Legit Gov (Rom. 13)
Most Christians today have a very assumed submission to the government mindset. Liberal or Democrat Christians love the government because their ideology sees the government as the ultimate problem solver, so love and trust in government are just baked into the cake for them. On the other hand, conservative Christians’ general limited government role, in comparison to their more Big Government leaning Democrat Christians, is tempered by text like the one where Jesus gives an affirmation to pay taxes to the government. This text gives approval for default acceptance as the role of government as God ordained. Paul in Romans 13 definitely expands on this sentiment. The part that most Christians do not consider is any sort of conditionality to this general stance of government being ordained by God.
For the record, before you see me going down the road of Anarchism, that is not my stance. We do see actual text that clearly teaches that there are exceptions. I think that the exceptions for marriage and the general default affirmation that God ordained marriage and loves good godly marriages is a good place to start. When God created Adam and Eve, He did it on purpose, knowing that a good wife for a man is more precious than gold. The Bible does give an exception to when this God-ordered institution can have an exception to remarry. The two exceptions are abandonment by an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 7) and adultery. Why these are such a good parallel because outside of these exceptions, the Bible calls for husbands and wives to work it out. It tells husbands to love their wives and wives to submit to and respect their husbands. It also says married couples should keep the marriage bed holy and should not have a habit of abstaining from sex, except for prayer, because that would give a foothold for the Devil. So, in marriage, there is a kind of social contract similar to the societal social contract between citizens and the governing authorities. If this control is betrayed, there is a place to part ways. In the same way, if the government does not play its part, we will discuss this “part” the government is supposed to play, then there is a precedent for breaking the social contract.
The Actual Scope of Government
“For Rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad (evil). Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, or He is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for He does not bear the Sword in vain. For He is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath On the wrongdoer. Therefore, one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also 'for the sake of conscience.'' Romans 13: 3-5
1. Good people should not fear government.
2. The government’s main purpose is to deal with evil people.
3. Government is the mediator as a servant of God to protect and serve the good (kind of like how elders/Pastors are 'spiritual under-shepherds for God's people's benefit).
4. The role of government, in particular, is:
Sword (coercion capacity) bearing
Avenger of God
God's wrath carrier
Submission on the citizen’s part is also for our benefit, specifically to avoid wrath and for our conscience’s sake.
For now, I want to start off with the first two points, which are really two points on the same coin. The reason why those who do good, aka are not criminals, is that the object of God's wrath via Government Sword is only meant for evildoers. The ones who they are serving on God's behalf, protecting from these evildoers, are the good non-criminal citizens. Most Christians, on a principled level, would agree with me that this is true. The extent of the application is where they do not go, which is the very point I am seeking to impress and inform in this content.
The implication is that the role of the government to go after the evil doer is a limiting and conditional role, in essence, contractual, obligation based on this text. What I mean is if a government flips this text and becomes a terror to those who do good, instead of serving their legitimate limited purpose of being a terror and sword bearer against evildoers, then the government is going outside of its God-ordained role. This is a major infraction on their part because they actually become the very threat, evildoer, against their clientele, the citizen who they are supposed to be protecting and securing the civil and personal rights of. So, my argument is that if the government starts to abuse its people, then they are not legitimate government and are violating our conscience. Thus, Romans 13 allows for individual insubordination and individuals at scale insubordination (Revolution/Protestation).
Let's look at three examples
1. Historical examples of individuals at scale insubordination (country wide Revolt against government)
2. Recent History (Covid Lockdown)
3. Biblical Examples of Individuals in Subordination
Biblical Examples of Individual Insubordination
1. "But the midwives feared God and did not do as the King of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live." (Exodus 1:17)
2. “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O King. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." (Daniel 3:16-18)
3. "Then these presidents and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, 'O King Darius live forever! All the presidents of the Kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce' an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O King, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked! Therefore, King Darius signed the document and injunction. When Daniel knew that the document had been Signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously." (Daniel 6:6-10)
4. "But in order that it may spread no further to the people, Let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name. So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but Speak of what we have seen and heard.' And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, 'because the people, for all, were praising God for what had happened." (Acts 4:17-21)
To be clear, these are not an exhaustive list; there are numerous lists of people defying their own governments.
