Christian’s Responsibility to the Government - Part 1
Governments Are Instituted by God
Authority is indispensable in daily life. Parents are the authority at home. The school has the board, principal and faculty. We understand too that employers have certain authority over the employees. And of course, the highest authority in any country is the government.
God, however, is the ultimate authority. This is true regardless of whether one is a believer or not. The Bible reveals: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen 1:1).
The psalmist adds: “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods” (Psa 24:1-2).
God is the Creator and He is the Ruler of the Universe; He possesses all power and authority. Therefore, we must obey His will as it is laid out for us in His written Word
“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col 3:17).
Because God has all power and authority, it logically follows that all civil power is delegated by God. The Lord Jesus, in the midst of the proceedings that would culminate in His death, reminded the Roman governor of his position in the grand hierarchy:
“Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin” (John 19:10-11).
The sovereign God has given every one of us—Christians and non-Christians—a responsibility to our earthly government. The apostle emphasizes that non-compliance to the government is akin to disobeying God the result of which is spiritual death.
“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” (Rom 13:1, 2).
God has given every nation a civil government to preserve law and order. It is His will that governments promote righteousness and suppress wickedness. Yes, it is true that men often go against the will of God and govern unjustly. These wicked rulers shall appear before the Christ in judgment.
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (Mat 25:31-32).
A righteous government serves the purpose of God in providing a safe environment for citizens and residents to live and to uphold law and order in the land.
“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. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Rom 13:3, 4).
Some may wonder why they should vote since God is the One who institutes governments. Here we see the providence of God at work. Although the New Testament tells us that the sovereign God institutes governments, it does not provide the specifics on how He does so.
Within a democratic system, God has allowed that the people have the right to vote. With this right comes the responsibility to carefully consider which candidates are best suited to carry out the duties of public officers. It is therefore the Christian’s responsibility to use this avenue to help steer the governing powers toward the will of God.
But if an individual finds themselves under the rule of a government that they did not vote for or even agree with ideologically, does it excuse that individual from obedience to that government. In our next installment we will turn our focus toward the Christian’s responsibilities as it regards obedience to the government.
(By Chan Yong Yaw)