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. ~Romans 13:1
One of our key Baptist tenets is the separation between the church and state. By this, the state is not to control the affairs of the church, and the church is not to unduly influence the state for reasons that are unbiblical. However, Christians are obligated to obey the laws of the land as good citizens. God refers to government as “the higher powers.”
We see the selection.
God has ordained or appointed leaders in government for upholding the laws of the land. God calls these leaders His servants. Civil and criminal laws have their foundation in God’s Word. Our legal and judicial systems were created for the purpose of enforcing order, civilian obedience, safety, and settlement of disputes. We have myriads of laws to abide by. There are civil, criminal, occupational, tax, traffic, and other laws that are designed to keep our communities functioning in an orderly manner. God is the highest power, and, ultimately, every power must see itself as being an extension of Him. While there will always be someone in a specific office whose political and philosophical views might conflict with us and the Bible, we are commanded to respect these people and uphold all that is morally right.
We see the submission.
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” We are commanded to obey the laws of the land. We are expected to be law-abiding citizens. First, we must be in submission to these laws because of the consequence of disobedience. There are fines, penalties, denial of privileges, incarceration, and even capital punishment for disobedience. Second, we must be in submission for conscience’s sake. We must obey the laws and magistrates because we sin against our own conscience when we disobey. We should be bothered in conscience if we break a law. Third, obedience and submission is all-inclusive. Paul said, “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” The basic responsibilities include paying your taxes, yielding the right of way, giving honor to the higher powers, and not doing anything that reflects a lawless attitude.
We see the stoppage.
Enforcement of the laws curtails a society that is anarchist, lawless, and out-of-control. It deters crimes from happening. It makes sure that severe criminal penalties are enforced against reckless and criminal behavior. It serves to provide justice to citizens who are victims of wrongdoing by others. It instills safety to law-abiding citizens. It helps people to put their heads on their pillows at night and not be anxious about their community or city being overrun by lawbreakers.
We see a standard.
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” The average citizen will not be knowledgeable about every law and its consequence. In light of this, God gives us a guiding rule to help us be law-abiding citizens and be pleasing to Him. The standard or benchmark for our lives is to abide by the royal law, or to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to hold each person in high esteem and treat another person with respect and care as we would want them to treat us. In keeping our laws, we must never lose sight of the opportunity of demonstrating that our motivation is the love of God working in us.
God is a God of order in everything. Let us remember to be godly citizens in an ungodly world.
Have a love-filled God Morning!
Bible Reading Schedule: Job 1-4