The Pilgrim Story Devotional Series – Who Has Authority?

This devotional is based on Unit One Lesson One, King Henry, of the Pilgrim Story Online course. It is recommended that you have a journal and a pen to record your responses. If you are doing the devotionals with a group such as your family or friends, please record your responses then discuss them together.

King Henry VIII and the Church

The Pilgrim Story is an account from our nation’s, America’s, history. The Pilgrims were a group of Christian English men and women who set sail for the New World in 1620, but to fully understand their story, we need to go farther back in history to learn a little about the setting of the story. We begin the Pilgrim Story when King Henry VIII ruled England from 1509 to 1547.

When King Henry VIII was on the throne, the Roman Catholic Church was the official Church of England, and almost everywhere else for that matter. It was both the religious and political authority at the time. Even the kings had to obey what the Pope said.

The Church had authority over the king, so he had to ask permission of the Pope (who was the head of the church) to do certain things. King Henry wanted to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon because she had not given him a son. He wanted to marry a new wife, named Anne Boleyn. He had to ask permission of the Pope to do this. Of course the Pope said, “NO!” because he knew divorce was not God’s plan for marriage. 

This made the king really angry. He was the king, after all, and HE wanted to be in charge. So, in 1531, King Henry decided he was going to do it his way. He left the Catholic Church to make his own church, which he called “the Church of England.” The King of England would be in charge of this church. As head of the new church, Henry granted himself a divorce from his first wife and remarried. He got what he wanted.

Who is the Highest Authority?

Should King Henry have been the highest authority in the country? Let’s search Scripture for the answer to this question.

Romans 13:1
“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.”

This verse is a good reminder that God created spheres of authority. The first was the family (Genesis 1:28, 2:24), the second is the church (Acts 2:42, Acts 11) and the third is the state (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-14). Take a moment to read these verses aloud.

Biblical Authority and the Authority of Jesus

It is important to note that the Bible does speak to the purpose and scope of authority of civil government. In fact, the God-ordained function of government is to punish evil, protect from theft (theft of property, life, etc.), and promote good. Take a moment to reread Romans 13:1, 3-4 and 1 Peter 2:13-14.

When the New Testament was written, the governing authority was a dictatorship, and the Roman government certainly did not act in accordance with what the Bible outlines; but Scripture shows us the principle which is that authority in and of itself is God-ordained. 

The Bible speaks to the authority of Jesus Christ saying:

Philippians 2:9-11
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Matthew 28:18 says, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” John 5:27 says, “and He (God) gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.” Luke 10:22 says, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

So, after reading these verses and developing a Biblical understanding of authority, is the king the highest authority in the country? Write out your response in your journal.

Surrendering to God’s Authority

The Bible teaches us that every man and woman, including the king, is under the authority of God because God is sovereign and He made us. This comes directly from Acts 4:24 which says, “And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, ‘Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them’”. According to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, sovereign means that He has complete power and authority over us. Because God made man, every man – including kings- must honor and obey Him. No one has the right to make his own rules and laws outside of what God has already established. 

In what ways do you need to surrender to God’s authority? A way to discover areas in your life that may need to be surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus is to ask yourself questions like Do you have fear or hope? Peace or stress? Anger or love? Joy or frustration? Take a few minutes to write in your journal areas that God reveals to you where He wants your full surrender.

Prayer of Surrender to God’s Authority

Guided Prayer – please pray aloud by yourself or with your group:

Father God, thank you that you are mighty, powerful, and have dominion over all of the earth. You alone are worthy of all of our praise. We recognize that you have given all that we are and all that we have to us. We humbly surrender all that we have and all that we are to you and to your will. You are so good to us, so precious, so holy. Help us to, as Ezekiel says, “look with our eyes and hear with our ears, and set our hearts” upon all that you want to show us as we submit to your authority. We love you. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray, AMEN!