Campfire Scripture: A dose of man-Bible every weekday, for the thoughtful, manful Christian.
Book Author and Date:
Paul of Tarsus, who was a Benjamite and Roman Citizen. Expect Paul’s name to come up a lot, he wrote half the New Testament and his daring exploits are extensively described in the Acts of the apostles. His authorship of Romans is undisputed. Most likely it was written in A.D. 56 just before returning to Jerusalem after his third missionary journey.
Government, Obedience, Law.
Despite being a Roman citizen, and being imprisoned there, Paul never got to visit the church in Rome. Maybe it was just as well, because now we have this brilliant letter. Romans is the definitive and most substantial doctrinal work on Christianity in the Bible. It is a timeless book that contains the necessary truths of Christianity which apply to all believers of all time, both Jew and Gentile.
As stated above, this passage is a passage of general instruction for all believers, and it should be taken as such. It is specifically about the relationship to secular Governing bodies.
What I Reckon:
God’s law is above all others, and all Governing bodies are instituted by God as a means of limiting the spread and power of evil in this fallen world. Governments are, in general a force for good. If you yourself are a force for good, and a law abiding citizen, then in general you should rarely, if ever, find yourself at odds with the law. This should be especially true for Governments which were fundamentally founded on Christian principals, such as the majority of the Western powers.
As Christians the Bible commands us to obey the laws of the land and our Governments, no matter who is in charge, what kind of political landscape, or where you are. The only exception to this rule is when the government forces or coerces believers into unbiblical practices.
If hypothetically, your Government expected you to acknowledge allegiance to some other God besides the one true God of the Bible, is this an example of disobedience to God’s word?
No one, including the Government has the right to force you to recant your faith and if they did, it would quickly sort out the men from the mice.
Some people take this verse to imply that we should always honour and support whomever is leading us politically. This is nonsense.
Free speech alone affords us the right to be vehemently outspoken against our leaders for pretty much any reason we feel like. As Christians we should always be motivated to support those leaders who’s policies and Government best align with the Word of God, and we should be outspoken – with maturity and respect – against those that do not.
We are under no obligation to pay lip service to horrendous leaders, just because we’re obligated to submit to their authority. This is not the same thing. Jesus didn’t do this, none of the prophets did this, neither should we. Consider just a few examples:
13 Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not endure.” – 1 Samuel 13:13-4
7 Nathan then said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel … 9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? – 2 Samuel 12:7,9
18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so; 20 for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, – Mark 6:18-20
Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal and their gods on Mount Carmel!
27 It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” – 1 Kings 18
One of many, many examples where Christ insulted the pharisees:
31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? – Matthew 23:31-33
Without good reason, disobedience against Governing authority is a sin, since all Governments are instituted by God, but ‘submission’ to authority, and ‘acceptance’ of that authority are not the same thing. We can submit lawfully, without accepting.
If we accept and endorse any political leader, just because we think it’s biblical, it will only be a matter of time before Civil disobedience becomes warranted and necessary.
Another long one. I promise I won’t do this too often!
All Campfire Scripture passages are taken from the New American Standard Bible, unless otherwise stated.
John MacArthur, 2006, The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (1995 edition).