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From my earliest days of knowing Jesus Christ through the new birth, I remember being taught that Christians should, quote, “obey the law of the land.” Romans 13:1 was used to support this teaching. It states,
“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.”
The reasoning ran like this: Since God allowed the current civil government to exist, we, as Christians, should submit to it. Later I would learn that there’s just enough truth in that idea to be dangerous!!
Don’t misunderstand me: God did create civil government, as we just read about in Romans 13. He did it to control the “sin-root” in man so that one man could not take away another man’s rights of “life, liberty, or property”. And all citizens, including Christians, are to obey law that is designed to protect those rights. That part of the teaching was right. But the implication that all laws do protect God-given rights was the part that was bad wrong! Wicked government servants, like Pharaoh or Nebuchadnezzar, can make bad laws. In that case Christians are not obligated to obey those laws! If we submit to bad law, all liberty will quickly be destroyed!
In fact, The Declaration of Independence is based on the concept that un-Biblical law is to be resisted, but I would not learn this Biblical concept until 30 years after I was born-again. Friends, this ought not be! Our churches should have this plain understanding, and be teaching it as part of their discipling of believers. Consider the Biblical record of this:
When Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi, they were beaten by Roman civil authorities – though that was unlawful to do to a Roman citizen until he had been lawfully convicted of a crime. When the government authorities ordered Paul and Silas to be released the next day, Paul wouldn’t go, stating:
“They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? [absolutely not]; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.”
Paul insisted that the authorities admit their wrong and apologize to him and Silas because those authorities had done an unlawful act. Does this sound like Christians should lay and down and let wicked government servants walk over them?
And what about the time when Paul was mobbed by an angry Jewish crowd, recorded in Acts 22? When a Roman Captain was unable to determine the reason for the uprising, he commanded that Paul was to be questioned while they would use a whip on him in order to get him to talk. Instead of Paul just allowing a government servant to beat him, he resisted by saying,
“Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?”
Paul used his right as a Roman citizen to stop unlawful action by a Roman army officer! Are we here seeing a pattern of Biblical resistance to unlawful government actions?
The Apostle Paul would use his right as a Roman citizen to correct unlawful government actions on at least two other occasions (Acts 23:1-5 and 25:9-12). So when someone tells you to obey the law because you’re a Christian, remember: The great Apostle, Paul, obeyed the law when it was right—but he resisted the law when it was wrong! Should not we do the same thing today?
Shouldn’t Christians be watching over and working to influence civil government because it is God’s institution? Shouldn’t we take seriously that He created us to “…have dominion…over all the earth”, including civil government? (Genesis 1:26)
Think about it; because if you don’t, someone else will do your thinking for you—
and for your children! And you won’t like what that brings to you. I’m Don Pinson, this has been Think About It.