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Church and State

(Romans 13:1-8; 1 Peter 2:13-17)

Lesson 8 -- second quarter 2005
April 24, 2005

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2005, Christian Light Publications

Probing Your Own Heart

What are your "real life" attitudes toward the state's laws and codes?

What about toward the human representatives and enforcers of those laws and codes?

Building on Some Foundational Concepts

Our personal relationship to the state must be one of subjection and obedience.

In all our relationships to law and law enforcement, we must remember that God expects us to submit and obey as unto Him. We are not expected to agree with the law or even to like it. Neither are we expected to like the officer or his methods and attitudes. None of those issues are to affect our basic response, which must be submission and obedience.

God is the source of all authority.

Many state leaders perceive their authority as coming from a constitution or a choice of the people. Others think their authority comes from the might of armies. Sometimes we Christians perceive them that way as well. We should know better because God has plainly told us that " there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God" (Romans 13:1).

God takes civil disobedience personally.

When we sin against the state by willful and carnal disobedience, we sin against God. God takes as against Himself the spirit and actions of insubordination to civil authority.

God has raised up state officials for our good.

God, Who does all things well and from all things brings good to His flock, has raised up civil authorities for the personal and corporate blessing of His people. So develop a spirit of thankfulness for and blessing toward the representatives of the state.

Questions and Responses

Why be subject to the state?

"The powers that be are ordained of God." David refused to rise up against Saul because he was the anointed of the LORD. We should reject rebellion against the State because we see it as one of the powers God Himself has ordained.

"Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God." A lack of subjection to the State is a lack of subjection to God. Would we dare?! Those that resist stand in line awaiting damnation.

"Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power?" Submission brings peace and safety, because those are the results of living within the boundaries of God's plan. Doing good blesses us with a freedom from fear.

The lesson text reveals at least one more reason and motivation for submitting to civil authority. What is it?

Do you mean the State doesn't necessarily have to be right?

That is correct!

So long as a law, regulation, or code does not violate God's law, it doesn't have to be right before we Christians are expected to submit and obey. For example, is it right that residential electrical wiring must be of a certain type and construction? Perhaps. Perhaps not. In and of itself, the code may be unnecessarily restrictive to the point of not being right. But as long as that code is in place, the Christian has no business violating it.

Isn't using submit and obey together redundant?

It should be. Alas, we easily fall pray to obeying with an insubmissive spirit and attitude. Sometimes we even obey while verbally abusing the law and/or the lawmakers. God calls on His people to do good from the heart, even when it comes to our relationship to the State.

Is it OK for Christians to write letters to those in civil authority?

The motivation and spirit (as well as the content, of course) determine the answer. No civil leader should ever receive from a Christian a letter that expresses or is born of an insubmissive, resistant spirit. Besides, since there are plenty of other people already exerting various types of pressure on political leaders, we could opt instead to write letters of encouragement and blessing.

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