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Jesus speaking in Luke 17v26-27 “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.” All people all over the globe are under some from of official leadership or government. That government may be democratically elected, a monarchy or even a dictatorship. Whatever kind of government we find ourselves with, we have one! If there was not a government in place, chaos would reign even more and people would just do whatever pleases them regardless of consequences and regardless of other people… Therefore, regardless of the government we are under, what does the Bible say should be our reaction and attitude to the government. By government, I mean all levels of government and authority – from local authority to federal government.
The Origins of Human Government
I have heard it said that the concept of human government was only established after the Flood of Genesis 9. However, the words of Jesus I read earlier, seem to intimate that some form of government existed prior to the great Flood. In Jude 14 and 15, we read learn that Enoch had spoken to sinners before the Flood had come. In regards to the Flood, we know that one of the prime motives that bought about the Flood was humanity’s disobedience to God’s revealed law. As regards the foundation of human government, it is God alone who authors it. From Daniel 4v25, we read where Daniel reminded King Nebuchadnezzar that “the Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.” Therefore, from this origin of human government being resourced from God, lawless anarchy is not simply rebellion against human authority but also a blasphemy against Almighty God. So human government, of any kind, has to function. But what does the bible say is the function of a government?
The Function of Human Government
Paul writing in Romans 13 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.” Here Paul indicates that there are at least three functions of a human government: protection, punishment and promotion. Protection: From the moment Adam sinned, it was plainly obvious that human civilizations would need some form of restraint and law in order to protect their citizens – form themselves and others. We see this clear in Acts 21, where the Roman soldiers step in to save Paul from being killed by other people in Jerusalem.
Punishment: Paul stipulates that duly appointed government officials and servants are to be considered as servants of God (even if they don’t believe in God!) Promotion: Human government, as thought by Paul, was to promote the broad-spectrum welfare of all the community and not just select groups, where its laws are in effect.
Response to Human Government
Paul in 1 Timothy 2v1-2 writes: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Saviour,” The Apostle Peter goes further in 1 Peter 2v13-17 “Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king.” I don’t know if you know that, but it is clearly impossible from these passages for a Christian to be a solid Christian and a poor citizen simultaneously. As Christians we have responsibilities to our government. Firstly we have a responsibility to recognize and acknowledge that the powers of the Government are ordained by God. We see that from Paul’s writing in Romans 13 and Paul was writing when the Emperor Nero was in power and systematically persecuting and torturing Christians! We also see this thinking in the passage from 1 Peter. There is no authority except as given by God. Even to the most sadistic, dictatorial or atheist governments – they have power only because God has allowed them. So we are to obey our government! But it is not to be slavish obedience regardless of what laws are decreed! No! The exception to this is where obedience to the Government would require the Christian to actively or passively disobey God. For we read in Acts 4v18-20 that the believer is to live in obedience to God rather than man. Secondly, as much as we probably hate to, we are commanded to pay taxes to the government! For by doing so, the government can set about ensuring, for example, that the weaker and more vulnerable sections of the community are cared for and protected! Thirdly, and quite possibly, most importantly, Christians are to pray for their leaders, governments and those in authority! Both Peter and Paul command and recommend it! To pray for them is to love them and it is also a way for God to shine into the lives of people. One of the things we are to pray for them, is that the government governs righteously, honourably, honestly and with integrity.
The Christian, as a citizen, are free to be law-abiding, conscious that they are under submission to Almighty God. It also means giving respect to all members of society from the lowest to the highest! As Christians, we are to submit ourselves to our Government and by living lives worthy of the Gospel of Christ, may indeed win some for God, win the recognition of their government as well as influencing Government policy and law. Whatever government you find yourself under, pray for your leaders even if you thoroughly disagree with some of their actions. They are in power, only because our God has allowed them. They will answer to Him one day for what they have done with the power given to them by God alone. God is in control, and He is on the ultimate throne and is the definitive power! For more to think about please do ask your self the following questions, and see how you respond or react to them. Q1. In what way can I influence and encourage my government
Q2. How can I help my government authorities to protect, punish and promote? Q3. When was the last time I actively prayed for those in authority over me, whether Christian or secular?
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