God has established certain fundamental institutions common to all. It is through these institutions that God deals with us as a collection of individual. Not to say that God does not desire a one-on-one relationship with us, but it is to say that, along with our individual relationship with God, we also share a corporate relationship with God through the institutional organizations that He has created.
What Classifies an Institutional Organization?In order to identify, from the scriptures, the fundamental institutions established by God, we first need to know what we are looking for. Institutions share three things in common. Order: All in institutions contain order. Order is often represented by a hierarchy of authority. There is a clear delineation of position, responsibility, and the chain of command. The structure is not based upon the worth of a person, but simply the relationship to those with responsibility over them and to those whom they have responsibility over. The value of each person is the same, but their authority and responsibility may differ. In the scriptures, order is often expressed by the individual as subjugation; subjecting ones self under the authority of another.
Duty: Members of an institution share a common duty. Duty deals with the behavior of a person towards other members of the institution, and to the institution itself. This duty may be to a person or to an ideal or common purpose or goal. An individual's duty is often expressed through a written contract, or covenant, and may also be expressed as a set of rules that each member must follow. In the scriptures, duty is expressed by the individual as obedience; obedience to a person, and ideal, a cause, or a set of laws and rules.
Relationships: Institutions function best when individuals recognize and respect the specific roles played by each member of the institution. No one person represents the whole of the organization; all are but parts of a greater whole. In functioning as a whole, the individuals must work together, each performing their own specific role or function, for the benefit of the whole. Renegades and self-seekers can ruin an organization. In the scriptures, relationships among individuals are often express through honor; the preferring and valuing of others.
The three things common to all institutional organizations are order, duty, and relationships. In scriptural terms, these are subjugation, obedience, and honor. These three things may be used as markers to identify the fundamental institutions created by God and established in the scriptures.
The Family as an InstitutionThe first institution established by God was the family. The family dates back to the garden of Eden where God created man and woman and ordained that they should be “one flesh”. Though the covenant of marriage, God established and perpetuates the family as an institution.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)In marriage, two individuals leave the respective families, and are joined together, thus creating a new family. These families, in turn, form the basic building blocks of our societies.
Order: The scriptures layout a clear order of authority within the family. The order is husband, wife, then children. Again, this order does not reflect on the intrinsic value of the individuals, simply their place in the order of authority as established by God.
And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart. (Luke 2:51)Jesus, though He was the Son of God, in His family, he was in subjection to his parents.
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (Colossians 3:18)Duty: Members of the family have a duty to each other.
Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. (Colossians 3:20-21)Here we see that the duty of children is to obey their parents, and the duty of fathers is to discipline their children in a way that does not break their heart or spirit.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. (Colossians 3:19)Relationship: Honor is expressed by all members of the family towards each other.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.” (Exodus 20:12)Honor is incumbent upon all members of an institution. Even, as in the case of the family, though the scriptures state that the husband is the “head” of the family, he still had honor owed to the other members of the family.
You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)
The Church as an InstitutionThe term “church”, as used in the New Testament, comes from the Greek word “ekkleesia”, which means “a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly” (Thayer). In the Old Testament, the church was represented by the people of Israel, as they were unified under the priests and the prophets. In the New Testament, Jesus established His church, built “upon the foundation of the Apostles and the Prophets” (Ephesians 2:20).
Order: An order is established for the New Testament church though which spiritual authority flows.
He [Jesus] is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. (Colossians 1:18)
And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28)Duty: Members of the church not only share a common duty to God, but also to each other and to those who have spiritual oversight of their lives.
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. (Hebrews 13:17)Relationship: Honor is central to the relationships between members of a church.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; (Romans 12:10)
The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. (1 Timothy 5:17)
The State as an InstitutionOriginally, the organization of people into states was tribal in nature. States were originally formed based of family ancestral lines. A “state” was the collection of the extended relationships between related families. These “family states” were ruled by the family elders. Today, state governance is more geographical than tribal. State institutions have jurisdiction and authority over a geographical area. Either way, the state, as an institution, was established by God and shares the common markers with the family and the church.
Order: While the authority structure of states may vary, they all express order.
Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. (1 Peter 2:13-14)While God has established rulership on the earth, He himself is the King of kings and Lord of lords. His rulership governs over all earthly rule.
which He will bring about at the proper time -- He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, (1 Timothy 6:15)
Duty: Duty to the state is often defined by the laws of the state. All members of the state are required to follow and keep these lays.
Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, (Titus 3:1)In this scripture, subjection is linked to the obedience of the individual. To “resist authority” is to disobey the statutes and commands of that authority.
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. (Romans 13:1-2)
Relationships: It is not enough to simply have a clearly defined order of authority (structure), but the members of the state must also relate to those who have the authority in a way that recognizes and respects the authority they have.
Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17)David Robison
Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. (Romans 13:7)