There are a surprising number of mainstream preachers who are teaching false doctrine out of Romans 13 on submission to government, and many Christians today are following them blindly into apostasy on this issue. Certainly, Christians are subject to laws and enforcement of government authority, but nowhere does Romans tell us we are to submit to evil rulers, and the clear teachings in the Bible, demonstrated by prophets and apostles before us, show us that these "unlimited submission to government" sermons we hear are wildly incorrect.
To begin, let's look at a common verse used by mainstream preachers:
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. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
-1 Thessalonians 5:21
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
Folks in other countries are welcome to skip this section.
Our specific establishment of government in the USA was formed with the concept of binding our governmental leaders, and not only making citizens subject to the laws of the State, but also making the elected magistrates subject to those same laws and accountable to the very people who put them in a position of authority. This was done because the men who wrote the Constitution understood that mankind was sinful in nature, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, which means that mankind can never be fully trusted on this earth. To keep civil authorities accountable to the laws of the land and servant to the people, the Constitution was created as a way to bind them down and limit their powers, preventing evil rulers from taking over the country without the consent of the populus, and people need to realize that making sure Christians follow the just laws of the land is NOT the problem in this country; the problem is making sure our government leaders are following the just laws of the land.
"In questions of power, then,
-Thomas Jefferson, Kentucky Resolution, quoted by Edwin Williams, The Book of the Constitution, 1833, p. 83
In the U.S. specifically, the power belongs to the people, but when the people start treating the president like a king, they lose their power. The governing authorities are intended to be people, which is why the Declaration of Independence starts with "We The People..."
The typical sermon on unlimited submission to government says that Romans 13 declars that the higher ruling powers are not to be questioned, but obeyed in all matters. But when we look at correlating Scripture, we find some interesting details about that power:
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
I don't want Christians to take extremes on this, because the fact that we have government is a good thing. If there were no laws, starting today, you would have to stay awake all night and day with a shotgun, hiding in your home in fear of thieves and murderers. As wicked and unbiblical as some things are in our government today (e.g. Obamacare), if we had no law and no government, everyone would pray for government to come back. We Christians subject to the righteous justice of the law, like the punishment of evildoers, but when the evildoers themselves become the governers and officers of land, we are not commanded to submit to evil rule and ordinances.
Take a moment to consider the Scripture aforementioned: "For there is no power but of God," so the powers that be must be subject to God, or they don't have any authority. The preachers that are teaching we all should submit unto wicked rulers in our government are ignoring the fact that even the "higher powers" are subject to other higher powers, and many in history have deliberately ignored those higher powers to commit wicked actions.
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
So how do we tell the difference between a higher power that we are supposed to be submissive to, and one that we are not? It's very easy to tell the difference, and Paul explains if we continue reading more of the chapter:
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good.
We subject ourselves to rulers until they are a terror unto good works, and then they no longer have authority in those particular areas of wickedness. God's Word is the standard of measurement we use to determine if a ruler is good or evil, and that ruler is evil, then they have no authority.
Of course, a Christian will say, "But can't they throw you in jail?" Yes. Does that mean they have authority to throw you in jail? No. They have the power to throw you in jail, but it doesn't mean they have the authority.
Christians who teach they are to be obedient to wicked governments should be embarrassed, and we have a duty to rebuke these preachers.
This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;
These mainstream preachers are correctly teaching that all higher powers are ordinances of God (i.e. God allows good and evil governments both to exist), but incorrectly teaching that we make ourselves submissive to them no matter what. If you follow the logical reasoning of that argument, those same pastors are teaching we should make ourselves submissive to Satan!
The father is the higher power over his family, so does that give him the authority to beat his wife? An employer has higher power over his employees, so does that give him authority to tell them how they can spend their money? A police officer is a higher power over public traffic, so does that give him the authority to pull people out of their cars? Anyone with half of a brain and little bit of common sense ought to be able to figure out that just because someone is put into higher power by God, does not automatically give them license to do whatever they please, and it certainly does not mean that we must be subject to every government whim.
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
"Therefore, we can conclude that we have an unqualified,
unmitigated command to be subjected to the governing authorities, whatever they are."
-John MacArthur, "Why Christian Submit to the Government," Grace Community Church, Mar 4, 2011, retrieved Aug 17, 2012, [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmnyN3WvhOI]
Unmitigated means absolute, and he continues in this sermon to explain that unqualified means 'all', so MacArthur is teaching that you must obey all government rulers no matter what they tell you to do. This is completely contradictory to everything we know about our Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles, but MacArthur has no interest in looking at correlating Scripture on this issue.
The followers of Jesus (and Jesus Himself) ignored ruling authority if it contradicted the Word of God. In fact, according to the Bible, Paul was IN jail more than out of jail during his tenure as an apostle of Jesus Christ! All the following men of God were imprisoned, tortured, and killed on behalf of our Lord for refusing to bow to and obey the ordainments of the government:
- Moses broke civil laws by killing a taskmaster for trying to kill a slave.
- David refused to submit to the governmental authority of Saul's troops.
(1 Samuel 19)
- Daniel resisted the State by refusing to keep silent in his prayers.
- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego all defied the higher powers by refusing to worship a statue.
- John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded for telling the truth about the State ruler.
- Peter claimed he was willing to go to prison and death for Christ against the local magistrate.
