A Biblical Perspective of Abuse

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  October 21, 2018
Audio   •  PDF
  • Share:

Over the last year, our country has been swept by a new awareness of the issue of harassment, the misuse of authority, and abuse of every kind. And of course, as you know, recently our church hosted a conference of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and the theme of that conference was abuse. I promised you before that happened that I would briefly address this issue for the sake of those of you who were not able to attend and just for our own edification as a church. I want to do that this morning.

Now obviously, this is a complex issue and the various expressions of abuse each deserve really their own message or series. I don't plan, however, to deal with all the details and the nuances. Frankly that's impossible because each case must be dealt with carefully and individually. But what I want us to do for the next few minutes is to gain a basic understanding of the heart of God on this issue of abuse.

Let's begin by making sure we know what we are talking about. The word abuse comes from two Latin words – "ab" meaning away from and the word meaning to use. So literally, it means to use away or to use away from. It's to use something contrary to its legitimate use. Specifically, in human relationships, it means to misuse, to injure another human person not always, but often with the idea of doing so repeatedly.

The most common expressions of abuse in our culture are sexual abuse, physical abuse, and what is commonly referred to as emotional abuse. Now when you look at abuse itself, the statistics are frankly staggering. Think about this for a moment, according to those who keep records of these things, every minute twenty people in our country are victims of domestic violence. Every year nearly 5,000,000 women in the US experience physical violence within the context of some kind of relationship. One in four women and one in seven men will be victims of severe violence by a partner in their lifetimes. This is absolutely pandemic, and the reason it's pandemic is because it is endemic to the fallen human heart. Sadly however, even those who profess to know Jesus Christ can be guilty of abuse.

Among professing Christians, the most common expression is usually an abuse or misuse of authority within the context of the home. In light of that, this morning I want us to focus on abuse in this context of what the Bible says about authority and its abuse. Specifically, I want us to consider several Biblical propositions about authority that will lead us to gain the heart of God on this matter.

So if you are taking notes, here is Biblical proposition number 1 – God is the only true, ultimate authority. Now I'm going to give you several references in your notes. I'm not going to cover all of them. I'll just cover a few of them representatively, but you can jot them down and look at them later. But this first proposition is that God is the only true, ultimate authority.

What is authority? Webster defines authority in this way, it is "the power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior." What I'm saying here is that God alone, inherently possesses the right and power to influence or to command the thoughts, opinions, and behavior of His creatures. Now that right or power is obviously inherent in the fact that He is God. But that authority also flows from the fact of His creation. Because God created all things, He owns all things. Psalm 24:1 says "the earth is the Lord's." It belongs to Him and all it contains. That verse goes on to say "The world and those who dwell in it." God made the world, He made everyone, He owns them all, they belong to Him. Everything that is belongs to God. And as owner, He has the right or power over all that He has made. This is the unrelenting message of Scripture wherever you turn.

Let me give you just a couple of texts to consider. Psalm 115 verse 3 "Our God does whatever He pleases." Psalm 135 verse 6 "Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven (here it is) and in earth (among us) in the seas and in all deeps." Daniel Chapter 4 verse 35, we're studying the book of Daniel, in fact we will start with Chapter 1 tonight. And in Danial 4 verse 35, Nebudchanezzar, the great king of Babylon says the true God "does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, 'What have You done?'." Ephesians Chapter 1 verse 11, He "works all things (God does) after the council of His will." He is the only true, ultimate authority over all things.

Now I'm hurrying through these first few because I think they are pretty obvious and universally embraced. But let me give you this second Biblical proposition about authority, it's that God delegates limited authority to human beings. He delegates limited authority to human beings. You see throughout His creation, God has ordained as a reflection of His own nature order and structure. This is the nature of God Himself. That's why Paul says within the church all things must be done decently and in order – why? – because that is how God is, that's who He is, inherently. Specifically, God has determined, and this is true among the angels and it's true among human beings, He has determined that there would be different levels of authority and submission. He did this for our benefit as an expression of His goodness.

