Does God really want me to obey earthly governments that are not even close to following Him?
Titus 3:1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,
So… I am to be subject to or obey “principalities and powers” – the governments that are over us.
1 Timothy 2:1-2 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
In addition to obedience I am also supposed to pray for the government that they would make wise choices that would allow us as Christians to live quietly and peaceably. But wait – did you see what it says? “I exhort therefore, that… giving of thanks, be made… for all that are in authority.” What? I have to thank God for Obama?! I need to thank God for the government officials that have made laws I don’t like? Yes. That is what God is saying.
Romans 13:1-7 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. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 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: 4 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. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
This explains why I can thank God for our government. The government over us was set up by God Himself! Disobeying the government is the same as disobeying God.
1 Peter 2:13-17 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. 17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
2 Peter 2:10-11 But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. 11 Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.
We should not ridicule and make fun of those in governmental positions. God has put them in place. Notice that it gives the implication that governments do things that the angels could rail on them for, but they don’t out of respect. It does not say that the governments are perfect and therefore the angels don’t need to bring railing accusations against them. We need to take their example.
One of the arguments that are made is that “God is only saying that we need to follow governments that are good and upright. If the government is not a good government (i.e. isn’t good and upright and making the laws that I think should be made) then I don’t need to obey it.” Nice try, but I haven’t seen any verse that gives any such exception.
Now, if we are to obey earthly governments, does that mean that we must always obey them in every way, regardless of anything else?
John 18:36 Jesus answered, my kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.”
John 15:19 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.
Acts 5:29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
We are of a heavenly kingdom, but living on this earth. We are instructed by the Lord to obey the government, but when what the government tells us to do conflicts with what God has commanded us to do, we must follow the Lord – even to death. We must be very sure, however, that we are following Christ.
Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
This verse balances out the ones above it. Although we are to follow Christ first and foremost – even if it means death – God is in control over the government. They can only do what God allows.
So next time we are tempted to purposefully break the speed limit, we need to think about this: by such an action, am I just running the risk of being fined by a policeman, or am I actually disobeying God?
Now it’s your turn to talk. Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.