The Christian’s Responsibility To Government

by Robert Driskell on September 30, 2012 · Print Print · Email Email

The political and moral climate in America is in turmoil.  It has probably been this way for some time, but now it is reported better.  With television channels and radio stations devoted entirely to the political landscape, it is hard to not be a little anxious about the condition of our country.  Some Christians are fearful that our government is becoming more and more ungodly.  There are those, some professing Christians among them, who would advocate a forceful overthrow of our government.  What does the Bible say about our relationship to government?  Let us investigate.

The New Testament On Christians And Government

Romans 13:1-17 lays out guidelines for the Christian’s relationship with government.  By giving these verses some careful thought, and allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal biblical truth, the believer can form a godly view concerning his or her responsibility to government.

Verses 1-2: “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 resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (see also Titus 3:1; I Peter 2:13-17). 

The first thing that is apparent from these verses is that the Christian should not have a rebellious, antagonistic attitude toward our leaders.  Nothing happens that God does not authorize.  Therefore, those politicians who are in power are there because God has allowed it.  History has shown us that, generally, a people who are following God will have good leaders, whereas a people who reject God will have ungodly leaders.  Oftentimes it is through these ungodly leaders that God’s judgment is felt on those who have rejected Him.

Verses 3-4: “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.  Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority?  Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for 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.” 

These verses tell us that the purpose of government is to be God’s representative in preventing ‘bad conduct’ or ‘wrong-doing’.  However, when a government becomes an agent of evil or wrongdoing itself, it is no longer fulfilling its God-given purpose and the Christian is no longer obligated to obey it.  Nevertheless, resisting an evil government may bring severe consequences because, as verse four tells us, the government ‘bears a sword’ and, as history has revealed, is often too quick to utilize it.

Verses 5-7: “Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.  For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.  Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” 

This passage contains several biblical truths central to our study.  First, there are two guiding principles here to be followed in determining our responsibility to government.  One is that a good government should be God’s servant, dispensing His wrath and His judgments; if this is not the case, we cannot legitimately call that government ‘good’.  Secondly, the believer’s conscience must be involved in any response to government; our Holy Spirit-guided conscience should be our guide.  If it is a good government, we should obey it for God’s sake.  If it is a bad government, and they attempt to force us to violate our conscience, we are obligated to do God’s will, not the government’s.  These principles come from the phrase “pay to all what is owed to them”.  We do not owe allegiance to an ungodly government.  When God’s will and government’s will conflict, our allegiance must be to God.

What is A Christians's Responsibility To Government

It is very clear that God is sovereign over everything that happens to us. What is our responsibility to God? Our basic foundational response is to, “…love the Lord your God with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul and with all [our] mind and with all [our] strength.”

We Are To Pray For Our Leaders

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior…”  (I Timothy 2:1-3 ESV)  The Bible tells us that we are to pray for our leaders.  We do not go before God’s throne enough on behalf of our leaders.  Too many times, we rely on our supposed political power instead of relying on the spiritual power that comes from our Heavenly Father.

If We Are Asked To Do Anything, We Know God Would Not Want Us To Do; We Must Obey God Rather Than Our Government

In the Book of Acts, the religious leaders of that day attempted to force the disciples of Jesus to stop preaching the Gospel.  However, Jesus had appointed these disciples to spread the Gospel everywhere they could.  The Bible records the disciple’s response, “But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men…”  (Acts 5:29 ESV).  Clearly, from what we have already seen, the Christian is not to be a troublemaker.  Nevertheless, if what we are asked to do conflicts with what God wants us to do, we are to “obey God rather than men”.  If we are asked to violate our conscience, a conscience controlled by the Holy Spirit, then we should refuse and, instead, do what God would have us do.

Christians Need To Vote

In our country, we have the ability to make our opinions known by exercising our right to vote.  What would America be like if every Christian prayed for God’s guidance and voted their conscience?  It would have to have a positive effect.  Besides praying for our leaders and our country, voting is the best way the Christian can influence the political climate of our nation.