1. Exodus, defying Pharoah
2. Prophets defying Israel Kings or other foreign kings
3. Jesus defying the Israelite Religions and government rulers
4. Apostles defying the rulers of their day to preach the gospel. Paul was beheaded because he defied the Roman Government, Peter was crucified upside down, John was exiled to the island of Patmos. Often, the way these rules are discussed is just seen as nonbeliever wicked people in power, but they have this power because they were politicians of a Kingdom or another.
Now back to the Selected Biblical Ex.
What do all three of these have in Common?
I. They all had the option to obey the government or not to.
2. They all saw the fear of God as an option, aka choosing obeying bad as the righteous decision.
3. The government tried to violate their religious conscience, and the people decided to choose conscience over the easier option, which is compliance.
4. The government is doing evil and threatening coercion against those who are not evil doers, aka not criminals.
Thus, being a terror to those who do good instead of those who do evil. Thus, we see that in my theory of Biblical government, if the government steps outside of its God-given role, aka goes after those who do good, then God condones breaking rank and revolting, especially when the government is actively commanding God's people to do evil acts themselves: This violates their conscience and violates the self-expression of their faith, aka religious freedom. These texts need to help us interpret Romans 13 and help us to see that though the default is to submit to a good, limited government that only does its legitimate limited role of going after evildoers, if they step outside of this at any time, they have broken the Biblical social contact between God, government, and citizen. Thus, the citizen has the liberty to choose their conscience over compliance. All three examples directly and intentionally defied orders from the government. The midwives chose to save the newborn boys, Shadrach and the gang said they would not serve pagan gods even if it meant death, Daniel would not abstain from prayer but intentionally did it where he knew he would be seen, and with the best case in point of my argument, Peter and John answer the Roman government that is persecuting them and said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God, you must judge."
Historical Examples of Revolts
In the view that I am trying to refute, most people give a blanket or unlimited submission to the government. They do this because at face value, without considering the rest of the text in Rom 13 and other examples of individual revolt against governments, it appears that there is absolutely no reason to revolt because that would be tantamount to disobeying God Himself.
The text they cling to is:
"Every person is to be in subjection to governing authorities. for there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God', and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves." Romans 13:1-2
This text has served as a proof text to justify people choosing to submit to the government instead of God, even though just among the text, I told you they did not see the God-honoring and God-fearing path to comply with the government’s call to Sin. This desire to see rulers as literally ordained by God is what allowed the whole Christian Monarchical System that saw the royal lineage of kings and queens to be ordained by God to be their rulers. Thus, to be clear, if someone maintains that we should submit to all governments, no matter how much they terrorize the good by expecting them to violate their God-given conscience, then they must say that all historical revolutions by any people were sinful, and their opposition earns them condemnation. "Those who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves." Romans 13:2
Let's think through the extreme implications of this stance (to be clear, any Political Theology has to deal with this specific issue).
If you take this stance, for the sake of ease of reference, I will coin a name for it, Government Universal Submission", of Governmental Universal Submission; these major acts of history must be condemned and thus should never have happened.
I. All Revolutions of People against their own overreaching and abusive government (African Revolts,
Germans against Hitler and 'his Nazis, Russians against Joseph Stalin and the USSR, Chinese against Mao Zedong and his followers, etc.)
2. All Revolutions of people against a foreign Ruling Nation /Empire (All formerly British ruled countries: America, India, China, etc.) (ALL former French ruled countries) (All former Spanish ruled countries: All of Central and South America) (this gets really convoluted when you think about states like Texas, which have Tradition of the Six flags, now memorialized in the amusement park, which represent the six different States/Nations/Countries that Texas has been part of for a period of time.
2. Mexico (when it supposedly unbiblical revolted according to Government Universal Submission)
3. France (briefly)
4. Republic of Texas (1836-1845, briefly, when it gained its own independence from Mexico before it joined its current slate as part of America.)
5. State within the U. S.
6. Confederation (briefly during Civil War)
3. Any sort of Draft cannot be defied.
4. If the Government tells you not to go to public gatherings like church can't defy.
5. If The Government tells you not to work, you can't defy them.
6. If the Government tells you to put something in your body.
7. The Government can tax you as much as they want with no revolt.
8. The Government can tell you not to say something with no revolt allowed.
9. The Government can take away your guns, and you cannot protest.
Basically, America and the Democracies of the West are completely incompatible with this view of politics.
