I’m taking departure from my normal blog post to share something that I recently read that defines God’s sovereign authority. It is taken from “Understanding the Faith: A Survey of Christian Apologetics” by Jeff Myers.
First a definition of apologetics:
From Merriam-Webster Dictionary;
1: systematic argumentative discourse in defense (as of a doctrine)
2: a branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity
The word apologetics originated with the word “apology” which comes the Greek “apologia” which basically means “to give a defense.” Christian apologetics is the science of giving a defense of the Christian faith. There are many who doubt the existence of God and/or attack belief in the God of the Bible. There are many who attack the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. There are many who promote false doctrines and deny the key truths of the Christian faith. The Christian apologist is to combat these movements and promote the Christian God and Christian truth.
1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV)15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
Now a Christian apologist response to the question Who has authority.
Who has authority? Too often, we think we do. It’s common to hear, “I don’t think God would send anyone to hell” or “I would never worship a God who didn’t allow people in love to get married.” In these cases, the speaker claims authority on behalf of (or over) God. Is this legitimate? To answer this question, we need to understand what authority is all about in the first place.
Consider two definitions of the word authority from The Concise Oxford Dictionary: (1) “The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience” and (2) “the power to influence others, especially because of one’s commanding manner or one’s recognized knowledge about something.” Let’s call the first definition “hard” authority, and let’s call the second “soft” authority. Let’s take a look at each in turn.
Hard authority is the power to give orders and enforce obedience. In the military, the general has hard authority over the captain. If a captain disobeys the general’s direct order, he or she can be court-martialed and imprisoned. On the road, a police officer has hard authority to enforce the speed limit and issue penalties for violations. Here are three characteristics of hard authority:
1. Hard authority is extrinsic. It resides in the office rather than in the person. The off-duty police officer may not be allowed to issue tickets. An army captain is no longer obligated to accept orders from a retired general.
2. Hard authority is hierarchical. Both parties understand that one has standing over the other. “Because I said so!” is a valid, though not necessarily winsome, argument when a general gives a command to a captain.
3. Hard authority commands obedience because it is punitive. It has “teeth”; if you resist, there will be consequences.
Soft authority, on the other hand, comes from the power of influence. People possess it because others respect who they are and what they know. Upon his retirement, the general in the example above may offer counsel, but not orders, to the military. A police officer may advise you on how to protect your home from burglars. A medical doctor may give you advice when you’re sick. Soft authority, then, also has three identifying characteristics:
1. Soft authority is intrinsic. It resides within the person. Others may be wise to follow it, but they are not compelled to do so.
2. Soft authority is relational. A person who obeys it does so because the advice seems sound or because he or she trusts the source.
3. Soft authority persuades obedience rather than commands it. It is nonpunitive. Those who resist may face consequences, but they aren’t breaking the law.
As we will see in later chapters, Christianity is based on the authority of God as revealed both generally in nature and specifically in the Bible. Following Christ will lead to a life of peace with God that is not contingent upon your circumstances. And one day, according to the Bible, Jesus will return as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16). On that day, he will render judgment, bestow rewards, and punish evil. God’s authority is both hard and soft, extrinsic and intrinsic, obligatory and persuasive, hierarchical and relational.”
Daniel 4:35 (NKJV)35 All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, "What have You done?"
Romans 9:19-21 (NKJV)19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?"20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?"21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.