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The Saint and the State


The Saint and the State

Text .  Romans 13:1–7

We have recently had a UK national election, and the result is a hung parliament.   Chaos.  But why do we need a government, or parliament or a local assembly?  After all some of our elected politicians have been a disgrace, – more interested in their own salaries and expenses than in pubic service. As a result of their legislation, our society is more secular and ungodly than ever before.   So, what is the relationship between the believer and the government? Let’s see…


  1. The Believers Responsibility. Let every soul be subject Be a loyal subject!

The need for governing authorities. V1. 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. Paul recognises that they exist and that we must acknowledge them. Who would run the hospitals, empty the bins etc if they did not exist?  Who would order society?  Anarchy and chaos would reign.  Because government is necessary:-

  • God in his providence and sovereignty appoints our governments. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God    He always rules every situation according to his will and purpose, even if we can’t see that at the time.  In fact sometimes, that appointment is to chasten His own people.  There’s historical and biblical evidence of this.  Habakkuk 1:5     The conclusion of this is stark…
  • To resist them is to resist God, and incur his wrath. V2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.  Now surely that will be a challenge for all of us, for there are times when it seems that civil disobedience is the only way.     Furthermore…
  • The government has the divine right to bear a sword for justice! V4

This is not some unusual doctrine for a specific local situation that Paul is talking about either.  There are plenty of other references in the NT: 1 Timothy 2:1-2   Titus 3:1  1 Peter 2:13-17   Jesus himself had been asked about this very issue in Mark 12:13 -17.  The early Christian apologists like Justin Martyr and Tertulluan employed the Christian subjection to authority as a defence of the faith!  So in making these comments Paul is stating quite clearly that the Christians attitude to authority is to submit, to acknowledge that authority and to respect that office. Practically speaking, how will that respect be given:-

  • Christians will obey the law of the land. V3 do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
  • Christians will keep a clear conscience in respect of the law. V5  
  • Christians will pay their tax bill! Acknowledging that to do so is in fact an act of obedience to God, to contribute to the overall good of society, to pay for our hospitals and our security.  V7      
  • Christians will give honour to the king! And sing the national anthem! fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

So, the Christian beliver is a model citizen in evry way!


  1. The State’s Responsibility. unto the higher powers

So Christians in Rome were to honour, respect and obey the laws of the land. Caesar’s law. But there are two sides to this coin.  The government also has a responsibility, and we can see it quite clearly here too.

  • To acknowledge the God who ordained their power. V2   
  • To minister benevolently. V4 .
  • To punish evil doers. V4 and to praise what is good. V3  
  • To be consistent in administrative affairs. V6     Government officials are ‘Ministers!’

There is a delicate balance. The Christian must respect the government and the government must honour the Lord God who placed it in power.


  1. When Two Worlds Collide. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God

Ethically, what happens when the government attacks the church and fails in its side of the equation.  What happens when the government oppresses the church?   There is of course a biblical precedent for this. It is found in Acts 5, where the Jewish authorities ordered the Apostles to cease and desist from preaching about Jesus.  Acts 5:5:24-29  The key here seems to be that the governing authorities were hindering and prohibiting the preaching of the Gospel.  Look at the accusations against the Apostles:

  • Disobedience of an edict prohibiting the mention of Jesus’s nane! Don’t talk about Chrst! (Ok to OMG on Facebook, or use the name of Christ in blasphemy of course)
  • Preaching DOCTRINE. Cant have that!  Declaring absolute truth, and making others fell that they are being judged?  No on.
  • Blaming us for Christ’s death! Like it because of us, our sins that Jesus was put to death, saying that He died in our place – how dare anyone blame me for the death of God’s son.

Peter’s answer is clear.   In these circumstances, (and in very few others) our first duty is to obey God, not men.  This was the case with the great historical examples of disobedience, like when the covenantors in Scotland in the 16th century rose up against the Stuart kings, who were trying to use the ‘divine right of kings’ to enforce Anglican conformity (and popish ritual) over and above the clear teaching of God’s Word.

We have a very fine ethical line!  When the gospel is being hindered, when Christian doctrine is being attacked, surely we have a ringht to evoke Peter’s defence.  I’m just not so sure about the right to march down a road!

Bob McEvoy, June 2017

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