| Romans 13 and "Civil" Government - Pastor Chuck Baldwin|
ROMANS CHAPTER 13
By Pastor Chuck Baldwin
August 10, 2007
It seems that every time someone such as myself attempts to encourage our Christian brothers and sisters to resist an unconstitutional or otherwise reprehensible government policy, we hear the retort, "What about Romans Chapter 13? We Christians must submit to government. Any government. Read your Bible, and leave me alone." Or words to that effect.
No doubt, some who use this argument are sincere. They are only repeating what they have heard their pastor and other religious leaders say. On the other hand, let's be honest enough to admit that some who use this argument are just plain lazy, apathetic, and indifferent. And Romans 13 is their escape from responsibility. I suspect this is the much larger group, by the way.
Nevertheless, for the benefit of those who are sincere (but obviously misinformed), let's briefly examine Romans Chapter 13. I quote Romans Chapter 13, verses 1 through 7, from the Authorized King James text:
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 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: 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: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor."
Do our Christian friends who use these verses to teach that we should not oppose President Bush or any other political leader really believe that civil magistrates have unlimited authority to do anything they want without opposition? I doubt whether they truly believe that.
For example, what if our President decided to resurrect the old monarchal custom of Jus Primae Noctis (Law of First Night)? That was the old medieval custom when the king claimed the right to sleep with a subject's bride on the first night of their marriage. Would our sincere Christian brethren sheepishly say, "Romans Chapter 13 says we must submit to the government"? I think not. And would any of us respect any man who would submit to such a law?
So, there are limits to authority. A father has authority in his home, but does this give him power to abuse his wife and children? Of course not. An employer has authority on the job, but does this give him power to control the private lives of his employees? No. A pastor has overseer authority in the church, but does this give him power to tell employers in his church how to run their businesses? Of course not. All human authority is limited in nature. No man has unlimited authority over the lives of other men. (Lordship and Sovereignty is the exclusive domain of Jesus Christ.)
By the same token, a civil magistrate has authority in civil matters, but his authority is limited and defined. Observe that Romans Chapter 13 clearly limits the authority of civil government by strictly defining its purpose: "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil . . . For he is the minister of God to thee for good . . . for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."
Notice that civil government must not be a "terror to good works." It has no power or authority to terrorize good works or good people. God never gave it that authority. And any government that oversteps that divine boundary has no divine authority or protection.
Civil government is a "minister of God to thee for good." It is a not a minister of God for evil. Civil magistrates have a divine duty to "execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." They have no authority to execute wrath upon him that doeth good. None. Zilch. Zero. And anyone who says they do is lying. So, even in the midst of telling Christians to submit to civil authority, Romans Chapter 13 limits the power and reach of civil authority.
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?
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.
Plus, Paul makes it clear that our submission to civil authority must be predicated on more than fear of governmental retaliation. Notice, he said, "Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake." Meaning, our obedience to civil authority is more than just "because they said so." It is also a matter of conscience. This means we must think and reason for ourselves regarding the justness and rightness of our government's laws. Obedience is not automatic or robotic. It is a result of both rational deliberation and moral approbation.
Therefore, there are times when civil authority may need to be resisted. Either governmental abuse of power or the violation of conscience (or both) could precipitate civil disobedience. Of course, how and when we decide to resist civil authority is an entirely separate issue. And I will reserve that discussion for another time.
Beyond that, we in the United States of America do not live under a monarchy. We have no king. There is no single governing official in this country. America's "supreme Law" does not rest with any man or any group of men. America's "supreme Law" does not rest with the President, the Congress, or even the Supreme Court. In America, the U.S. Constitution is the "supreme Law of the Land." Under our laws, every governing official publicly promises to submit to the Constitution of the United States. Do readers understand the significance of this distinction? I hope so.
