The Role of Government
What does God say about the role of government in the life of the Christian? Should a believer ever disobey the powers that be? If so, when?
I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me. No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes. Psalm 101: 6-7
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. Romans 13:3-4
The authority of government comes from God, so those who govern are responsible to Him to punish bad behavior and encourage good and those who are governed are responsible to submit and obey as to God.
In Psalm 101 David sets high ideals for his reign. He says he will praise God, a necessary activity for one who could easily lose sight of the true King over all the earth. He acknowledges his need for the Lord’s help and presence and vows to bring justice to those who do wrong. Instead, he will create a favorable climate for those who do right. David determined not to suffer deceivers in his cabinet. He promises to act quickly in dealing with crime. These noble goals describe a kingdom in which any upright person would love to live.
Paul continues addressing the Christians in Rome moving on to the issue of their relationship to the government. The Old Testament era of theocracy in Israel is no more. Since then and up to now, God’s people live under secular authorities who are under God whether they recognize Him or not. Often, they do not. Yet Christians are commanded to submit to these officials, pay taxes, and show proper respect and honor. The government is to encourage those who do good and punish those who do not.
We know from other Bible passages that this general teaching of submission is limited to those situations in which the government does not command citizens to do what God prohibits or prohibits them from doing what God commands (Acts 4:18-20;5:29).
Think about it
What is your understanding of our responsibility to the government? Remember a ruler is “the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” Pray for your leaders, those who govern, and seek to encourage them when they fulfill their roles properly before God (First Timothy 2:1-4).
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