by William J. Stewart
The question which we address today is an important one, as it determines what our relationship to civil authority and law should be. If the governments of the world are established by God, then those who profess to be Christian ought to be subject. However, if they are Satan’s possession, it would seem contradictory for the child of God to render obedience.
This issue of where the governments derive their authority has been a recurring conversation for me this year. I have been told on more than one occasion that the governments of men are the possession of Satan, are wicked and contrary to the Lord. Some have, on these grounds, told me that it is wrong for a Christian to vote. Others have inferred that since Satan is the origin, we need not be obedient to their regulations. Let us see what the Bible reveals about the governments of earth.
The only defense I’ve heard for Satan’s control of the civil authorities comes from Matthew 4:8-10. There we read,
Again, the devil took Him up on an exceeding high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’
The argument is that since Jesus did not correct Satan when he declared that the kingdoms of the world are his, then such must be the case. If so, then was Satan’s use of Psalm 91:11-12 in v 6-7 correct also? The fact is, Jesus did not correct Satan’s misuse of Psalm 91:11-12, nor did he correct Satan’s lie in v 8-9. Lie? Yes, lie. For he “…does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44)
The need for government of some form has been present from very near the beginning of man. In Genesis 9:5-6, God spoke to Moses,
Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning, from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother, I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.
How shall this be administered without governing authorities? Every nation has in it officers of law, who address this and other issues. But do they have the right to makes laws and enforce the same if the law does not come directly from the Lord (as this one has)? Consider some Bible texts:
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. (Romans 13:1-7)
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men — as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2:13-17)
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. (Titus 3:1-2)
Other verses to consider are: Daniel 2:21; Daniel 4:17, 25-26, 32; Daniel 5:21; Matthew 22:15-22; and Acts 23:1-5.
Noteworthy also is the fact that the apostle Paul readily used the benefits his Roman citizenship offered him. Having been bound by a Roman commander and brought to a barracks for a scourging, Paul utilized his Roman citizenship to avoid such a fate (Acts 22:23-29). Again, his Roman citizenship was used to avoid a conspiracy against his life among the Jews (Acts 23:17-30). Likewise, in Acts 25, Paul used his citizenship as a Roman to “appeal to Caesar”, thus taking his case away from Festus (Acts 25:11-25; 28:19). He spoke to Festus,
Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all… I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know. For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar. (Acts 25:8, 10-12)
If those who claim that the government belongs to Satan are correct, did the apostle Paul not just appeal to Satan? Indeed, the Scriptures reveal that governments fit with God’s design, and that the benefits which come with citizenship are our’s to use, but also, that the responsibility to keep the law of the land lays upon us also.
In only one case can we refuse to keep the law of the land, in fact, we must refuse. When the rulers would have us do that which is contrary to the will of God, we must obey the Lord. Such was the case with the apostle Peter and John and the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:15-21; 5:27-29). But in all other instances, as revealed through the Scriptures earlier cited, we are obligated to obey the authorities, for to rebel against the authority is to rebel against the Lord.