I really don't have time to develop this but let me just prompt your thinking. This structure that God has created, the structure of human authority and submission serves several important purposes including but not limited to these. First of all, it restrains and punishes sin. It serves a crucial purpose to that end and it encourages righteousness. The structure of submission and authority promotes human flourishing and perhaps most importantly of all, it serves as a reminder of God's own authority and our universal accountability to Him.

Ultimately, God is the one who has established all duly constituted human authority and He has delegated this limited human authority primarily in four areas or four spheres. Let me give them to you. First of all, God gave husbands authority within marriage. Of course, the classic text of this is Ephesians chapter 5 verses 22 to 24 where Paul writes,

Wives be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

This is a delegation of limited authority that God has given within the context of marriage. This has nothing to do with inherent value or intelligence or anything else. It's simply the structure that God has ordained for human flourishing and as a reflection of his own inherent order and structure.

Secondly, a second sphere or area in which God has delegated this authority to human beings, God gave parents authority over their children. Again the classic text would be Ephesians chapter 6 verses 1 to 3.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.

Kids, God has a specific design and order and you only fight against that to your own harm. This is for your benefit. And it's God's, it's His decision. He gave parents authority over their children.

Thirdly, God gave elders authority over the local church. He gave elders authority over the function and the membership of the local church. Acts chapter 20 verse 28, Paul speaking to the Ephesian elders. Here is the apostle Paul talking to the elders of a local church and he says this, "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers." He says to the elders, "You are overseers." That Greek word is used of city managers in the secular world, of supervisors. God has structured the church in this way. First Thessalonians chapter 5 verse 12, "appreciate those who diligently labor among you and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction." Hebrews 13 verse 17, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you."

So here are three areas or spheres in which God has delegated His authority. There's one more, a fourth one. God gave government authority over its citizens. And there are a number of places we could go but let's turn to the classic text, Romans 13. Romans 13 and look at it with me. Paul begins, and I want you to notice the inclusive language that he uses here. There is no one excluded from this. "Every person (literally, the Greek text says every soul, so none of us are exempted from this) is to be in subjection..." That expression, that Greek word is used of what happens in the military when a soldier submits himself to the commands of his commanding officer. It's a word that implies clearly structure and command. "Every soul is to be in subjection," and then he says, "to the Governing authorities (plural)." What is he talking about? MacArthur study Bible writing on this passage and I think some of you know I actually had the joy of writing the original draft from John's notes of the book of Romans in the study Bible and so this is how I phrased it from those notes. Governing authorities refers "to every position of civil authority, every position of civil authority" whether you're talking about the person behind the window at the DMV or whether you are talking about President Trump, "every position of civil authority without regard to competency, morality, reasonableness, or any other caveat." "Be in subjection to all the governing authorities," every civil, every position of civil authority. Why? Verse 1 goes on to say because "there is no authority except from God." God established human authority, including government, and those which exist are established by God. God did this for our benefit. Verse 2, "Therefore whoever resists (this governmental) authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves." This is probably a reference to the punishment that comes from breaking the law. You resist the authority, you break the law, you are going to suffer punishment for it. Don't be surprised. This is God's plan. Verse 3, "For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil." Even the worst countries on earth, by and large, reward good behavior and obedience to their laws and not evil behavior. There are of course exceptions in a fallen world, but generally this is true. Do you want to have no fear of authority, do what is good and you will have praise from the same. And then he says this in verse 4 "for it (that is government, that is the authority) is a minister of God to you for good." We have folks in our church who are involved in the government at various levels. We have others who are part of the police force of our communities, fire, etc. Listen, the Bible says you are a minister of God to the people around for good. You restrain evil, you reward good. And then he says, but if you do what is evil, be afraid for it does not bear the sword for nothing. Here he's probably talking about capital punishment and all the other punishments that government can mete out. For it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. God established human government over the citizens of the land that they rule. That's God's plan, so understand then that God has delegated human authority in these four basic spheres.

A third Biblical proposition about authority is that God has established limits on human authority in His Word. God has not given those human authorities we just talked about, He hasn't given them His own inherent ultimate authority to do whatever they want in this context. Instead He has established limits on human authority in His word. Let's look at those four categories again and see the limits God has established.

