Christians really ought to be authoritative people as they operate in their sphere in life. The Christian mother ought to be able to complete her tasks competently and quickly, and with her husband be able to train and oversee her children in the home, so that their necessary tasks are completed well, on time and happily. This is the woman Proverbs 31 describes. When this is something we’ve mastered, God can add more responsibility to us, and He probably will.
But being authoritative and being authoritarian are different things, and the difference always begins in attitude. You can be authoritative in your sphere without being the boss, but you may be! It’s always pleasant working with someone who knows what they are doing, and who can include others in the process in an enjoyable way. Whether it’s changing a wheel on the tractor or preparing a fruit-salad for twenty people to enjoy, it’s no problem.
But the authoritarian person wants to be in charge, and he (or she) really likes giving the orders. He has a problem with power: he loves it! And he’ll use it, but not with the best interests at heart of those around him, but with a self-centred, ulterior motive.
This always creates problems and ill-feeling. People know there is something wrong, even if they can’t quite put their finger on it.
The problem is not power, but how it’s used. Power can be used in a constructive, helpful way to assist and serve people, or it can be used to hurt and harm. This is the way that tyrants work. “Put me in charge, and I’ll fix everything!”
But their real focus is typified by Adonijah, who wanted to usurp the throne from his half-brother, Solomon. Adonijah was an upstart who exalted himself, saying “I will be king” (I Kings 1:5).
Around 700 BC, the Bible predicted through Isaiah concerning Jesus, that “…the government will rest upon His shoulders…” (Isa.9:6). Why is this not a threat or a problem to us? Because of the kind of man Jesus was and is. This is why the Bible commands us in relation to others, to
…have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil.2:5).
The Bible says that Jesus today has “all authority…” (Mat.28:18). Why is that?
He was more concerned to responsibly and faithfully serve His Heavenly Father on earth, than to grasp authority. He said “…I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (Jn.8:29). So He is absolutely authoritative, but He was never authoritarian. Jesus’ treatment of women in the gospels especially exemplifies this.
Every Christian husband ought to be afraid to ever be authoritarian in his home. It is abusive, and utterly inconsistent with the kingdom of God. We should flee from it.
Does this mean that Christian men become a sanitised bunch of milk-sops, weak, indecisive and unwilling to fight and confront evil? Not at all. That’s what some foolish and irresponsible preachers have taught now for generations, but in doing so, they’ve rejected the Bible, which says
The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are as bold as a lion (Prov.28:1).
It also says,
Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong (I Cor.16:13).
Four hundred years ago, preachers didn’t teach that kind of unbiblical, feminised nonsense.
Sue and I had first-hand experience with an authoritarian leader. He was the pastor of our church for 17 years, till 1990. In that year, he was exposed as a serial adulterer, forced by the elders to resign, and died of a brain tumour a year later. We later discovered he’d been a misogynist; he thought men were superior to women, which the Bible nowhere teaches. His resignation gave us the opportunity to reflect on what constitutes true, godly leadership, as opposed to the false and ungodly.
The Bible shows us that the church is like a woman, as it is typified as the bride of Christ. She is the ultimate First Lady. And as such, it can easily be abused and taken advantage of, if its members do not stand up and reject the hirelings, thieves and wolves that frequently appear in its midst, that want to enslave and prey upon God’s people. Pharoah wanted Sarai for his wife (Gen.12:14-20), as did Abimelech (Gen.20:1-18), and Abimelech wanted Rebekah (Gen.26:6-11).
These Genesis accounts serve as forerunners to the Exodus, which is a glorious account of God dealing with and ultimately drowning an abusive, authoritarian tyrant who had stolen and enslaved God’s bride, Israel. Scoundrels have been around since Cain, and nothing is going to change in that regard, anytime soon.
Jesus Christ shows us that power can be used in a God-honouring, responsible and constructive way, which is what Christians should always try to achieve. And in the context of the home, the family, the church and even civil government, this can and should have a satisfying and joyful result, which Jesus also indirectly predicted: “…You will find rest for your souls” (Mat.11:29).
Is that what you want, too?
 God’s deliverance of His bride from Egyptian “rape” is the theme of Exodus. (Ex.1:16, 22. Compare the previous exoduses of Abraham from Egypt and Philistia, and of Isaac from Philistia: in each case, the bride was under attack; Gen. 12, 20, 26.) James Jordan, “Covenant Sequence in Leviticus and Deuteronomy,” 1989, p.12.