What are the limits regarding a Christian's submission to authority?


The Bible says that Christians must submit to authority. One question that you have to ask, however, is with regard to its limitations: how far does your obedience and submission to authority go?

Paul said in Romans 13 that we should submit to "governing authorities" because it is God who has placed them there. Although some might say that it is God's will that so-and-so became a leader, we must understand that there are boundaries to this: certain behaviours in leadership are not acceptable to the Lord (see 1 Peter 5:3; Titus 1:6-8). Still, Peter said that "for the Lord's sake" (see 1 Peter 2:12-14), we must submit to the leadership.

But one will ask when do we stop submitting? Submission is defined as "yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person." We as Christians know that God is our Supreme Authority, and we will obey Him more than any other person in this world. His Word and authority is greater than the voice of any leader in government, church, or the marketplace. This simply means that our submission to any leader must be overshadowed by our submission to the Lord.

How do you know if you should stop submitting to a certain leader or leadership directive? Here are some boundaries you should consider:

1) When the leader commands or leads you to sin

God clearly hates sin. When the leadership commands or demands that you do something that is sinful and against the Lord, then you have to strongly stand your ground. In Acts 4, Peter and John were commanded by the Sanhedrin to stop preaching Jesus to everybody. Of course, the two stood their ground, and said "Which is right in God's eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

2) When it goes against the will of God

Desperate times call for desperate measures. In this time and age, we have to know that it is God's will for all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. We have to prioritise God's will more than any other leader. Depending on where we live, we may be called to make some tough choices to live out our faith and remain unwavering in our commitment to Christ before all others.

3) When it contradicts the Word of God

God's Word should be the final authority in our lives. Thus, what the Bible says is more weighty and important than any human directive. Choose to obey the Word of God, but understand it wholly – don't cherry-pick verses that suit your comfort. Rather, read and understand it as a whole so that you will obey the Lord, and not just yourself.