First of all, let's talk about husbands in the context of marriage. Listen husbands, you do not have the inherent ultimate authority God has. You have been given a limited, delegated authority and you are only to use that authority as dictated by God Himself. Let's look at it together. Look at Ephesians chapter 5, of course, the classic text written to us. Notice the limits God has set on our authority, verse 25, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her." By the way notice God tells wives to submit, He doesn't tell husbands to make their wives submit. Here's what he tells us, sacrificially love your wife. There's the boundary of your authority. So, let me ask you, do you do that? Do you sacrifice yourself for the benefit of your spouse? John MacArthur says you know when you ask typical guys, you know would you be willing to die for your wife? And of course, being men, what's the answer? Well, of course. He says, well what about taking out the trash? If you're willing to die for her, what about the trash? You see, sacrificial love means a willingness to put her needs before our own, that's the kind of authority we're to have. Or, verse 26, our love is to be a sanctifying love. Christ wanted to sanctify the church and our love is to be like His. Your authority is to be used for her spiritual growth and benefit. That's your authority. Or go down farther in the passage, verse 28, husbands are to love their own wives "as their own bodies." He who loves his own wife, loves himself. Let me ask you a question – do you exercise care for your wife to the same level and degree that you do for your own body? What does that look like? Well, verse 29, "no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it." Your love for your wife is to be a nourishing love. That word, nourish, is the Greek word "to feed." It means you're to put her physical need before your own needs. You're to make sure that she's well-cared for, lavishly cared for. By the way, in the Old Testament law, that included food, clothing, and conjugal rights. Of course, it includes more, but it at least includes those. You're to nourish her. You're to care for her physically, and to cherish her as Christ does the church. You're to cherish your own body, you're to cherish your wife. What does that word cherish mean? Only used one other time in the New Testament, in the Thessalonian epistles where it's describing the tenderness that a mother shows her newborn baby. So, you are to sacrificially love your wife with a sanctifying love, with a love that meets her physical needs, and the attitude, the disposition, in which you are to do that is the same sort of approach that a mother would her newborn baby. Is that how your wife thinks of your care for her? That's the limit of your authority, guys.

Or take Colossians chapter 3 verse 19, "Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them." That Greek word "embittered" means angrily resentful and therefore to treat her harshly. You don't have authority to do that. In fact, that has been pulled from you by direct command. Christ Himself says don't you dare respond to your wife in angry, resentfulness and with harshness. There's the limit of your authority. 1 Peter chapter 3 verse 7 "You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker." It doesn't mean less intelligent, we're talking about a physiological strength, a weakness of body. And then it says, "show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life." Listen, those external differences like male and female, those don't matter to God. Yes, He ordained them. He set them in place. But we are all spiritually equal before God. And he says "show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life." And then he adds this, "so that your prayers will not be hindered." Do you hear what Peter is saying? Peter is saying, if you exercise your authority in the home in such a way that you don't live with your wife in an understanding way and if you don't honor her as an equal heir of the grace of life, then God's not listening to you. That's what he says. You can pray all day, God's not listening. You're not listening to her, He's not listening to you. There's the limit of our authority. You see, God hasn't given us, men, this sort of inherent, ultimate authority that He has, He has delegated to us as a stewardship a very limited authority.

Let's take another category, God has established the limits of parental authority. Parents, your authority is limited. You don't own that child. It's a stewardship. So, you have Ephesians 6, verse 4, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." The limit of your authority is you better be shepherding their hearts toward God and as you do that, God says let me tell you something parents, don't you dare provoke your children to anger. It doesn't mean that your children might not get angry with you sinfully and in themselves, but you're not to give them any just cause to be angry by the way you treat them. That's the limit of your authority. God hasn't give you as a parent, or me as a parent, sort of unlimited authority to do whatever we want to with our kids. He's given us very limited authority. Colossians chapter 3 verse 21 says, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart." God defines the limits of human authority.

