The Powers that Be

May 9, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Posted in Common Expressions | Leave a comment
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“The powers that be” is a common expression used to encompass worldly authority in general, or sometimes to refer to the state of things against which the “common person” has no recourse.

“I wish my taxes weren’t so high, but the powers that be have decided to make sure I never get ahead.”
“I don’t like to sit in a circle in Sunday School, but the powers that be have decreed that it’s the best way to generate class discussion.”

It is an expression that is often accompanied by eye-rolling, exasperated sighs, or exaggerated and resigned shrugs of frustration. However, its origin is straight from the Bible:

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

Romans 13:1

In a time when wicked Roman emperors allowed, encouraged, and even commanded the persecution, torture, and death of Christians, the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul told the believers in Rome something that we might think very odd: Recognize that earthly governments and authority structures are ordained by God Himself, and willingly submit yourselves to them.

Since this world is, by nature, opposed to Christ and His truth, what hope is there for us who are commanded to live out our faith under this corrupt system? The answer is that part of our hope lies in the knowledge that these earthly powers, although they are called powers that “be,” are not really “beings.” Only our immutable God is truly a “Being,” since He is the only entity in all of existence Who is truly self-sufficient, eternal, infinite, and independent. Even you and I, His highest creations, are not being accurate when we call ourselves human “beings,” for we have no existence apart from God’s sustaining power. Only in Him do we live and move and have our “being.” We are far from immutable, changing by degrees from one moment to the next all our lives. “Human becomings” would be a more apt term for our race. If our state of existence is in such flux, even more flimsy and subject to rebellion, public opinion, and changing of the guard are the political parties and philosophies of the world.

This helps us to remember that God is sovereignly in control of all earthly authority. He has ordained even wicked governments and evil rulers for some good purpose we do not yet understand, and the knowledge that He is ultimately in control will help us to humbly submit even to those who have no desire to glorify Him or to treat His people with respect.

Oversight / Obedience

August 29, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Posted in Two Sides to Every Comfort | 2 Comments
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Oversight

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

I Peter 5:1-2

What a comforting thought for us sheep. Not only is the Good and Great Shepherd watching over us, protecting us, providing for us, and leading us, but He has also assigned undershepherds – here the reference is to a pastor or an elder – to exercise oversight of us, and to help us, and to look out for our best interest. He has assigned them to feed us the Word of God, and to fight off wolves who might come in to deceive us.

The idea that Almighty God would exercise such meticulous oversight is very comforting. He wants every step you and I take to be monitored, but there is another side to the blessing of oversight, which is:

Obedience

Is obedience truly comforting? Don’t we struggle enough with being obedient to God? And now, how humbling! Willingly submitting to another human being!

Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

I Peter 5:5-6

A previous lesson in this series was partly about opportunity. Here is a great opportunity – the opportunity to humble ourselves before God has to do it for us.

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that [is] unprofitable for you.

Hebrews 13:17

We make a big mistake when we think of obedience as drudgery instead of comfort. God says that obedience to His ordained authorities is profitable – that it is working itself out for our benefit.

Accurate Timing

March 11, 2013 at 9:48 am | Posted in Ecclesiastes | 3 Comments
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Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him.

Ecclesiastes 8:3 (emphasis added)

There are going to be times when we find ourselves under the authority of someone whose orders do not seem like the best ideas to us in the circumstances. When this happens, do not be in too big a hurry to try to get out from under that authority.

Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.

Ecclesiastes 8:5 (emphasis added)

Wisdom is more than just knowing what to do. It’s also knowing when to do – or not to do – it.

Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.

Ecclesiastes 8:6 (emphasis added)

It’s not easy to have good timing. What helps is remembering that God has a purpose in what is happening.

For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?

Ecclesiastes 8:7 (emphasis added)

Even things that are fairly certain to come to pass are often unknowable as to when they will come to pass.

There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.

Ecclesiastes 8:8 (emphasis added)

Often we are forced to realize that it’s not up to us whether something will happen, nor is it as much up to us as we sometimes think to determine when it will happen.

All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt.

Ecclesiastes 8:9 (emphasis added)

It’s not a question of whether you are going to be under authority – or even whether the one in authority over you is going to abuse that authority. The question is the timing of it

And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity.

Ecclesiastes 8:10 (emphasis added)

Forgetfulness is sometimes simply the byproduct of the passage of time. Time can heal wounds or it can cause us to repeat our mistakes.

Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

Ecclesiastes 8:11 (emphasis added)

When a famous celebrity commits a crime, and then, due to the skill of his or her legal team, or a technicality in the law, he or she seems to “get away with it,” we must remember that, in God’s economy, no one really gets away with anything. If a condemned person’s sentence is not executed “speedily” enough for our liking, it would still be evil for us to execute it ourselves.

Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:

Ecclesiastes 8:12 (emphasis added)

God may “prolong” the days of “sinners” to give them a chance to repent, but we do not have a guarantee on how long the prolonging is going to be. Every second after a sin is a prolonged second, so it is safer to live in fear before God.

But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.

Ecclesiastes 8:13

The prolonged days of the wicked will not seem prolonged from their point of view.

Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 8:15 (emphasis added)

Mirth means enjoyment. It can mean eating, drinking, having fun, even working – if we do it in the fear of the Lord. Trust God’s timing. He’s never late and He’s never early.

Explaining the Meaning of Biblical “Authority” to Children

August 6, 2010 at 11:42 am | Posted in Biblical Teaching | 4 Comments
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Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Matthew 18:18

The people that Jesus was talking to when He said this were called “the Disciples.” The twelve men we commonly refer to as “the” Disciples were followers of Jesus before He was crucified:

1. Simon (who is called Peter)
2. His brother, Andrew
3. James, the son of Zebedee
4. His brother, John
5. Philip
6. Bartholomew
7. Thomas
8. Matthew, the tax collector
9. James, the son of Alphaeus
10. Thaddaeus
11. Simon the Zealot
12. Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus

In Matthew 18:18 “verily” means that Jesus is telling the Disciples to listen closely – He is about to say something that’s very important because it’s true.

Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.

Luke 8:22-25

The Lord Jesus has given authority to His followers, but we do not pray to the wind and the rain. Authority is the right and the power to make things obey. God is the One Who created everything. There is nothing that God did not create. Everything that God created obeys Him except for you and me (and Satan and his demons at times). Let’s not be the one thing that God created that turns against Him and doesn’t do what He says.

Because I am a child of God, He has given me authority over some things. But if I use those things just for me, and not the way that God says to use them, these things (including many of my blessings) could be stolen from me. In fact, the devil would like to steal my blessings from me, and he probably could – unless Someone stronger than him stops him. One reason God gave me His Spirit when He saved me is so I could have Him with me all the time and keep the devil from stealing from me.

However – can I boss God around and tell Him what to do? If I say something, does it have to come true, just because I said it in Jesus’s Name? No. But, if I am doing what God tells me to do in the Bible, then I can pray to Him in Jesus’s Name to help me, and the Bible says He will hear my prayer and help me in the way that He knows is best.

In a way, that’s what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

Romans 8:32

Can you name some things that God has given you? What is the greatest thing He has given you? His Own Son. If He gave His Own Son for us, we can easily believe He will give us other things.


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