by Mike Ratliff
1 Let every person p be subject to the governing authorities. For q there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you r will receive his approval, 4 for s he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, t an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also u for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 v Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1-7 ESV)
13 n Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,  whether it be to the emperor  as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him o to punish those who do evil and p to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, q that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 r Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but s living as servants  of God. 17 t Honor everyone. u Love the brotherhood. v Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17 ESV)
God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates, to be, under Him, over the people, for His own glory, and the public good; and, to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers…Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Westminster Confession 23.1,3)
During my recent visit to Washington, D.C., it was obvious that the city and surrounding area is being consumed by the upcoming Barak Obama inauguration. The city will be pretty much shut down for several days during this time; at least as far as vehicular traffic is concerned. One curious souvenir I returned with is my Metro fare card. I purchased it for $20 last Tuesday. When I departed on Saturday morning it still had $4.20 left on it. The curiosity about it for me, however, is the picture printed on front. At the top, just below the arrow showing what direction to insert the card, it states, “Celebrating the Inauguration of Barak Obama.” Below that is a black and white photo of a smiling Obama. Below his face is printed, “44th President of the United States.” Every time I used that card, my descending balance was printed one line lower just to the left of Obama’s face.
I made 10 trips on the Metro last week so I had this small paper reminder at each end of my ride showing me who our next president will be. Also, Obama’s name is everywhere in the city. There are sweatshirts and t-shirts galore with his likeness and name in practically every gift shop I saw. I also saw many people wearing hats, caps, shirts, and jackets emblazoned with that “Hope” poster used so effectively during the campaign. It was as if some of these folks expect this man to be the coming Messiah.
However, I also visited some very secure public buildings such as the US Capitol and the White House. At each place, there was a great deal of construction and preparation for the inauguration. While I did not feel as if I was under heavy scrutiny to the point of generating fear, it was also very clear to me that we were being watched. What should our attitudes as Christians be towards a government system coming into power that has made it very clear that changes are coming and those changes will be 180° from what we would consider proper. Now I know that many professing Christians will disagree with that last statement, however, my response to that is for those who do to take it the Lord in prayer and study what the Word of God tells us about it.
Civil government was ordained by God as a means for ruling and maintaining order in communities. However, it is not the only means He has ordained for this purpose. Others include ministers in the church and parents in the home. Each has its own sphere of authority under Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ now rules and sustains creation. The limits of each sphere are set by reference to the others. Never forget my brethren that we live in a fallen world in which these “authorities” are institutions of God’s “common grace.” They stand as a bulwark against anarchy and the dissolution of order society. If you have not done so, please read the two passages I placed at the top of this post and the excerpt from the Westminster Confession just below them.
Now, what purpose did God give civil government? It exists for the welfare of the whole society. God gave it the “power of the sword,” which is the lawful use of force to administer just laws (Romans 13:4). Christians must acknowledge this as part of God’s order (Romans 13:1,2). I do not like paying taxes any more than anyone else, however, God has granted governments the right to collect them for the services it renders (Matthew 22:15-21; Romans 13:6,7). However, there is a caveat to this. If a government forbids what God requires or requires what God forbids, Christians cannot submit. In fact, some form of civil disobedience will be required if things go this far (Acts 4:18-31; Acts 5:17-29). The Christian’s obligation is to obey God in all things, even if that means civil disobedience.
Despite what the liberals say and think, the church’s sphere of authority does in fact relate to the civil government at the level of morality. The church is obligated to comment on the morality of governments and their policies on the basis of God’s Word. However, it must not appropriate to itself the power to set such polices. Individual, obedient Christians should act responsibly in the face of a government that has violated its authority by crossing over into the spheres reserved for parents and the Church. If this happens then this may indeed foster political action among Christians. In this case, they must act in their capacity as citizens rather than as representatives of the Church. If Christians do not violate this premise then the gospel remains untainted by the force of Government and remains as intended by God to work through moral persuasion and God’s grace among citizens.
Christians should urge governments to fulfill their proper role. We must pray for and obey the governments God has placed over us, but at the same time, we must watch over them, reminding them that God ordained them to rule, protect, and keep order. If things deteriorate to the point where a government becomes hostile to its citizens who refuse to obey it on proper Biblical grounds then we enter into the realm of persecution and in the face of that we must seek mercy from God alone, relying on Him to work out our circumstances for His glory and our edification.
31 What then shall we say to these things? p If God is for us, who can be  against us? 32 q He who did not spare his own Son but r gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? s It is God who justifies. 34 t Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-u who is at the right hand of God, v who indeed is interceding for us.  35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
37 No, in all these things we are more than y conquerors through z him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39 ESV)
Soli Deo Gloria!