Take elders, the third category. God has limited the authority of elders. Let me say the big picture, I and the other elders of this church don't have any authority beyond this Book right here. The only authority I have is to take you to the Scripture and say this is what God says. I don't have authority to tell you where to live or what car to buy or what job to take and have no intention of doing that. That's not my authority. And even how I carry out that Biblical authority has to be done carefully. Listen to 1 Peter chapter 5 verse 2, Peter says, "shepherd the flock of God among you" and then in verse 3 he adds this do that not "lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock." Here's the limit of an elder's authority. It's the Scripture, but even in dealing with people out of the Scripture, it's not to be some domineering, dominating sort of way. It's to be being an example, to lead people by example. Calling them to the Scripture, to do so as Paul says with great patience.

What about human government? God has also limited the authority of human government. The big picture is this whenever government, anyone in human authority in government demands that we do something or not do something that puts us in conflict with the law of God then we must obey God and not government. There are a number of passages that point this out in Scripture. Exodus chapter 1 verse 17 you have the midwives who disobeyed the command to kill the children there, remember, the male children, you remember, in Egypt. In 1 Kings 21 verse 3 you have Naboth who, in keeping with Old Testament Law, refused to give his land to King Ahab. You have Daniel in Daniel chapter 6, when he knew the law against praying had been signed. It says knowing that he went to his balcony and he did what he always did – prayed. What's the warrant for that? Well, Matthew 22:21, our Lord says this, "render to Caesar, the things that are Caesar's; and to God, the things that are God's." And if they conflict, what do you do? Well, Peter is very clear in Acts 5 verse 29, Peter and the apostles having been told by the governmental officials not to evangelize, not to share the gospel, not to preach about Christ, what do they say? "We must obey God rather than men." Government does not have ultimate authority. Theirs is a delegated, limited authority. So, understand then, God has established limits on human authority in His word.

The fourth proposition we need to consider is this – God is dishonored and angered by those who misuse and abuse their delegated authority. He's angered by it. And He's dishonored by it. Now abuse in this sense is the misuse of legitimate human authority to exploit, oppress, or to treat those who are under us in a way that is for our benefit and not theirs.

Now what are some of the ways, and these are not all of them, but what are some of the main ways that those who have delegated authority misuse or abuse that authority? Let me give you four of them. Four ways that people misuse or abuse their delegated authority. Number one – consistent, unrepentant sin against those under their authority. Now this is an obvious one. I'm not going to belabor it. Let me just give you one example. Jesus is talking about the spiritual authorities in Israel in Mark chapter 12 verse 40, the Scribes and Pharisees, they had a position of authority as spiritual leaders of the nation. And Jesus says beware of the Scribes and Pharisees and then he identifies that they were sinning repeatedly against the people that were under them in this specific way. He said, "they devour widows' houses." What did he mean? He means they took advantage of the poor and the disenfranchised, the widows, and basically sucked their money out of them for their own advantage. And Jesus condemns that. He says these will receive greater condemnation. God sees and He sees that as a misuse and abuse of authority. And anyone who consistently and unrepentantly sins against those under their authority is guilty of the abuse of that authority.

Secondly, a second way that we misuse or abuse the authority is physical or sexual abuse. Now let me just be clear here, let me define my terms. Physical abuse is "any nonaccidental act or behavior causing injury, trauma, or other physical suffering or bodily harm." Now this includes, let me just say this, is not limited to hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, hair-pulling, spitting. Related to these things, related in some way to physical abuse, although not carrying it out, but certainly threatening it is threatening physical harm to someone else or threatening to leave the person, threatening to divorce the person, threatening to take the kids, threatening personal injury or harm, breaking things, hitting things or otherwise destroying property in order to elicit fear and intimidation. That's physical abuse.

A tragic subset of physical abuse is sexual abuse. And let me define this term as well. By sexual abuse, I mean this, any unwanted sexual activity with perpetrators using force, making threats, or taking advantage of victims not able to or unwilling to give consent.

