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Obeying the Government

In a discussion with Gen Xers about obeying government authority, I pointed to Romans 13:1-5 and 1 Peter 2:13-17, both written during oppressive Roman rule. (One writer says that Rome at this time is “alternately described as the glorious crowning achievement of mankind and as the sewer of the universe.”) Paul, who wrote Romans, experienced all kinds of real and unfair persecution from Roman authorities. And Peter died during the reign of the notorious Emperor Nero.

painting of Peter and Paul with Nero
The Apostles Paul and Peter confront Simon Magus before Nero, Renaissance fresco in Florence (Filippino Lippi; public domain)

That makes it especially significant that these instructions are to obey the government authorities. You’d think if there ever was a time not to, this would be it. Some of the purpose of following the government rules seems to be indicated by 1 Peter 2:15, to “silence ignorant talk.” If God’s people were accused of trying to overthrow/betray/undermine the government/the law of the land (as is recorded in several places to have happened), their law-abiding behavior would at least afford no evidence of that. And Joseph, Daniel, Nehemiah, and others even rose to some power in hostile environments through their general humility and obedience.

The line seems (to me) to be drawn when there would be an outright violation of God’s commands. In other words, paying taxes, etc., causes a mere inconvenience to or deprivation for the person. (And anyway, even being overtaxed can’t stop the God factor—when God steps in for his children and messes with the math.) But, for example, in Exodus 1, Pharaoh ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill any newborn boys, but they didn’t. And the three guys in Daniel 3 wouldn’t obey the king’s orders to worship a statue. That sort of thing.

There are multiple places in the Bible where it’s clear that God used the pagan governments in spite of themselves (and without their even realizing that they weren’t really in control; they were so arrogant!). For example, Jeremiah 25:9 names Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar and Isaiah 45:1 names Persian King Cyrus as God’s instruments…But eventually God had them overthrown. In other words, he only let them (and others like them) go so far.

So that’s how I look, big picture, at bearing with the bad civil rules that are mixed in with a lot of good ones. Those ultimately can’t really hurt me because I’m obeying the Lord Almighty who’s truly in charge.

(For much deeper insight on related topics, look around on Dr. Jack Cottrell’s site. Here’s one article.)

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1 thought on “Obeying the Government

  1. That is spot on. The deciding factor is if it violates God’s laws or not. Of course we must obey God above man when there is a conflict, as it says also in Acts 5; 29 as well as the other two cases you mentioned above. And that means even if we suffer for it. But if there is no contradiction, then we are just to be civilly obedient in all other laws such as taxes and traffic and so forth. Yet I hear so much about folks being all up in arms about everything from taxes (which are needed for the benefit of all for such things as bridges, etc.) to business laws and you name it. Sure, not all laws are just or have our best interest in mind, some laws are outright oppressive and exploiting the common people. The fact is, we live in a fallen world and the devil is still ‘in charge’ in that limited sense. It ain’t paradise! But it seems as if so many are ready to ‘go postal’ over things that sometimes truly are not that major. Now there have been various revolutions in history for different reasons, and the American Revolution is one of them. We would not have this country as it is and for so long with our form of government that guards against tyranny and is self preserving against many corruptions of power, and so on. And there is a time for self defense. But as Christians we are not called to go on the rampage. We are called to peace and to praying for the leaders and ‘being about the Lord’s business.’ For those who think this is being ‘passive,’ they obviously don’t believe in the power of prayer. Yet so many don’t get this and think the answer is to go ballistic. But at this time, that won’t even buy you anything and will speed up the NWO even more. Some actually think they are going to ‘win’. Well I read the Bible and I know that the global government actually does take over for a brief time. No amount of prepping, hiding, or ammo is going to stop Bible prophecy. It is a fact that is written on God’s tablets and you and all anyone’s armies can’t change or stop that. Then people think it is fatalism, or there is no way out. They forget to look up. It is good to study the history of the early church. With situations like the early Christians in Rome, they were persecuted. Did they fight back? Did they meet the Roman officials at the door with tons of weapons? Did they create a civil war or revolution? No. They simply disobeyed the laws that asked them to disobey the laws of God. They would not sacrifice to false gods or worship Caesar, that sort of thing. So they were arrested, imprisoned, and faced their martyrdom at the Coliseum. They entered heaven in glory, and God was with them in the fire. They finished the race with honor. And they followed Jesus’ footsteps and received their crowns. That is all that is asked of us as well. Yet so many won’t embrace it. Where is our treasure, our glory, our citizenship, our eternity? It’s not here. We must look up!
    Blessings!

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