Romans 13:1-8 "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right. but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear at the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: It you owe taxes, pay taxes, if revenue, then revenue, if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." (See also: I Peter 2:13-17)
I Timothy 2:1-2 "I urge, then. first at all that requests. prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."
Acts 5:29b "...We must obey God rather than men."
Ps. 103:19 "The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules aver all."
A. God Is the Supreme Ruler
God is the Supreme Ruler of all that exists by virtue at creation by His Ward and Spirit out of nothing fGen.1:1-2). Again as always we must remember the Creator-creature distinction: God Who mode all things needs and depends on no one and nothing, while everyone and all things totally depend on Him Who made them for sustenance (Acts 17:25; CoI.1:16-17). The Fall at man did not abolish Gods rule and kingdom. It only hurt man himself and the rest at the creation (Romans 8:19-23; Gal.6:7) However, God Himself voluntarily came dawn to us men in Christ the Son incarnate, and humbled Himself to live, suffer and die for our sins (1 Cor.15:3-4: Phil.2:6-8: Heb.2:9-10, 14,17. etc. etc.). Because Christ was fully obedient to the Father, He reigned even from the cross over sin, and indeed by His death overcame Satan for good, as foretold already in Genesis 3:15 (Heb.2:14). God in no way "hod to" save any men. He did it entirely out at His own sovereign mercy and love (John 3:16). From everlasting to everlasting God was. is, and will ever remain the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Ps.90:2; Rev.19:16). By His wisdom "kings reign, and princes decree justice; by [His wisdom] princes rule, and nobles, even oil the judges of the earth" (Prov.8:15-16: 21:1). Our Almighty Lord. the Most High, "is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes" (Daniel 4:25b). Jesus Christ based His Great Commission to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and at the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" upon the fact that "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28~18-20). God is also the Supreme Ruler of the godless and rebellious, whom He uses for His own purposes He told Pharaoh, "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth" (Romans 9:17; Exodus 9:16). After his humiliation King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon praised God because "everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble" (Daniel 4:37).
For His own reasons our Good, Omniscient God may "bear with great patience the objects of His wrath" (Romans 9:22), and be "patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to came to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9; Rev.6: 9-11). But "His kingdom rules overall" [PS.103:19), and all power on earth is "given from above" (John 19:11) All Scripture witnesses to God's rule.
All rebellion against God is therefore foolishness and condemned to ultimate utter failure. Psalm 2 declares: "Why do the nations conspire (rage) and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand...against the LOPD and against His Anointed One.... The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then He rebukes them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath...therefore. you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling" (Ps.2:1-2. 4-50, 10-11).
B. Christians and Rulers Of This World
Because all earthly rule and government is "from above" as Jesus Christ told Pilate (John 19:11), Bible-believing Christians are to "submit to the governing authorities...not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience" (Pom.13:1, 6). We are to pray, intercede and give thanks "for kings and all those in authority' (1Timothy 2:1-20). Jesus Christ told His tempters to "render to Caesar that which is Caesar's and to God that which is God's" (Matthew 22:21). However, men in governing authority as servants of God are to commend those who do right. and punish the wrongdoer (Pam 13:3b, 4). The purpose of their service to God is to safeguard the citizens' ability to "live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (1 Tim.2:2b). Truly a nation is blessed when God is its Lord (Ps.33:12) and it is burdened and punished when its governors forsake God and His law as did so many evil kings of the Old Testament. Truly "righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" (Prav.14:34).
What can or must Christian people do when their government departs from God and His law? Our Lard warned His disciples through the ages that they would be persecuted for His sake. and on HIS account would "stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them" (Mark 13:9). This prediction was already fulfilled when Peter and John stood before the Jewish rulers and elders in the Temple (Acts 4:5-7), were commanded "not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus" but refused, as they had to obey God rather than these rulers (Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29), Stephen, the first Christian martyr, lost his life for this same witness (Acts 7, esp. w,51-53, 57b-6n). From then on to this very day, Christians, witnessing to the truth from within Christ's Kingdom "which is not of this world" (John 18:36-37) to godless rulers of this world, have died for their witness. (`)The greatest number of such martyrs have been tortured and killed under the Communists in our own time. The shed blood of the martyrs has rightly been called "the seed of the Church" through the ages,(*)
When a great persecution against the church breaks out, our Lord Himself told His disciples to flee elsewhere (Mt. 10:23). Believers followed this advice when the Church was first persecuted at Jerusalem (Acts 8:1, 4) and later (Acts 14:5-6). This flight and subsequent spreading of the Gospel in other parts of the world has also held true to this day. This is actually one way of preaching the gospel to every creature, which must be done before our Lord returns in glory (Mt.10:23; Mark 16:15: Mt.24:14; Mk.13:10 ), and it supplements the church's voluntary missionary work,
Finally, Christians themselves may exercise government authority. In this case they must rule by serving (Luke 12:42-48a; Eph.6:9; Col.4:1). Since in America the people - you and I - are ultimately responsible for government, it is mostly our own fault if government and society are not Christian, and God will call us to account for this (Mt.25:19).
