Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God.
Therefore he that resisteth the power, withstandeth the ordinance of God: and they that withstand shall receive to themselves judgment.Romans 13:1-2 ASV
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). His kingdom lies, for the most part, within a sector totally removed and separated from the secular state, that institution being also “ordained of God” but charged with a different function, that of preserving order upon earth.
Christ himself honored God’s ordained institution, the state, ordered the payment of taxes to Caesar (Matthew 22:21), declared that the authority of the procurator, Pontius Pilate, was given to him “from above” (John 19:11), prophetically identified the armies of Vespasian and Titus as those of God himself sent for the purpose of destroying those evil men and burning their city, the city of Jerusalem (Matthew 22:7), submitted to arrest, even illegal and unjust arrest (Matthew 26:47-56), refused to allow Peter to defend with the sword against such an outrage, and meekly accepted the death penalty itself, which the state unjustly exacted, and which Christ had ample means of avoiding (Matthew 26:53), but did not.
He did not offer himself as an advocate against society on behalf of any so-called victim of social injustice; and, once, he even refused to aid a man who claimed that he had been robbed of his inheritance (Luke 12:13).
Jesus Christ was not a revolutionary in any sense of that word today.
Although it is true that his holy teachings had the profoundest influence upon the course of history, it was always as leaven and not as dynamite that his influence worked.
Some of Jesus’ parables had as their significant and active premises the institutions of government, as exemplified by the “king” who stood for God (Matthew 22:2), the legal contract of the householder who let out his vineyard, and even the “unrighteous judge” who granted the plea of the importunate widow, his unrighteousness in no way preventing his appearance in the parable as analogous with God!
Had the state and its institutions been otherwise than “ordained of God,” it is unthinkable that Christ would have borrowed such illustrations and made them analogies for the conveyance of eternal truth. Christ’s usage of such terms as the officer, the judge, and the prison, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:25) also fits this conclusion.
All of the apostles understood and reiterated’ Jesus’ teaching in this field.
Both Paul (here) and Peter (1 Peter 2:13-17) emphatically underscored this teaching.
Not merely those laws of the state conceived of as “just laws” are to be obeyed; but, as Peter said, “every ordinance of man” was to be obeyed.
That some laws were unjust was clear to all; but Paul sent a runaway slave back to his Christian master (Philemon 1:1:17), and provided specific instructions to both masters and slaves in his epistles to Ephesus and Colossae.
There is no suggestion here that the evil laws of Rome may be justified, nor the evil laws of any other state; but, in the light of Christian acceptance of such laws under the direct guidance of Christ and the apostles, the conclusion is demanded that the constituted government must be viewed as “ordained of God” and entitled to Christian obedience.
Over and above all this, there stands the commandment of the apostles that the public prayers of Christians should constantly be directed to God upon the behalf of the state and its lawful representatives, on behalf of “kings and all that are in high place” (1 Timothy 2:1,2), to the intent that Christians might be permitted to “lead a tranquil life in all godliness and gravity,” thus, by implication, making the provision of such privilege for Christians being the state’s intended function.
It existed contemporaneously with Christ and the apostles.
The Jewish people preferred Barabbas the seditionist to the gentle Jesus; but it must be added that when they finally got the revolution they wanted, it terminated in a situation far worse than what existed previously.
The tragic results of taking the route of Barabbas, instead of the way of Christ, may serve as a classical example of the superiority of Jesus’ way.
Then, may it never be overlooked that the established order in the civilized world, in spite of its deficiency, despite the inequalities and injustices, despite its halting and stumbling, is still far better than anarchy; and that, even if some complete overthrow of established institutions should occur, the new order, judged in the light of what history invariably discloses, would be no better than the old and would probably be much worse, especially when contrasted with the magnificent and benevolent policies already existing in our own beloved United States.
To that affluent host of Christians in present-day America, let it be thundered that they must not now allow the submerged torrent of blood, lust, and anarchy to break through.
This may be prevented by their love, support, honor, and prayers for the present government, and by the necessity of their voting in a manner consistent with their prayers, to the end that the government may be able to survive the assaults being made upon it by forces of evil; and may their diligence in this be stimulated by the thought that if a breakthrough against the government succeeds, none will survive it, least of all, those who sought the tranquil life as God directed.
And if, through indifference or tacit support, you should ever contribute to the overthrow of present institutions, and if you should live for a single day without the legacy you now hold in your hands, an ocean of tears could not ease your heartbreak or give you another inheritance like the one in which you now stand secure. Keep it!
We currently pass through an era that glorifies the extremist; the seductive voices of the far left are calling; stop your ears and bind yourselves to the mast, like the sailors of Ulysses.
Death and destruction shall reward you if you turn your back upon the teachings of the Saviour and cast in your destiny with the seditionists.
Take up the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against all the fiery darts of the evil one, and having done all, STAND (Ephesians 6:13f).
Reject every form of extremism, and heed the apostolic injunction to “Let your moderation be known unto all men” (Philippians 4:5).
Implications of the Christian attitude toward the state are far-reaching and include the deduction that Christians may serve in military or political capacity, vote, and engage freely in the participation allowed and encouraged by the state itself, the only restriction being that conscience, being under God above all, should not be defiled.
It is a comment upon the extreme worthiness of our own government, as compared to other worldly states, that many Christians do share in the management of its institutions and hold offices of public trust, the nation being far better off for the presence of such citizens within the structure of its political and institutions.
Not merely sedition and violent opposition to human government are proscribed for the child of God, but “resistance” which is inclusive of all forms of opposition and disobedience.
Jesus Christ our Lord never disobeyed any law, nor did he ever advocate disobedience, or any other kind of disobedience. As he said, “I came not to destroy but to fulfill”
The “judgment” in this place refers primarily to the legal punishment of violators of the state’s laws; but the displeasure of God regarding such violations implies that there will also be an eternal accounting to God for such sins.
This is founded on the idea of law and order, which means by its nature the restraint of public mischief and the promotion of, at least the protection of, the public good. “Authority,” even under its worst distortions, still so far keeps that aim that no human power punished good as good, or rewards evil as evil; and thus, for the common run of lives, the worst settled authority is infinitely better than real anarchy.