Chains small

The principles of relationship & authority

all creation operates under these two principles

Side notes

All Bible references are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

[1] John 5:19
So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise."

[2] John 10:37
“If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me..”

[3] John 12:49-50
“For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment--what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me."

[4] John 14:24, 31
14 “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.”
31 "..but I do as the Father has commanded me.."

[5] John 18:11
So Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?"

[6] 1 Peter 3:7 nlt
In the same way, you husbands must give honour to your wives. Treat her with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. If you don’t treat her as you should, your prayers will not be heard.

[7] 1 Timothy 3:3 nlt
He must be gentle, peace loving, and not one who loves money.

[8] Ephesians 6:4 nlt
And now a word to you fathers. Don’t make your children angry by the way you treat them.

[9] Proverbs 16:10 nlt
The king speaks with divine wisdom; he must never judge unfairly.

[10] James 2:9 niv
But if you show favouritism, you sin.

[11] Proverbs 16:15 nlt
When the king smiles, there is life; his favour refreshes like a gentle rain.

[12] Ephesians 5:33
However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

[13] Ephesians 6:1-6
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land." Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart..

[14] 1 Timothy 3:4
He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive..

[15] Titus 2:2
Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.

[16] Hebrews 13:17
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

There are two principles upon which all of creation runs. One is the principle of relationship; the other is the principle of authority.

Wherever we go in creation we will find these two principles working together. Indeed, one will never be found without the other. We can examine the heavens and find them in operation. We can explore the sciences, and these principles are still there. We can look at nature, geology, mathematics, light or whatever, and they remain present. The principles of relationship and authority are as necessary and unchanging as laws such as gravity, aerodynamics, cause and effect, and so on.

Let’s look at these two principles or laws from a human perspective.


Authority: You cannot act alone. There will always be someone or something to whom (or which) you must submit.


Relationship: You cannot live alone. There will always be someone or something with whom (or which) you must get along.



We cannot avoid relationships. Every meeting we attend, every phone call we make, every street we walk, every shop we enter forces us to ‘get on’ with someone to a greater or lesser extent.

How do you get on with your boss, your school friend, your local policeman or your partner in marriage?

One major point needs to be made about relationships before we examine some specific Scriptures.


Provided it is the right sort of course. The human body has muscles all over the place. Did you know that a muscle can only pull, it cannot push? Therefore there has to always be two sets of muscles opposite each other. When one pulls, the other must yield. If both pull at the same time absolutely nothing productive happens! More than this though, opposing muscles have to operate in some degree of continuous tension just to maintain balance within the human body.

This all sounds a little like the body of Christ don’t you think? The spiritual gifts graciously gifted to us by God, are to the body of Christ just as muscles are to the physical body. They are designed to ‘pull’ us towards maturity in Christ through their servant role. Because each gift has a different focus to each other gift we tend to find tension in the ranks. We so often see this as undesirable, but we need to realise that the right sort of tension is good for us. In the physical body its called muscle tone. To be healthy we need muscle tone – physical and spiritual.

While the Scriptures are filled with the wisdom necessary for successful relationships, here are a number of stepping stones to success found in Ephesians.

