THE CHRISTIAN AND GOVERNMENT, PART 1

“Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3:20). God deserves our absolute obedience–now and forever. But we have a double loyalty according to Jesus. We “render to Caesar [government] the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). Jesus legitimized the authority of government.

Nations are part of the plan of God for people to live together peacefully. Boundaries have been established by God (Acts 17:26). He loves national identities. The new earth will feature cultural diversity in all its radiance (Revelation 21:24).

Globalism is not in the plan of God, but it seemed to me to be in the plan of the former president. It is the plan of Satan. (So is hyper-nationalism. Think Nazi). Globalism will reach fruition under the antichrist, and by God’s allowance he will succeed–for three and a half years. The King will destroy his plans by His return to earth.

Paul addressed the Christian’s relationship to government in two letters. He wrote, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (I Timothy 2:1-3). As people who carry two passports, we show our allegiance to our earthly state first of all through prayer.  Before Paul instructed Timothy on matters of worship, leadership, eldership, widows, and finances, he exhorted him concerning the priority of prayer for government leaders. Must be important. God help us.

We pray for civil leaders so the gospel can go forth unhindered. Paul saw a great advantage with peace–free movement in the Roman Empire. He used his citizenship when he needed protection from religious leaders (Acts 22:28).

In Paul’s longest doctrinal letter, he again addressed the issue of the state. His opening line: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1). How do we function as citizens? By submitting, a word Paul used often when talking about relationships–elders to congregation, husband to wife, parents to children, employer to employee. God exercises His authority in the earth through human authority, and that includes government. Paul saw himself in a place of submission to the government that was serving the purpose of God. Protesters don’t get it.

To be subject includes paying “taxes to whom taxes are due…honor to whom honor is due” (Romans 13:7). Is honor due to anyone who happens to be leading? No. The government of North Korea is not a servant of God. The pagan government of Rome was.

God is concerned for the proper ordering of society, not just the church. The function of the government and the church are radically different. The government is commissioned by God to provide safety for its citizens. They bear the sword and execute God’s wrath on wrongdoers (Romans 13:4). Don’t expect the government to support the church, but neither should they attack the church. They should do what they are called to do (keep the peace and punish the rowdies) so that the church can do what it is called to do. Let’s pray for good government!

8 thoughts on “THE CHRISTIAN AND GOVERNMENT, PART 1

  1. Hi Paul,

    I suggest you consider 1 Samuel 8 to broaden your discussion on God’s purpose for Government. It this passage God indicates that government is His prescription for ungodliness and that the functions of government is to take our stuff, give our stuff to cronies, and to enslave us and the cronies. The purpose of this is repentance (complaining about bad government will not be heard by God). The more ungodly a nation, the worse the government God prescribes. Providing better government to ungodly people doesn’t work (nation building failures abound). It appears the measure of godliness is tied to the number and quality of the godly, and it doesn’t take too many of them to make a difference (Abram’s 10, Elijah’s 600, Jesus’ salt and leaven). This has motivated me to teach young adults how to walk in the spirit, as this is the only type of Christian which makes a difference. This is what you taught me so many years ago – so thanks!

    In the Lord,
    Robert

  2. Thanks for this, Pastor Paul. Here’s the part of Romans 13:1 that I wonder about: …for there is no authority except that which God has established.” How do we understand this in light of governments such as Hitler’s and, more currently, North Korea’s? Also, could you say more about how “the pagan government of Rome was God’s servant”?

    • Thank you, Julie. I will be answering some of that in part 2. A pagan government, which most governments are, still maintains a level of peace that allows people to go to work, carry on an essentially peaceful life. Most governments in the world are corrupt, but even then, people are able to live in peace and the gospel goes forth. I asked my friends in Brazil where I do ministry from time to time if their government is corrupt. He answered, “All governments in Brazil are corrupt.” The same is true in Africa with very few exceptions. Even with corruption, crime is to some degree held down by the government, which is called to be a terror to evil people. Nazi Germany and North Korea is not that. It was (and is) a terror to good people. It does not fit Romans 13. Then I understand the words of the apostles, “We must obey God rather than man.” I would welcome your comments if you see it differently.

      Paul Anderson 1707 Lydia Ave. West, Roseville, MN 55113

      Founder/Director of Harvest Communities Lydia House http://www.LydiaHouseChurch.org The Harvest Project http://www.TheHarvestProjectMN.org paulanderson@harvestcommunities.org

      • Thank you, Pastor Paul. That was helpful. I understood what you meant about Nazi Germany and North Korea not fitting Romans 13:3: For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.” I still wonder, though, about how to understand v. 1 as the RSV puts it: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities . For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Since most governments are corrupt, I guess it could mean that God instituted the system of having rulers in a government, but not specifically any corrupt rulers that have or currently rule? (I noticed that The Message puts it in a way that seems more understandable: “Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order.”)

      • You’re right. I think each situation takes the Spirit to work it out. Some would call our American government oppressive, giving them the right to protest and destroy property. Other’s, like my friend, are led to pray for the leader of North Korea to come to Christ. May the Lord guide us to know what submission means for us as Christians in our different countries.

  3. I find your second-to-last paragraph interesting. When the apostle Paul wrote Romans, Nero was the emperor, and it was he who killed Peter and Paul. I suspect that Kim Jong Un is just as much a servant of God as Nero was, but only because God is King of kings and Lord of lords. This is one of those cases in which I feel a need to borrow Luther’s concept of God’s “strange will” (see Is. 28:21) God often does things that seem alien to his character as I know it, but He is a whole lot more complex than anything I can comprehend.

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