 5:17; Phil. 3:9).  We are no longer “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), but now we are children of God (John 1:12; Rom. 8:16). John writes, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are” (1 John 3:1). Further, we can say, “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13-14; cf. Acts 26:18). 

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