Christians and Government

JP: 3 good blog posts about Christians and Government.

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Christians and Government – Part 1


…. we have government because God has ordained that government exist. Romans 13:1 tells us to submit to government, and then it gives us the reason we must submit. We must submit because those placed in government over us have been placed there by God. No one becomes the governor of California or President of the United States unless God ordains it. Throughout all of history, God has selected those who will rule. For example, in Isaiah 45:1,5-6 God makes it very clear that He is the one who has raised Cyrus into political power.

“Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed . . . I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, That people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other.”

Consequently, the one who disobeys government disobeys the direct command of God, and because he has directly disobeyed God’s command, he will suffer judgment. This judgment may come from the hand of the government itself, or it may come from the hand of God through other means.

The point is that the major reason we have government is because God has ordained that we have it. Government is not an accident. Government is not an evil and terrible thing, despite what many will tell you today. God has instituted the family, the church, and the state. We spend much of our time thinking about the church and the family, and rightly so. From time to time we need to stop and ponder our relationship to the third institution that God has ordained, government.

The second reason that we have government is that the state is ordained to restrain evil doers and promote those who do good.

John Calvin says that governments are useful “…that the public tranquility may not be disturbed; that every person may enjoy his property without molestation; that men may transact their business together without fraud or injustice; that integrity and modesty may be cultivated among them…”

In other words, as Christians we must not consider the organized state as a bad thing. Calvin uses the adjective “useful” to describe his perspective on the state and I think its a helpful description of the proper Christian attitude.

Generally throughout history, though not without exceptions, governments have restrained people from evil and protected those who have done good. It is noteworthy that even though Paul suffered at the hand of his government multiple times for his faith, he still recognized the need for government and the place of government in restraining evil. Interestingly enough, John Macarthur notes in his commentary on Romans that the United States is one of the freest places to live in the world, with the least government intrusion, but we also suffer from one of the highest crime rates in the civilized world. One in every 100 Americans is in jail right now. The point is that government involvement often lowers the rate of violent crime and biblically this is exactly the purpose of the state. In Romans 13:4 it says government has authority from God to inflict punishment, even to the point of inflicting the death penalty.

Government is also placed over us to promote our good. It is certainly not wrong for Christians to expect protection and benefits from government. We live in a fallen world. People are sinful . . . and even Christians are sinful. God, in His kindness has given us the state as a means of restraining evil and promoting good.

Christians and Government – Part 2


Perhaps the most important and certainly the most extensive text dealing with the Christian perspective on government is Romans 13:1-7. As we seek to understand the implications of this text in our daily lives, we must understand these verses in their proper context.

The first verse of chapter 13 takes us back to the first two verses of chapter 12. We find out that it is our responsibility to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. We are not to be conformed to this world, but are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can live out God’s will in our daily lives.

These are among the most beloved verses in all the Bible for many Christians. They lay out our duty so clearly and challenge us to give everything to God in order to live in a way that is pleasing to Him. These verses set the stage for a series of commands given in chapter 12. Verse 3 tells us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. Verse 6 instructs us to exercise our gifts for the good of those around us. Verse 9 says to let love be without hypocrisy. Verse 16 says to be of the same mind toward one another. Verse 21 says to not be overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good. For some reason we tend to stop there, but in the original documents there was no chapter break between 12 and 13. We should continue right into chapter 13. This chapter begins by telling us that we all must be in subjection to the governing authorities.

In other words, to fulfill the command in chapter 12:1 to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, you must obey the command in chapter 13:1. The way in which you relate to your government is extremely significant in terms of your relationship to God. To put this another way, your personal sanctification includes how you submit to your government.

We have a specific command here to submit ourselves to our governing authorities and this is the first major responsibility a Christian has toward his government. Submission means much more than grudgingly obeying civil laws. This is the same word that is used in Ephesians 5:21 where we are commanded to submit to one another. Submission means literally to subject oneself, to obey; to submit to one’s control; to yield to one’s admonition or advice. We are to arrange ourselves under the leadership of the state in our lives in an attitude of submission and respect with the purpose of obedience for the glory of God.

Christians and Government – Part 3


This time we’ll take a look at another duty believers have to the state — paying taxes.

Reports tell us that more people every year are not paying their taxes. A couple of months ago I interacted with several Christians on a blog over the issue of Christians and taxation. Their responses and anger over paying taxes to what they considered an “unjust” government shocked me. They felt Christians aren’t responsible to pay taxes to our government because the tax rate is (in their opinion) unfairly high. I strongly disagree with those sentiments and believe Scripture teaches the payment of taxes to be a biblical injunction.

We’ll find in Romans 13:6-7 that we are commanded to pay taxes for conscience sake because we live under divinely ordained authority. These verses remind us that rulers are servants of God. In verse 7 Paul uses the word render. We’ll see this word used again in a minute when we discuss what Jesus had to say about taxes. This word doesn’t mean to give as a gift. When we pay taxes we are not taking some of our money and giving it to our government against our wishes. Paul uses the word render because he wants us to understand this money belongs to the government, and we are simply rendering it back to them. Paul commands believers to “Pay to all what is owed to them.” We are stealing money from the God-ordained institution of government when we refuse to pay taxes.

Christ reminded his hearers that we have obligations to the state as well as to God. Obviously, when these two obligations conflict, we obey God rather than men. However, part of obedience to God is obedience to the state through the payment of taxes, even when the government we are under is corrupt. We are still responsible to pay the government what we owe, because that is exactly what God has told us to do.

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