Submission to Government, II. A Cause upon Which To Rebel

Unfortunately, rebellion against government by those who call themselves Christians is not an uncommon occurrence. The reasons behind such rebellion, be it actual or philosophical, more often than not has more to do with one’s political theory than one’s desire to live peaceably with all men (cf. Rm. 12:18). For despite one’s belief where true authority should be vested (e.g. in the Magna Carta or in the king; in the Constitution or in the governors), authority truly resides only where there is actual power. For any human document is only as powerful as its government allows it to be, and where there is perceived conflict between the human code and the human government, the government is the one to whom the Christian must submit, for it is the government who has authority.

And though exceptions might be brought up in the case of the national Israel in the Old Testament, national Israel is unique in that she was governed by a document written by God. Therefore in its case, not to submit to the law of the land was tantamount to rebellion against God himself, for he was the Author of the law.

Therefore, when modern political theory is discussed, Israel’s case must be viewed as the exception not the rule. For national Israel has ever existed as a shadow of heavenly things, and to think that we should mimic national Israel’s government in our present dealings with our governments is to miss the point of national Israel’s existence.

The question, however, that remains to be answered is, “Is there ever a time that submission to government is not commanded or required of the Christian?” I believe the question can be answered quite simply. Submission to government is demanded of Christians insofar as they are not personally required to rebel against the ordinances of God. In other words, a Christian is to submit to government so long as that government does not require him to act in such a way that is contrary to God’s command.

This rule is clearly demonstrated throughout the Word of God. It is seen in the book of Daniel where the three young men were commanded to bow before the idol of the King, and they refused; it is seen also in Daniel’s willingness to adapt to the customs and cultures of Babylon insofar as those things did not conflict with the law of God; and it is seen in Paul’s willingness to submit to governing authorities as long as those authorities did not hinder the clear command by the Lord to preach the Gospel. All these cases demonstrate that human government is to be obeyed so long as they do not require one to act in a way that is contrary to the demands of the Lord.

Therefore, rebellion against the governing authorities should be, at least in the United States, a rare practice by the Christian. For it is a rare occurrence that an American Christian is asked to act in such a way that contradicts biblical mandate. Christians in America should rather submit without question to the authorities of the land, seeking to live peaceably with them and giving them no offense save in the Gospel of our Lord. In this way, Christians will demonstrate to their country that their only concern is the Gospel, and may, by God’s grace, change the face of their country by the Gospel.



Categories: Fridy Night Bible Study

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12 replies

  1. Thanks for posting. What are some specific ways which you have seen Christians rebelling?

    If I may nitpick, I do think that Israel's government and laws are good to examine when making decisions about a government and its laws, though it should not be followed to the letter, as you pointed out. Additionally, it makes sense to me for a church government to take Israel's government into consideration since we are the true Israel.

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  2. Probably mostly with regards to showing honor and respect, addressed in today's post.

    And while I agree that many of Israel's laws could be beneficially applied to our present government (and many are), Christians do not run the government, and we are never commanded to attempt to run the government. If secular leaders see it fitting to apply many of the laws that God gave to national Israel, to God be the glory. But I wouldn't hold my breath.;-)

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  3. "If kings and queens rule by divine right, then let them rule in heaven"-Thomas jefferson

    Len kloth

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  4. Sounds nice, but Thomas Jefferson cared little about honoring God or submitting to the Scriptures. Grace & peace.

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  5. "All government that does not derive from the consent of the governed, or claims special rights from a divine source is a shameful pretense. To claim divine right for authority is to heap on corrupt an illegitimate Government a false covering based in unrighteous dominion. To the dogs with them." -James Madison to Thomas Paine, 1785

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  6. "If… the machine of government… is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law" -Martin luther King. 1962

    "We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." ~Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Why We Can't Wait, 1963

    "“The American rebels resist divine mandate, standing against holy script itself showing no fear of divine retribution. Against Romans 13 and indeed all of scripture they rebel not just against their parent, but against all that is firmly set by holy scripture, such foolishness will only bring them to ruin” -Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking for King James III, 1778

    Any comments?

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  7. None. I do not appeal to men for answers regarding government.

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  8. "I do not appeal to men for answers regarding government” So then democracy/republic, which are very much pagan (from Greece) concepts, are anathema to your biblical world view? The ‘Biblical’ Oliver Cromwell, and dozens of other theocrats throughout history attempted to institute Bible based societies, theocratic ‘God based’ regimes, all dismal failures, unless one prefers dictatorships. This is a one salient reason I am not Calvinist, or part of the religious right.

    The appeal to scripture for anything other than personal salvation, or preaching the Gospel as in society s a prescription for disaster, history pounds in this point, over and over again. The choice is to be like an Amish, and ignore secular society, or be a part of it. If part of American society, how do Christians interact with it, politically?

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  9. I don't understand your point. We as Christians are called to submit to government not establish it. That is how Christians are to "interact" with government. This is not a debate about forms of government or the misguided political views of past Christians, but it is an exposition of what the apostle Paul writes on the matter. We as Christians are called to live secular lives in submission to government, obeying its laws and paying its taxes, insofar as obedience to that government does not cause us to disobey God. That's it, plain and simple. Grace and peace.

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  10. Did Moses violate God's principle of submission to authority when he killed the Egyptian taskmaster in defense of his fellow Hebrew?

    Did Elijah violate God's principle of submission to authority when he openly challenged Ahab and Jezebel?

    Did David violate God's principle of submission to authority when he refused to surrender to Saul's troops?

    Did Daniel violate God's principle of submission to authority when he disobeyed the king's law to not pray audibly to God?

    Did the three Hebrew children violate God's principle of submission to authority when they refused to bow to the image of the state?

    Did John the Baptist violate God's principle of submission to authority when he publicly scolded King Herod for his infidelity?

    Did Simon Peter and the other Apostles violate God's principle of submission to authority when they refused to stop preaching on the streets of Jerusalem?

    Did Paul violate God's principle of submission to authority when he refused to obey those authorities who demanded that he abandon his missionary work? In fact, Paul spent almost as much time in jail as he did out of jail

    Remember that every apostle of Christ (except John) was killed by hostile civil authorities opposed to their endeavors Christians throughout church history were imprisoned, tortured, or killed by civil authorities of all stripes for refusing to submit to their various laws and prohibitions Did all of these Christian martyrs violate God's principle of submission to authority?

    Luther, the founder of Protestantism openly defied established civil goverment, as did countless other 'Christian' leaders in history, ones we often see as great Christian leaders.

    America was founded on a complete rejection of civil authority (Divine right of kings) that had been in place for centuries, much of its claims based on Romans 13)

    So, even the great prophets, apostles, and writers of the Bible (including the writer of Romans Chapter 13) understood that human authority–even civil authority–is limited, very limited. Am I wrong?

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  11. Every case you mentioned adhers to what I previously wrote:

    We as Christians are called to live secular lives in submission to government, obeying its laws and paying its taxes, insofar as obedience to that government does not cause us to disobey God.

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