Now, let me just be very, very clear – physical and sexual abuse are expressions of violence. This is not about what the other person did which is where abusers typically go. This is violence. And let me be equally clear that violence is not perpetrated by something outside of you if you are the person acting in violence, rather it is the expression of a violent heart. Again, abusers typically accuse the person they're attacking as the reason. The Bible won't allow that, the Bible says it is out of the mouth that the words come that reflect the heart and the behavior, the fruit of the life, is an expression of the heart. So a person who acts in violence has a violent heart. That's the problem. And again, let me be crystal clear, and this is hard to say but important to say, God hates all violence and He hates all who commit it. That includes those who do so under the guise of exercising their divinely delegated authority.

Now if you go back to Genesis, you learn right away that violence was an immediate consequence of the fall that's shown in the murders by Cain in chapter 4 verse 8 and by Lamach in chapter 4 verse 23. And you may not have thought about this, but it was actually violence that provoked God to send a worldwide flood. There were a lot of sins on the planet at this point, but it was human violence. Listen to Genesis 6 verse 11, "The earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence." Verse 13 of Genesis 6, "then God said to Noah, 'The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them.'" God hates all violence and those who commit it. In fact turn with me to Psalm, the book of Psalms, Psalm 11. There are a lot of places we could turn, but I want you to see this one. Psalm 11 verse 4, "Yahweh is in His holy temple; Yahweh's throne is in heaven; His eyes behold." Listen God doesn't miss one act of violence. "His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates." Where God finds violence, He hates it. And He doesn't just hate the violence, it says the one who loves violence His soul hates. And He brings judgement, verse 6, "Upon the wicked He will rain snares; fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup. For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness" and the wicked He hates, by the way notice the association of violence with the wicked and not with the righteous.

Go over to Proverbs chapter 3, as Solomon talks about the life of righteousness, the path of righteousness, he says this in Proverbs 3 verse 29, "Do not devise harm against your neighbor, while he lives securely beside you." Obviously, the closest neighbor you have are those who live in your house. Don't devise harm against them. Verse 31, "Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways. For the devious are an abomination to the Lord." God absolutely abhors violence and He is intimate with the upright.

The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the dwelling of the righteous. Though He scoffs at the scoffers, yet He gives grace (literally to the one whose bent over) to the humble. The wise will inherit honor, but fools display dishonor.

God in the Mosaic law laid out strict penalties for acts of violence and I could go on and give you point after point, but I just don't want you to miss the big picture, understand this basic reality, God is angered by and hates all forms of human violence and that obviously includes physical or sexual abuse of those we are supposed to love and serve and protect.

There's a third expression of the abuse of authority and it's dominating, controlling, unloving leadership. Dominating, controlling, unloving leadership. Now this category and the following one I'll give you in just a moment are often combined under the label emotional abuse in our day and the specific acts that are included in that label – unloving, domineering leadership, and abusive speech – are biblical sins. But the label, emotional abuse, is not a biblical label and frankly it's too vague including too many levels of sin to be helpful. Sadly, there are also some in recent attempts by some who call themselves Christian counselors to make this a Biblical grounds for divorce. And so it's more helpful here to identify the sins involved specifically. So, let's look at this first one. Or the third one in our little list here of abuse of authority – dominating, controlling, unloving leadership. Now I think you understand that God demands that all human leaders, especially those who claim to be followers of His Son, are to be loving and gracious. We are to reflect the character of God Himself. Our leadership is to be characterized by the fruit of the spirit. It must be loving, servant leadership. Jesus makes this very clear. Turn to Matthew chapter 20. Matthew chapter 20 and notice verse 25. "Jesus called [the disciples] to Himself." This is Matthew 20 verse 25. "Jesus called [the disciples] to Himself and said to them, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.'" He says listen, you understand that the way pagans define authority is domination. Verse 26, "It is not this way among you." Don't you dare think about your authority as an opportunity to dominate, to domineer, to control instead "whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant." That word is the hired, the lowest level of hired people. And whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. He goes to the bottom layer in Roman society. He says, listen, here's what your authority is to look like. You're not to be like pagans who domineer and dominate, rather your leadership is to be a leadership of service.

