Today a new American president will be sworn into office. Maybe you like him. Maybe you don’t. Whatever the case, your view of the president should not determine how you relate and respond to the government as a Christian. Romans 13:1 provides the standard: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.”
But submission never comes naturally to our seemingly autonomous existence. It’s even harder when we have to bow in subjection to wicked rulers with evil policies. That’s the bitter pill Christians have had to swallow in recent decades, as we’ve wrestled with our consciences over increasingly evil political agendas.
For many of us, our moral outrage is soothed with thoughts of sanctified rebellion. The thought of sticking it to the man and being spiritual about it appeals to our righteous indignation. We know we’re supposed to obey the law, but doesn’t God make exceptions for bad laws?
That’s the dilemma many of us have when reading Paul’s admonition to submit to the government. What should that subjection look like for a Christian living in a dark and fallen world? Is there a threshold of evil where Paul’s command no longer applies?
John MacArthur’s sermon, “Why Christians Submit to the Government” brings much needed clarity to this divisive subject. It is an exposition of Romans 13:2–5, verses that unpack the implications of Paul’s admonition.
John teaches the fundamental principles of Christian submission—regardless of who sits in authority. These are principles we all need to grasp in order to glorify God through our conduct in an evil world. And lest we think Paul couldn’t have anticipated the adversity we now face in modern times, Pastor John offers this sobering reminder:
So what does a Christian do in a society like ours? We obey, we submit and we have nothing to fear from the authorities. By the way, the man who wrote this [Paul] had been treated badly by the authorities. He had been unjustly jailed. He had been unjustly beaten. He had been unjustly whipped, he had been treated very badly. But the principle still stands. And when persecution comes, we don’t retaliate with arms, we don’t retaliate with criminal conduct. Peter says you commit your soul to a faithful creator and you accept what comes. There will be persecuting governments. Ours is not there this time, but even when it comes, we don’t take up arms against the government.
We are never called to go to war with our mission field. Like Paul, our interactions with civic leaders and rulers should be fueled by our desire to further the gospel. “Why Christians Submit to the Government” is a timely reminder of how God expects us to live our lives as we await those evangelistic opportunities. We don’t want the way we live to undermine the gospel we preach.