Monday, December 06, 2010

Submission to Authority Part 2: State over Citizens

Romans 13:1-7 / Titus 3:1 / 1 Peter 2:13-17

This is a command that applies to all. God ordained the role of governments, families, and authority structures to provide order to society. All human authority is derived from God’s authority. We question that when we think of the Hitler’s, Stalin’s, and other evil dictators of world history, but we see examples of God showing that He is sovereign over all leaders, kings and tyrants: Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, etc. (Proverbs 21:1). Pilate is a case in point (John 19:9-11 / Acts 4:27-28).

Jesus and His disciples paid their taxes to a pagan Roman government (Matthew 22:17-22), and to a corrupt Jewish religious body. Although our Lord questioned the validity of a particular tax (Matthew 17:24-27), He taught His followers to pay the tax anyway (Romans 13:7).

Romans 13:3-4 – legitimate function of civil authority – reward good / punish evil. When a government becomes so corrupt that it fails to perform its legitimate functions, then people must try to institute a new government peaceably and the church must speak against political corruption, public sin, and tyranny.

Acts 4:18-20, 5:17-29 – When any human authority commands what God forbids or forbids what God commands, Christians must resist at that point, yet still be subject to the punishment – Christians first, citizens second, our primary obedience is to God. One can still be in submission to one’s authority without always blindly obeying every command. In other words, one can submissively disobey. Daniel and his friends demonstrate submissive disobedience for us (Daniel 3:8-25). They would not submit to idolatry, but would submit for the penalty of disobeying the king. Daniel submitted to the authorities over him in Babylon, while at the same time he maintained his submission to God (Daniel 4:1-23).

What if the authority endorses what God condemns? They don’t make me do it, but they promote or allow what is morally evil, for example abortion. Christians can get involved with crisis pregnancy centers, write letters, and petition for change. What about when a government doesn’t enforce laws already on the books that provide protection and justice to others? Clearly, there are times when an authority must be challenged to cease from its ungodly ways. There comes a point where the evil is too great and we must do more, when passive acceptance of an evil perpetrated on another becomes a sin. This doesn’t mean bombing abortion clinics or murdering abortion doctors, but it does mean we should jaywalk and strike an attacker who is trying to mug an old lady. We might need to speed to get a person who was shot to the hospital.

When a ruler of a people is engaged in and promoting wickedness, in some cases we should be praying imprecations. In the Bible an imprecatory prayer is the prayer of a righteous man petitioning God to carry out justice by bringing punishment or destruction upon evildoers, and to let God’s righteousness prevail in a situation (Psalm 10:15, 28:4, 58:6, 69:22-28, 109, 137:9, 139:19-21, etc.). The imprecatory Psalms are not personal vendettas; they were longings for God to vindicate His cause upon the earth, and to judge sin.

When David or any other biblical character prays an imprecation, the matter is left entirely with God. David might have had Saul in mind, yet he refused to take personal revenge, even when he had the opportunity. David may have prayed fiercely, but his actions were gracious and kind. Moses, the “meekest man on earth” (Numbers 12:3) prayed imprecations (Numbers 10:35). The prophet Jeremiah used imprecations (Jeremiah 11:18-23, 18:19-23). There are numerous imprecations in the New Testament also, such as that of the martyrs (Revelation 6:9-10).

If someone who has authority seems to be against us or actually is our enemy, the New Testament teaches that we are to pray for them (Matthew 5:44 / 1 Timothy 2:1-2), do good things to them (Luke 6:27 / Romans 12:20), and forgive them (Mark 11:25 – recall session 5, Luke 23:34, Acts 7:60). In light of this, we can understand that imprecatory prayers are a truth that must be held in tension, and not just for us to filter our anger through, etc. However, this is part of scripture, it is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and there is still a place for imprecation in Christianity, especially upon governments gone bad, totalitarian regimes, human rights violators, etc.. Someone who has learned the power of submission in their lives will be better able to discern what to do in these situations.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©


Even So... said...

This is part of session #7 in a 10 session basic training and membership class at our church. You can see all ten weeks in .pdf form on the front page at

You can also see and download them from our "eDocs" section at SermonAudio...

Unknown said...

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Even So... said...

Thanks, I'll check it out, God bless...