In this view, you are never ever to say no to what the government says. If you ever say no, then you are condemned according to Romans 12: 2. You might start back tracking right now in your mind and thinking, "Well, I do not think it needs to be such an extreme all-encompassing, no wiggle room application?" My response is that those first verses in Romans 13 do not give any exception; in other words, do not permit exception or liberty. Let me remind you how comprehensive the language is.
“Let EVERY Person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is NO AUTHORITY except from God, and those that exist have been INSTITUTED by God. Therefore whoever RESIST the authorities Resist what God has APPOINTED, and those who RESIST will incur JUDGMENT/CONDEMNATION.” (Romans 13' 1-2)
Do you see any wiggle room in those verses or are those two verses airtight? There is no exception, it uses the language of “Every person" when referring to who the admonish applies to. It also says there is no authority that is not God-ordained, that allows for no exception. It also says whoever resists “the authorities”. Thus, if you take this Government Universal Submission theory seriously, then we lose all civil rights. The idea of civil rights, like free speech and the right to bear arms, (especially this one since this comes from the second amendment, which was created to literally permit the idea of taking an individual revolt and consolidating into a massive group revolt in the form of a Militia with the explicit purpose of a coup/ revolution, which is the greatest expression of a resisting the authorities).
Not to mention the whole Democratic system becomes impossible because everyone is going into the voting booth to vote their conscience. In doing this, they are resisting the other half of the politicians’ vote. No matter how they vote. What I mean is when a Republican goes into the voting booth and votes for a Republican, they are resisting the agenda of those "in authority" that are Democrats. They are trying to resist them, not by violence but through the Democratic process. This applies at all three levels of government: Federal, State, and Local. The ideas laid out in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are against the Government Universal Submission theory also. Here are some of the ideas that the founding fathers and most freedom-loving Americans hold dear:
1. Separation of church and state
2. Religious freedom
3. Freedom of Speech
4. The Right to Bear Arms
5. Separation of powers in Government (Checks and balances and the reason for multiple branches dividing the responsibility and powers of government so that no one branch could dominate the government)
6. Self-Ownership/ Self-Government
7. Inalienable rights given by God.
8. Taxation without representation is tyranny (American Revolution quote)
9. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (the assumption here is that a legitimate government should protect your right to protect your primary right to govern your destiny and pursue happiness in the way you define it, not the way the government decides for you.)
10. Ownership of property, both as personal property and business property. (Tyrannical governments can confiscate property from businesses or individuals at will, or they can either own all means of production, socialism/communism, or centrally plan the economy however they want.)
To be honest, if this was taken to its logical end, and the Democratic constraints and limitations that are currently on government were removed, then all governments would push the limits and take full control of their limitless potential for power and abuse and slide right into terrible tyranny where they become a domestic terror to both evildoers and good doers alike.
And the Government Universal Submissionist would piously submit out of an extreme interpretation of two Bible verses in juxtaposition and conflict to all the other Bible stories, where the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles intentionally resist the government directly.
When it comes to forming a theology out of an interpretation of the text, one must test it against other texts. This is an interpretive and hermeneutic principle called “scripture interprets scripture.” The name is very literal; all conclusions about the text must be tested by other scripture since all scripture is equal in authority because it is all equally infallibly God breathed. However, it must also be seen in comparison to actual examples of people being in that exact scenario. In this case, it would be people coming up against the governments of their land. We’ve already discussed four cases in both the Old Testament and New Testament. If you take the view that one must submit to the government no matter what, then you must contradict the text that shows stories of people openly and courageously defying the government to obey God. You must say that the midwives that feared God and thus took part in God fearing secret revolution based on their religious conviction and conscience, as they would have seen it, were in sin.
