Friday, March 06, 2009
Beyond "Submit to the Authorities" part 3
May the grace of God given us by His Son be foremost in your minds today!
God's commands, given to us in the Bible, are given both for His glory and for our benefit. Every command of God is good, and in fact is perfect!
But some of His commands come to us in such a way that the general statement of the command is not to be applied in its bare form to every conceivable circumstance. Sometimes, because of the sinfulness of mankind, circumstances are so reversed from how they should be, that, to do what is right, you actually seem to disobey a commandment.
Let me present an example of a human commandment that is given in such a form, followed by an example of such a scriptural commandment. With both of those examples in mind, I will then suggest how this principle applies to Romans chapter 13 and the command to submit to the authorities.
A mother commands her children, “Do not go outside the house while your father and I are gone this evening.” When the children are tempted to go outside for a game of hide-and-seek in the dark, they will do well to obey their mother's command and stay inside. But if the house catches fire, the children should NOT stay in the house, but should run outside. Because of the sinfulness of man, and the fallen state of creation, the situation has become utterly reversed from how it should be. The house should be a safe haven from danger for the children, but has in fact become a danger to their lives. So, to obey the commandment in its basic form will not honor the mother's intention, but will violate it.
God commanded, “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work.” Take the case, then, of a Jew in the days of John the Baptist. When he is temped to work in his business on the Sabbath, he will do well to obey the Lord's command, putting aside his work for one day, in order to rest and worship. But if, on his way into Jerusalem on the Sabbath, he sees that an archway has caved in, trapping two people under the rubble, he should NOT refrain from work. Because of the sinfulness of man, and the fallen state of creation, the situation has become utterly reversed from how it should be. In such a circumstance, if the man will not help lift the fallen stones off the people who are trapped, this will be sin. So, to obey the commandment in its bare form would not honor God's intent, but would instead violate it.
Examples could be multiplied, and perhaps you will do so as you meditate on this concept. One believer suggested the case of the boy with his finger in the dike.
Of course, some commandments of God are not stated in such a way that this principle applies. For example, it is never right not to love God with all your heart. It is never good not to love your neighbor as yourself. It is never right to commit murder or adultery. But many of God's commands do come to us in this form.
Romans chapter 13 opens with the command, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.” If a believer is tempted to stop paying his taxes, or stop getting licenses, or stop obeying the traffic laws, because he is ultimately a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, not an earthly country, or because Jesus is his Lawgiver, King, Judge, not the Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court, he will do well to obey this command, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.”
But what if a Christian citizen of the United States of America, a constitutional republic, finds himself living in a time when the office of President is usurped by a foreigner, unconstitutional powers are assumed by the Congress, and immoral rulings are given by the Supreme Court? What if the government rewards the wicked and punishes the righteous? What if the government, instead of insuring justice is done, becomes itself the doer of injustice. What if, instead of securing the rights of the people, the government itself infringes the people's rights?
If a Christian in such circumstances reflects on this command, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities,” and so passively submits to every abuse and injury dished out by a usurping, despotic, even tyrannical government, allowing his fellow citizens, as well as yet-unborn future citizens to suffer the same, he has NOT obeyed God's command rightly. He has instead acted with the foolishness of children who would die in a burning house because their mother had told them not to go outside, or of a man who would not lift a stone off of his fellow man because it was the Sabbath.
This principle is a key to right interpretation and application of the commands in Romans chapter 13. I urge you to consider this, and see the rightness of it. Please feel free to add your comments and ask your questions.
Love in Christ,
I doubt you would remember me...so I will refresh your memory. I am a friend of Jamie's and met you after Church in Centerville Tn. you were visiting Jamie. anyway he sent me this blog post and I liked it and thought you might like to see another Romans 13 post by Chuck Baldwin. at christianworldviewnetwork.com
Of course I remember you, and how kind you were to talk with me at such length that day. I'm so glad you came by here! I'll check out the article you referenced.
Love in Christ,
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