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