November 26, 2006

The Biblical Response Toward Authority

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Titus Scripture: Titus 3:1–2


The Biblical Response Toward Authority

Titus 3:1-2
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith

Would you have made the same mistake yourself?

Put yourself back in the Garden of Eden. Surrounded by beauty at every turn. Accompanied by the perfect spouse handcrafted by God. Absence of war, disease and death. Unacquainted with sin. And most of all, perfect, unbridled fellowship with God.

Enter Satan. He tempts you to disobey the one requirement that God delivered. He lures you to believe that eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil will make you happier and wiser. Up to this point, you know and have experienced nothing beyond the goodness of God. Satan has contributed nothing to your joy, but challenges you to distrust God and submit to his suggestion.

Would you have followed Adam and Eve and made the same mistake yourself by eating the forbidden fruit?

Though you wish to believe you would have been the exception, sadly all of us would have made the same mistake as our original parents. Adam and Eve represented all humanity in showing that we are basically a collection of rebels. And we need no further proof than to observe how Adam and Eve immediately disregarded the perfect benevolence of God with a few cunning words from the evil one.

That happened before the Fall. Since the Fall, the flesh has only intensified our rebellious nature.

We admire rebels in our society. We are brainwashed to doubt authority. We have a natural tendency to slander the government, roast the church leaders, disrespect our parents and trash the boss. Most of all, we too like Adam and Eve, have a built in aversion to fully submitting to our ultimate authority, God. The flesh hates authority, and if the flesh finds difficulty in submitting to the perfection of God, how can we expect the flesh to find it easy to submit to the human authorities God has established?

But as Christians we are to no longer live in the flesh. Paul told the Galatians, "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:24). He also said, "Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16).

The Bible is emphatic; by nature we are rebels. Deep down inside we hate authority. So the only way we will achieve spiritual success in this area by rightly submitting to the authority God has placed over us is if we overcome the flesh and apply the teaching we received the past two weeks on grace. We need God's help. Therefore it should not surprise us that this instruction involving authority (in 3:1-2) comes directly on the heels of the instruction involving grace (in 2:11-15). We need the latter if we are to succeed in the former.

Children are called to submit to their parents (Eph. 6:1). Citizens are to submit to their government (Rom. 13:1-4). Wives are called to submit to their husbands (Tit. 2:5). Employees are called to submit to their employers (Tit. 2:9). And churches are called to submit to their elders and deacons (Heb. 13:17). I will explain why this is important later in the sermon, but my question for now is how are you doing in this area? Do you recognize, but moreover know how to treat God-given authority? If not, God's will for you will be revealed from the Scriptures this morning.

The instruction found in Titus 3 verses 1-2 can apply to all the spheres of authority that God has established in our lives. These two verses teach us how God would have us respond to authority in a way that is most honoring to Him.

With that as a framework, examine your own life while you meditate for a moment on our two verses from Titus chapter 3. "Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men" (Tit. 3:1-2).

I believe even a brief encounter with these two verses is enough to teach us how misinformed we are in this area and how we all fall short in heeding this instruction. It is seen all over the world. Unfortunately it is seen too often in the Christian community as well. Titus was called to "remind" the Cretan church of their responsibilities. I believe we might need more than a refresher. In our anti-authoritative world, we need some fundamental instruction.

While these verses can apply to all the authority God has placed in our lives, I believe the specific context here pertains to civil government. I believe the specific concern on Paul's heart here is that we as Christians abide by the laws in our land. Even the titles mentioned in verse 1 ("rulers," "authorities") are general enough to avoid pointing to one form of government. So regardless of where we live or what degree the authority comes to us, we are responsible to obey everyone from the President of the United States to the local dogcatcher.

Let's be honest, obeying these governing officials is often the most difficult when it comes to submitting to their authority. Regularly we disagree with their decisions. Frequently our tax money goes to causes we would not support. Repeatedly others who do not comply avoid punishment. We find building codes too picky, environmental laws too narrow and traffic laws too restrictive. We are aware of corruption, dirty politics, incompetence and outright deception. Civil leaders are often sinful men part of Satan's world system.

So Randy, are you telling me that I need to submit to that?

Before I answer that question, let's consider the original setting in which this instruction was written. One commentator said, "The Cretans were notoriously turbulent and quarrelsome and impatient of all authority. Polybius, the Greek historian, said of them that they were constantly involved in "insurrections, murders and internecine wars" (Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, p. 296.). Another said, "It was a world of murderous tyrants, gross inequality and injustice, and sexual looseness and perversion. The Roman Empire…was engulfed by idolatry, ritual prostitution, slavery, extortion, and exorbitant taxation. Only Roman citizens had reasonable protection under the law, and even that privileged status could easily be forfeited" (MacArthur, Titus, p. 140-141).

It was a world of Caesars, occupational armies and coliseums. It was a world where Paul from his own sufferings knew a government that refused to help and defend the innocent. Moreover the government often took the offense in a bloody manner against Christians. Paul knew first hand just how oppressive, unjust and brutal the authorities were, but still called this church in Crete to offer unqualified submission. And my friends, unless we are called to directly violate Scripture (Ac. 5:29), the same is expected of us today.

There can be no mistake about it. This is the clear teaching throughout Scripture. Consider some cross-references: Romans 13:1-2, "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves." 1 Peter 1:13-14, 17, "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right…. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king."

Specifically, in Titus 3:1 we are called to be "subject" to the governing officials. Literally, the call is to "place ourselves under" their authority.

As we have previously said when we dealt with submission in marriage (Tit. 2:5) and submission in the workplace (Tit. 2:9), "submission" is not an evil word. Jesus being God Himself said He was subject to God the Father (Jn. 12:49; 1 Cor. 11:3). So it is important to remember when we talk about submission we are not talking about essence or worth, but rather role or function. For example, I will not say the Governor is better than I am, but I have no problem saying the Governor is greater than I am. Even Jesus could say, "The Father is greater than I" (Jn. 14:28) without infringing upon His deity.

Every community to maintain order must have a recognized head. Submission is simply God's ordained structure to recognize that head and preserve that order. And I believe I can safely say that without a government (to whom we are to be submissive) that made laws and punished lawbreakers, we, due to our rebellious nature, would have total anarchy everyday.

So when we talk about submission, we are talking about the acknowledgment of God's ordained structure. And when we submit to the authorities established by the Lord, we are ultimately doing it unto the Lord in agreement with the authoritative spheres He has established in our lives. Romans 13:2, "Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves."

Allow me to also add that submission ultimately kicks in when we find authority unreasonable or unfair or we are called to do something that we disagree with or find inconvenient. While we must never undermine the Word of God in our actions, we must also not use this as a cop-out regarding our need to submit. Let's not forget that Jesus paid taxes to Caesar who considered himself a god and used the money for unjust gains (Mt. 22:16-17). Submission is not going along when we affirm an authority's decisions. That's agreement! On the contrary, submission is going along when we don't find the expectations personally favorable. That's submission! That's the command! And that requires grace!

Submission is an overarching quality in our attitude toward authorities. The verse continues with more specifics.

Verse 1 also says we are to be obedient. Obviously this is used in the sense of being obedient to the laws established. Also in verse 1, we are "to be ready for every good deed." This calls not only for a compliant heart, but also an eager heart that is ready to give out of love more than duty.

This high standard continues in verse 2 as we are told "to malign no one." We are to offer nothing that would revile or injure the reputation of a leader.

Continuing, we are "to be peaceable" as opposed to being divisive and factious. We are to be uncontentious individuals who promote the peace by avoiding quarrels and arguments.

Further, we are to be "gentle." Christians should be kind and forbearing with leaders, especially during times of disagreement, able to avoid grudges and give others the benefit of doubt.

Finally, we are to show "consideration for all men." We are to treat others in a way we would like to be treated. We are to see things beyond our own perspective.

I believe you can see how these guidelines are necessary for all our relationships, but especially necessary specifically in our attitude toward authority.

When it comes to responding to God-given authority we should be submissive, obedient and ready to serve. We should malign no one and conduct ourselves in a peaceful, gentle and considerate manner. Is this the attitude we see today with authority? Are you personally fulfilling these objectives found in the Word of God?

If we are honest with ourselves, once again I believe we will see how far short we fall of these standards. Have we spoken negatively behind a leader's back…lately? Have we received gossip about a leader…lately? Are we able to stay supportive when things don't go our way? Based on our submissiveness to authority, have we promoted peace or division in our home, in our church and in our country? Are we really ready for every good deed, willing to serve with joy and eagerness? Are we considerate and gentle toward those in authority? This is the teaching of Scripture. This is a tough one!

Obviously we need grace to succeed, but it also might help if can provide some reasons why compliance is necessary. Possibly this will help you, as it did me, to take these exhortations more seriously. And we must take these exhortations seriously for the Scriptures declare that "rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry" (1 Sam. 15:23a).

First, (and I will share the reason in a moment) I think it is important we remember that Titus 3:1-2 comes immediately on the heels of 2:15 where Paul said, "These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you." This verse speaks of the authority given to Titus (or the church leader in general) and ends with the sentence, "Let no one disregard you."

For a moment, let's review all of Titus' responsibilities thus far: He needed to set the church in order (Tit. 1:5). He needed to appoint elders (Tit. 1:5). He needed to exhort in sound doctrine (Tit. 1:9). He needed to refute those who contradict (Tit. 1:9). He needed to silence rebellious men (Tit. 1:11). He needed to reprove people severely (Tit. 1:13). He needed to teach gender roles (Tit. 2:5). He needed to teach age-appropriate character traits (Tit. 2:2-8). He needed to teach workplace responsibilities (Tit. 2:9-10). And when we get to the end of chapter 3, we will see that he needed to "reject a factious man after a first and second warning" (Tit. 3:10).

After all this, how do you think the church in Crete would respond to Titus? You would think after he did all theses things, the congregation would hang him out to dry! I am sure many were offended! It is no wonder that Paul immediately told the church in chapter 3 (remember there were no chapter breaks in the original text) to be obedient, ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle and considerate with leadership! And if this specifically applies to pagan governing officials, how much should it apply to fellow believers who are seeking to lead the church!

We must consider Titus' responsibilities and remember how difficult it is to be in a leadership position. Rarely are others aware of all the thought and prayer that goes behind their decisions. Rarely do people see beyond their own agenda to realize how leaders must make decisions for the good of the whole. Rarely does any decision of a leader receive unanimous support. Remember that being a leader seems easy until you are called step up to the plate. I know leaders are not perfect, but be sure to give them the same grace you would like if you were in their position.

Here is the reason: Making their life difficult will only decrease your joy. That conclusion comes directly from Hebrews 13:17: "Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you."

Second, we need to understand that all authority, both the structure and the individuals themselves, are appointed by God. For example, Romans 13:1 says, "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God" (the same is said of church leaders in Acts 20:28). Authority is the God-ordained means by which human society is regulated, but moreover it is also the system whereby Jesus Christ demonstrates Himself to be supreme head of the cosmos (Eph. 1:10).

Ephesians 1 says God "put all things in subjection under (Christ's) feet…far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come" (Eph. 1:22, 21). In the Great Commission Jesus said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Mt. 28:18).

All human authority is under Christ's authority. So all human leaders are accountable to Christ. But since all authority is established by and under Christ, all human dissenters are committing high treason against King Jesus. That is why Ephesians 5:21 tell us to "be subject to one another (in our appointed spheres) in the fear of Christ."

Cutting through all this theological talk. When we fail to honor, serve and submit to God-given authority, we are rebelling against God and making a mockery of Christ in the heavenly places.

The world may submit to authority to avoid punishment. They submit for their own sake. But we as Christians have a higher purpose in mind. Our concern is God's glory (1 Cor. 10:31). We ultimately submit not for ourselves, but for the glory of God. That is why 1 Peter 1:21 says, "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution."

Third, we need to submit to authority because of our testimony to the world. This is another clear realm where we have the opportunity to act differently than the rest of the world. The world does not even come close to obeying Titus 3:1-2, and I am afraid that the church isn't much better. But when we do comply by the grace of God, others will notice. In the context of authority we read in 1 Peter, "Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Pet. 2:12).

God is glorified when we make the teaching of His Word attractive (Tit. 2:5). And think how attractive the Word will look when we by following it show ourselves to be the best citizens, the best students, the best spouses, the best employees and the best sons and daughters.

We are a society of rebels. I do not think we realize how much the anti-authoritative worldly mindset of this culture has influenced the Christian community. We must renew our minds by heeding the teaching of Scripture. We must avoid sinful rebellion, and rather, promote rebellion against this world by seeking to live differently than unbelievers showing others that this world is not our home (Phil. 3:20).

Again, this is spoken in the general context of grace (Tit. 2:11-15). It takes no grace to slander, run away, complain, make excuses, grumble or refuse to submit. But it does take tremendous grace to submit to God's system and cheerfully comply with authority especially when we don't feel like it.

We live in a society of rebels. Our first parents were rebels. In Paradise it did not take long for Adam and Eve to rebel against God.

But despite their sin, God provided grace. He promised them the provision of a Redeemer in the future (Gen. 3:15) and immediately performed a blood sacrifice to clothe their nakedness (Gen. 3:21).

And now, as we have learned recently, the grace of God has appeared in its fullest form (Tit. 2:11). And this grace enables us to overcome the flesh and live obedient lives as changed people different than we were before.

Why do we live out Titus 3:1-2? Because of the five verses that follow: "For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Tit. 3:3-7).

other sermons in this series

Dec 17


The Good And The Gloom Of Body Life

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Titus 3:9–15 Series: Titus

Dec 10


Prepared To Meet God

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Titus 3:3–8 Series: Titus

Nov 19


The Why Behind The What-Part Three

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Titus 2:11–15 Series: Titus