  1. Ephesians 4:2 nlt Be humble and gentle.
    Pride and harshness are so destructive.
  2. Ephesians 4:2 nlt Be patient with each other…
    It is interesting, is it not, how we want God to give us all the time in the world, but we want everyone else fixed up yesterday!
  3. Ephesians 4:2 nlt … making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.
    Allowing others the freedom to make mistakes is a precious gift.
  4. Ephesians 4:3 nlt Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace.
    If we are tied to our partner, and start a fight, we’re likely to hurt ourselves! Who wants to do that?
  5. Ephesians 4:15 nlt … hold to the truth …
    One version of the Bible calls deception ‘an assault’. Lies abuse trust.
  6. Ephesians 4:16 nlt As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
    Here we start to look inward. Concentrating on getting ourselves ‘fixed up’ is far more profitable than ever trying to fix ‘the other person’. Nevertheless, it is important that we help others grow towards maturity.
  7. Ephesians 5:2 nlt Live a life filled with love.
    Whether or not any relationship is successful is irrelevant to this verse of Scripture. We are required of God to get ourselves right.
  8. Ephesians 5:3 nlt Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you.
    It’s hard to enjoy someone who is unreliable or who we can’t trust.
  9. Ephesians 5:4 nlt Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you.
    There’s something degrading and unsettling about dirty talk. If others never know what we’re going to say next it will make for uneasy conversations.
  10. Ephesians 5:15 nlt … be careful how you live.
    Foolish and careless actions can cause so much damage.
  11. Ephesians 5:17 nlt Don’t act thoughtlessly.
    Are we always thinking of how what we plan to say or do will affect another? Do we even care?
  12. Ephesians 5:18 nlt Don’t be drunk with wine.
    Out-of-control people cause so much emotional and physical abuse to the innocent.
  13. Ephesians 5:19 nlt Make music to the Lord in your hearts.
    Have you ever tried to sing and be angry at the same time? It’s pretty well impossible!
  14. Ephesians 5:21-22 niv Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
    At first reading, these two sentences seem to be contradictory. On the one hand, each partner is to submit to the other. On the other hand, the wife is to submit to the husband.

There is a solution however. The word submission has two meanings, like the two sides of a coin, similar and inseparable, but different. Consider this definition from Strong’s Lexicon: A Greek military term meaning, “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, co-operating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”.

In military use it emphasises the authority angle. In non-military use it leans towards relationship with the attitude of co-operation. Now look again at Ephesians 5:21-22 in point 14 above. If these two verses are evaluated in the context of what goes before and after, it could well be said that verse 21 summarises all that the Apostle Paul has been developing in chapter 5, and even earlier. This is mostly relationship teaching. Telling us how to get on with each other. Remember what was said earlier about tension and muscle tone? Verse 22 leads into a section on authority levels – Christ, husbands, wives, children, slaves, fathers and the devil.

There are obviously many more verses of Scripture that would further develop our understanding of how to get on with each other, but it is probably sufficient to point out that faithful obedience to just the previous fourteen points alone would revolutionise most of our relationships! Is this not true?

So what about it? Do you want to get on better with others? Of course you do! It would be a strange person indeed who answers in the negative. We can do better than enduring others; we can actually enjoy others, and have them enjoy us!



A careful and comprehensive study of the Bible reveals that the concept of authority is interwoven throughout every page. It begins with the very first verse of Genesis where the authority of God is introduced through his spoken word, and continues to the very last word of the Bible – “Amen” – meaning, “so it is”, or “so be it”.

