Christian vs. Government Authority

There used to be a commercial for Hebrew National hotdogs that claimed they had a better product because “They answered to an even higher authority.” It was a silly commercial, but I still remember that tag line. I have endeavored to make it the tag line for my life. No, I can’t do something that is illegal, immoral, unethical, improper, or dishonest, because I answer to an even higher authority. This should be true of all Christians. God requires Christians to submit to the authority of governments and God requires Christians to answer to an even higher authority.

God requires his people to respect government authority. Way before the United States Bill of Rights, way before the Magna Carta, way before the renaissance, during the time of the most unfair, harsh cruelty, and unbelievably corrupt, Roman rule over Jerusalem, God showed that His people were to respect government authority…

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. And I have been chosen as a preacher and apostle to teach the Gentiles this message about faith and truth. I’m not exaggerating—just telling the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-7 NLT)

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. (Romans 13:1-5 NLT)

For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.
It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king. (1 Peter 2:13-17 NLT)

Please consider carefully the teaching of the Apostle Paul…

Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. (Romans 13:2 KJV)

Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. (Romans 13:2 NASB)

So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. (Romans 13:2 NLT)

Jesus plainly taught his disciples to respect human government by paying taxes…

Watching for their opportunity, the leaders sent spies pretending to be honest men. They tried to get Jesus to say something that could be reported to the Roman governor so he would arrest Jesus. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you speak and teach what is right and are not influenced by what others think. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
He saw through their trickery and said, “Show me a Roman coin. Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
“Well then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
So they failed to trap him by what he said in front of the people. Instead, they were amazed by his answer, and they became silent. (Luke 20:20-26 NLT)

What happens when government overextends into God’s realm and violates God’s laws? Then Christians have to answer to the higher authority of God and at the same time they have to accept the consequences of their civil disobedience. Carefully and prayerfully consider what happened to these 3 men, who were taken captive by the Babylonians and forced to bow down and worship an idol…

After that happened, some astrologers came forward and brought charges against the Jews. They addressed King Nebuchadnezzar, “Your Majesty, may you live forever! Your Majesty, you gave an order that everyone who hears the sound of rams’ horns, flutes, lyres, harps, and three-stringed harps playing at the same time with all other kinds of instruments should bow down and worship the gold statue. [Your order said that] whoever doesn’t bow down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. There are certain Jews whom you appointed to govern the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men didn’t obey your order, Your Majesty. They don’t honor your gods or worship the statue that you set up.” (Daniel 3:8-12)

Then, in a fit of rage and anger, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Immediately, they were brought to the king. Nebuchadnezzar asked them, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is it true that you don’t honor my gods or worship the gold statue that I set up? When you hear the sound of the rams’ horns, flutes, lyres, harps, and three-stringed harps playing at the same time with all other kinds of instruments, will you bow down and worship the gold statue I made? If you don’t worship it, you will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace. What god can save you from my power then?” (Daniel 3:13-15)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “We don’t need to answer your last question. If our God, whom we honor, can save us from a blazing furnace and from your power, he will, Your Majesty. But if he doesn’t, you should know, Your Majesty, we’ll never honor your gods or worship the gold statue that you set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)

What happens when government overextends into God’s realm and violates God’s laws? Christians have to answer to an even higher authority — to God — and at the same time they have to accept the consequences of their civil disobedience. Carefully and prayerfully consider what happened to Daniel, when the king made a decree that he could not pray to God…

When Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went to his house. An upper room in his house had windows that opened in the direction of Jerusalem. Three times each day he got down on his knees and prayed to his God. He had always praised God this way. One of those times the men came in as a group and found Daniel praying and pleading to his God. Then they went and spoke to the king about his decree. [They asked,] “Didn’t you sign a decree which stated that for 30 days whoever asks for anything from any god or person except you, Your Majesty, will be thrown into a lions’ den?” The king answered, “That’s true. According to the law of the Medes and Persians the decree can’t be repealed.” They replied, “Your Majesty, Daniel, one of the captives from Judah, refuses to obey your order or the decree that you signed. He prays three times each day.” (Daniel 6:10-13)

Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel answered to an even higher authority and they submitted to the authority of the government. They refused to obey the king’s decrees that violated God’s laws. They did not hide. They did not cause an uproar. They did not rebel, or cause an insurrection, or any kind of rebellion. They just simply obeyed God. And, they submitted themselves to the authority of the government. They accepted the punishment meted out by the government. I especially like the reply by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego…

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18 NLT)

If you believe your government has overextended into God’s realm and violated God’s laws, then you are biblically required to answer to an even higher authority and at the same time you are required to submit to your government. God is able to save you. God is able to rescue you. But, even if he doesn’t, you cannot serve other gods or worship other gods.

For deeper study:

Verses 2-5. – Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, withstandeth the ordinance of God: and they which withstand shall receive to themselves condemnation (i.e. really God’s, operating through the human “power;” not meaning damnation in the common sense of the word). For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. It is the theory of the laws of all civilized governments to uphold justice, and only to punish what is wrong; and in the main they do so. The principles of the Roman law were just, and Paul himself found protection from its officers and tribunals, whose fairness he had, and had reason to have, more confidence in than in the tender mercy of either Gentile or Jewish zealots (cf. Acts 19:35, seq.; 21:31, seq.; 22:30; 24:10; 25:10, 11; 26:30, seq.). As has been observed already, the Neronian persecutions had not yet begun. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain (though “the sword” might possibly be understood as only the familiar symbol of power, yet the mention of it may be taken to imply the apostle’s recognition of the legitimacy of capital punishment, such as he also expressed distinctly, Acts 25:11): for he is the minister of God, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wrath here expresses the familiar idea of the Divine wrath against evil-doing, for the execution of which, in the sphere of human law, the magistrate is the appointed instrument (see note on Romans 12:19). Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. Not only for fear of penal consequences, but because it is your duty, whatever might ensue, to submit to the ordinance of God. Similarly, in 1 Peter 2:13, submission to every ordinance of man is enjoined “for the Lord’s sake (διὰ τὸν Κύριον).” –Pulpit Commentary

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One thought on “Christian vs. Government Authority

  1. 1903 Authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it. If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order, such arrangements would not be binding in conscience. In such a case, “authority breaks down completely and results in shameful abuse.”