Authority is the right or power to ordain, to decide, to act, to exact obedience. The supreme universal authority is that of God, and "there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God." (Romans 13:1 - NKJV).
There are principalities and powers in heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10), which fight among themselves (e.g. Daniel 10:13, Jude 9). Among them are the rulers of this world, "spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places": it is against them that the Christian wrestles, and not against human beings (Ephesians 6:10 a 18).
On earth, the apex of political authority in a country is held by an individual, or group, which has conquered this right in a manner admitted by the nation. Be it in the form of a monarchy (emperor or king), a democracy (president elected by the people), an oligarchy (a group which assumes power, as in communism), or other variants, its authority also comes from God.
There have been great despots throughout universal history, who deemed themselves to be absolute sovereigns, exempt of responsibility for their acts. Such a one was Nebuchadnezzar, who God called "my servant" (Jeremiah 25:9, 27:6). He destroyed the temple and took away captive the people of God, but God punished him severely to bring him to humiliation (Daniel chapter 4).
A true Christian, born again by the Holy Spirit, produces fruit of the Spirit, which is "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, righteousness, and truth" (Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 5:9). These characteristics distinguish the Christian character, and reveal themselves in the behaviour of the Christian towards his neighbour, be he who he may.
Even with regard to enemies, the Lord Jesus instructed: "I say to you who hear: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you" (Luke 6:27). This general principle must guide the behaviour of the Christian in all his relationships.
The Christian is a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, he is in the world, but does not belong to the world. He is here to witness of our Saviour. While here, he must "give into Caesar what is Caesar's": the Lord Jesus (the Son of God) no doubt could not approve of the idolatrous and vile actions of the Roman emperor, but it was He who pronounced these words.
In Romans 13:1-6 we find an explanation of what "give into Caesar what is Caesar's" means: subjection to the government authorities (anyone who rebels is condemned) as a matter of conscience, giving them what is due to them: taxes, customs, fear, honour. Paul wrote this when the greatest authority in his world was Caesar, a title given to a series of cruel and bloodthirsty emperors.
It therefore becomes evident that it is not lawful for a Christian to speak or act in a disrespectful or rebellious manner against government authorities, for:
The power of the government authorities, after all, derives from God from whom all authority comes. It is to Him that they will give account for their acts, and not to their own subordinates.
The government authorities are not the enemy the Christian wrestles against, but the "spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places", the devil being the "prince of this world" (Ephesians 2:2 etc.). For this he must take up the whole "armour of God" (Ephesians 6:11-18). He must love his human enemies.
A Christian must pay the tribute due to government authorities with fear and honour, and therefore will be failing his obligation if he speaks, or acts in a disrespectful or rebellious manner against them.
The Bible tells us that to insult, to slander or to reject the authorities is the attitude of the "ungodly teachers" as identified by Jude, the brother of the Lord Jesus. They "… reject authority, and… speak evil of whatever they do not know". "Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!'" (Jude 8-10 - NKJV). The believer must submit to the laws of the country he lives in, unless, to comply with them, he has to disobey God's commandments.
Some people may think that, because they are in a democracy, where the governing authorities receive their power by virtue of the vote of the people, there is liberty to criticise the performance of authorities because they are exercising a mandate the people gave them. As their power emanates from the people, the people have the right to require them to fulfil their mandate legally.
Against this argument we must ponder that the constituent isn't given the personal right to judge, to condemn or to insult constitutional powers. His rights and duties are generally defined by law, governed by a national constitution. So that, even if a Christian were able to act against his peculiar character (which is described at the beginning of this article), and to participate in a world to which he does not belong, if he is insubordinate, affronting a superior authority, or personally offends the governing and other authorities, he will be acting illegally.
No doubt a Christian can personally disagree with what the government authority in force is doing, and with reason regard it as incompetent, dishonest, malevolent and so on, but this is no reason to publicly react against it, by word or action. He must be grateful for the liberty he still has to preach and practise the Gospel at present in his country, and pray for those who suffer persecution because of their faith, in countries where this liberty is restricted or does not exist.
"He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it." (1 Peter 3:11 - NKJV).