  1. In Romans 13:1 niv we find a startling statement – Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. We know that God is good don’t we? Therefore, because our God (who is good) has established all authority, we have to come up with the statement that all authority is good! This certainly seems to fly in the face of some of our experiences! Nevertheless, the truth remains as such, and if we honestly evaluate our bad experiences we will most probably discover that the evil came from those walking in that particular place of authority, not with the authority itself. We must discern between the two. To not do so will result in the belief or even accusation that God himself is evil.
  2. Following on from the previous paragraph then, it is worth noting that authority is a position, not a person. Do you remember the words of Jesus found in Matthew 28:18? niv All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Here he talked of something outside of himself being given to him. How about another illustration found in the office of Church Eldership? The position of authority called ‘Elder’ has continued in the Church for 2,000 years, but during that time many generations of people have lived, become an Elder, and died. The people who occupy that office come and go, but the office itself remains unchanged and unchanging.
  3. It is important to realise that authority is never a committee. Despite the democratic processes found in some Churches, the Bible clearly and consistently teaches a different method. The Bible teaches that authority always ultimately rests with one person. That’s why attempts to operate totally equal partnerships never work. They run contrary to God’s programme for humanity and will always be doomed to fail.
  4. While there always has been and always will be authority, the lines of that authority can and do change. A king in one country, for example, has no jurisdiction in another. The chief in one pride of lions will be viciously attacked if it intrudes into another pride. The schoolteacher rules his or her classroom, but, in the event of a fire, and the arrival of a fireman, a new authority structure is immediately established. Our society is desperately short of the respect and recognition due to those in authority isn’t it? To be fair, though, it is also desperately short of good governors. A two sided coin indeed.
  5. Authority must be given; it cannot be taken. Note again the words of Jesus found earlier – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Rebellious people are the ones who try to take authority. They never succeed for long, do they.
  6. It follows then that any authority moving outside its authority has no authority. All of us have suffered from time to time under those who think they have authority when they don’t at all. A husband, for example, who abuses his wife can safely be reported to the police, even by that wife. The law of the land declares that a citizen must not do certain things. The authority God gives a husband does not include maltreatment, therefore he has no authority to act in such a way. That sort of behaviour is dealt with by the law of the land, which is also established by God, remember? Such actions by the husband must not be treated as within his jurisdiction. They are not. They are criminal actions and must be handed over to the appropriate authority – in this illustration, the law of the land. Too much abuse is endured by too many under the mistaken belief that such abuse must be submitted to, without any protection or recourse.

There are a number of authority lines shown in Scripture: army, government, police, family, church, place of work, Godhead, amongst both angels and demons, and more besides. The powers and limitations of authorities are openly taught from Scripture.

The Bible makes quite clear what God expects from both those who are in authority, and those who are under authority. So when troubles do occur, their sources can be easily traced through the examination of appropriate Scriptures, and their healing can be just as easily obtained from the application of those same appropriate Scriptures. Ignorance is really no excuse for those of us who claim to be Christians.

What causes the breakdown in authority lines?

There are generally just two main reasons for any breakdown in authority.

  1. Those in command do not govern in righteousness or justice and/or…
  2. Those under authority refuse to be led.

Let’s look at a couple of examples from the Bible.

1 Samuel chapters 9 – 31 tell the story of a man called Saul, picked from obscurity by the prophet Samuel, under God’s direction, to be made the first king of Israel. At some point of Saul’s kingship Samuel gave Saul a very specific instruction: 1 Samuel 10:8 niv “Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.”

Now read on: 1 Samuel 13:8-14 niv He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him. “What have you done?” asked Samuel. Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD’s favour.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.” “You acted foolishly,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”

Saul suffered very serious consequences didn’t he? He had been declared king, but it wasn’t too long before that declaration had to be reversed. Why? Because he didn’t obey what he was told, and decided to go ahead on his own. It was as simple as that.

It seems that from that moment on Saul allowed his leadership to deteriorate. He became harsh towards those underneath him; his leadership became foolish and confused; he became very jealous of his son-in-law, eventually trying to murder him. He tried to murder his own son; he caused his daughter to commit adultery; he practised favouritism towards his own tribe, and the sad list goes on.

What blessings have you or I foregone because we have not done, or will not do what God says? What respect have you or I lost because we have not done or will not do what is right and just towards those underneath us?

Illustration number two presents a totally different picture.

1 Corinthians 11:3. niv Now I want you to realise that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. The Bible uses the same Greek word for each link in the chain of command. Another version of the Scriptures translates it thus: 1 Corinthians 11:3 nlt But there is one thing I want you to know: A man is responsible to Christ, a woman is responsible to her husband, and Christ is responsible to God.

Don’t we as Christians believe and teach that Jesus was, and is, equal to God? In fact he is God isn’t he? And yet here we read the amazing statement that the head of Christ is God! There is a clear authority line described in 1 Corinthians 11:3 – wife, man, Christ. The common link in this chain is the word ‘head’. What does this word really mean? Strong’s Concordance describes this word as meaning: anything supreme, chief, prominent, master lord.

