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April 27 – I Will Represent Christ In Submission To Government

April 27, 2012

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same” – Romans 13:3

In the middle of the second century a Palestinian Christian, named Justin, wrote a letter to the emperors, Marcus Aurelius and Antonimus Pius defending Christians against charges they were a threat to stable government.  Justin (known in history as Justin Martyr because he was executed for his faith) pointed out that no government could want more peaceful and law-abiding subjects.  They paid their taxes without complaining and were guilty of no violent or subversive behavior.  Generally speaking, Christians were much better behaved under Roman occupation than were their spiritual relatives, the Jews.

Paul draws several general inferences about government:

1. Rulers are no threat to people who behave themselves (13:3).

Paul’s words here in verse 3 (above) must be taken as representing the norm.  There are exceptions in history – unpredictable monsters who would  slaughter innocent people.  This does not change the fact that most governments do not persecute people for no reason.  If I want to escape the long arm of the law, do what is right and the authorities will regard you with favor.

Again, there are exceptions from this general statement of fact.  For example, Peter and John were forbidden by the Jewish leaders to preach in the name of Jesus.  Their response was in Acts 4:19, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God”.  This principle always holds true: when secular or political law prohibits what God has commanded me to do, I must ignore such commands.  Very soon, Christians all over the empire would disobey the Romans’ prohibition against assembling for worship.  Many paid with their lives for breaking this law.  But… I must be careful that I am not defying a law that does not directly conflict with God’s law.

When I consider the context in which the Apostle Paul is teaching, it really causes me to re-evaluate how I have approached the thought of submitting to government.  Lord willing, I’ll take a look at verse 4 tomorrow.

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