If we want to have a biblical worldview of government, we need to have a biblical understanding of authority. Do you see another word within “authority?” Authority grammatically and logically implies an author. To gauge the knowledge of doctoral candidates, many are required to author a dissertation, thereby showing their authority in the subject matter. This world has an Author and as such, He has ultimate authority over it. God literally authored the cosmos into existence when He said “let there be light.” More than that, He “upholds all things by the word of His power.” (Heb. 1:3)
This authorial power is God’s alone, but by grace He gifts people various powers as human beings. Simple things like thinking, talking, and breathing are powers granted generally across creation. More complex powers unique to sets of people are also granted by God: the power to paint, the power to teach, and the power to lead. This power or ability to lead is an authority given to a person or people. That authority is therefore derived.
All power and authority that man may experience in his life is a delegated power from God. To be clear, the power and authority granted to men does not presuppose they are godly. When Paul and Peter spoke of the authority of the king, the man in Caesar’s palace was Emperor Nero. A truly godless man, yet the Apostles encouraged to church to submit to his authority because even his power was delegated by God. Every human authority, whether in the state, church, family, or individual, will have to answer for the way he or she used that authority in life.
One day, every prince, president, prime minister, and dictator will stand before God and be judged for their use or misuse of God’s delegated authority.
One day, every pope, priest, preacher, and elder will stand before God and be judged for their use or misuse of God’s delegated authority.
One day, every father and mother will stand before God and be judged for their use or misuse of God’s delegated authority.
Legitimate, godly authorities are God’s gracious gifts for the good ordering of His creation. Illegitimate, ungodly authorities are in rebellion against God, used by Him for the unity and purity of the true Church, and/or place by Him in judgement over His insubordinate children.