This means that in America the "higher powers" are not the men who occupy elected office, they are the tenets and principles set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Under our laws and form of government, it is the duty of every citizen, including our elected officials, to obey the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, this is how Romans Chapter 13 reads to Americans:
"Let every soul be subject unto the [U.S. Constitution.] For there is no [Constitution] but of God: the [Constitution] that be [is] ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the [Constitution], resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For [the Constitution is] not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the [Constitution]? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For [the Constitution] is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for [the Constitution] beareth not the sword in vain: for [the Constitution] is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for [the Constitution is] God's minister, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor."
Dear Christian friend, the above is exactly the proper understanding of our responsibility to civil authority in these United States, as per the teaching of Romans Chapter 13.
Furthermore, Christians, above all people, should desire that their elected representatives submit to the Constitution, because it is constitutional government that has done more to protect Christian liberty than any governing document ever devised by man. As I have noted before in this column (See: Read), Biblical principles form the foundation of all three of America's founding documents: The Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution, and The Bill of Rights.
As a result, Christians in America (for the most part) have not had to face the painful decision to "obey God rather than men" and defy their civil authorities.
The problem in America today is that we have allowed our political leaders to violate their oaths of office and to ignore, and blatantly disobey, the "supreme Law of the Land," the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, if we truly believe Romans Chapter 13, we will insist and demand that our civil magistrates submit to the U.S. Constitution.
Now, how many of us Christians are going to truly obey Romans Chapter 13?
[url=http://www.newswithviews.com/baldwin/baldwin389.htm]Original Link - Romans Chapter 13 - NewsWithViews[/url]
| 2007/8/13 19:37|
| Re: Romans 13 and "Civil" Government - Pastor Chuck Baldwin|
A very good article and one that a citizen of the United States should follow, of course to be a citizen of the US makes you a citizen of the world and thus this article would apply.
The Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights may have some of the principles of the Word of God in them, but they are not and will never be Gods Word.
We as children of God are citizens of neither, we are citizens of heaven and we have no country here, but are pilgrims who are but wandering through this world as witnesses of the mercy and love of God the Father through Jesus Christ. One day our Lord will take all those who follow and obey Gods Word home to His country and the only way is through Jesus Christ, not some man made and worshiped constitution. ;-)
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
In His Love
| 2007/8/13 21:40||Profile|
One day our Lord will take all those who follow and obey Gods Word home to His country...
Oh, happy day!!! :-D
| 2007/8/13 22:05|
Quote:Yet it is interesting that the Apostle Paul invoked his own Roman citizenship for a great cause -- appealing unto Caesar in order to get the Word to Rome.
[b]We as children of God are citizens of neither[/b], we are citizens of heaven and we have no country here, but are pilgrims who are but wandering through this world as witnesses of the mercy and love of God the Father through Jesus Christ.
While I completely agree with the context of our "eternal" citizenship, we are also pilgrims and Ambassadors of our King. While our eternal citizenship is in Heaven, we are given a temporary citizenship here on Earth. I believe that we have a responsibility to "make the most of the matter." What do we do with this "talent" (Matthew 25) that we are given? Do we bury it -- or do we use it for the benefit of our Eternal King? As such, I have never believed that it is sinful or even unspiritual to be a patriot in a sense of taking part in the political or legal process for a much greater cause.
I know some very sincere, anti-establishment individuals living on a large, rural commune. While they don't officially condone the authority of the US government in local and communal affairs, they consistently invoke the legal protections offered to them by the Constitution (including the hiring of solicitors for defensive purposes). Similarly, I have seen believers and churches openly question the extent of the authority in which the United States can claim. Yet many of these same individuals and churches fall upon the mercy of courts for the Constitutional protection of free speech. Ironically, they rely on the same document that gives the government power in the first place!
This morning, I was speaking with a graduate student from India. He arrived in the United States in early January. He was immediately amazed at the widespread American respect for justice and the legal process. In India, he explained, the government is extremely corrupt at nearly all levels. He stated that it is actually "normal" for local officials (including law enforcement) to demand or receive bribes. Consequently, he is astonished at the level in which Americans complain about their government officials.
