All Authority is From God - How We Submit to Authority and What About Abuse of Power?

Before we think about the premise that all authority is from God, let's first establish or remind ourselves of the authority of Scripture. For, if we do not believe that Scripture is our ultimate authority then we will feel at liberty to ignore anything we choose to from the Bible, including what is says about God-given authority, how God puts leaders in place and God's authority over rulers (and what to do in cases of abuse of power). As Christians, we stand on the Word of God and I highly recommend using the KJV as your most authoritative version source. Here are a few relevant Bible verses to reference the supreme authority of Scripture in the Christian's life.

"And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail."
- Luke 16:17

"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."
- Matthew 5:17-18

"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple."
- Psalm 19:7

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17

What Are the Biblical Authority Structures?

Now we've reminded ourselves that God gives us His authoritative Word in and through the Bible and therefore what He says about authority structures is indeed the supreme authority to go by, let's look at the people and institutions that He delegates some of His authority to in our lives as humans and as Christians.

There are four types of government authorities as ordained by God – four mechanisms through which He has chosen to rule:

  1. Church government
  2. Family government
  3. Civil/state government
  4. Self-government

I have written a separate, detailed article on The Four Types of Authority in the Bible Scriptures which explores the remit and limits of each, with worked examples of some of the issues that may arise. 

What Does the Bible Say About Submitting to Authority?

2 Samuel 23:3-4 reminds us that civil government and rule is a blessing from God and not a necessary evil: 

"3 The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. 4 And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain."

- 2 Samuel 23:3-4

An of course, Romans 13:1-2 states this:

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God."
- Romans 13:1

Pastor John Piper gives this charitable view about obeying governments:

“I think Paul ... would say, “Listen, here is what I am doing. Number one, Caesar is going to read this, and I will want to make sure that the ruling authorities in Rome know that Christians are not anarchists. We are basically law-abiding citizens and we believe that he has his position by God.” That is the first thing. And the second thing, I think he wants to say to Christians, “Don't get your back up so easily, because being wronged by a government sends nobody to hell, but being rebellious and angry and bitter and spiteful does send people to hell. And so it is a much greater evil for you to be rebellious than of the government to mistreat you. Much greater evil for you that is.”

However, in another sermon on Romans 13, John Piper states:[2]

“Paul simply does not have in view the problem of evil governments. Instead he has in view a good government in which doing good deeds will generally find approval and doing evil will generally be punished. If this is correct, then it will no longer be possible to insist that Christians should always be subject to the governing authorities. As long as authorities punish only what is evil and praise only what is good, submission to God will always conform to submission to the authorities. But if the authorities ever begin to punish the good and reward the bad (as has repeatedly happened in Church history), then submission to God will bring us into conflict with the authorities. So the command to be subject in verses 1 and 5 is not absolute; it depends on whether subjection will involve us in doing wrong. The ultimate criterion of right and wrong is not whether a ruling authority commands it, but whether God commands it. The fact that God has ordained all authority does not mean all authority should be obeyed. It is right to resist what God has appointed in order to obey what God has commanded.”

Many people ask the questions: What is the remit and level of authority of the State over the Church? What about Church authority over the State? What about individual and family authority? What’s the line for civil disobedience? What examples do we see in the Bible as good precedent? This website is dedicated to answering those questions, as is my 472-page book, 'Romans 13 and Covid 19: Knowledge, Warnings and Encouragement for the Church and World'.

It is important to know and understand that civil government does not trump the other three authorities ordained by the Lord. Each has its own function and jurisdiction given and delegated by God. If any one of them oversteps their authority, we actually have a godly duty to pull the tripwire and disobey, just as countless Biblical characters such as Peter and the Apostles did - "We ought to obey God rather than man" (Acts 5:29). Author of the very good book, ‘The Great Reckoning: Surviving a Christianity That Looks Nothing Like Christ’, Stephen Mattson, notes:[1]

“Christians must choose which kingdom they will serve: a kingdom of this world or the Kingdom of God. Because eventually, you’ll be forced to choose which one has the highest priority in your life. When your desire to ‘respect governing authorities’ directly opposes God’s great command to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’, what will you do? God has already told us which directive is more important, but Christians too often prefer listening to their partisan politicians over their Prince of Peace. God help us.”

This is a complex topic in some ways - how far does our duty to obey authority extend? Questions arise such as these:

  • Should I always obey my pastor? If not, why, when and how? 
  • Should a wife always submit to her husband? If not, why, when and how? 
  • Should children always obey parents? If not, why, when and how?
  • Should we as citizens of the world and state always obey civil governments set in place over us? If not, why, when and how? 

Things to think about and explore further...

All Authority is From God

All Authority is From God - Further Articles (coming soon)

The Four Types of Authority in the Bible Scriptures

We’ll look at each of the four types of authority in turn and some examples of when disobedience is permitted and necessary. 

God Puts Leaders in Place

God's Authority Over Rulers

Abuse of Power

American historian and activist, Howard Zinn reminds us that, “historically, the most terrible things: war, genocide and slavery, have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.” What do we do when there is a clear abuse of power and the state contravenes the commandments of God?

Civil Disobedience

What exactly is civil disobedience? Why, when and how could/should it be applied?

Verses About Submitting to Authority

Some helpful Scripture verses about how we should submit to God-given authority figures in our lives.

God Gives Authority to Man

PART 2 - All Authority is From God


[1] Mattson, Stephen. ‘Misusing Romans 13 to Embrace Theocracy’. Sojourners, 10 Dec. 2019,

[2] Piper, John. ‘The Limits of Submission to Man’. Desiring God, 5 July 1981,

All Authority is From God

My acclaimed best-selling book, 'Romans 13 and Covid 19: Knowledge, Warnings and Encouragement for the Church and World' explores the issue of all authority being from God in depth, as well as when and how to submit to authority and when to apply necessary civil disobedience - specifically related to our 'present distress'. Do get yourself a copy for a truly thorough, well-researched and fact-checked appraisal of all things Covid and its wider context and a clear, Biblical roadmap for living faithfully and free in your walk with the Lord Jesus Christ at this time. 

Part 1 - All Authority is From God - This page