(*) A country's laws show how Christian it is. The legalization of abortion in 1972 was a major sign of America's turn away from biblical Christianity. In the "neutral" public schools the teaching of creation was replaced by the teaching of evolutionism after World War I. Divorce, once allowed only for adultery (cf.Mt.19:4-6, 9), is now legal for any cause. The outlawing of pornography, once national, now depends on "community standards." The public news media are mostly determinedly anti-Christian today, a change from before 1900.(*)
C. The Biblical Functions of the State
It is the function of the state, that is, governing authorities, to ensure that we, the Christian people of the realm, "may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (1 Timothy 2:2). Christian people must be free to worship the Triune God of the Bible. They must be free to study the Bible and teach it to their children (see Lesson 10 and 11). They must be free to have all the children God gives them in fulfillment of God's creation command to "be fruitful and increase in number" (Gen.1 :28; 9:7: see Lesson 9). They must be free to engage in welfare and poor relief work, combined with Christian discipling and work training (see lesson 4). They must be free to establish their own schools or home schools (see Lesson 11). They must be free to publish and disseminate the Bible, Christian education materials and creative works (literature, music, art) by Christian writers and artists (see Lesson 8). They must be free to refuse New Age thought or non-Christian "counseling" in the work place (see Lessons 4 and 5). They must not be discriminated against in the courts as long as Christians are given equal citizenship status, Os the apostle Pout insisted (Acts 16:37,22:25.25:11). They must not be discriminated against in employment because they must be able to earn their own and their families' living The authority of elders over the local congregation, of husbands over wives, and of parents and teachers over children must not be abridged by the state (see Lesson 10) All these things belong to Christians' "peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (I Tim.2:2bj.
In addition the governing authorities as "God's agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer" (Romans 134b) must punish murder, theft, fraud, extortion, false witness in court, and related offenses against society Murder exacts the death penalty (Cen.9:5-6), and this is why the government "does not bear the sword for nothing" (Romans 13:4a). The apostle Paul did not "refuse to die" if he were "guilty of doing anything deserving death" (Acts 25'1 1). The government must also protect its peaceful citizens by police and courts, and against attack from other nations by armed forces, as did the Old Testament kings and the Roman governors at Rome's best times. Being a centurion (army officer) did not stand in the way of the conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10:1-2, 47) Tax collectors and soldiers were (and are) not commanded to leave their employment, but rather to perform it honestly (Lk.3:12~14). Taxes are biblical (Rom.13:7; Matthew 17:24-27)
D. Anarchy and Tyranny: Government Failure to Function Biblically Anarchy literally means "no rule" and is the state where "every man does thaf which is right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). It is the state where "there was no king in Israel" (Jud.21:25a), that is, no effective governing authority. The government fails to function altogether, and this of course means that it fails to function biblically The "Christian anarchy" some individuals and movements have advocated in history is therefore a contradiction in terms. All men of all times are under God's rule (Ps.103 19) and "he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted" (Romans 13:2). Anarchy is the outworking of unbelieving men wanting to be their own gods and masters without any consideration of other people.
Modern Western society has gone a very long way towards anarchy (*)This is especially true for philosophy and ethics (see Lesson 2), and in ethics especially for family and sexual relations (see Lesson 10). The anarchy prevailing in modern literature and art (see Lesson 8) goes together with this growing lawlessness. Modern psychology, built upon man's evolutionist descent rather than biblical creation, and attributing his "maladjustment" to his past, his environment, his parents or society at large (see Lesson 5), has substantially contributed to relativistic, utilitarian ethics and the abolition of authority leading to Anarchy.(*) The government's "sword" is no longer wielded against robbery, rape and murder as in more Christian-influenced times. The very concept of "punishment of the wrong-doer" has yielded to the unbiblical notion of "rehabilitation of the maladjusted" (see Lesson 5).
Totalitarian tyranny is also the outworking of unbelieving men wanting to be their own gods and masters without any consideration of other people. However, in anarchy each individual tends to build his own little isolated kingdom. whereas in tyranny a few ruthless people, the elite, or even one person, the "leader," enforce their will upon all other people. The tyrant or tyrants tend to function non~biblically by forbidding individuals, families and the Christian church to exercise their proper functions under God. Thus Christian worship was curtailed, subverted and hindered by the Nazis and is virtually outlawed by the Communists. Under Communism Bibles are almost impossible to obtain Children may not be taught Christianity, and often are taken from their parents it this order is not obeyed. In Communist China women are forced to have abortions for their second child and are then forcibly sterilized (see Lesson 9). Under Communism the Church is forbidden to do welfare and poor relief work entirely. Christian schools, of course. are forbidden, as is publication and dissemination of Christian education materials and creative works. Christians are most definitely discriminated against in the work place and cannot obtain any justice in the courts Under Soviet Communism Christians have been put in insane asylums for the faith. and millions have been tortured and killed Nevertheless the faith has endured.