This student recently finished reading Bob Woodward's [i]Bush At War[/i], an analytical, inside review of the Bush Administration's decision making process from 9/11 to Afghanistan to Iraq. Even though the book paints a muddled picture of certain former figures within the Bush Administration (particularly Donald Rumsfeld), this Indian student was amazed at the selfless sincerity in which the most powerful men within the most powerful government in the world is administrated. Do you know what this young man believes is the reason for such near-universal respect for law in the United States and for what he felt was selfless administration by government officials? He said it was because of the American embrace of CHRISTIANITY! As an outsider and unbeliever, this young Indian man perceived the influence of Christianity in many aspects of our society -- even though he is completely aware that most Americans do not fully embrace or practice the faith.
Our Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and other founding documents were, of course, conceived by flawed men. However, they are still the documents responsible for the freedoms that we enjoy -- not only in America, but as embraced by subsequent nations. I never realized how much I took this "way of life" for granted until I traveled overseas (in Europe and Central America). Despite its flaws, we are truly blessed to live in this nation!
We all live in the "here and now." As Keith Green used to say, "[i]This generation of believers is responsible for this generation of souls.[/i]" Is it possible that someone could learn from Paul's example and use their "temporary" citizenship to introduce an "eternal citizenship" in Washington, Ottawa, London, Moscow, Jerusalem or even Bagdad? Hmmm...
| 2007/8/13 23:29||Profile|
This morning, I was speaking with a graduate student from India. Consequently, he is astonished at the level in which Americans complain about their government officials.
This comment reminds me of an interview I recently heard between a canadian talk show host and a female refugee fleeing religous persecution from some mid-east country. (She was neither Islamic, nor Christian.) After hearing her story of violence and terror, the young talk show host proceeded to complain about the presence of evangelical Christians in the United States, attempting to compare their democratic and cultural influence to Islamic fundamentalist facism...a comparison which drew surprised scorn from his female guest. She retorted "It's easy for you to spit on your freedoms in North America...you've always had them."
Something to keep in perspective I think.
| 2007/8/13 23:38||Profile|
I've heard several similar stories like the one you included! In fact, I spoke with a Christian student from Eastern Europe last week. He will graduate in about five months with a MS degree in Electrical Engineering. Even though he comes from a good and economically sound home, he does not want to return to Romania. While he greatly misses his family, he said that he has grown accustomed to the "liberties" and overall "goodness" of America. He was astutely aware of the "power of the people" in America. Yet he is also aware of the potential "power of the person" here. He claimed that one "normal" citizen in America has potentially more influence in our government than in any other government of the world. We do not have to fear standing in opposition in this nation. While it might bring rhetorical scorn or ridicule, a single person's voice has the potential to influence the entire nation.
After he told me this, I thought about the individuals who made a great, spiritual impact on our nation. George Whitefield was so instrumental in his evangelical/holiness effort, that he is written about in Benjamin Franklin's autobiography! Whitefield spoke to crowds as large as 30,000 in the days before electricity. He traveled across the Atlantic thirteen times and became one of the most recognized public figures in the United States. Even then, he was one of the first clergy to openly preach amongst slaves.
Charles Finney had a great and lasting impact on this nation. Historians have estimated that Finney played a role in the conversion of over 500,000. This is amazing in that there were less than 13 Million Americans at the time! This means that he played a role in helping convert 1 out of every 26 Americans alive! Not only was he known as a great revivalist of the 19th Century, but he was greatly involved in the political process. He denied communion to slave owners several decades BEFORE the Civil War! His hardline stand against the evils of slavery closed some doors of opportunity in the southern states, yet his influence in American life is undeniable. His words were actually quoted in arguments before the US Supreme Court!
We have such an opportunity of voice in this nation! Yet this opportunity comes with a terrible responsibility. Our words can literally bring death or life! They can literally shape the outcome of our political processes and even end a war. Yet we really need to be careful and prayerful about the limited direction of our words. Because of our limited vocal range, more formal opposition has been made to the military conflict in Iraq than in areas like the continued 34-year slaughter of unborn children due to abortion. We call into question the integrity of self-proclaimed "Christian" conservatives while we say little about the prospect of recognized, "holy" matrimony of homosexuals.
