An old heresy has been revived that states Christians must always submit to authority and always obey their government.
It is based upon Holy Scriptures such as these:
Romans 13:1 to 6 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.
Titus 3:1 - Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,
1 Peter 2:13 - Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
Using these Holy Scriptures alone, and others like them, would convince any honest - minded, tenderhearted Christian that no matter what law is passed and no matter what order was given by someone in authority over them that they should obey it. That is part of the problem: some people separate these passages from the rest of the counsel of the Holy Scriptures.
While attending the Dorchester County Council (Maryland) sometime 2003 or 4 when gambling slots were a hot issue, I was appauled to hear one Christian whine before Maryland Senator Richard Colburn (R-37) that if the senator saw to it that slots were approved for the county, that he (the whining Christian) would have to obey that ruling without complaint -- that he was subservient to whatever the Maryland legislature dished out.
Always keep in mind at least three things about understanding what the Word of God means:
1. Keep the immediate and book context of the passage in mind.
2. Scripture interprets Scripture.
3. Passages are to be understood in the context of the entire counsel of the Holy Scriptures.
Points 2 and 3 can be applied to all the passages listed above, and passages like them: I will soon elaborate on this.
The whole of the epistle it is found in, and the passage's immediate context, affects the 1 Peter passage, specifically verses 19 to 20 of the same chapter.
As you see, Peter by the Spirit speaks of suffering for doing well. Many times it is human authority that causes that suffering when a Christian is obeying what God has told him to do. See 3:17.
Keep in mind this is the same Peter that told human authority, "We ought to obey God rather than men."- Acts 5:29
So you see, when he wrote by the Spirit...."Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lordís sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;"... he surely meant as long as it did not violate God's command.
Paul suffered severely at the hands human authority for proclaiming the Gospel of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:23-26). He disobeyed both Jewish and Roman authority who wanted him to be silent. Had he simply obeyed authority, he would not be whipped, stoned, and put in prison, -- and the Gospel would not have spread as it did.
As you can see, both men, for very good reasons, disobeyed human government, as did John the Apostle.
When you read Revelation 1 you see he was on the island of Patmos. He was not there on vacation. He was banished there because his Christian life violated some human law (Rev. 1:9).
If Paul and Peter by the Spirit meant absolute total obedience to human government, then why were Christians perscecuted? Why suffer and die?
How about Jesus Who turned over the money tables? We're not temple rules broken? You may say, "But that is Jesus, not me." If you are a real Christian, Jesus lives in you. Tables need to be overthrown when God directs.
If you are citizen of the United States of America, keep in mind the U.S.A. exists in part because people disobeyed and rebelled. Ever read about the Boston Tea Party?
All disobediene and rebellion is not wrong. There is a time to disobey.
A couple of years back I was so glad to hear of a married Roman Catholic who was a soldier in the Army refused to sleep in the same confines with a female soldier. Most likely some Protestants would not fight the issue, and a few would gleefully give in.
India has gained independence, in part due to the encouragement of civil disobedience by Mahatma Gandhi.
Here is at least one more example: The Afro-American Rosa Parks who refused to give up her bus seat to Caucasian man.
There is a time and place, with good reason, to disobey. As Peter and others write by the Spirit, we are free with absolute allegiance belonging to God alone. Just keep in mind, "As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God." - 1 Peter 2:16.
However, in many of these instances people are told not to try to win people to Christ, don't mention Christ, and don't mention you are a Christian and you are there under the auspices of a church, denomination or fellowship. The reasons they give include "you will hinder the outreach", "you may be put in prison", "you may endanger the missions team", and "you may be killed." While this may the best way to go in some cases, these warnings are on the increase and may adversely affect a time and situation when Christians need to be as bold as Peter, John and Paul.
I distinctly remember a time when suffering and martyrdom of missionaries was something that was to be expected in ceritain situations.
The true key to know what to do is to be in tune with the Holy Spirit.
P.S. - I began my commentary by saying "An old heresy has been revived...". The theories the Church should be completely or predominately subservient to the state originated during the Middle Ages. Sidenote: I have just remembered something I caught a glimpse on from the news when Bill Clinton was President. Secret Service agents rushed away and probably arrested a man described as preacher who had been shouting something at the president. Maybe he was prophesying? Anyhow, God bless that man who obeyed and warned Mr. Clinton.
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