1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
The United States of America’s government was unique in many ways. One is that the founding fathers believed that its people could be self-governing. This was predicated on the assumption of three interconnected principles:
- Liberty was only possible when virtue was present
- Only people who are virtuous can be trusted with self-government.
- Without virtue, abuses of all types would occur because of the freedom provided, and should the people no longer be virtuous, this form of government would fail.
- Virtue was only possible when faith (belief in accountability to a higher power) was present
- Virtuousness is what restrains selfishness, promotes the general welfare of others, and holds the individual in check from abuse of power.
- Although it is possible that people can be virtuous without faith, it is the accountability to a higher power that provides the framework that directs a person to adopt virtuous ideals and their practice.
- An Atheist, for example, could live a virtuous life, but why? What restrains them from changing their beliefs in virtuous living at any time once their circumstances change?
- Faith was only possible when liberty was present
- Without the ability of the people to freely practice religion and LIVE out their beliefs, faith would not be permitted to flourish, and evil would suppress the expression of faith.
- Faith is what promotes virtuous living through a framework of belief that standards that are set by a higher power that supersede their own. It is because the standards originate outside of themselves – they originate from a holy God – that they therefore provide them with accountability. This both draws them and helps them to feel compelled to obey them; for these standards were not made by mere men, and cannot be changed by mere men.
John Adams, the 2nd President of the United States, wrote the following in 1798:
While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation, while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candour, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world. Because we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. Oaths in this country are as yet universally considered as sacred obligations. That which you have taken, and so solemnly repeated on that venerable ground, is an ample pledge of your sincerity and devotion to your country and its government.
This circle – Liberty, Virtue, and Faith, provided the framework for self government. But the Bible says that regardless of the type of government a person finds themselves a subject, they are to obey the ruling authorities (in Christ). This is not a blanket get-out-of-jail-free card to do any evil that a corrupt government instructs us to do; rather, it is a call to show the world that just as Christ submitted to the Holy Spirit and God the Father out of respect and righteousness, so should we obey Godly government to demonstrate to the world that God is sovereign and is to be obeyed.
Paul goes on further in the chapter to say this:
4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
When we disobey government (which we SHOULD do if they are requiring us to do something counter to the express Will and Holiness of God), we are in effect telling the world that it is OK to disobey God himself, for He has sovereignly appointed these people to govern over us. What a tragedy! Although there are many things codified in the law that are counter to God’s express will and holiness, we should be following the rest to honor and obey God!
As an example, every time I hear a pastor say, “Well, I drive a little faster than the speed limit myself”, I cringe. What kind of example does that set for the flock, let alone those that don’t know God and watch with vigilance those who purport to represent God, when the spiritual leaders disobey the commands of God’s servants over them? Are speed limits in direct violation of God’s express will? If not, and you are not obeying them, why?
Paul takes this even further:
6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Many complain of the onerous burden that the government has placed in taxes over the people. But this was forewarned by Samuel prior to the appointing of Saul as the first human king of Israel:
9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
God warns us to be careful, because we will get the government that we deserve. This November, if you are a citizen of the United States, you have the privilege and solemn obligation to cast your votes for Godly government officials. So you say you don’t know who is Godly and who isn’t? The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Educate yourself. And remember, God has provided you with the Holy Spirit to guide and empower you. Use these vast resources to know who to vote for. Then, should ungodly rulers be elected over us, you will be able to have a clear conscience before God and man that you were responsible for your part.
Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. – John Stuart Mill
And finally, like Habakkuk was told,
“See, the enemy is puffed up;
his desires are not upright—
but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, You have provided us with leadership through our governing officials. You have graciously given us the freedom to responsibly elect people of faith and virtue to govern us. Father, forgive us for allowing such evil people to come to power in the United States of America. It is because of our failure to vote and do so in prayerful humility as well as disgust for the candidates that have been chosen by the major parties to represent us that we have failed to be vigilant in our responsibilities. Father, please send revival to Your people in the United States. Wake them out of their slumber, and encourage them to get involved with the sacred responsibility of determining who will govern over them. Help us to submit ourselves to You and Your will, and heal our land, that there may be peace within our nation as well as between nations. Only You are able to do this, Lord God. We anxiously await for you to act. We greatly desire that You would provide us with Godly leaders so that it would be with great joy that we may submit ourselves to their rule, rather than hang our heads in shame over their wickedness and hide in silence from their oppression. This we ask and pray in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?