What does God say about government? Do we have to do everything we’re told, or is civil disobedience appropriate? Join AMBrewster as he teaches Christian parents to give their children a biblical understanding of government and authority.
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Welcome back to the show . . . unless this is your first time with us, and then, just welcome to the show.
My name’s Aaron, and if you missed our 400th episode, you should check it out. It’s called “Teach Your Children What the Bible Says about Racism,” and episode 401 was about helping your children to celebrate biblical diversity and unity.
We’re all about being biblical here. Nothing matters more than that.
You see, everyone has a standard of Truth — absolutely everyone — even if that standard is their own presuppositions.
Truth.Love.Parent.’s standard of Truth is the only wise God, and the beginning and end of all Truth Himself, the God of the Bible.
We are not an apologetic show that attempts to prove the existence of God or disprove the false claims that the Bible is not exactly what it says it is . . . there are many amazing people who are doing just that . . . this is a show about how Christian parents can better glorify the Lord by becoming the parents God called and created them to be.
So, we’re so very glad you’re here because the Bible has something excessively important to say about government.
Just recently in America we held an election for the highest governmental position in the country. As you can imagine, many people are thinking a lot about government and politics right now. Despite that, some of you may still be wondering why a show dedicated to talking about biblical parenting would do an episode about the government.
Well, here’s the thing, when I started this show, my wife assumed it was my plan to only discuss the overtly parent-focused passages of the Scripture; and we have discussed a number of them. But since God gave children parents for the purpose of bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, that means that God expects parents to reveal the entire Scripture to their kids. It’s all fair game.
So . . . that means that if the Bible talks about it, parents are supposed to talk about it, our kids are supposed to engage with it, and . . . guess what . . . the Bible has a lot to say about government.
So, I thought I’d take an episode to point out the clear teaching of the Scripture in order to help us better instruct our children to know God and respond correctly to the government.
It’s a very valuable discussion and — I think — very timely.
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And — with that — let’s talk about the government.
I acknowledge that we have listeners from all over the globe, so please listen carefully to what I’m about to say.
This is not a show about how American government works. This is about God’s thoughts concerning government, it’s roles, responsibilities, and how we’re to respond to it. The Bible was written in a primarily ancient Middle Eastern and partially European context, but the Truth of God transcends all times and cultures. God is the originator of authority and human governances, and His opinion on the subject matters no matter where you live or who you are.
This show is simply about teaching our children 5 important realities concerning government.
1. God rules over all rulers.
The first book of the Bible ever to be written — the book of Job — reveals in chapter 12 verses 23-25 that, “[God] makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away. 24 ‘He deprives of intelligence the chiefs of the earth’s people And makes them wander in a pathless waste. 25 ‘They grope in darkness with no light, And He makes them stagger like a drunken man.'”
Psalm 22:28 says, “For the kingdom is the Lord’s And He rules over the nations.”
Daniel 2:21 tells us, “It is [God] who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings.”
Proverbs 21:1 is very similar to the Job passage because it deals with the fact that God guides leadership. “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” We see this dramatically played out in the Exodus account of Pharaoh and his hardened heart.
And when Jesus was face-to-face with the highest Roman authority in Jerusalem, He took a moment to remind Pilate that he was — in fact — subordinate to God.
In John 19:10-11 Jesus had been silent in Pilate’s presence, “So Pilate *said to Him, ‘You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?’ 11 Jesus answered, ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.’”
This should be so comforting to everyone who calls himself a Christian. We do not need to fear men. The worst thing they can do to us is send our bodies to the grave, but the God Who is powerful enough to give and take physical and spiritual life rules over every man. None of them do anything without His consent.
This means that governments as a whole are just as responsible to God as individuals are. He is the King, He is the ruler, and it doesn’t matter how many people you throw in a room and how much power they proclaim themselves to have . . . they will never usurp God’s authority.
Even though they may rage against God — as recorded in Psalm 2 — the Lord is untouched by their protestations.
This why God confused the languages at the Tower of Babel, this is why Daniel 4 tells us about how Nebuchadnezzar thought he was greatest authority in the universe but Daniel told him, “this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: 25 that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.”
And this is why at the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity, God gave him back his mind and he immediately proclaims, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ 36 At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”
If Christians simply acknowledged that all human government is subordinate to the will of God, it would drastically change how we view and respond to our authorities.
So, let’s get more specific.
2. Christians are to pray for rulers.
I Timothy 2:1-4, "1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Whereas the first point established the fact that God is sovereign over ruling authorities, this point establishes the fact that governments — like individuals — are responsible for their actions.
But it also establishes that Christians are to care that their emperors and presidents and kings and prime ministers submit to the rule of God.
God makes it clear that the goal for human authority is that righteous men and women be able to lead tranquil and quiet lives in godliness and dignity. That is good and acceptable governance in the sight of God. That kind of leadership creates an atmosphere where people can come to the knowledge and of the truth of God.
