The Christian & Government: Part 3–The Purpose of Delegated Authority
George Wills once remarked that the ‘robed masters’’ of the judicial system must be reined in by the rule of the Law of the Land, as it was intended by the framers, or the Constitution is dead. The likes of Justice Hughes, who said, “the Law is what the judges say it is”, must be condemned with all judges who hold to an evolutionary concept of the Constitution. O.W. Holmes and his kin almost ruled the Supreme Court of this land and we are in danger of seeing such a departure from the Constitution and law that a judicial form of anarchy reigns in America.
What can the Christian do to avoid such a state of being in which those in authority assume the power to rule their respective realms with ungodliness never given by God? What is the answer to individuals who practice evil against other individuals? What about men who are given authority over the family as a representative of God who abuse that authority and violate God’s clear mandate to do otherwise? What can be done to correct the violent action of parents to children and children to one another? What can be done when civil government at all levels turn from the will of god and even the Law of the land and use power to enforce the laws of men? Clearly we must return to the wisdom of Him who created this world and all that is. We must learn the lesson of the great Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, of Daniel chapter 4. This proud king was sentenced by God to think that he was a bull, to eat grass and live as an animal, because he had not learned the lesson that men today may know but refuse to recognize. God said to Nebuchadnezzar that he would live this way “until you recognize that the Most High is the ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wills.”
Now, we have learned several things from Romans 13. let me list some of them and then undergird the same by adding other truths that strengthen our understanding.
First, we have learned that all authority is from the one and only Sovereign God (verse 1). Then we became aware that there are several realms of delegated authority. There is the individual, the family, the Ecclessia (the body of Christ or true believers), and last civil governments. The aims of each of these separate realms are all the same; they are to rule in righteousness as defined by God in His Word. Those who oppose this God-given authority in any of these realms oppose God and thus stand under His wrath. Likewise, any one given this authority and twists it to do that which is contrary to God’s will is also condemned before Him. In each case where men go contrary to the will of God, Paul says they “oppose the ordinance (arrangement) of God” for a godly society (verse 2). Every Christian is aware of the fact that sin stands in the way of this order among men. nevertheless, it is imperative that we understand the rules set forth by God as we deal with government at all levels.
God does not delegate authority among men to commit evil. The first and foremost responsibility of the Christian is to God before men. In America, the first ten amendments to the Constitution makes it clear that it is not the governments that give these freedoms to its citizens but that these are rights given by God. These are rights that are not to be infringed by governments. These are rights that limit the authority and power of civil governments over individuals. This is the Common Law so often referred to today and so prominent in history.
But let me add the supporting truths of the Apostle Paul to what we have thus far declared. Paul uses several terms that set the limits of all authorities and fixes them under His rule. The first of these truths is found in the expression that all authorities are “a minister of God…for good” (verse 4). The word minister is is the Greek word that is transliterated in English as deacon. it means helper, or servant. So authorities are servants or helpers of God to promote good behavior. Bad behavior brings down the instrument of wrath which Paul describes as the sword. Paul uses, in verse four, the word translated avenger. This Greek word has an interesting history. it was used of polytheistic heathen to point to the avenging actions of their gods. “Dike” is translated justice in Acts 28:4. Paul having escaped the sea is now bitten by a viper who is the instrument of the goddess “Dike” to bring about divine justice. This is the heathen concept, but the use of the word in the New testament clearly reveals that, though the heathen distort to word in reference to their gods, the fact in the passage before us in Romans recognizes that God is the source of all righteousness. he is the Righteous One as is Christ. Both are called the diakaios in Scripture. My point here is that Paul is declaring that authorities are God’s instruments, for the well-being of mankind, “who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.”
So then, all authorities are, from the biblical point of vie, instruments of God. They are called His rulers, servants and avengers. The limits of these authorities is righteousness or justice as is defined by the character and Word of God Himself. Of such a government any Christian stands ready to support and obey. For governing agents who practice evil among the people Christians must petition God for recourse. They must use the law of the land to oppose but they are never to be in submission to evil. Paul declares in Romans 6:14, “Sin shall not be master over you.” It is here where the Christian chooses God and His righteousness over evil as did the Apostles of the New Testament. It is here that we must choose to serve God rather than men.
It is at this point that I find myself in conflict with the greatly admired John Murray and those who agree with him when he says,
In these verses there are no expressed qualifications or reservations to the duty of subjection.
Murray, like many others, goes on to say in his commentary on this passage,
At the same time, on the analogy of his own teaching elsewhere or on the analogy of the Scripture, we are compelled to take account of exceptions to the absolute terms in which an obligation is affirmed. it must be so in this instance. We cannot but believe that he would have endorsed and practiced the word of Peter and other Apostles.
He closes by referring to Acts 5:29 To declare no qualifications or reservations for the teaching of Paul here is a failure to draw out what is taught by this passage in its context as well as the context of the whole Bible. This failure has resulted in the failure of Christians to stand as Christians and bear a witness that we are in the world but not of it.
We are here to declare to the world the revelation of our God in the person of Christ. We are here to remind the world of a better way of life and a loyalty that honors our Sovereign God in Christ Jesus. We are to do this at whatever the costs to our property or person. We do this, first and foremost, in the proclamation of the Gospel of God, and only secondly do we rely on the law of the Land, the Constitution of the United States of America. Christians are just passing through this perverted generation. They are on their way to the new heavens and new earth in which dwells only righteousness. The difficulties we now face are by far outweighed by “the hope of the Glory of God” in the eternal. Knowing the will of God demands our full obedience to Him who is Lord of lords and King of kings. God alone is our Sovereign.
Authorities are His instruments for a stable and Godly society; yet God alone is Master. All others are servants of Him.