While we are certainly entitled to our view and voice, I wonder what would happen if we actually got our own way? Would we regret our rhetoric if some future, blatantly non-Christian politician took power and exerted his/her own influence on our nation?
The former youth pastor of the church where I grew up came under a lot of fire for the unabashed directness in his preaching. He was extremely zealous for personal holiness, and often preached accordingly. His favorite preachers were Leonard Ravenhill, A. W. Tozer and David Wilkerson, and this was reflected in his sermons during youth services. The youth ministry grew tremendously during that time, both in maturity and sheer numbers. Yet this youth pastor drew constant criticism by members of the church. Some parents complained that their children were becoming too judgmental. Some parents complained that the youth meetings lasted too long. Some parents complained that the youth pastor's hardline stance had alienated their children from wanting to get involved in church. Some people loudly questioned this youth minister's ability to reach "modern" youth. Why were there no pizza parties, rock concerts and field trips to the beach or ski resorts? Why was the summer camps so God-centered and not activity-centered?
After five years, the youth pastor finally moved on. When he left, there were not just 50-100 members of the youth group, but 50-100 dedicated believers. The next few youth pastors were quite the opposite. They were graduates of Bible school with specialties in "reaching today's modern teens." Within a few short years, the youth group dwindled to nearly nothing. Many of the youth within the church became alienated from God and Church. Girls became pregnant and guys became deadbeat teen fathers. The only ones who were extremely involved in church were the rock musicians in the youth band. But even these left before long. One day, I overheard a parent talking to another parent. He was one of the most critical of the former youth minister. He was saying how much he MISSED the former youth pastor, and how if he were here, the present crisis would never have taken place.
I've often wondered the same about our elected officials. We have become so publicly critical of many of them. While this is completely within our rights and calling as citizens, what would happen if the opposition was in power? Would we be happier? What if there were no restraints upon abortion? What if clergy was forced to "not discriminate" against homosexual "couples" wishing to be united in "holy" matrimony? What if preachers were prosecuted for spreading bigotry against certain groups of "sinners?"
I believe that we should always use this citizenship "talent" that the Lord has entrusted us. While we are completely free and entitled to our opinions about a particular person, group or mindset, we should be mindful of the "whole counsel" of our voice. If we want to shoot fiery darts at the President about Iraq, let's make it clear about the things that we appreciate (if any). If we want to shoot fiery darts at the Democrats for a particular issue, let us remember to make clear the things that they hold in which we appreciate (if any). This will demonstrate to the world that we are not pledging allegiance to a particular group, but to the righteousness that can "exalt a nation."
| 2007/8/14 11:35||Profile|
Yet it is interesting that the Apostle Paul invoked his own Roman citizenship for a great cause -- appealing unto Caesar in order to get the Word to Rome.
Yes Chris, Paul obeyed the voice of the Holy Spirit to go to Jerusalem and in doing so Gods plan was set in motion. Paul obeyed the Lord and His will, he did not cook this up on his own; Hey I have a plan< I will claim my Roman citizenship and that will take me to Rome so I can preach the gospel there. He had no political intent and was simply following the Lords will. Notice, he went there to preach the gospel not to serve in the Senate or become a Roman Caesar.
You have used this same line of thought in other post and it is misleading to assume that Paul was in any way being political or insinuating that others should be.
Paul was anything but encouraging Christians to be political or use the system or its laws.
1 Cor. 6:1
Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?
1 Cor. 6:7
Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?
He made it clear that the system of this world was unjust and we were to suffer loss rather than become a part of it.
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
1 John 4:17
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
Chris, you are young and have very little experience in this world, you only know what others have told you, what you have read and most of mans history has been written to glorify man. There is so much more, for you have only begun in the search for truth.
Thank God for His Word for this is the only truth that is in this world and man has done so much to change it to fit himself.
We must trust the Lord, for it is only in Him that we are free, not any constitution.