Do you remember what was said earlier in this study?

Authority lines can and do change.

When Jesus came to earth he deliberately placed himself under the authority of God the Father. This in itself is a wonderful example of humility. But there’s more. Consider this verse, as an example of the intensity of obedience displayed by Jesus – John 8:28 niv I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.

Think about that please. Jesus neither spoke nor acted without God the Father’s permission and direction! If you want further confirmation of this read some more – John 5:19[1], John 10:37[2], John 12:49-50[3], John 14:24, 14:31[4], and John 18:11[5].

Now look at the wonderful attitude Jesus displayed in all of this through his words – John 5:30 niv I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. And again in John 6:38 nlt For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do what I want.

If Jesus, who was God the Son, found it necessary while on earth to be submitted to the headship of God the Father, then it must surely be just as necessary for the husband to be submitted to the headship of Jesus and for the wife to be submitted to the headship of her husband. There is no distinction given in Scripture between any level of authority.

How should we act towards those with authority over us?

Jesus set us the example didn’t he? He neither spoke nor acted without first consulting the Father. Whether or not he needed to is irrelevant. The fact is he chose to. And remember his attitude? It was one of willingness and desire to please.

HUSBAND: Your responsibility to Jesus dare not be any less in degree and intensity than that of Jesus towards God. Do you rule your homes without regular consultation with Christ? Do you set the direction for your wife and children without Christ’s permission? Do you act independently of your head (Jesus) when even Jesus did not act like that? How much time each day do you spend seeking your instructions from God’s Word? How often do you talk with ‘the Boss’ about what he wants for you to do? Do you display an attitude that desires to please Christ? What sort of example do you set your wife?

WIFE: Your responsibility to your husband dare not be any less than his to Christ, or Christ to the Father. Do you treat your husband as your head? Are you accountable to him? Do you act independently of his instructions? How often do you talk with your ‘boss’ about what he wants for you to do? Do you show an attitude that desires to please your husband?

These thoughts are challenging aren’t they?

Every teaching on authority in Scripture is in agreement with these presented here. Slaves are to obey their masters, whether those masters are good or bad. Children are to obey their parents, whether those parents are good or bad. Citizens are to obey their governments, whether those governments are good or bad.

We read in Romans 13:7-8 niv Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

How should we act towards those under our authority?
  1. We must recognise their value. 1 Peter 3:7[6]
  2. We must be gentle towards them. 1 Timothy 3:3[7]
  3. We must not treat them harshly. Ephesians 6:4[8]
  4. We must always act with justice. Proverbs 16:10[9]
  5. We must never have favourites. James 2:9[10]
  6. We must be pleasant people! Proverbs 16:15[11]

The list of requirements for those in authority seems almost endless. God places tremendous accountability on anyone who has any form of control over another. Where we walk in authority we must never forget that we too have someone higher than us to whom we must give account.

Those under authority have really only two main requirements from God – respect and obey. Ephesians 5:33[12], Ephesians 6:1-6[13], 1 Timothy 3:4[14], Titus 2:2[15], Hebrews 13:17[16] The onus is clearly with those in charge to make it a pleasure to be respectful and obedient.

The Godhead has set us a beautiful example to follow. The relationship displayed in the pages of Scripture between Father, Son and Holy Spirit is truly amazing. So too the willingness to submit to each other in accordance with the differing roles and responsibilities each has.

We are encouraged from Scripture to follow the example set by God. We find this advice in Ecclesiastes 7:13 nltNotice the way God does things; then fall into line. Don’t fight the ways of God…

We know in our heads the right and proper way to act and speak. We know that the greatest place of freedom and victory is to ‘fall into line’. It just seems so hard somehow to get that message into our hearts…


This paper seeks to accurately represent the teachings of Holy Scriptures. You are free to copy or alter all or any part of this paper PROVIDED that the Holy Scriptures are not misrepresented as a result.