Submission to Political Authority

It’s easy – regardless of one’s given political bent – to look at any government and take offense. And develop a hard attitude of rebellion against it. Some go beyond and engage in acts of rebellion.

Christians are reminded in myriad Scriptures, clearly in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, that we are to obey earthly governments, as there are NONE which are not established by Him. And Scripture tells us God considers rebellion against legitimate authority as witchcraft in 1 Sam 15.

Let us not, then, be too quick or casual in developing a rebellious attitude towards our government – though we may have serious, well thought-out reasons for disagreement. Our first aim is to honor God. As He put it in 1 Peter 2 – “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.”

With that set-up, here is the second in a series of six messages from Conrad Mbewe from 1 Peter on Submission and Authority. The first message is here:

7 thoughts on “Submission to Political Authority

  1. You say that all earthly governments are from God? What about Hosea 8:4, “They have set up kings, but not by Me.” Where was Paul when he wrote to the Romans? Probably in jail. Is Paul contradicting himself? No. Since all powers that be, are ordained of God (Romans 13) that means they are accountable to the source of their ordination, that would God’s Law word. Then Paul goes on to prescribe, not describe, what God ordained government looks like. It punishes evil doers and protects those who do good defined by the Law of God. If it doesn’t do this, then it is NOT legitimate civil government and can be resisted lawfully.

    If Christians are always to obey their earthly powers then we would have to condemn the Reformation. For they “rebelled” against their Catholic church/state government. We would have to condemn the Hebrew midwives for directly disobeying the Kings commandment (Exodus 1:17). And when Rahab lied to save the lives of Caleb and Joshua (Joshua 2:4,6:25). And what about Daniel, Shadrak, Meshak and Abednego. Or when the Apostles deliberately disobeyed the religious authorities and said, We must obey God, rather than men (Acts 5:29). We obey the man’s law only so far as it agrees with God’s law and no further.


  2. @ Defending Contending…Just curious…is this in reference to the “clergy response teams” that were mentioned in the news after Katrina?
    I wonder if this blogger feels this “submission to political authority” would have also applied to those who were slaughtered under Hitler (not to mention Stalin and other infamous dictators). Should the Jews have practiced this type of allegiance and walked peacefully into the ovens??? Oh, and be sure to view the link I posted above. It would apprear that Romans 13 is being used quite a bit these days — interesting.


  3. The Bible makes clear that there are limits to our obedience to Earthly powers. When they command rebellion against God, they are to be disobeyed. Yet – in the entire universe, there is not one atom not subject to God’s rule. Acts 5 and Daniel give examples of where to draw the line. Do not neglect the nature and power of the Roman government in place when Peter wrote to the Christians in Asia Minor – they were being tortured and put to death if they did not deny Christ, and Peter tells them, ” Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.”

    By the way – did either of ya’ll listen to the message?


  4. I agree with you, Manfred. In the caustic, quick comments by many these days are the seeds of that easy rebellion which Paul and Peter were faced with in their day.
    The real issue here is Sovereignty. Who do we believe is Sovereign? Nations and despots, or God? Your post is right on the mark, brother. I have been posting the past few days on my blog and others the same theme. The Spirit is speaking to our flippantly freedom-minded generations in the US about this issue, because it’s become bedlam out there. Christians act as if they have no responsibility to obey, because the US government is not spending their money correctly, and is doing things with their money they don’t approve of. So-called Christians on the radio decry constantly the misuse of government power, and call for social action, political action, and economic action on our parts to correct these abuses.

    What part does Scripture play in all this? None, most times. We ignore the clear call of Scripture when it comes to God’s Sovereignty over nations and kingdoms of this earth. We forget the hundreds of examples in Scripture of men and women who obeyed governments instituted by God, though those governments were pagan and blatantly evil. Think of Joseph in Egypt, David when he had Saul in his hand and refused to rise against “the Lord’s anointed”, Daniel in the government of Babylon, Nehemiah, Paul (the Roman citizen who didn’t lift a finger against Rome), and the myriads of others through history who’ve given up their very lives for the gospel, while living under and obeying godless regimes.

    The one thing we cannot obey in is clear. We cannot quit speaking in the Name of Jesus Christ, which is what we are taught in the examples in Acts. We must be willing to accept the ultimate consequence of this action, which is martyrdom if necessary.

    When Jesus said, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s” was He playing with our minds? Did He really mean do that only if Caesar is doing with your money what you believe he should do? Did He really mean just Caesar, and not other government entities?

    We play with this issue as with fire. We must obey God, rather than men, and God says to obey our governments, unless they forbid us to speak out for Christ. That is when we are clearly called to disobey.

    Thank you, and God bless those who love Christ above all,

    A. Brother


  5. Amen, Manfred.
    I have been posting a discussion of this on my blog these past few days, prompted by a wave of unBiblical teachings on this issue. God is Sovereign, therefore, we must quit acting like He is not.
    A. Brother


  6. Rob Baird’s comment above explains why our obedience to the civil government cannot be absolute. Rom 13:1 states “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” Not only does this refer to the state, but consider the other authorities that have been established by God, that of parents, husbands, elders, etc.

    When you consider these other governing authorities appointed by God, we see that God sets limitations on the obedience required of each. A parent does require honor (e.g., the fifth commandment states “Honor thy father and mother”) but we know from Eph 6:1 that children must only obey “in the Lord”. If a child’s father asks him to break the law of God the child cannot as this would not be “in the Lord”. A husband is truly head over his wife (I Cor 11) but she must only submit to him “as to the Lord” and he cannot ask her to obey him in matters that break the law of God. Similarly, although Heb 13:17 states “obey those [elders] who rule over you” we also know of the prescribed fashion that God has given us for bringing another under discipline in Mt 18 and that we only have one law-giver, Christ as stated in James 4:12. Elders are not allowed to subject tyrannical rule over the congregation (by applying man-made laws) but may only apply the Word of God as their rule of faith and practice in this life.

    Likewise, the authority that God grants the civil magistrate is not totalitarian and absolute. That wouldn’t be consistent with all other types of authority established by God (see above) nor is it consistent with what we read in Romans 13 (nor the myriad of examples provided by Rob from Scripture above).

    Paul in Romans 13 in twofold fashion details the attributes of a godly civil ruler and the Christian’s duty in obedience to such a ruler. First the godly ruler is one that punishes evil and praises the good. But what is the definition of evil and conversely the definition of good? As Rob states, these terms can only be truly “defined by the Law of God”. A godly ruler may only exact full obedience from a Christian when he is consistently ruling by the standards as detailed by God’s Law Word. What did Peter (the same Peter that wrote I Peter 2) say to the high priest in Acts 5? “We must obey God rather than men.” This does not solely speak of preaching the gospel when commanded to stop, but rather the obedience to the whole of the of the Law of God. The church today has seemingly only applied this statement by Peter to “preaching the gospel”. But if Peter is correct that we must obey God first, then as we look to the perfect Law of God we must understand this to include the full judicial law given for nations as detailed in the Old Testament.

    God has truly established in His Word limitations to the authority of the civil magistrate similar to every other authority He has established. As Rob states above “We obey the man’s law only so far as it agrees with God’s law and no further.”


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