Biblical authority is a difficult concept to grasp. Our concept of authority structure is generally based on a hierarchical system such as the military or many business models. Flow charts have a top and a bottom. Often, our understanding of authority defaults to a discussion of “who is in charge.”
When Adam and Eve are given “dominion” over the earth, a word is used that carries a sense both of reigning over and bringing under submission (Genesis 1: 28-30). However the second chapter of Genesis paints a different picture of this dominion. The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it (Genesis 2:15 NRSV). This is a picture not of harsh, controlling or demanding dominion, but of a nurturing, protective authority.
In a New Testament example, Paul is very clear with the Corinthian church that the authority he has been given is for “building up, not for tearing down” (2 Corinthians 12:19b; 13:10b).
We are created beings with authority and under authority. God has given all of us authority in our own lives and, for most of us, authority in someone else’s life. First and foremost, we are called to submit (or submit that authority) to each other as a way of honouring Christ. (Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:3). There are other relationships outlined in scripture where God has delegated authority. Unfortunately, our sinful nature often sabotages the godly use of our authority. Rather than protecting, nurturing and building up under the sphere of our authority, we may use our authority to sin against others.
Evil happens in this world when authority is misused or neglected. All abuse or neglect is the intentional or unintentional misuse of authority delegated to us by our Creator and Heavenly Father. As a general rule, God does not interfere in the use of authority He has delegated. That is not to say that He is unable to, but He does not commonly go against the rule of authority that He has established. He is not distant, but neither does he micro-manage his creation. He expects His has delegated authority to be used well.