Q: #548. Should Christians submit to the government?
A: We are told in the Bible that no one is in power that God has not placed there (Rom 13:1-2)(Jn 19:11)(Dan 2:21). While God may not always agree with the way a leader or government rules, He allows them to be there and has given them authority. We are told to respect and submit to this authority and those who enforce it, even if we don’t agree with it. Government also has the God given right to punish those who break the law (Rom 13:4)(1 Pet 2:13-14).
We have many examples in the Bible, and through history of people submitting to governmental authority. Let’s look at a few:
Jesus talked about paying taxes (Mt 17:24-27)(Mt 22:18-21)(Mk 12:13-17)(Lk 20:20-26), and He also submitted to the capital punishment of that time, which was death on a cross.
David knew that he would be made king, but he submitted to Saul and would do him no harm, even though Saul sought to kill him. David realized Saul was God’s anointed, placed in power by God (1 Sam 24:6,10)(1 Sam 26:9-16)(2 Sam 1:14-16).
Paul allowed himself to be imprisoned, beaten, and eventually killed (beheaded) by governmental authorities during the reign of the cruel and Christian hating Nero.
***Note: Nero would have Christians rolled in tar and lit on fire to provide light for his parties, or he would have them wrapped in animal skins and fed to wild animals.
However, while Christians are clearly told to submit to the government, and its regulations and laws, we also need to remember that if those regulations and laws conflict with with God’s laws, or they would cause us to sin, we must obey and submit to God first (James 4:7,10)(1 Pet 5:6)(Rom 10:3)(Ps 81:15). Both Peter/Peter and John give examples of this:
(Acts 5:29) Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
(Acts 4:19-20) But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. (20) For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
***Note: Before disobeying governmental laws though, we should make sure that our actions line up with Scripture, and we should pray. Keep in mind that sometimes things that might appear to be against God’s laws really aren’t, but rather, they are just something we really don’t want to do.
In this country, we are blessed to have few restrictions against the practicing of our faith. Amendment 1 of the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, forbids the government to prohibit the practicing of a religion. However, many of the Biblical principles this country was founded on are being renounced and pushed out of our society. Rules are being made in schools and public institutions prohibiting people from praying or carrying a Bible. People are being told that crosses, nativity scenes, and the Ten Commandments cannot be displayed. Christians who challenge these rules will pay a price. In many countries, Christians are being martyred by government rulers for mentioning Christ or for failing to renounce their faith. They meet in churches and Bible studies in secret, against the laws of their government, to keep from being killed or imprisoned. Bibles are smuggled into many of these countries. These are examples of putting God ahead of man.
Let our obedience and submission to government and its laws show the love of Christ in us, and set an example to an unbelieving world. May many souls be won through the testimony of Christians suffering and being martyred at the hands of ruling authorities. Let us always remember to pray for our leaders, and all leaders around the world; that they would turn to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and govern with Godly wisdom and guidance.
(1 Tim 2:1-3) I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; (2) For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. (3) For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;