Romans Chapter 13

It
seems that every time someone such as myself attempts to
encourage our Christian brothers and sisters to resist
an unconstitutional or otherwise reprehensible
government policy, we hear the retort, "What about
Romans Chapter 13? We Christians must submit to
government. Any government. Read your Bible, and leave
me alone."
Or words to that effect.

No
doubt, some who use this argument are sincere. They are
only repeating what they have heard their pastor and
other religious leaders say. On the other hand, let`s be
honest enough to admit that some who use this argument
are just plain lazy, apathetic, and indifferent. And
Romans 13 is their escape from responsibility. I suspect
this is the much larger group, by the way.

Nevertheless, for the benefit of those who are sincere
(but obviously misinformed), let`s briefly examine
Romans Chapter 13. I quote Romans Chapter 13, verses 1
through 7, from the

Authorized King James
text:

"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.
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.
Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath,
but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye
tribute also: for they are God`s ministers, attending
continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to
all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom
to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor."

Do
our Christian friends who use these verses to teach that
we should not oppose

President Bush
or any other political leader really
believe that civil magistrates have unlimited authority
to do anything they want without opposition? I doubt
whether they truly believe that.

For
example, what if our President decided to resurrect the
old monarchal custom of
Jus Primae Noctis
(Law of First Night)? That was
the old medieval custom when the king claimed the right
to sleep with a subject`s bride on the first night of
their marriage. Would our sincere Christian brethren
sheepishly say, "Romans Chapter 13 says we must
submit to the government"?
I think not. And would
any of us respect any man who would submit to such a
law?

So,
there are limits to authority. A father has authority in
his home, but does this give him power to abuse his wife
and children? Of course not. An employer has authority
on the job, but does this give him power to control the
private lives of his employees? No. A pastor has
overseer authority in the church, but does this give him
power to tell employers in his church how to run their
businesses? Of course not. All human authority is
limited in nature. No man has unlimited authority over
the lives of other men. (Lordship and Sovereignty is the
exclusive domain of Jesus Christ.)

By
the same token, a civil magistrate has authority in
civil matters, but his authority is limited and defined.
Observe that Romans Chapter 13 clearly limits the
authority of civil government by strictly defining its
purpose: "For rulers are not a terror to good works,
but to the evil . . . For he is the minister of God to
thee for good . . . for he is the minister of God, a
revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."

Notice that civil government must not be a "terror to
good works."
It has no power or authority to
terrorize good works or good people. God never gave it
that authority. And any government that oversteps that
divine boundary has no divine authority or protection.

Civil
government is a "minister of God to thee for good." It
is a not a minister of God for evil. Civil magistrates
have a divine duty to "execute wrath upon him that
doeth evil."
They have no authority to execute wrath
upon him that doeth good. None. Zilch. Zero. And anyone
who says they do is lying. So, even in the midst of
telling Christians to submit to civil authority, Romans
Chapter 13 limits the power and reach of civil
authority.

Did
Moses violate God`s principle of submission to authority
when he

killed the Egyptian taskmaster
in defense of his
fellow Hebrew? Did

Elijah
violate God`s principle of submission to
authority when he openly challenged

Ahab and Jezebel?
Did David violate God`s principle
of submission to authority when he refused to surrender
to Saul`s troops? Did Daniel violate God`s principle of
submission to authority when he disobeyed the king`s law
to not pray audibly to God? Did the

three Hebrew children
violate God`s principle of
submission to authority when they refused to bow to the

image of the state
? Did John the Baptist violate
God`s principle of submission to authority when he

publicly scolded King Herod
for his infidelity? Did
Simon Peter and the other Apostles violate God`s
principle of submission to authority when they refused
to stop preaching on the streets of Jerusalem? Did Paul
violate God`s principle of submission to authority when
he refused to obey those authorities who demanded that
he abandon his missionary work? In fact, Paul spent
almost as much time

in jail
as he did out of jail.