I have spent 40+ years in the trenches and I know what it means to proclaim the truths of Gods Word and also what it means to leave my blood and to pick up pieces of my best buddies for our Constitution. I can tell you that there is only One Freedom that is worth the loss of all, only One to lay down our life for, and only One that will give you life for the life you loose. That is the freedom we receive when the SON shall make you Free.
Constitution, Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and of course politics are all things of this world and man will continue to fight and die for them. Man will continue to fight and argue over them and sometime very soon the Anti-Christ will use these very things to convince those who worship these things to worship him.
Sad is it not, no Chris I am not political and I do not recommend any follower of Jesus Christ to be, but to spend the short time we have on this Earth serving and loving our Lord Jesus Christ with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. To love our neighbor as Christ loves us and to practice those things the Lord says separates the Sheep from the Goats. Yes, Matt. 25
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:  And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:  And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.  Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:  For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:  I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.  Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?  Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.  And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
I do not see any stinking politics here!;-)
In His Love
| 2007/8/14 17:54||Profile|
He made it clear that the system of this world was unjust and we were to suffer loss rather than become a part of it.
pastorfrin, do you feel we can extend this to the Church system (churchian industrial complex) as well?
Great post brother. Lots of scripture and truth.
| 2007/8/16 5:40|
pastorfrin, do you feel we can extend this to the Church system (churchian industrial complex) as well?
| 2007/8/16 18:10||Profile|
| Re: Romans 13 and "Civil" Government - Pastor Chuck Baldwin|
We are citizens of the KINGDOM OF GOD first of all. If we lose sight of that fact we are in trouble.
This takes precedence over ALL other loyalties and all other laws and demands for obedience.
Party politics, nationalism, church or denominational loyalty, family loyalty, or even obedience to parents if we are young. Whatever the authority, if there is a conflict between them, we must, as the apostles said to those who tried to muzzle them - "obey God rather than man".
That said, we are also to respect the civil government wherever we live - even a bad government - and other legitimate human authorities. we are to obey them, and be loyal to them where possible. Only if the Lord's command is in direct opposition to the laws of man, are we entitled to disobey civil or church government, parents, bosses, teachers etc.
I don't think that it's wrong for a Christian to be politically active, (though I personally hate party politics), or belong to a political party, or be elected to office. We would be in a worse state than we are now if our governments contained no Christians at all! But it will no doubt be a rough ride if you determine in your heart to stand for God within that setting. Sooner or later, if you stay faithful to Him, there will be conflict between the laws of God and the laws of the party - whichever party it happens to be.
National loyalty can be as much of a snare as political loyalty - yet we [i]are[/i] citizens of a particular nation where God has placed us, and there is some loyalty and respect due to "Caesar" on the merely human level.
For example, I've had to settle my heart re the subject of Welsh nationalism. Not that I'm particularly patriotic, but I used to be quite proud of being Welsh, with the rich cultural heritage, especially as we have been called "the Land of Song". And of course it's been a land of revival too.
But that sense of national identity has faded in the light of Christ, as has denominational identity, since the Lord liberated me from denominationalism.
I understand now why Paul said, "To the Jew I became as a Jew...."
Paul WAS a Jew! So what did he mean, "[i]became[/i] as a Jew"? Surely that the Lord has so liberated him from his human roots that his identity was now bound up in Christ, not in his Jewishness - even though it gave him many advantages in preaching the Gospel.
Similarly he was a Roman citizen, which gave him an advantage in preaching to the Romans (not to mention the Roman protection he took of advantage of at need.)
And he was also well versed in Greek culture and literature, which helpoed him to debate and witness to Greeks.
He used these things, but was not a slave to them, or puffed up because of them, any more.
An example of political "slavery" was seen by a friend just before a General Election. He met an elder of a local church, and naturally talk turned to the election. Eddie said to the man, "what are you voting?" The man was surprised, "Why, Labour of course!" (My mother used to say that in our area, if you took a sheep off the hills, put a red rosette on it and entered it as a Labour candidate it would be elected!)
Eddie said, "Have you prayed about it?" And the man looked at him as if he was mad!
| 2007/8/21 18:13|