"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."
(Declaration of Independence)
Our nation, our very identity as citizens of America, is founded in revolution against oppressive governments. Ever since our founding, we have encouraged revolution against oppression throughout the world. As was once said, "rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God."
What does God say about this? Well, let us turn to His Word.
"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. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 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: 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. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour." (Romans 13:1-7)
This is extremely blunt and easy to understand. All authority is given by God. He chooses all the leaders of all governments. That means He has chosen everyone from Reagan to Stalin, Washington to Hitler, Bush to Mao. Furthermore, because He has appointed the powers that be, we must obey the authorities and not resist them. If we revolt against human authority, we revolt against God Almighty Himself, and as a result earn damnation.
Many people in America, including many pastors, do not like this idea of submission to authority. Therefore, they come up with highly complex arguments that "disprove" submission. Chuck Baldwin is one of these men, and I strongly encourage you to read his reply to Romans 13.
Let me be blunt with you for a moment. This is a perversion of the Biblical doctrine of submission to authority. Let me explain:
First off, he claims that people who believe that we must submit to the government and not rebel are ignorant sheeple, or "just plain lazy". Not only is this insulting to me, it is a direct insult against God Almighty, the One who made this passage. Now, let me move on to specific Theological issues with this man's arguments.
He brings up a good point that our obedience to Man and human institutions is limited. However, he does not define this limit according to the Bible, and here is where he goes wrong.
Mr. Baldwin says that this passage says that all true rulers are not a terror to good, but only to evil. Therefore, any government that punishes good behavior is no longer legitimate and must be defied and/or overthrown by Christians. Is this true according to the Bible?
First of all, the Apostle is here teaching that the government which was then in power over Rome should be obeyed. Since this Epistle was written somewhere in around early to late 50 A.D., we know that the Apostle must be talking about the government in that time. This was the same government that murdered the Apostle James in A.D. 44 (Acts 12), allowed the murder of Stephen, and instigated the killings, jailing, beating, and otherwise harassing of the followers of Christ. The worst travesty that this government had done was to murder the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, the Lord and God of all.
I must say, this government was definitely not a terror to good works, which is why the Apostle said that Christians should obey it.
Let us further expound upon this argument.
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. (1 Peter 2:13-17)
"And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?”And those who stood by said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?”
Then Paul said, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’"(Acts 23:2-5)
Could it be any more clear for us? Here Paul was slapped, and followed Baldwin's advice: he reviled and slandered the Authority which God had placed above him. Guess what, when Paul was rebuked, he repented, saying that he had disobeyed God's command just by slandering the Sanhedrin.
If Paul's mere slander was sin, how much more terrible is the idea of revolting!
Now, what is our obedience limited to?
"Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.
Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them,
Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:25-29)
There we are. If the Government tells us to disobey God, then we do not disobey God.
Another thing needs addressed. Baldwin's argument here rests upon the idea that any government which harms people for doing good is not recognized nor chosen by God. It is thus not God's Agent.
Not only is this impossible to prove using the Bible (notice how Baldwin does not use the Bible to defend this), this teaching is a slap in the face of God, for it defies His Absolute Sovereignty over everything including governments. All things, ultimately, are agents of God. He has put every single government and authority in place, and nothing can have any power without His Sovereign decision to give that power. THAT is what this passage is saying, and what Baldwin is denying.
How does Mr. Baldwin get to these conclusions? He takes the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence as if they were decrees of God Almighty. They are his substitution for the Bible, Natural Law Philosophy is his Theology, and America is his Heaven on Earth.
That, sadly, is the state of many people today. Make no mistake, I love this country. I am patriotic, and supportive of the government. However, this nation is not my Home, this government is not my Lord. Heaven is my ultimate destination, and God is my King.
As leaders in the Church, let us remember to look forward to what lies ahead, obeying the human authorities for Christ's sake.