IN THE DAYS OF HIS POWER SERIES.
TOPIC DISOBEDIENCE TO CONSTITUTED AUTHORITY IS A REBELLION TO GOD.
COMPILED/EDITED BY:- Rev. Innocent Peace-Udochukwu
President Living Fountain Ministries Int’l LIFOM
“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.”
The reception of a new truth requires its adjustment to previously accepted truths. The introduction of a new system like Christianity necessitated an examination of its relationship to existing systems of government.
THE DIVINE FOUNT OF AUTHORITY. Government is traced to its source in God. “Order is Heaven’s first law.” Where no order reigns, there is no security, no progress to better things. Absolute equality is impossible amongst men; society has no safeguards, no cohesion, without a recognized tribunal of authority. Whether this authority is taken and exercised as a matter of course by the wisest or strongest, or is the acknowledged result of station conferred by the community, the necessity for such leadership and oversight manifests the will of God, and authority as such is seen to emanate from him. The Creator controls the works of his hands. The camp of Israel maintained a certain disposition of tents and tribes at rest and on the march, because of a Divine ordinance. Disorder would ill have befitted the presence of the Monarch Jehovah.
THE HUMAN ADMINISTRATORS OF JUSTICE. “The powers that be are ordained of God.” Not that he has placed each ruler in office or assents to each judicial function. But the leaders of human society represent the authority of God on earth. They are the “ministers” of God, acting in subordination to him; at least this is the fundamental idea of their position, however overlooked in practice. “They bear the sword” for God, are his vicegerents, and herein lies the honour and accountability of their decisions. Let them recollect that “One higher than the highest regardeth.” “He that ruleth over men righteously, ruling in the fear of God, he shall be as the sunny light of a cloudless morning.”
THE GENERAL RULE OF OBEDIENCE. Submission follows the recognition of the Divine authority at the back of magistrates. To rebel, to disobey, is to cast off allegiance to God. Even the apostle, smarting under the illegal order of Ananias, regretted his strong language when informed that he had reviled the high priest. To refuse due honour to rulers and parents is to demoralize society.
In the Bible’s presentation of authority and governance, we find a hierarchical structure. At the top of this hierarchy, sitting as the ultimate authority, is God Himself. But the Lord establishes other subordinate authorities under Him to govern people. Over the church, God has set elders who are responsible to preach the Word, pray for the flock of the Lord, and exercise church discipline (1 Tim. 3:1–7). Over the family, the Lord has set husbands and fathers, who are called to lead their wives and children in love and raise their sons and daughters in the fear and admonition of Him (Eph. 5:22–6:4). And over civil society, today’s passage tells us, God has set the civil authorities, whose primary purpose is to use the sword, or force, to punish evildoers (Rom. 13:1–7).
Earthly authority, therefore, is delegated authority. Authorities receive their right to rule from the Lord, who alone possesses authority inherently. Because they are appointed by God, to disobey earthly authorities when they lawfully exercise their authority is to disobey the Lord Himself. Paul lays out this principle in Romans 13:1–7, particularly in verses 2 and 5–6.
In addition to demonstrating that disobedience to the legal exercise of authority on earth is disobedience to God, the Bible’s hierarchical understanding of authority reveals that no earthly authority is absolute. If the Creator alone possesses authority inherently and if He alone sits at the top of the hierarchy of governance, absolute authority belongs to the Lord alone. All other authorities are accountable to the Lord, to Christ, the Son of God incarnate who has been set above all other rulers and authorities on earth (Eph. 1:15–23). Consequently, no earthly authority may lawfully forbid what God commands or command what God forbids. When earthly authorities do such things, civil disobedience is lawful and required for believers.
But in most cases, Christians are obligated to render civil obedience to the governing authorities. Civil authorities do not have to be Christian for us to be required to obey them, as is evident from Romans 13. Paul was writing to Christians who were living under a pagan government, telling them to obey the pagan emperor. Obviously, given other biblical passages that we will examine in the next few days, Paul was assuming that the civil authorities were not commanding what God forbids or forbidding what God commands. In such instances, Christians must submit.
Civil authorities do not have to be perfect or even Christian for us to obey them. We are to obey even the mandates we consider silly or onerous if doing so does not require us to break God’s law. In rendering such obedience, we bear witness to the final authority of the Lord, for bowing to His authority means submitting to the civil government.
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