Remember that every

apostle of Christ
(except John) was killed by
hostile civil authorities opposed to their endeavors.
Christians throughout church history were imprisoned,
tortured, or killed by civil authorities of all stripes
for refusing to submit to their various laws and
prohibitions. Did all of these Christian martyrs violate
God`s principle of submission to authority?

So,
even the great prophets, apostles, and writers of the
Bible (including the writer of Romans Chapter 13)
understood that human authority—even civil authority—is
limited.

Plus,
Paul makes it clear that our submission to civil
authority must be predicated on more than fear of
governmental retaliation. Notice, he said, "Wherefore
ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also
for conscience sake."
  Meaning, our obedience to
civil authority is more than just "because they said
so."
It is also a matter of conscience. This means
we must think and reason for ourselves regarding the
justness and rightness of our government`s laws.
Obedience is not automatic or robotic. It is a result of
both rational deliberation and moral approbation.

Therefore, there are times when civil authority may need
to be resisted. Either governmental abuse of power or
the violation of conscience (or both) could precipitate
civil disobedience. Of course, how and when we decide to
resist civil authority is an entirely separate issue.
And I will reserve that discussion for another time.

Beyond that, we in the United States of America do not
live under a monarchy. We have no king. There is no
single governing official in this country. America`s
"supreme Law"
does not rest with any man or any
group of men. America`s "supreme Law" does not
rest with the

President
, the

Congress
, or even the
Supreme Court.
In America, the U.S. Constitution is
the "supreme Law of the Land." Under our laws,
every governing official publicly promises to submit to
the Constitution of the United States. Do readers
understand the significance of this distinction? I hope
so.

This
means that in America the "higher powers" are not
the men who occupy elected office, they are the tenets
and principles set forth in the
U.S. Constitution.
Under our laws and form of
government, it is the duty of every citizen, including
our elected officials, to obey the U.S. Constitution.
Therefore, this is how Romans Chapter 13 reads to
Americans:

"Let every soul be subject unto the
[U.S. Constitution.] For there is no [Constitution] but
of God: the [Constitution] that be [is] ordained of God.
Whosoever therefore resisteth the [Constitution],
resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist
shall receive to themselves damnation. For [the
Constitution is] not a terror to good works, but to the
evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the
[Constitution]? do that which is good, and thou shalt
have praise of the same: For [the Constitution] is the
minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that
which is evil, be afraid; for [the Constitution] beareth
not the sword in vain: for [the Constitution] is the
minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him
that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not
only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this
cause pay ye tribute also: for [the Constitution is]
God`s minister, attending continually upon this very
thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to
whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom
fear; honor to whom honor."

Dear
Christian friend, the above is exactly the proper
understanding of our responsibility to civil authority
in these United States, as per the teaching of Romans
Chapter 13.

Furthermore, Christians, above all people, should desire
that their elected representatives submit to the
Constitution, because it is constitutional government
that has done more to protect Christian liberty than any
governing document ever devised by man. As I have noted
before in this column (See:

Bible Inspired America`s Founding Documents
by
June 30, 2005), Biblical principles form the foundation
of all three of America`s

founding documents:
The

Declaration of Independence,
The U.S. Constitution,
and The

Bill of Rights.

As a
result, Christians in America (for the most part) have
not had to face the painful decision to "obey God
rather than men"
and defy their civil authorities.  

The
problem in America today is that we have allowed our
political leaders to violate their oaths of office and
to ignore, and blatantly disobey, the "supreme Law of
the Land,"
the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, if we
truly believe Romans Chapter 13, we will insist and
demand that our civil magistrates submit to the U.S.
Constitution.

Now,
how many of us Christians are going to truly obey Romans
Chapter 13?

Dr. Chuck Baldwin is the
pastor of Crossroad Baptist Church in Pensacola,
Florida. He hosts a


weekly radio show
. His
website is


here
.