Parents, listen your kids are not slaves. They need to learn to work, they need chores, they need to learn to be disciplined – all those things are true. But we are to respect, we are to love and respect our children as those made in the image of God. They're little people made in God's image and they are to be treated with respect. Yes, we are to do what the Bible commands and we are instruct them, teach them discipline. We are to do all those things, but they don't belong to us. We are merely stewards and our leadership is not to be a domineering, controlling, unloving kind of leadership. We should treat our children as God treats His.

Husband, you are to love and to cherish your wife as Christ does the church. You are to be a servant leader. You and I don't have the right to dominate, to order our wives around like slaves. Our speech, our tone, the overall spirit of our authority in our home should look no different than we would want the elders of the church or government over us to behave toward us. Or more to the point, like Christ does to His church. Now let me put it bluntly, to whatever extent that's not true, to whatever extent your authority and the exercise of it doesn't match what Christ would do, you are misusing and abusing your delegated authority.

What are some signs of domineering, controlling leadership? Here are just a few of them:

  • Attempts to produce fear in the person that you are in authority over,

  • Ridicule,

  • Sarcasm,

  • Exercising financial control by keep them from having just what they need to live in the world,

  • Isolation,

  • Always wanting to know where they are and what they are doing at all times (I'm not Talking about young kids now, I'm talking about adults),

  • Denial of any personal guilt,

  • Blaming your spouse for all of your problems (this is what abusers always do, well if he or she was different then this wouldn't be happening),

  • Threats.

This is domineering, dominating leadership and it is unacceptable.

Where does this temptation to be dominating and controlling come from? Typically, it's a combination of pride and the lust for power, control, and respect. I have some verses in my notes, but because of time, I'm going to skip them and move on. Let me just ask you this: does the way you exercise your delegated authority look more like a dictator or a servant? Do those under your authority think more of you like Vladimir Putin or Jesus Christ? God is dishonored and angered by domineering, controlling, unloving leadership.

There's a fourth common expression of abuse of authority. It's abusive speech. Turn to Ephesians chapter 4. Ephesians chapter 4, notice verse 29, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth." Literally, the Greek text, "let no rotten word proceed from your mouth, but only such as is good for edification according to the need of the moment so that it will give grace to those who hear." Listen, is your speech to those under your authority characterized like this? By the way, have you ever seen verse 30 is in a context talking about how you speak? "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" and then he comes back to this issue of how we relate, how we communicate, our relationships. Verse 31, "Let all bitterness (every kind of smoldering resentment) and wrath (the word is rage, this is blowing up in anger, outbursts of anger) and anger (this is internal seething, hostility, clamming up – you see these two words represent two kinds of anger, one is blowing up and the other is clamming up) and clamor (that means yelling, this is when our speech rises in the level of our voice and we are yelling at the other person) all clamber (all yelling) and slander (this is name calling, belittling, ridiculing), and all malice (this is hatred, this is a compelling desire to hurt the other person, to harm them, to inflict pain and suffering on them with your words or in other ways)." He says, "let all [these things] be put away from you." Put them off, Christian. Don't tolerate them in your life, instead, verse 32, put on the opposite virtues. "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you." Why? Verse 1 of Chapter 5, that way you are imitators of your new Father. Do you know what Paul is saying – stop imitating your old father Satan who is a slanderer and start imitating your new Father who would never do such a thing. Abusive speech.

Listen, domineering leadership and abusive speech are terrible sins and neither of them should be tolerated among God's people any more than physical and sexual abuse. And where there is no willingness to repent of these sins, those who commit them should be and will be disciplined by the church and treated as unbelievers. They are unacceptable in the lives of believers.

Those are some of the ways that authority can be abused. Here's a fifth proposition – God has provided accountability for those who abuse their authority. Let me give you a couple that are obvious. That accountability is in His word. All Scripture, 2 Timothy 3 says, has been given for reproof. It holds us to account, just as we are seeing this morning. Our consciences also provide that accountability. Romans 2 verse 15, our consciences accuse us and rightly so when we sin.

