The Christian & Government: A Series Introduction
Civil governments are the last to receive authority or freedom to act. This authority is given by God to governors at all levels to represent Him and His righteous will. No governor rules Scripturally who abuses the people wickedly.
Have you ever had a passage of Scripture that troubled you in seeking to please God in your life as a Christian? Long ago, there was a passage that gave me great concern as I tried to live as God wanted. The primary passage was Romans 13. When I say the passage, it is best, perhaps, to say it troubled me the manner in which many fine writers of the past seemed to interpret the passage along with that of I Peter 2. They seemed to suggest that the Christian was bound to almost full obedience to the authorities. Most of the time they would include the escape clause which allowed obedience to God before men. I must tell you that provided small relief for me when it was plain that wicked men in government were not only personally evil but their rule was one of wickedness. What was I to do in light of such a government?
This, I believe, is a big question for many Christians of our day whose desire it is to please God in their response to our own government in America. Government from our nations capital to the city and towns have lost their confidence of the people. There is good reason for such when agents at the federal and local level abuse their office by violating the Law of the land, the Constitution, and certainly the will of God as set forth in the Scriptures. The abusive and violent actions at Waco, Ruby Ridge made the headlines of our Nations papers, but horror stories continue to leak out of abuse by the ATF, FBI, IRS and local agents upon the citizens. Politicians talk, books are written, but the abuse continues and the people suffer, for nothing is really done. So what is my responsibility to such governments who are evil?
We have come to a place when the people of the land rightly fear their governments, but what is more frightening is that the government now shows clearly that it fears the people. Power once possessed by governments will not be given up readily, if at all. Our first president, George Washington, said, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force! Like fire, it is a troublesome servant and a fearful master.” Since a house divided cannot stand, Americans face a serious problem. What are we to do? The last thing a Christian is to promote is bloodshed. Such is not the only answer. I believe Christians have a responsibility to governments at all levels to remind them of the Biblical role for the people and for government.
To accomplish the above purpose I believe it is necessary to look carefully at both Scripture references. You note that Paul, in this chapter does two things: he sets forth God’s expressed will for governments and the responsibility of the people, especially Christians, to such governments. We want to cover both areas, but for now, let’s look at Romans 13:1. Paul in the last part of the verse expresses the reason Christians are to be in subjection to authorities. He says, “For there is no authority except from God and those (authorities) that do exist are arranged by God.”
From this passage I want you to see three things. First, the source of all authority; second, the meaning of authority; and third, the scope or order of this authority.
Let us begin with the source. All authority is from God. Men are not innately endowed with authority. If there is any authority it must be delegated by God. This is what Paul means when he explains that the authorities that do exist are arranged by God. he is not only the source of authority but such is arranged according to His holy and righteous will for His creation.
Next, we want to know the meaning of the word “authority.” To do this we will need to do a word study of the Greek word exousia. Starting with its root meaning the word is translated to mean, the freedom to act without restraint. Now only God has the absolute freedom to act without restraint by virtue of who He is, but He has delegated authority to men to act with limited freedom. Nowhere in the Scripture will you find that governments (authorities) have unlimited freedom to do as they please in their office as legitimate rulers. it is important that you hold this truth dear to your heart as a Christian.
The third truth we must address from the Scriptures as a whole has to do with the scope or order of delegated authority. You will find that God gave authority first to the individual. Individuals have been delegated authority to act freely in doing the will of God as set forth in the Scriptures. God does not give individuals the freedom to act wickedly. To do this brings forth His wrath and judgment. Love, as set forth in I Corinthians 13, sets a wonderful pattern for individuals who would please God with this authority. The next order of authority or freedom to act is delegated to the Body of Christ, His Ekklesia. The Christian body has the authority to act freely to carry out Christ’s commission, to worship God, and to live righteously. Like others, the Ekklesia is never free to act or promote evil.
Last of all, authority is delegated by God to civil governments. You will note the transcending arrangement by God. Civil governments are the last to receive authority or freedom to act. This authority is given by God to governors at all levels to represent Him and His righteous will. No governor rules Scripturally who abuses the people wickedly.
I want, in this series, to elaborate on these truths, but for now it is important that Christians do their duty as Christians and remind all who govern that they govern for God and country only who govern righteously.
(To be continued)