And Christians are to work toward that end. We should pray for it, and — by extension — those of us who are blessed enough to have a choice in who leads our nations, we should vote accordingly.
It would be an affront to God to vote for someone who would mistreat those who are trying to live godly and dignified lives.
So, obviously it’s clear that . . .
3. Rulers are to obey God.
I’m going to cite some applicable passages and expand on them in much more detail on our next point, but — for now — I want to make two sub-points.
A. Rulers are to obey God by accomplishing God’s purposes for them.
God does have expectations for human governance, and — just like all individuals — God expects that governments submit to reality.
So, there’s the expectation that government do what is right, but . . .
B. Rulers are to obey God by not requiring citizens to sin.
As governments work to fulfill their God-given responsibilities, they should never command, enable, or embolden its people to sin.
A very applicable example of this is abortion. God cannot abide a government that advocates and promotes and requires its people to fund the wholesale murder of children.
Now, I’m not saying that a good government will legislate religion. The government is not in a position to declare what is holy and unholy, but simply that a good government will fulfill the tasks God has given it and will do so in line with God’s expectations.
Allow me to get more specific with our next point.
4. Christians are to obey rulers when the rulers obey God.
We’re going to tackle two ideas here. First we’re going to see what God expects rulers to do, and then we’re going to acknowledge that Christians should never disobey the government when they’re ruling in line with God’s revealed will.
Let’s start with Titus 3:1-2. This is Paul telling Titus how to lead the church under his care. “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2 to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”
“Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient.”
I Peter 2:13-17 goes into greater detail: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”
Here we get some more detail concerning government’s role. God desires that human rulers punish evildoers and praise those who do right.
Now, we’ve been talking about this so much lately. Who get’s to determine what is evil and what is good? Does the emperor get to decide? No! Decidedly and 100%, no! It is obvious that the righteous One, the standard for holiness and goodness and truth and the Creator of this world gets to be the One Who determines what is right.
And it’s the government’s responsibility to know and submit to that definition, create an atmosphere conducive to that kind of lifestyle, and when citizens are evil, it’s the government’s responsibility to punish them accordingly.
Now, this next passage gives us a little more to dissect as well as another command to subject ourselves to authorities, but this time I’m going to comment as I read.
Romans 13:1-7 says, “1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”
This is a recapitulation of our first few points. God is the ruler of rulers and we are to obey the rulers God sets up.
“2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”
This is a powerful statement. When we resist the just exercise of authority from our governing rulers, we are opposing the very ordinances of God.
And then God explains why this is starting in verse 3.
“3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”
There could not be a clearer expectation from God to government. “When your people obey me, praise them. When they do what I say is evil, you are responsible to bear the sword and avenge me.”
This is extremely powerful since God tells individuals in Romans 7:24 that they are not to seek vengeance because God will repay evil. But here — six chapters later — we learn that God has appointed earthly government to be part of avenging evil. In the Greek, these words have the exact same root idea.
That is a big task that God does not entrust to any one human, but to an institution comprised of humans.
And so Paul continues in verse 5 . . .
“5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”
Here the Lord reveals that taxation is right and appropriate, but the implication is that the taxation will be used as the government fulfills its responsibility to God as His servant devoting themselves to His purposes.
Jesus says something very similar in Matthew 22:15-22, “Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. 16 And they *sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. 17 Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?’ 18 But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, ‘Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.’ And they brought Him a denarius. 20 And He *said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ 21 They *said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’ Then He *said to them, ‘Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.’ 22 And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away.”
It was not wrong for the Jews to pay Roman tax — tax to a conquering kingdom.
Alright. So, far we’ve learned that God is the King of kings Who rightly commands that government live in His reality and follow His guidelines. From these passages we understand that government is to reward righteousness and avenge evil and that it’s appropriate for them to tax the people in order to serve God well.
And Christians are not simply to obey the government; they are to work toward the government’s best interest by praying for them and supporting them when the submit to God.
And you’re probably thinking that you would be more than happy to submit to a government that did all of that. You would have no issue whatsoever paying taxes that went to rewarding good and punishing evil — as God defines it. You would be more than happy to live in a country where you could live a quiet, peaceable, and godly life.
But, as we all know, there is no earthly government that obeys God perfectly just like there is no human who obeys God perfectly. In fact, the Scriptures give us plenty of examples that humans tend to disobey worse as they collect into groups and encourage each other in their sin.
So, what are Christians to do when it’s clear that their governing authorities are not the servants of God — in fact they go so far as to reward evil and punish righteousness? What is a Christian supposed to do then.
Because — if we’re being honest — the passages we’ve read have left no room for disobeying the government. But there are two very important observations we need to make. The first is that the Bible does address this topic, and the second is that the commands to obey the government were all addressing ruling bodies who either A. are servants of God, or B. may be jerks, but they’re not commanding Christians to break God’s law.
