The point of this writing is to squash the canard that “Christians must do whatever government says.” This statement is an absolute. And its principle is not found in scripture. We are not commanded to always obey government.
What this writing is not about, is a call to action. I am not calling for defiance of government. I am not advocating for lawlessness and mobs. I merely want to make it clear that scripture does not command us to blindly obey everything government says. That’s it.
I’ve seen, over the past few months, some verses of scripture posted online to support this canard, but they ignore the context, the historical surroundings, the intent of the author, and subsequent verses. I don’t care “what this verse means to you.” That is rather irrelevant. What is relevant is what the verse meant when it was written and the intent of the author.
Related: Separation of Church And State: Not What You Think
Let me give a quick example of how some verses of scripture are short-cited. John 3:16 is the most cited verse of scripture. It reads as follows:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son
The verse says precisely that. I can believe in universalism. It’s all about love, nothing else. Love conquers all! God doesn’t care what I do, and he will love me no matter what! I can safely ignore all other scripture, all commandments, because God is love.
Problem is, the verse doesn’t end there. The point doesn’t even end with that verse. Keep reading. Here is John 3:16 in full:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
With the full verse, we learn so much more. If we fail to believe in Christ, we will perish, and we will not have eternal life.
Verse 17 takes it further:
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
The mission of Christ is saving. And “might” be saved means that saving is not a given guarantee, there is action on our part, alluding to the previous verse. Also, God does not want to condemn us, he wants to save us. But why do we need saving?
There is a lot more doctrine involved with these verses, but they go beyond the point of this writing. Just an example of how critical it may be to not simply cite a verse, or a portion of a verse.
Let’s move on to crushing the canard.
I see Romans 13: 1 – 2 cited most often to circulate the canard that we must always obey government. It reads as follows:
1 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.
2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
And there you have it. If we disobey government, if we challenge them in anyway, we are damned! Well, that’s not entirely what Paul is saying.
Let’s break this down.
Verse 1, we are to obey and follow the higher powers, or higher authorities. God, and His laws, are established as the highest power and highest authority. He has established earthly authorities.
Verse 2, bad things for those that disobey the higher authority.
We can’t stop there though, because Paul has more to say.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
Earthly rulers do not punish good, but they punish the bad, or evil. So, do what is right, do what is good, and you got nothing to worry about.
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
“For he is the minister [servant] of God…”
Who is in charge here? God. The earthly ruler is the servant, which would make God the master. There is a chain of command here.
One of the proper roles of the earthly ruler is to punish the wicked, those who go against his master (God), those who go against his master’s law (God’s law).
If you are in the category of “evil,” or bad, or wicked, then you should be worried and fear God’s servant, the earthy ruler.
5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. [emphasis added]
In some translations, the word used is “Therefore.” In this context, they have the same meaning:
Because of this…
In light of this…
Due to this…
“Wherefore’ (or “therefore”) is a transition from a premise. The premise is established, and you, as a believer, are to respond thusly. Paul has established that God is the highest authority, the earthly ruler (one particular authority) is God’s servant, and one of the servant’s roles is to punish evil.
For the sake of clarity, I’m going to replace the word “wherefore” with the premise:
5 [Because the minister is executing God’s law by punishing evil], ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
So, when the earthly authority is fulfilling God’s law, and punishing evil, you are subject to this particular authority.
6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. [emphasis added]
For this cause…
“This” refers to God’s servant executing punishment of evil.
When God’s servants (the earthly authority) are punishing evil, you must pay tribute to this authority.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.[emphasis added]
“Their” refers to those servants (the earthly authorities) who follow God’s law by punishing the wicked. If they do this, they are due certain things from us. We must give these servants:
Tribute (taxes, tithing, etc.)
Paul is not advocating for blind obedience. He makes it clear that God is the highest authority, and we are subject to certain authorities that follow God’s law and punish the wicked. We are to respect and honor these authorities when they deserve it, when they punish the wicked.
Related: Is Mankind Inherently Good?
Still don’t believe me? Still think that Paul was advocating for blind obedience and subservience to government? Okay…
How did Paul die?
Beheading. By the government. Specifically Nero.
This means at some point, Paul did something to go against the earthly authority. This authority didn’t like it, and punished the good, by beheading Paul, a true servant of God.
Peter, who wrote similar words which Paul wrote in Romans 13, also defied the government at some point, and he was crucified upside down. There are other examples in the Bible of believers righteously defying government. They cared about the highest authority, the master, more than they cared about the authority of the master’s servant.
