Posted by: pastortomvabeach | August 11, 2009

Thought for the Week August 16, 2009

Wow! My thought last week must have hit a sore spot. I received more comments about that posting in the first three hours than I’ve received about all of my postings for at least the last six months. I assume that means that this issue is very important to most of us. It should be!

I mentioned last week that I would share some more thoughts about Romans 13 and submission to government. Many believers hold that it is wrong to oppose anything the leaders of the nation do or to speak against the rulers’ policies because Paul says, The authorities that exist are appointed by God, and, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God (13:1, 2). Chuck Baldwin, who ran as a third party candidate for president in 2008, wrote some very reasoned thoughts about this back in February. Let me share some of his thoughts. I’ll forward the entire article to you if you ask. Baldwin’s comments will be in “quotes”.

He argues some who contend that we must submit to anything the government does because of Romans 13, “are sincere. They are repeating what they have heard their pastor and other religious leaders say. On the other hand…some…are just plain lazy, apathetic, and indifferent. Romans 13, is their escape from responsibility.”

He then asks, “Do our Christian friends who use these verses to teach that we should not oppose any political leader really believe that civil magistrates have unlimited authority to do anything they want without opposition? I doubt they truly believe that. There are limits to authority. A father has authority in his home, but does this give him power to abuse his wife and children? An employer has authority on the job, but does this give him power to control the private lives of his employees? A pastor has authority in the church, but does this give him power to tell employers in his church how to run their businesses? No to all. All human authority is limited in nature…Lordship and Sovereignty is the exclusive domain of Jesus Christ.”

Romans Chapter 13 clearly limits the authority of civil government by strictly defining its purpose: For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil…he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil…he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. (13:4). Baldwin observes, “civil government must not be a ‘terror to good works.’ It has no power or authority to terrorize good works or good people. God never gave it that authority. A government that oversteps that divine boundary has no divine authority or protection.” In the same way “civil magistrates have a divine duty to execute wrath on him who practices evil. They have no authority to execute wrath upon him who does good…in the midst of telling Christians to submit to civil authority, Romans 13 limits the power and reach of civil authority.”

Baldwin notes that Moses opposed authority defending a fellow Hebrew, Elijah openly challenged Ahab and Jezebel; Daniel publicly disobeyed the king’s law to not pray to God; John the Baptist publicly scolded King Herod for infidelity; and Peter and the apostles refused to stop preaching on the streets of Jerusalem. Did they violate God’s principle of submission to authority? Christians throughout church history were imprisoned, tortured, or killed by civil authorities of all stripes for refusing to submit to their various laws and prohibitions. Did all of these Christian martyrs violate God’s principle of submission to authority? Even the great prophets, apostles, and writers of the Bible understood human authority–including civil authority–is limited.”

Beyond this “Paul makes it clear that submission to civil authority must be predicated on more than fear of governmental retaliation. He said, Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience sake (13:5), which means, obedience to civil authority is more than just ‘because they said so.’ It is also a matter of conscience…we must think and reason for ourselves regarding the justness and rightness of our government’s laws. Obedience is not automatic or robotic. It is a result of both rational deliberation and moral approbation.”

Baldwin also refers to natural law or God’s law ‘written in their hearts’ (Romans 2:15) saying that “no human authority has the right to demand that men surrender their submission to this law…when any human authority attempts to do this, it becomes tyrannical, because, again, it challenges the Lordship and Sovereignty of man’s Creator.”

“There are times when civil authority must be resisted. Either governmental abuse of power or the violation of conscience (or both) could precipitate civil disobedience…beyond that, we in the United States of America do not live under a monarchy. We have no king. There is no single governing official in this country. America’s “supreme Law” does not rest with any man or any group of men. America’s “supreme Law” does not rest with the President, the Congress, or even the Supreme Court. In America, the U.S. Constitution is the “supreme Law of the Land.” Under our laws, every governing official publicly promises to submit to the Constitution of the United States. Do readers understand the significance of this distinction? I hope so.”

“This means that in America the “higher powers” are not the men who occupy elected office, they are the tenets and principles set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Under our laws and form of government, it is the duty of every citizen, including our elected officials, to obey the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, this is how Romans Chapter 13 reads to Christians in America: ‘Let every soul be subject unto the [U.S. Constitution.] For there is no [Constitution] except from God: and the [Constitution] that exist are [is] appointed by God, etc.'”

Friends, we clearly have the responsibility to pray for our governing leaders, to hold them in esteem, and to support them as they exercise their biblical duties. As Christians we should fervently desire and pray that they would submit to our Constitution because as Mr. Baldwin says, “it is constitutional government that has done more to protect Christian liberty than any governing document ever devised by man.” I believe our nation, because of our form of government, has done more to spread Christian principles world wide than any government in history.

Yet, when liberty is threatened, life is devalued, and evil is presented as good, we have a duty as citizens of heaven and of the U.S. to stand by the Constitution and oppose those things. I shared last week how we can do that. Get involved, vote, contact elected representatives, run for office, attend public gatherings. We must not let apathy undermine what men and women have sweated, debated, fought, and died for. The hall of faith in Hebrews 11, is an example of what godly people do in ungodly times, by faith. What will you do? Just a thought.

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