Remember That, No Matter What The Situation, God Is In Control

Oftentimes, we are intimidated by our perception of government.  We see it as all-powerful, as far as it has the ability to define, or rescind, our liberties.  However, we can rest in the fact that nothing takes place unless God causes or allows it to happen.  “So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me?  Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”  Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above”” (John 19:10-11 ESV).  God’s sovereignty applies not on to Pilate, but to everything in the universe.

It is very clear that God is sovereign over everything that happens to us.  What is our responsibility to God?  Our basic foundational response is to, “…love the Lord your God with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul and with all [our] mind and with all [our] strength.”  (Mark 12:30 ESV; also Matthew 22:37 and Luke 10:27).  When we live this way, we have nothing to fear from man at all, not even the entity we call ‘government’.

“What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?”  (Romans 8:31 ESV)

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack Wellman September 30, 2012 at 5:53 pm

I truly believe this was so needed Robert. I am an active voter but only 22% of evangelicals vote. Why I ask? I believe Romans 12 is a Christian’s job description and Romans 13 is a Christians life-role responsibility. To not vote is to still make a choice…a choice to not make a difference. I choose to vote. God is sovereign, yes, but He uses those of His to make a difference. I chose to participate in our God-given freedom to vote. To not make a choice is still making a choice not to care. I agree, we will give an account for our talents given and give an account to our Lord and Master someday with what we have been given. Great work.

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Robert Miller September 30, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Jack,

That is an excellent point! Is it wrong that your comment made me think of the Rush song Freewill, specifically where it states, “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice”? Anyway, I’ve started praying to God every night to guide me when it comes time to vote. Hopefully I’ll feel His presence at the polls when the time comes. I honestly dread election day, because of all the contention I’m expecting to arise that day, but I’ll still vote.

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Robert October 1, 2012 at 6:59 am

Robert,
Thanks for reading and commenting. That line from the Rush song is very appropriate here. To do nothing IS to do something. Christians must vote, otherwise the decisions that shape this country will be made by those either with no agenda or those with an anti-God agenda. We are Jesus’s body here on earth, this includes His voice. Voting is one way to spread His word. God bless you, Robert.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Robert October 1, 2012 at 7:07 am

Thank you kindly, Jack,
There are many ways that a Christian can be an influence on society. Voting is one that I believe is very important right now. The leaders of this country, in a limited way, determine the direction of the country. Also, the elected leaders reveal the heart of the country. In other words, the person who gets elected reveals how the majority of Americans feel. God is sovereign but, as in the case of King Saul, many times He will give us what we want in order to reveal our hearts. God bless you Jack.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Derek Hill September 30, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Thank you for this article Robert. It speaks truth into the hearts of men. I pray that all believers in Christ would vote this election. God will appoint who He chooses, but we still need to vote.

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Robert October 1, 2012 at 7:03 am

Thank you, Derek,
I too, am praying for a large Christian turnout this year. While we must keep separate in our minds the difference between the Kingdom of Heaven and the earthly kingdom, we are to influence the earthly one with the Heavenly one. God bless you, brother.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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David October 2, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Hi Robert,
Interesting article as is everything I read on this site. I would like to get your opinion on the state of the US at this point in time. I hear many Christians saying they will vote for one side or another based on their biblical beliefs and the beliefs that they feel their chosen party exhibits. From what I can see neither side is really for God. Both lie, cheat, try to separate rather than join people, I have never seen a true example of love come from any of them. I could keep going on with all of the non Christian things both parties have done over the years and will more than likely continue to do moving forward. If we are to judge a tree by its fruit then I cannot see in good faith how either of them is here to promote the values of God, in fact they are closer to promoting Satan’s agenda …So I suppose in a nutshell I am asking how can we take sides with either? It seems like a false choice, if we are trying to do the right thing….

Thanks

David

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Robert Driskell October 2, 2012 at 5:22 pm

First, thank you for reading and commenting, David. You have a good points in what you say. You are absolutely correct about neither party promoting God’s plan, only their own. I would like it to be otherwise, but the truth is that, when it comes to politics, there seems to be very little concern at all for what God wants. There are some exceptions. There are some politicians I know who are truly seeking to represent Jesus Christ. Tragically, it seems they are in the minority. As our country grows increasingly colder to the things of God, so do our representatives. After all, they ‘represent’ us. This should be motivation for Christians to stand up for the Truth of God, and His Word. We have as much right to voice our beliefs as anyone else does.

