What Does God Say about Christians and Politics (part 4)
In the final post of this short series regarding government, I want to mention what is a confusing passage to many, Romans 13:1-5:
“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.” (Romans 13:1-5; NASB)
This passage is often used to convince Christians they are not supposed to criticize people in government, that they must obey government unconditionally, and that everyone in a position of governmental authority was put in that position by God. That is not what the passage is saying.
Let’s first look at the contention regarding everyone in government being placed there by God. This belief is built around the doctrine of God‘s sovereignty. He is sovereign, of course. The problem, however, comes from mis-defining what sovereignty means. It does not mean “to be in control of everything.” (I shared a post [October 11, 2021] on this subject which you can see here.)
The word “sovereignty” means “all reign or authority.” God is sovereign, or has all authority, but He is not responsible for evil. He certainly is not in favor of wicked people in government and did not place them there. To contend that God puts people like Hitler in their position of power for some unknown reason, is an insult to God’s character.
God confirmed that He doesn’t set up evil governments in Hosea 8:4, “They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval." This could not be clearer. Actually, God’s judgment of wicked rulers and removal of them in scripture is overwhelmingly obvious. At times He raised up leaders to overthrow evil governments, such as Moses, Ehud, Jephthah, Samson and Deborah. Hebrews 11:32-34 says, “For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises... became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” Obviously, not all who are in positions of government were placed there by God.
So what does this passage in Romans 13 mean? Paul was simply instructing believers in Rome to respect the institution God had raised up: government. When combining this passage with the remainder of Scripture, which we must always do, it becomes clear that our first responsibility is to obey God. When laws and commands of government contradict His laws, we do not obey them. Consider the following passage:
“When they had brought them (Peter and the apostles), they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’” (Acts 5:27-29; NASB)
David Howard, of Foxhole Ministry, states, “Christians are to follow what is lawful under God and to be subject to the authorities that God has established. When it comes to worldly institutions or governments, we submit so far as is lawful under God…God created the righteous concept of the institution of government and directed the people [under Moses] to create a representative government to honor God's laws and prevent disorder and anarchy. The caution is that Christians ‘…must (always) obey God rather than men.’ Therefore what is legal under man is not always lawful under God. Today, what is unlawful under God in America are abortion, gay marriage, political corruption, pornography, restricted prayer and the display of the Ten Commandments. Nothing made legal by government, which is unlawful under God, should Christians condone, hide or fail to expose. We are not silent, apathetic, struck down or delayed in our representation of Christ as ambassadors to the world. This is our appointed time to be the light and salt that speaks the word of God into the world. We have no fellowship with darkness, but we shrewdly expose it. (Paraphrased from Ephesians 5:11) We expose it by putting on the full armor of God to be Christ’s Ambassadors into the world so we may speak boldly, as we ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20)”(1)
History is filled with examples of this passage in Romans 13 being used inappropriately to silence good people, including Christians. Consider the following examples:
“In July 1933, during Hitler’s first summer in power, a young German pastor named Joachim Hossenfelder preached a sermon in the towering Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, Berlin’s most important church. He used the words of Romans 13 to remind worshippers of the importance of obedience to those in authority. The church was festooned with Nazi banners and … flags, its pews packed with the Nazi Party faithful — including men in the brown shirts of the [Stormtroopers], the Nazis’ paramilitary movement.”(2)
“Those upholding the Fugitive Slave Law in the 1840s and 1850s insisted that escaped slaves be returned to their masters, based on Romans 13.
“Frederick Douglass, escaped slave and renowned orator during the Civil War once said, ‘I appear this evening as a thief and a robber. I stole this head, these limbs, this body from my master, and ran off with them.’”(3) Wow!
“Beloved, I hope that as Christians we can all agree that the life of Jesus is one of freedom in Christ, not servitude to human powers. I hope we as Americans can agree that no particular iteration of our government is such a bearer of God’s will that its actions cannot be questioned. When an official of any government uses Romans 13 in this way, they claim divine authority in a way that is incompatible with both our freedom in Christ and the proper functioning of democracy. When this interpretation goes unchallenged, human tragedy always follows.”(4)
Speak up, fellow believers, speak up.
Pray with me:
Father, our enemy will use anything possible to create passivity in the church, including our theology. We ask for You to bring understanding to us regarding any and every belief we have that creates passivity or complacency. Awaken the church to our high calling and privilege of partnering with You on earth, to accomplish good and stop evil.
Through our prayers, decrees, and voices, we stand against evil in our nation. We oppose that which would try to remove You from our America’s government, education and public life. We bind the coordinated efforts of hell to bring down this nation. We ask You to continue shifting - and create an even greater shift - in our nation by continuing to expose ungodliness and impure motives. Arise, and see Your enemies scatter!
And we remember to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world. We continue to ask for an end to the bloodshed in Ukraine. We ask You to work this for the good of revival and righteousness. We ask You to end the evil reign of Putin and free the people of Russia from the oppression there. We pray for worldwide revival in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, South America, Central America, and every island of the sea. We ask all of this in Christ’s name. Amen.
We decree that Jesus Christ is Lord over all other governments.
Click on the link below to watch the full video.