“Most Christians salute the sovereignty of God but believe in the sovereignty of man.”
– R.C. Sproul
Have you read the comments on various news articles on Facebook? Doing this can reveal a lot about our attitudes toward government and where our government is going.
We see the 2020 election as a pivotal point in our American society. We hear words like “socialism” or “gun control,” and we take to our keyboards writing our opinions.
The pathway our government is going has become a headlining issue. We all have an opinion on this. You will hear one person decry socialism. Yet, another will try to show the benefits of it. There are debates, protests, and online fights over different government systems.
Our reactions expose a theme in our lives: the system of American government is important. However, is this a biblical priority for Christians? How should we biblically respond to governing systems in our country and around the world?
Christian and Government: The Biblical Data
What does the Bible directly say about government?
Thinking about the Christian and government, Romans 13:1-7 is the first passage that should come to mind. We see here there is an imperative in the Greek. We are to submit to the governing authority.
I Timothy 2:1-4 is another location where Paul writes about the Christian interaction with government. We are to pray for those in authority in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life.
Peter, also, mentions the government. I Peter 2:13-14 states that we need to submit to the governing authorities over us.
From these classic passages, we are instructed to submit to and to pray for governing authorities in our lives. In American culture our authorities would be the president, senators, governors, representatives, mayors, judges, police, teachers, employers, etc. Every day we live our lives under multiple layers of governing authorities. According to Scripture, we are to submit and pray.
Christians and Government: The Source
Even though we know the command to submit, we forget there is a divine source and divine sovereignty to all government.
Romans 13:1 reveals God bringing to authority those who he wishes. All governments and their leaders are instituted by God. This God is our Creator (Genesis 1). This God loves each of us so much that our sin needed a Savior (John 3:16). This God cares about individual sparrows and cares for us. We do not have to worry (Luke 12:22-34).
God is sovereign. God knows what is happening. Nothing takes Him by surprise. He knows what is best for us, and He will never leave or forsake us.
Do you think God does not know what He is doing when it comes to our government?
Christians and Government: A Lesson from the Past
Christians do worry about and voice their concerns of who is going to be in office. We cast our votes, we put signs on our yards, and we promote others to vote a certain way in order to keep one group (we deem evil) out of office.
In the early church, there was not much control of who was in office. The early Christians did not have a voice like we have today. Many of the emperors of Rome persecuted Christians. Religious freedom was not a denied right. Religious freedom for Christians did not exist until Constantine.
Christians were persecuted. Even in the book of Acts, Christians were hunted down as the most dangerous game. They were beaten, thrown in prison, crucified, beheaded, and ripped apart by wild animals.
While in prison for preaching the Gospel, Paul writes, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself (Philippians 4:11-12).” Paul used the circumstances he found as opportunities to give the Gospel and make disciples around him (Ephesians 6:19-20).
Democracy and religious freedom did not exist in Paul’s society. Yet, Paul was content. His goal was to bring Christ to others no matter who was the governing authority. The government was not the hope and foundation of his faith.
Christians and Government: A Lesson from the Present
I had the opportunity to listen to a pastor from a culture where it is illegal to speak about the Gospel openly. In his culture, Christians must meet in secret. Christians have concern for their safety. Christian families may be split apart and the father put in prison. There are consequences from the government like not being able to do banking or other business just for having a home church.
He was asked how he could have such a strong faith amidst such an oppressive government. His answer was quite thought provoking. The hope of his faith did not rest in the government. His hope was in his heavenly citizenship secured by the death and resurrection of Jesus sealed by the Holy Spirit. The citizenship in his culture came second to his citizenship in heaven.
This pastor is able to live out his faith with boldness, courage, and an open hand because his citizenship is sealed by the Holy Spirit. His government has regulations. Does the tightening down on these regulations concern him? No. His goal is to live for Christ. His faith does not rise and fall with whatever system of government is in power.
Christians and Government: The Challenge
Timothy Keller writes, “If the Christian faith gets too identified with a party, it reduces Christianity to a political position.”
2020 is coming. Republicans and democrats seem to be going at each other every time the news is broadcasted. We hear the words “socialism” and “impeachment,” and our emotions get going. We hear about people wanting to change the constitution and take away our rights. Our emotions start to bubble and our reactions come out. It seems like our faith is strengthened or weakened by what is happening in government.
Can we live as content Christians with the republicans in office? Can we live as content Christians with the democrats in office? Can we live for Christ whether the governing system is democracy or socialism?
We are commanded to submit, pray, and live. Can we be like Paul and this pastor living in a hostile culture and be content? Can we find opportunities to make disciples while living under a government system that is not our preference?
We tend to forget that God is sovereign when the ways of government do not go our way.
What is the hope of your faith? Putting faith in a political party makes a bad religion
We say God is sovereign, but we tend to live as if man is in charge.
“It is a most blessed thing to be subject to the sovereignty of God.”
– John Calvin