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Man & Government

Government & Disobedience

Matthew 5:44
But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you.
NCV

In America of 2001, this all sounds questionable. Christians, true Christians, appear to be in the very minority of thought. Prayer and the Ten Commandments are absent from public buildings and schools. Christians are "intolerant" because they believe the terms of their faith. In our eyes, and in some cases, in truth, Christians are persecuted for being Christians. Shouldn't this give us the right to disobey?

Paul tells us it is government, the magistrate, who carries the sword to punish evil, not the citizens of the state. We are not given the alternative of taking justice into our own hands. Indeed, Paul has already admonished us that vengeance belongs to God (12:20). God assigns this concept to the governments of the world. If the government fails to properly exercise this grant of authority, it is the state that will be punished by God. Look at all of the prophecies in the Old Testament. They visions of doom are not against individuals, but against entire nations. True, this means the individuals of the nation are involved, but there is a corporate recognition of the unity between man and country.

Paul carries this thought forward into the New Testament. As individuals we are to love our enemies (Matt 5:44). As a nation, we are to exercise God's judgment and disperse justice. Therefore, nations, via their appointed judges and police powers, are called upon to exercise punishment. Throughout the Deuteronomic laws God provided punishment levels for a violation of His laws. Many of these were death, the exercise of the "sword." Paul is merely reflecting what has already been pictured in the Old Testament.

Those following the discussion will be quick to point out that man must obey God first. Matthew 22:21 is cited first (render to God . . . , render to Caesar . . .), but Acts 5:29 will quickly follow.

Acts 5:29
But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men.”"

However, this verse must be read in the context of Acts 4:19-20:

Acts 4:19-20
19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."

It is the preaching of the Word of God to the people -- what we call evangelism and witnessing --the Jewish council desired to prohibit. If our government were to prohibit churches and witnessing, then we would have to follow God. But until then . . .

Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake.

 

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December 7, 2019

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