- Apostles were thrown in jail for refusing to obey the governing rulers.
- Christians were rounded up and thrown in jail for resisting governmental authority.
- Apostles sent to prison for breaking local laws.
Here's another pastor's statement after quoting Romans 13:1-7. He completely ignores the ordained part, and tells us that if we resist government, then we resist God automatically, putting government and God as one and the same thing:
"These verses contain much to consider. They leave no question that all people ('every soul')—including Christians—are subject to the 'higher powers,' because they are 'ordained of God.'
To resist them, God says, is to 'resist God.'"
-David C. Pack, "Should Christians Submit to Government Authority?" Restored Church of God, Feb 7, 1979, retrieved Aug 17, 2012, [http://rcg.org/articles/scstga.html]
Read this next quote with Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime in mind:
"No qualifications are made as to the kind of government to which we are to submit...
Whether the government be totalitarian or democratic, the Christian’s obligation to submit to it is the same."
-Bob Deffinbaugh, "Submission to Civil Authorities," Bible.org, retrieved Aug 17, 2012, [http://bible.org/seriespage/submission-civil-authorities-1-peter-213-17]
Police the higher power, should we not submit to their beatings?)
Just as the Lord teaches me all things, I pray that he would give the preachers their minds back because they've lost them. Where in the Bible does God command Christians to honor and serve Joseph Stalin, or Pol Pot, or Adolf Hitler? When Adolf Hitler commanded the Germans to report any Jews they could find to be put in concentration camps, mainstream preachers (like John MacArthur) are teaching Christians to obey the Nazis and turn in those Jews!
These mainstream preachers, in the united States specifically, say that Christians disobeying government are disobeying God, but, like hypocrites, turn around and fly the American flag in their churches, honoring those Christians who fought for Christ-based liberty of the common people against a tyrannical government.
What are some examples of evil government? As I write this, our current president is Barack Obama.
Obamawas the only Illinois senator who rose to speak against a billthat would have protected babies who survive late-term labor-induced abortions... Obama rose to objectthat if the bill passed, and a nine-month-old fetus survived a late-term labor-induced abortion was deemed to be a person who had a right to live, then the law would 'forbid abortions to take place.'"
-Jerome R. Corsi, The Obama Nation, Simon and Schuster, 2008, p. 238, ISBN: 9781416598060
So this ordained of God 'higher power' ruler is advocating the murder of babies via labor-induced abortions, but as aforementioned, Romans 13:4 says that he is supposed to be "the minister of God to thee for good." How can anyone call Obama a minister of God? Not just Obama, but how could anyone call Adolf Hitler a minister of God? Or how about Mao Zedong, who used to have Christians killed on a monthy quota, is he a minister of God?
(Read "Who is an Authority in the Church?" here at creationliberty.com for more details as to what defines a minister according to God's Word)
I understand that some preachers may just be repeating what they have been taught or what they heard another preacher say on the pulpit, and that can be fixed by teaching the truth, but many Christians seek to make excuses for false doctrine by arguing someone's intentions and claiming he is "sincere." Catholics are sincere. Muslims are sincere. The only thing that is sincere is their being sincerly wrong by teaching false doctrines.
And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
(Read "501c3: The Devil's Church" here at creationliberty.com for more details)
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.
If a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ acts in the proper Biblical manner a Christian is intended by God, then they should have no quarrels with a government that is not a terror to good works. However, because so many governments are corrupt by sinful men, that despise the Bible's teaching by clear demonstration of their choices in office, Christians will often be salt and light to those men of darkness, and the evil men will retaliate against the Christian.
Preachers of America, it's time to start standing up for the truth, and preaching against the evil works of darkness. Pick up your King James Bibles, get out of your 501c3 corporations, and be rid of the seducing spirits attempting to control the church. As Christians, we have a job to reveal the evil works of darkness and reprove them, so let's quit making excuses and get busy, and I say that because in Romans 13, if you contine reading, God calls us out to do exactly that:
And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
-1 Peter 2:13-14
Instead of trusting in man's interpretation (unlimited submisssion), we need to compare Scripture with Scripture to get God's interpretation. In Acts 5, a group of apostles were thrown in prison by lawful order, but God Himself opened the doors of the prison, so if Peter was to obey every ordinance in unlimited submission, and the ordinance was that they be put in prison and stay there, should he not have stayed in prison despite the doors opening?
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
So should Christians submit to the government? It depends on the situation. If they are doing good works of punishing evildoers, and they are not a terror unto those who are doing good works, then absolutely, Christians should be in submission to rule of that government, but if they are evil doers themselves, then we turn to the Lord Jesus Christ first and foremost.
However, rarely is a government completely evil or completely good, and just as the Bible says a governing ruler ought to punish evil and praise good, so we too should praise government for that which they do good, and rebuke them for their wicked actions. Depending on the type of government, the citizens may also be able to take action in removing wicked rulers from power, making sure those governing rulers are also punished for their sinful actions.
Obey the ordinances that are good: pay the taxes you owe, follow traffic laws, respect your neighbors property and privacy. However, when the government rulers start to do that which is evil in the sight of God, then we do first that which is good and holy on Biblical foundation, and Christ warned us that we would be hated, imprisoned, and put to death for doing that which is good.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved... Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.