For my readers who happen to be members of The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, if you need more examples, Abinadi defied the government, and was put to death by fire. Alma and Amulek, and those whom they taught, when against the law, and the followers (women and children) were thrown into fire and martyred. The Book of Mormon is riddled with evidence of followers of Christ being imprisoned or otherwise punished by the earthly authority. Joseph Smith (who wrote the words: we believe… in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law) escaped from jail when he was unjustly imprisoned. Section 98 of The Doctrine and Covenants speaks of law and when it is evil.
There are more examples, but I don’t believe spoon feeding it to you is the proper way for you to learn.
We, as followers of Christ, should never allow any government or government authority to misuse Romans Chapter 13 to call for support of sin, wickedness, or evil in any form. Romans 13 is not written for government to use or misuse. It was not written to government. It was written for the individual, specifically, individual believers.
What must we do when the earthly authority has gone against god’s law, and punishes the righteous and rewards the wicked? That is a completely different subject. Remember, this writing was only to illustrate scripture does not say to always and blindly obey government.
48 thoughts on “Myth: As Christians, We Must Always Obey Government”
Thank you thank you thank you. Romans 13 has been raped by so many ignorant christians, and sadly, ignorant pastors.
We have to push back against such ignorance. Romans 13 was often cited to justify slavery. Let’s not let scripture ever be used to facilitate any form of evil.
Yep. Romans 13 was used for evil purposes like slavery. Makes me sick.
How in the hell do mask laws go agaisnt god’s laws?
Thanks for reading and for commenting.
First off, I have no idea as to what you are referring. I didn’t mention mask laws, masks, or any specific law.
Secondly, I know if no mask laws. I know of several “orders” from governors and mayors, but they cannot create laws.
How is your question relevant to the above article in any way, shape, or form?
the coronavirus is real you redneck skid mark. People are dieing!!! Shut your high school educated mouth and go cry on your fictional bible.
Thanks for reading and for commenting.
I have never denied the existence of COVID19. It is absolutely real, and people have died from it, and from its complications. However, I fail to see how that is related to my above writing.
It’s almost like you either can’t read the article, or have little, or no comprehension. Who said the corona virus isn’t real? And, then, to somehow prove your intellectual superiority,( I can only assume because of a severe lack of referral and/or context towards your own level of education) you feel the need to resort to name-calling and insults. Wow. The amount of gratification you must have towards yourself is both sad, and disturbing. Your parents must be proud of raising such a non-“redneck skidmark”. With people like you around, I feel comforted and reassured about the future of humanity and it’s survival being both peaceful, and long-lasting.
This is exactly what I wanted to say to my pastor. He’s been preaching about the importance to comply with government. So wrong. He used Romans 13 to do it. I don’t know what to do about it.
Nonsense. Paul admitted that he lied in Romans 3:7. So EVERYTHING he said and did is null and void.
Thanks for commenting.
Romans 3:7, Paul is asking a hypothetical question, not “admitting” anything.
Where did you go to divinity school? What authority do you have to speak for God.? My pastor, just a few weeks ago, gave a virtual sermon on Romans 13:1-2 and you are way off the mark. God has told us to follow government and government officials are ordained of God.
Hi, thanks for commenting.
Yep, I’ve heard from pastors commenting on Romans 13:1-2, and they nearly always fail to follow it up with the proceeding verses, which I already discussed in the article. Some pastors today are even using romans 13:1-2 to condemn our founding fathers. “They never should have gone against King George!”
Was King George acting as a minister of God (as described by Paul in Romans 13)? Nope. King George was a minister of King George. He was his own God.
By implication, Romans 13:6 also says that the taxes collected are to be used by government to get the job done of restraining evil and keeping an orderly society – not to enrich the government officials themselves, nor to fund evil acts such as abortion.
Paul was a psychopath. Why worship a nutjob?
I worship Jesus Christ. None other.
Get over it bro. You have to wear masks.
Actually, I don’t. My city council has not created any city ordinance demanding it. The state legislature has not created any law enacting such a mandate.
Besides, what does this have to do with Romans 13? Your comment says way more about you than you probably thought.
False prophet. Twisted theology. You will answer to God.
I have never claimed to be a prophet. And I am very much aware I will answer to God.
Twisted theology? Could you please be kind enough to point out specific errors?
Fortunately, more and more people are discarding the antiquated religious beliefs that are found in a jumbled book of supernatural nonsense, in favor of a morality based on science and reason.
Who the hell is Abinadi ?
A martyr of Christ in The Book of Mormon.
Oh. I missed that. Well, I’m not going to read any crap written by a mormon. I’ll stick with the bible, and I hope you do the same. You seem to know what you are talking about. I don’t think you need to worry about what mormons think. They aren’t christian anyways, so I don’t know why you brought them up.