When it comes to deciding between candidates, sometimes there is no GOOD choice, only a LESS BAD one. I can only say that it is so very very important for Christians to be praying for those in power and leadership positions. God can change situations we think are unchangeable.

I know the upcoming presidential election is on many people’s minds. However, we Americans get the chance to vote on many other things and we should seek to vote the way God would have us vote in these areas also.

David, when I do not have a clear choice of which candidate to vote for, I pray for God’s guidance, learn as much as I can about the candidates, and vote my conscience. I know that if I don’t vote, whatever influence I might have had will go to waste.

It can be a complicated issue, David. if you intend to vote, I urge you to spend some serious time praying for God’s guidance. Also, pray for other Christians, pray for a revival in this country…we surely need it.

I hope I’ve helped in some way. I hope I haven’t confused you more. My simplest advice would be to stay as close as you can to God, vote your conscience, and know that many of us struggle with this same issue.
God bless you, David.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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David October 3, 2012 at 11:30 am

Hi Robert,

Thanks for taking the time to reply. I understand where you are coming from, we can only vote our conscience at the end of the day…As long as we are close to God, it really won’t matter either way.

Thanks

David

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Sean October 2, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Robert, you call our politicians leaders, but that is not their given role in our country. The Constitution is clear we are a self-governed people. In other words, the politicians are NOT our leaders, they are STEWARDS, intended to be subject to the true rulers, which is we the people. This is what is meant by self-governed. Government’s only legitimate role in this country is to protect each person’s liberty (legislative branch), and resolve the dispute when two peoples’ rights seem to conflict (judicial branch), and execute the will of we the people, ensuring it runs smoothly and with a good direction (executive branch).
So, if a government usurps the authority of we the people, it becomes illegitimate, and it SHOULD be resisted. I’m not advocating any method of doing so over any other method, just pointing out what should be obvious, except our government orchestrated educational system no longer teaches this, and the citizenry has become either too lazy or too complacent to educate their own children.

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Jack Wellman October 2, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Sean, thank you for your comment. I can not answer for Robert, but I believe that his point in this article is that if we don’t vote, we don’t have any input into who is going to be making decisions for our nation. It is our responsibility…indeed it is everyone’s to vote for not to vote is to make a choice and apathy can not solve anything. How can we resist but to make our votes our voice. If politicians are not the leaders, then who are they? I see your point. We are the true leaders but we are leading by voting. What other options might you suggest Sean? I do agree that they are our stewards but beyond voting and yes, educating our children what more can we do sir? I think your point about the citizenry being too complacent is a great point and we are becoming lazy and complacent to educate our own children, also good points. We can’t let the public school system do this, but I do wish more parents would be the parent.

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Robert October 3, 2012 at 7:18 am

Hi Sean,
Thanks for reading and commenting. The reason I call politicians ‘leaders’ is because they seem to have taken over that role. I agree with you, and so does the Bible (Romans 13), that the government exists to maintain order (mostly). However, I also realize that people are sinful and do not conduct themselves as God would have them. This is where Christians come in. We can vote our conscience for one thing, but even more, we stand up (and speak) for the truth of the Gospel. Only when people’s hearts are changed and they begin to live as God would have them live, will our society be what it should be.

Voting, lobbying, word of mouth…these are some of the ways we can influence our government now. Some are more effective than others. However, remember that the government has some good functions also. Therefore, to simply usurp, or resist them on everything, would not be helpful.

Sean, the thing that is frustrating to me is that most of those in office have been elected. Therefore, voters are responsible for the condition of our government, voters elected those who are in office. What does this say about the make-up of our nation? Humanity was created in order to worship God and have a relationship with Him. That is not the view of many today. That is the problem with so many things in our country, including the government. God bless you.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Morden Grey February 3, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Amen.

Well said Robert. Well said.

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