(*)To sum up, God is the Supreme Ruler of all that exists by virtue of creation. All that exists. including the state, depends on Him, and He uses even the godless for His own purposes. All rebellion against Him is foolish and doomed to failure Christians must submit to the governing authorities, but also obey God rather than men when government departs from God's law Then they must witness to God's truth even under persecution. or they may flee elsewhere and preach the gospel there. Christians in government positions must serve God and men faithfully. The state exists so Christian people "may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." This means Christians must be free to worship. study and teach Scripture, to have children, to do poor relief, to publish Christian education materials. literature, music and art. They must be free from discrimination in employment. Government must also punish wrongdoing such as murder, theft, fraud, etc. Police, courts, armed forces and tax collecting are biblical. Anarchy and tyranny are the two terms of government failure to function biblically: the former is prevalent in Western society, the latter under Communism (*)
1 Cite Scriptures showing God always is the Supreme Ruler of all things.
2 Cite Scriptures showing Christian must obey the governing authorities; when they must disobey
3. In what ways must Christians be free to "live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness"?
4. In what ways must government be "God's agent of wrath"?
5. What are the two major forms of government failure to function biblically?
For Further Reading:
Marvin Olasky, Prodigal Press. The Anti-Christian Bias of fhe American News Media. Westchester. IL: Crossway Books, 1988.
Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destrucfion. Christian Faith and Its Confrontation with American Society. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1983.
John W. Whitehead, The Stealing of America Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, Second Printing 1983
Michael Wurmbrand, Between Hammer and Sickle. Middlebury, IN: Living Sacrifice Books, P.O Box 938, Middlebury, IN 46540.
Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ. Middlebury, IN: Living Sacrifice Books, P.O. Box 938, Middlebury, IN 46540.
Rom.13:1-8 (II Pet.2:13-17), 1 Tim.2:1-2 Acts 5:29b, Ps103:19
A. God Is the Supreme Ruler
1. by virtue of creation Gen.1:1; Acts 17:25: Col. 1:16-17
a man's fall only hurt man Rom. 8:19-23: GaI. 6:7
b God in Christ redeemed man I Cor. 15:3-4; Phil. 2:6-8; Heb.2:9-10, 14, 17; Gen. 3:15, Heb. 2:14; John 3:16
2. God is Ruler forever Ps. 90:2; Rev. 19:16, Prov. 8:15-16, 21:1; Dan. 4:25b; Mt. 28:18-20
a. also rules the rebellious Rom. 9:17, Ex. 9:16; Dan. 4:37
b. may be patient Rom. 9:22; 2 Pet. 3:9; Rev 6:9-11: but Kingdom remains His Ps. 103:19; John 19:11
3. Rebellion against God is futile Ps.2:1-2; 4
B. Christians and Rulers Of This World
1 Christians must submit Jn. 19:11, Rom. 13:1, 6; and to pray -1 Tim. 2:1-2; Mt. 22:21
2 government to commend those doing right & punish others Rom. 13:3b, 4
a. purpose of government to safeguard godly living I Tim. 2:2b: Ps. 33:12; Prov. 14:34
3. Christian action if government forsakes God's law
a. witness Mk.13:9; Acts 4:5-7, 19; 5:29; 7:51-53. 57b-60, Jn. 18:36-37
b. flee, preach gospel elsewhere Mt. 10:23; Acts 8:1, 4; 11:5-6; Mk. 16:15; Mt. 24:10; Mk. 13:10
4. if in government, Christians must serve Lk. 12:42-48a; Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1
a. we ourselves accountable for government in America Ml.25:19
C. The Biblical Functions of the State
1. must ensure Christians may live peaceful. godly lives 1 Tim 2:2: Gen. 1:28, 9:7
a. freedom of worship, education, relief work, to publish
b. no discrimination at work and in courts (Acts 16:37, 22:25, 25:11)
2. must punish evildoers Romans 13:4b
a. death penalty biblical Gen. 9:5-6: Rom. 13:4a: Acts 25:11
b tax collectors, soldiers OK Acts 10:1-2, 47; 3:12-14: Rom.13:7; Mt. 17:24-27
D. Anarchy and Tyranny: Government Failure to Function Biblically
1. Anarchy means `no rule" Jud.21, 25 a. government stops functioning altogether
b. "Christian anarchy" unbiblical Ps. 103:19; Rom. 13:2
c anarchy due to men wanting to be their own gods & masters
2. modern Western society has gone towards anarchy (see earlier lessons)
3. modern totalitarian tyranny
a. also due to men wanting to be their own masters
b. but "leaders" want to rule all other people
c. anti-Christian, especially Communism