Thanks for speaking the truth of Romans 13. Lots of wolves in sheep’s clothing quoting scripture in order to lie to followers of Christ.
Keep up the good work.
Verse 5. No blind obedience. We cannot let government violate our religious conscience. Eyes wide open.
Thank you. Well put.
Separation of church and state. Keep you theocratic bull**** out of government.
Hi, thanks for commenting.
“Separation of church and state” is not a founding principle. It is created from the anti-religious court of Hugo Black in the 1960’s, a porn defender and KKK member. http://theblindlibertarian.com/2019/11/14/separation-of-church-and-state-not-what-you-think-it-is/
I call BS. The founders hated religion. John Adams said that this would be the best of worlds if there were no religion in it.
Here is President Adams quote in full:
“Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been on the point of breaking out, ‘This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion at all!!!’ But in this exclamation I would have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean hell.”
John Adams meant the exact opposite of what you quoted. Religion is necessary.
Awesome. Gotta love science deniers using scripture to justify their flag waving jingoistic patriotic high horse bull crap.
Governors can order whatever they want. They are governors. And SCOTUS says it is totally fine. It’s called democracy you butt wipe.
Hi, thanks for your comment.
A few points.
9 unelected judges, or oligarchs, creating laws and reforming already written law, like state constitutions, is not a democracy, it is an oligarchy at best, and tyranny at worst.
Secondly, our country is not a democracy. It is a republic. Article IV, section IV of the US Constitution clearly says this. Read here for more: http://theblindlibertarian.com/2010/05/15/a-republic-or-democracy-what-every-u-s-citizen-should-know/
Finally, if you would have read my previous writings, you would know how useless it is to persuade me to your thought process by citing SCOTUS. SCOTUS is not the final arbiter. They cannot create law. They are weak compared to the other federal branches (according to the written Constitution), and they have ZERO power of enforcing their opinions. http://theblindlibertarian.com/2019/08/28/judicial-myth-the-judiciary-is-equal-to-the-other-two-branches/
Love your stuff. Romans 13 is abused by many. And I’ve seen it cited in judicial opinion to justify evil.
I’ve seen that as well. And its been cited on the floor of congress too. As I said, Romans 13 is not written for government to use to justify government. It was written for individual believers.
Acts 4:19 supports this commentary. We should obey God’s law first. And if man’s law goes against God’s law, we are to obey God’s law.
What about Titus 3:1
Thanks for this question. Titus 3:1 compliments Romans 13:1-7. It does not dissuade from it. To be “…ready to every good work…”
If it is not good work, then we know what it is, and there is no need to respect or honor. Not a call for sedition or rebellion though.
Furthermore, remember how Paul died and my points on that.
Hmmm… intersting points. I have also seen Romans 13 used to explain that we must comply with government. I’ve always been to lazy to look into this claim. Thanks for breaking it down and explain what it really means
I’m not ignorant or lazy. I just listen to my paster and do what he says.
People don’t care about what The Bible actually says. They only care about cherry-picking verses and facts to justify their non-biblical world view.
I’ve definitely witnessed that. Which is why, whenever I can, I strive to kindly correct misuse and misunderstanding of Scripture.
Exactly! Government is supposed to protect the good, and punish the bad. Pretty clear. The government’s biggest violation of this is abortion. Period.
I agree. No matter what else it may do, if a law places tax-payer funds into abortion groups, I will oppose it. Always.
I do think we must do everything we can to prevent disastrous government to bring about horrors. If a president legalizes slavery again, I will NOT submit and enslave my black friends just because the government has said it. we should submit to authority when laws are fair and leaders too. Just like a woman is to “submit” to her husband ( the word submit has limits and different meanings) only if her husband obeys the law and is fair. if the husband or the government are wicked well, we should not submit and obey their laws !
Hi, thanks for commenting.
Although I highly doubt that slavery will ever become legal again in this country, I see your point. Simply, there are certain things that are so clearly against god’s law, and we should never go along with those things.
The amount of oblivious, misinformed, uncompromising, one-sided, illiterate, narrow-minded, and narcissistic people flooding this precious planet is overwhelming and mind boggling.
I know, it can get rather frustrating. And discouraging.
It doesn’t surprise me though. Human nature is bad. I wrote in length about it, and some folk got mad at me for that too. Kind of ironic. Even christians got mad at me. We are all fallen beings. Christ is the solution. Why would christians get upset at that? It is a fundamental principle of the gospel. http://theblindlibertarian.com/2019/12/17/is-mankind-inherently-good/