An open Bible and a cup of coffee.

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. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 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 13:1-3)

In yesterday’s devotional, we considered how Christ’s command to “judge not” (Matthew 7:1) became the central and foundational Bible verse for many Christians. This replaced the beloved John 3:16, which had for a long time occupied that privileged position. Throughout the alleged COVID-19 pandemic, today’s verse passage has, for many, come to the fore as the maximal expression of Christian morality. Diligent students of the Scriptures understand that while obeying our government leaders and keeping the laws of the land are important, there is an Authority that stands above them all. When Pilate told Jesus that he had the power to condemn or release Him, the Lord replied, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above” (John 19:11). Whatever authority our leaders may have, it remains a delegated authority. It was God Who instituted human government after the flood, most likely to prevent pre-flood chaos from reoccurring. Because humans are made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27), their lives have tremendous value and ought to be protected (Matthew 10:31; 12:12). Because we are fallen creatures with sin natures (Psalm 51:5, Jeremiah 17:9) innocent human life needs to be protected (Proverbs 31:8-9). Human government was instituted for this reason. No mature, godly-minded Christian should have a rebellious spirit, looking for any opportunity to disobey our leaders and operate outside of the laws of the land. On the other hand, it is important to remember that the very apostle who penned today’s verse passage was himself executed for civil disobedience (2 Timothy 4:6). Though we should strive to obey our leaders, there are certain occasions where the Christian will find this impossible. For instance, we cannot obey our leaders when they command us to do that which God’s law has forbidden (Exodus 1:15-22). Similarly, we cannot obey our leaders when they forbid us from doing that which God has commanded (Daniel 6:6-10; Acts 5:24-29). Finally, we cannot obey our leaders when they demand that which only God is entitled to. “Render therefore to all their dues,” wrote Paul, “tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:7). May the Lord help us to discern rightly concerning these matters. Let us also pray diligently for our leaders, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 2:5).

God bless you, dear saints,

Pastor John