Christians & Elections – Part 2
Who gives Authority?
When talking about kings and rulers, governance and authority, we cannot have a serious conversation on how that power should be used unless we first understand the source of that power.
If you ask the average Aussie where government authority comes from, my guess is you’ll probably get blank looks. It’s just not a topic on our minds, it doesn’t seem to have any bearing on everyday life. The person who has their wits about them may say “authority comes from the will of the people!”
This is partly true, however we are still a monarchy, and we have a Queen of Australia who is our head of state. Over the course of history, the British Crown (via the UK parliament) gave permission for us to be our own federated constitutional democracy. But the monarch of the UK, is still our monarch. She holds power to repeal any laws within one year of them being enacted, and to appoint our governor general who acts on her behalf as the Commander in Chief of our defence force and her executive representative in Australian Government.
But, for the most part, we get left alone to look after ourselves. To make our laws, call our elections, appoint our ministers and so on. Most of the jobs left to the Governor General are largely taken care of by other people and he just ticks-n-flicks. The authority and responsibilities have been delegated or assumed so that a bunch of different people have different jobs and powers such that we the populace, and all the people connected to government, work together to ensure the governance of our federation.
Yet because we’re left to our own devices, Australia tends to forget it is a monarchy and pretends that it is a republic (except when the Commonwealth games are on, or there’s a royal wedding/birth/visit etc.). Yet, even if we don’t acknowledge it, we are all subjects of the Queen of Australia and owe allegiance to her.
Now, you may think this is a strange tack to be taking when thinking about voting in a few weeks, but trust me, there is an important parallel here!
All people across the world are for the most part left to their own devices, but, they are all subjects of the one True Living LORD God. Every man, woman and child has been born into His domain and He is their rightful ruler, whether they acknowledge it or not. This includes Kings, Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers. It includes all voting Australians.
Unlike our head of state, God is not a hands-off distant figure, but an active and present benevolent ruler who is at work in his creation building his Kingdom. Interestingly, similar to our Australian systems of authority, God delegates authority to different people and then they are to act on his behalf.
“The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.” (Ps 103:19)
How does God delegate his authority?
Firstly Jesus Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Mat 28:18). As outlined in repeatedly in John’s gospel, Jesus is the Son of God who has been sent and appointed as our ultimate authority. He rules over everyone and everything.
Now, from Christ flows other authorities. If we go back to the beginning, we see that God commissioned humanity to rule over the earth (Ge 1:26–28). Under God, humanity is given power and authority to establish God’s plans on the earth. Now obviously that has been seriously hampered by sin and curse, but the principle still holds.
Throughout the pages of scripture several other delegated authorities turn up. While there is plenty to investigate in this arena, we can basically put delegated authorities into four groups: Family Government, Spiritual Government, Civil Government and Self Government. Sometimes one person may have authority in multiple areas (like Abraham was all, Judges were usually civil, but Samuel was a judge who was both a spiritual and civil leader, etc.).
All four areas have certain elements that are exclusive (e.g. there was no place for a king to interfere with worship - 1Ki 12:28–33), but there are times when the areas intersect (e.g. like when prophets call civil leaders to account for their actions - 2Sa 12:7, or where civil authorities bring justice for crimes committed in families - Le 20:1-2). Each zone of authority is directly accountable to God and in some way dependant on the other authorities.
Each person has been given a body and a life to watch over and to use for God’s glory.
Spiritual authorities are specifically appointed; in the Old Testament you had to be part of a priestly clan or anointed as a Prophet, and in our age of the New Testament, there are Apostles commissioned by Jesus or Elders commissioned in the Church (yes this is oversimplified).
However when it comes to other authorities, Civil and Family, their authority often arises much more organically. In God’s providence people can become authorities unintentionally or by deliberate action. A classic example is in families where a man takes up the authority by entering into the covenant of marriage and having children.
Now, focussing in on our circumstances, with an election looming over us, we have providentially found ourselves in the position of being given authority by the state to collectively select our representatives in the legislative process by preferential voting.
Another way to say it is: In God’s providence, under Jesus Christ’s supreme authority, we have been delegated authority to delegate civil authority in our country.
Confused yet? I’m not trying to be confusing.
What I’m trying to get at is that God gives authority, and in this time and place you have some power you have been given to use for God’s glory. How are you going to use it?
Now, all civil leaders are installed and deposed by God, but he often does it through ordinary processes (e.g. like the emperors in Daniel). God can make low or raise up, and even their hearts are easily directed by Him (Pr 21:1). Ultimately whoever becomes your local representative and senators is part of God’s wonderful plans, but we must be faithful with what we have, and seek righteousness in this world.
This is a great problem however, because every person in the world in affected by sin! More on this next week…
Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” (Jn 19:11).
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Ro 13:1).
Prince, Peter. Research Paper no. 3 200304 We are Australian–The Constitution and Deportation of Australian-born Children, section 'Aliens' and 'Natural-born Subjects'. Law & Bills Digest Group, 2003. https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp0304/04RP03#aliens