The Believer and Civil Government
Our new series-- What the Bible Says about Civil Authority, begins with this clear text from Romans 13.
What is the relationship between the believer and the state? The question has been debated down through the centuries. Simply stated, God expects the genuine believer to have a testimony of doing what is right while a citizen of this earth. We will begin with two points:
1. Government is to be submitted to (v.1).
2. Government is established by God (vv.1-2).
Believers are to be subject to civil authorities. It does not matter how the civil authorities were appointed or by whom. It may have been by a senate, an army, or the people. The authority, whether just or unjust, whether legitimate or illegitimate, is to be obeyed.
However, the sphere of authority is to be noted. The government has authority only within the civil realm. For example, when Paul commands wives to obey their husbands, they are required to obey them as husbands, not as masters or as kings. Children are to obey their parents as parents, not as sovereigns. So it is in the case of government leaders.
When the laws of civil government conflict with the explicit commandments of God, then Christians must say, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
When a ruler claims divine rights, Christian believers must answer "no," for the ruler is going beyond the civil authority delegated to him by God. But the Christian believer is to say "yes" to all civil matters not conflicting with the commandments of God. Because, government is ordained by God; that is, the existence, the authority, the position, the offices of government are ordained by God. It is God's will that government exists and that persons have the authority to rule within the state. There are three institutions ordained by God: the family, the church, and the government.
The institutions and their authority are ordained by God, and humans are responsible for how they carry out their functions. Each of the three institutions has leaders who are faithful and do an excellent job, and each has leaders who are totally disobedient to God and do a terrible job. The fact to remember is that government is ordained by God, and rulers are answerable to Him.
Next week we will continue looking at Romans 13.