An example of this principle comes from I Peter 2:18-20, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”
The principle is clear that we must respect our authorities even when they are unreasonable and even when they are unjust. But — and this leads perfectly into our last point . . .
5. Christians are to disobey rulers when the rulers expect the Christians to disobey God.
Now, please note that I did not say that Christians are to disobey rulers who disobey God. That blanket statement could be very easily manipulated and applied incorrectly.
Children try this kind of immaturity all of the time. If they believe their parents are unreasonable, they justify breaking the reasonable expectations because mom and dad happen to be unreasonable in another area.
“I’m not going to fasten my seatbelt because the government has made abortion legal.”
Nope. That’s not Christ-honoring.
On the other hand, any authorities (parents included) who expect those under them to do and say things that would displease the Lord are in fact sinning against God. They are disobeying God by commanding their subservients to sin.
There are two passages in Acts that beautifully illustrate this.
Acts 4:18-20 tells us, “And when [the Jewish Council] had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.’”
And then it gets even more explicit in Acts 5:28-32. The boys are dragged back in front of the Council because they were disobeying them, and the authorities said ’We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’ 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. 31 He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.’”
The Bible is expressly clear that Christians everywhere must testify to Jesus Christ — even under threat of persecution and death, genuine Christians will never deny Christ. It’s a sin to hide our candle under a bushel, and it’s impossible for a city set on a hill not to be seen.
Genuine believers will live in such a way that everyone who knows them will know about their God.
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So, what are some examples of appropriate civil disobedience?
Christians must talk about God. We saw an example of that in Acts.
Christians must read the Bible and pray. I think Daniel is a perfect picture of how a Christian can confidently continue worshipping God even under threat of being eaten by lions.
Christians must assemble as a body of believers. I think John MacArthur has been a good modern example of this. California has wrongfully targeted churches and not allowed them to open under the ruse of a pandemic, but John has continued meeting with his church even under threat of having their utilities turned off, being put in prison, fines, and the like.
Christians must worship God. I’ll illustrate this with the next point considering that this one and the next point always go hand in hand.
So, there are things that Christians must do, but there are many things Christians are not to do.
Christians must not deny God. Governments that command Christians to give up the worship of God always want them to substitute it for worship of a false god — even if that false god is simply humanism. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are a fantastic example of this. They were told that they would be thrown into the furnace if they didn’t worship the king’s statue, but they refused because true followers of God absolutely will not worship false gods.
Christians must not murder. If the government were ever to require abortion — like China did for so long — Christians would have to refuse to submit. The Hebrews in Egypt were a beautiful example of this when Pharaoh commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill all baby boys. This also applies to Christian organizations being required to pay for or provide pills that abort babies.
Christians must not endorse sin of any kind. It doesn’t matter what the world calls “hate speech,” Christians must speak the truth in love whether or not people want to hear it. Churches should not hire people living in unrepentant sin — whether that means the person is a known and unrepentant embezzler of the person is a known and unrepentant homosexual.
And there are many, many other examples.
And some of this is a matter of conscience.
Let me give you just one example over which many good people will disagree.
If the government were to try to confiscate the population’s guns, some believe that God doesn’t command us to have weapons, therefore, it wouldn’t be a sin to give the government the guns.
On the other hand, many people point to Jesus’ words in Luke 22 where He told the disciples that having a weapon to protect themselves was so important that they should sell an extra pair of clothes in order to procure one. These same people would also point to admonitions in Scripture to protect one’s family.
I am not going to declare, “Thus saith the Lord,” on this point because it’s not clearly commanded in the Bible like the other things I’ve referenced, however, James 4:17 says, “To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
There are many principles to adopt and illustrations to follow in Scripture that are not direct commands. If you believe it would displease the Lord for you to obey a governmental mandate, then it would be unwise for you to do it.
However, we must all be humble enough and teachable enough to get counsel and search the Scriptures. It’s possible that we may have interpreted the need incorrectly, and perhaps we need to submit to the governing authorities.
It’s not an easy situation. Many people have worshipped the Lord and reaped significant consequences in their lives due to civil disobedience, and others have given up their liberties to God’s honor and glory.
May we all be willing to live lives of conviction.
So, when it come to teaching our kids about government, the Bible is clear that God is in control, God sets up and takes down governments, nothing happens outside of His will, government is designed to do God’s will and should be obeyed when it does, but it should not be obeyed when it expects us to sin. Therefore, anything and everything the government does should be compared to the Scriptures.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets, and feel free to contact Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com or call (828) 423-0894 if you have specific questions.
I hope your goal is to help your children grow up into Christ. If so, you must parent in truth and love. That means that what God says on a topic is far more important than what we think, what the government says, or what the culture tries to shove down our throats.
To that end, join us next time as we look at how to “Teach Your Children to Discern by Teaching Them to Divide.”
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