Some people might want to take a hybrid view, as they would call it, where they submit to the government as a default, but when the government goes against the Bible, you can revolt. I understand that desire, but the question becomes how do you decide what a violation of God's standards are to warrant a revolt? Is it something that not only denominations and churches need to work through corporately, but also an individual must figure out for themselves what violates their conscience? Thus, people claim to believe in Government Universal Submission, with rare exceptions, but really they are opening the door just enough to get a toe in. But the vast variety of religious convictions of conscience throw that slight compromise wide open and logically really leads to the other option, my view, Government Limited Compliance.
Romans 14 clearly allows for a wide spectrum of convictions on any given theological practice. Here, Paul talks about one issue, food sacrificed to idols. He says that one "weaker" brother can see a brother or sister in Christ eating meat sacrificed to idols as sinful, while another might say that it is not sinful because the pagan gods behind the idols do not even exist, so the sacrifice is not real; thus, it is merely food, in a similar way to Peter's vision in getting rid of the ceremonial laws restraint on diet or food consumption. The point Paul is making is not that food sacrificed to idols matters but allows others to live out their faith based on their own convictions. You could easily insert another issue like drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco. This is why Paul concludes that "anything not done in faith is sin." (Rom. 14:23) Why is this Important? Not only is this subject important, but it is paramount to having any conversation at all above politics or government. When you talk about the military, this subject comes up. When you talk about Morals and Law, this subject comes up; when you talk about economics, this subject comes up.
An example of this is Indonesia in 2002. At the time of this content creation, they passed a law making sex outside of marriage criminal. So, there are real implications for the way you handle this issue. If you take a Government Universal Submission position, then the government can do no wrong, You might secretly feel like they are wrong, but it does not matter; you cannot express it outwardly, or it would be considered revolt, which opens up a whole new world for Big Government proponents, aka Democrats and Socialists and beyond. Currently, the only thing restraining the Prince of this world, Satan, from becoming a full tyrannical dictator is the democratic process and that process is counterbalanced by Republicans and libertarians, to various degrees, trying to maintain a Romans 13 biblically limited government, aka the Government Limited Compliance view. The only thing that keeps the U.S. government from completely being destroyed by Big Gov. politicians is Conservatives that protested and defied the government and appealed to the limited Government founding Documents (Constitution and Bill of Rights) to say that our government had gone past its legit role as minister of God against evildoers, and instead became a terror to all Americans, both the good and innocent noncriminal Americans and the evil, guilty criminal Americans.
Even if you want to hold on to a Government Universal Submission view as a default and make exceptions for religious reasons, do not try and enforce your understanding and conviction on what those exceptions are on to others. Allow people to have their own liberty of conscience as Romans 14 talks about. When it comes to the variety of exceptions to the Government Universal Submission view or the wide spectrum of takes on the Government Limited Compliance view, this is the much broader permissible one out of the two major views. One could possibly argue that the Government's Universal Submission with Exceptions view is a hybrid, but I would personally call it a contradiction. I think that if you are going to take exceptions you might as well join the view that allows for exceptions, namely the Government Limited Compliance view. Here at Labor For Truth, and amongst Christian Libertarians in general, you will find us arguing for this view. Most of our thinking will be trying to work through how much-limited compliance the Bible wants from us because, as Limited government or minimal government Minarchists (minimal government libertarians as opposed to anarchist anti-government libertarians), we think there should be a government, the question is how much and how often we comply vs. submit. If you believe in laboring, to figure out God's purpose for this “ministry of God's wrath” (the government), then you have come to the right place.
Tim Bankes II
Tim is a Christian author. His worldview that informs his writing is Calvinist, Baptist, and Libertarian. His main series is his Christian picture book series, "About God for Kids", where he discusses the attributes of God in a way kids can digest. He also wrote a Christian Romance novel, libertarian book for beginners, and Christian coloring books. He graduated with a Bachelor's in Biblical Studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He has written a book on freedom called “Are You Free” (If you are into listening to books I have it in audio also, Are You Free Audiobook )and he has written multiple children’s books about God. Be Sure to check out the podcast version of the blog, Labor for Truth Podcast. And check out “The Truth About” YouTube Channel. You can find his works at his amazon author page, https://amazon.com/author/timbankes. He even has a free digital ebook on how God is the creator. Get your free copy today at, Greater Creator .Also If you are into Christian Fiction, he has made his first book in his Futuristic Christian Fiction series free, Her Dying Wish