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.
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:
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.
2 Samuel 23:3-4 reminds us that civil government and rule is a blessing from God and not a necessary evil:
An of course, Romans 13:1-2 states this:
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:
“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:
“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:
Things to think about and explore further...
All Authority is From God
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?
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
 Mattson, Stephen. ‘Misusing Romans 13 to Embrace Theocracy’. Sojourners, 10 Dec. 2019, https://sojo.net/articles/misusing-romans-13-embrace-theocracy.
 Piper, John. ‘The Limits of Submission to Man’. Desiring God, 5 July 1981, https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-limits-of-submission-to-man.
All Authority is From God
Part 1 - All Authority is From God - This page