But I want to concentrate on a third method of accountability, and that is through other human authorities. You see God uses other human authorities to provide a check on abuses of delegated authority. He's established specifically two human authorities to deal with those who abuse their authority. First of all, government. Government is to deal with all illegal abuse. And I say illegal because sadly there are kinds of abuse that are legal. We saw this in Romans 13. Government is to deal with it. Government exists to punish those who break the law. Practically, what does that look like? It means that as a pastor and the elders of this church, we always encourage those who are being physically or sexually abused to contact the police and file a complaint. We do that because that's what the Bible teaches. Government exists to punish lawbreakers and evildoers. It's God's plan. It's a minister of God. In addition, we do it because we actually have a mandatory, legal reporting responsibility for all physical or sexual abuse of those younger than 18. We hear about it, we will and do report it. By the way, in Texas, it's not just a law for those in leadership, it's the universal requirement for every person in the State.

Now let me just say that sometimes reporting such a crime can initially put the victim in great danger. That's why God has placed another authority for the protection of those who are being abused as well, it's the church. The church is to deal with abuses both as legal and illegal in the following ways. First of all, we are to protect and come alongside the victim of physical and sexual abuse. Sadly, we have had to do that, and we'll continue to do that. Practically, that usually means providing immediate safety even a safe place to stay and then reporting any crimes to the police. Secondly, it means following the process of church discipline with anyone abusing his or her authority. This is true whenever there is no willingness to acknowledge sin and pursue repentance. We must and will initiate and follow the process of church discipline. Thirdly, it means the church Biblically counsels both the one abusing and the victim. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says we are "to admonish the unruly (there's the abuser)" and we are to "encourage the fainthearted" (help the meek to be patient with everyone). So let me just apply this very directly. If you are in authority, if you're a husband, if you're a parent, if you're in government, whatever, but specifically, I'm talking about the home, God has established other human authorities over you to ensure that you don't abuse those under your authority whether physically, sexually, or with harsh, domineering leadership or abusive speech. If you're in authority and you are doing those things, understand that is not okay with God. You need to repent and you need to seek help because it is unacceptable. God hates it. And He will not tolerate it.

Secondly, if you're a parent or a spouse, I'm sorry, if you, let me just say that over again, if you are being abused, physically or sexually by a parent or a spouse, I need you to know that God absolutely is not okay with that, in fact He hates it and He has established other authorities to protect you from having to continue to suffer that abuse. Just as God Himself is not okay with anyone abusing you, neither are the elders of this church. Come to one of us, let us help you. And then I would say, if your spouse regularly uses abusive speech or exercises dominating, harsh leadership, again seek help. That too is unacceptable. God has established limits on that authority.

And then finally, number 6, and I just mention this in passing, God Himself holds all human authorities accountable and will judge all who abuse their authority. In Psalm 10, and this is throughout Scripture, but in Psalm 10, beginning in verse 12 and following, God says, listen I will break the arm of the person whose attacking others. In the end, the Psalmist says I know that you are going to destroy those who bring terror on the earth who exercise violence. Can I say if you're here this morning and you have been or are being abused, you're hope is found in the character of God, in His justice. Nothing has escaped His notice. And nothing will go unpunished. And if you're the abuser, as with all sinners, you're only hope is found in the grace of God and Jesus Christ. There may be temporal consequences to your sin, but the eternal consequences can be erased in a moment, if you are willing to turn from your sin and embrace Jesus Christ by faith. It's the power of God's grace that we celebrate in the Lord's table. Take a moment and prepare your heart as the men come.

Our Father, these are hard things, hard for me to preach, hard for this church to hear and yet so important. We thank You that You are a God of justice. We thank You that You see everything and that You will deal with every person who sins against You and against others. But Father, we also thank You that when it comes to the eternal consequences of our sins, You are also a God of grace. That in Jesus Christ, You have made a way for us to be forgiven. Lord, even if our sins don't fall into these categories, into the worst expressions of these things, we have sinned against You and our only hope is Jesus Christ. That He, as we sang earlier, died in our place suffering Your justice against our sins for everyone who will believe in Him. Lord, it's that that we celebrate in the Lord's table and as we do, we come first saying forgive us. Forgive us for our sins against You. Cleanse our hearts so that we can celebrate what He has done with clean hands and a pure heart. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen