2019-1-20 To Those under Authority, and in Authority

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          January 20, 2019

“To Those under Authority, and in Authority”
Colossians 3:18-4:1

Do you remember the 1950s?  I don’t—but I read about it, and this is what I recall reading.  Among other things, the 1950s were a decade both of allegedly halcyon (that is, peaceful) days and of undeniable evangelical revival under the leadership of men such as Billy Graham.  Do you remember the next decade, the 1960s—a wildly contrasting time?  Again, I don’t—but I read about it, and this is what I read.  I read about the 1960s as the time of the breakdown of the Puritan, Protestant synthesis in America.[1]  It was the age in which Jack Weinberg, a graduate student in mathematics at the University of California, uttered, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”[2]  Ironically, many boomers agreeing with Weinberg would reverse course in later years and themselves utter, “Don’t trust anyone under 30.”[3]  Hence, generational rifts opened wide at the time.  William Manchester, in his book The Glory and The Dream: A Narrative History of America, 1932-1972, entitled his chapter about 1968 “The Year Everything Went Wrong,” especially in view of the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.[4]  It is no wonder, amid such turmoil, that people became distrustful of authority—and that they remain so today.

We need help today—and we get it.  We get this help from Him Who reigns over all.  He speaks to our souls today from His Word written, the Bible.  Let us hear what He says unto our needy souls today.


The passage cleaves neatly in two.  First, the Lord, through Paul, addresses those under authority (3:22-25), and, second, He addresses those in authority (4:1).  Let’s then look first at the Lord’s instruction to those of us under authority—which is just about all of us, for we have laws, law enforcement, and other authorities over us.  We who are under authority need to remember foremost that our ultimate authority is Christ—the Lord Christ.  Remember that Jesus, after His resurrection, declared, “All authority in Heaven and on earth is given unto Me” (Matthew 28:18).  Also recall that He exerts this with love for you and kindness toward you (cf. Matthew xi.28-30)—with a view first to His glory and second to your good.  Jesus is no petty tyrant.  He exerts His perfect authority perfectly—with infinite good care for you and me who are in Christ.


In view of this glorious truth, let us serve every earthly authority over us with an eye toward our Heavenly Authority—the Lord Christ.  Let us do this not just when the authority’s eye is on us, but at all times—not as eye-servers and people-pleasers, but as those aiming to serve the Lord.  Let us serve our earthly authorities, looking to Jesus, with sincerity of heart—sincerity in our service, toward the authority’s good, and for the Lord’s glory.  Let us do this as those who worship (literally fear, Greek phobeomai [fobeomai]) our triune God—the only true God.  Let us render our service and obedience heartily—not in a lazy or half-hearted way.  Remember, our reward—our inheritance—from the Lord Himself.  Therefore, let us be zealous in these things.  Also remember that the wrongdoer, both under authority and in authority, will be repaid for his wrong—and that without partiality.

Granted, comply with this teaching is hard.  In fact, it is impossible without the aid of the Lord Who commanded it.  Indeed, we need the strong grace of God in Christ to comply with His commands—but, happily, He supplies that grace to degree sufficient and to spare by His Spirit.

Now Paul turns, by the Spirit, to address those in authority.  Most of us are in this role at some point in life—such as a mother or father, a church leader, a leader at work or in recreational activity, a governmental leaders, or a leader in some other sphere.  We who stand in authority over others must remember that we yet remain under the authority of Jesus.  Therefore, we must cause righteousness and equality to flow to those under our authority.  As hard as Godly submission to lawful authority is, it yet may be harder to exert Godly authority.  May the Lord again supply His strong grace—sufficient and to spare—that we may comply with the Lord’s Word here, as we would comply with it everywhere.

As we noted at this sermon’s outset, our culture struggles with authority issues.  Too often the church struggles with the same.  Yet the principles given by God in His Word today are clear.  We pray that, through the right application of these truths, the Holy Spirit may reform His Church in this area.  Furthermore, we pray the same Spirit may use His Church both to inform and to draw the culture: both to Himself and to proper exercise and practice concerning authority.  May the Lord Himself have His praise—and may His covenant people, redeemed in Christ, have all His intended benefit.


[1] Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1972), 1079, cf. ibid, 1-14.


[2] Jack Weinberg, quoted in an interview with a San Francisco Chronicle reporter, November 18, 1964 (bartlebly.com/73/1828.html., accessed January 18, 2019).


[3][3] Richard Bernstein, “Don’t Trust Anyone under 30?” The New York Times, January 14, 2009 (nytimes.com/2009/01/14/world/americas/14iht-letter.1.19344224.html., accessed January 18, 2019).

[4] Willam Manchester, The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America: 1932-1972 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1972), 1122-51.