After I retired from the Navy in 2008, I moved to Concord, VA where I purchased a nice home on 1 ½ acres. About ¾’s of an acre needed regular mowing. Fortunately, I had a Craftsman Garden Tractor to help me with the work. To enjoy myself while mowing, I bought headphones system that not only protected my aging ears but also providing me with radio entertainment; very nice indeed! One afternoon while enjoying a pleasant mowing experience, I turned the radio dial on my headset to a talk station. The well-known pastor, John MacArthur, was giving a talk about the source of authority and the Christian’s responsibility to that authority. Having respect for this pastor, I listened with anticipation for his interpretation of Romans 13:1-5. To my amazement, his conclusion was that Christians should obey and respect every government that God has placed in the authority no matter its conduct. Shockingly, he also concluded that the American Revolution was an affront to God and an act of disobedience against a divinely chosen authority, King George of England. Having served in the military for 23 years and being a non-degreed historian (avid student of history without school recognition), I believed that his interpretation of Romans 13 was both biblically and historically incorrect. Believing throughout my adult years that God had blessed the world with the founding and development of a uniquely American nation, the principles of which are based on Judeo-Christian mores and morals, I found the diminution of the sacrifice of so many patriots over the years into nothing more than a godless rebellion to be quite disconcerting at least and rather offensive at most.
At the end of the radio transmission, being a bit put-off, I immediately turned off my mowing machine and went inside hopeful to find a way to respond directly to Dr. MacArthur. Having found an email address, I wrote him a letter expressing my apprehension with regard to the radio broadcast I had just heard. I never received a response. The following is my interpretation of Romans 13:1-5.
13 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except God, and those which exist are established by God.2 Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
These two verses, apart from what immediately follows, could be understood to say that all authority, just or unjust, is given by God and, therefore, must be obeyed. Those who resist that God-given authority should and must be disciplined in whatever manner the authority deems necessary to maintain control. This interpretation naturally argues that the Pharaoh who enslaved Israel, Tiglath Pelizar, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, Mohammed, King Henry VIII, King George, Napoleon, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Moa Si Tung, Pol Pot and so many other authorities were to be respected and obeyed by those who were their subjects and victims. I find this conclusion barbaric and unjust and in direct opposition to the authority and character of God.
I concur that all authority is given and “established” by God and that all of those who are given authority in this world (past, present, and future) are required to rule in a manner consistent with the will of God and, therefore, they are directly responsible to God for the manner in which they use HIS authority. No human being has authority apart from God! There is no authority apart from God. Should they abuse, usurp or refuse God’s authority, the rulers, leaders, etc., need to be and indeed should be replaced and if possible, their governments dissolved. In this world, there is to be but one authority: God’s! Those who challenge divine authority, by imposing their own policies and dictates, will be judged by God in any way and at any time that He deems practicable by means of death, revolution, or electoral means, and ultimately by the return of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ—God Himself who will rule lovingly, justly and righteously upon the earth. The Lord will once and for all restore divine authority upon the earth.
If one wonders why America has been so blest throughout its history, think no further than its founding documents, which clearly base their authority in the God of Christian and Judeo Protestant Christian values (See Samuel Huntington: Who Are We?) One can confidently believe that America will fall if she continues to embrace progressive socialism’s humanly constructed utopia (actually, dystopia). History is replete with rogue nations in ruins—nations, which rebel against the autonomous authority of God, do not survive. The Almighty will not tolerate His authority being continually and arrogantly undermined and usurped. Our good is not up for grabs in the mind of God. This interpretation is based on eschatological Scriptures as well as the text found in Romans 13:3-5.
3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for [a]good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.
The preceding verses candidly and concisely describe the proper and only role of authority, which is to be epitomized in the lives of parents, teachers, pastors, doctors, lawyers, coaches, employers, local, state and national governments, whatever. Authority’s sole responsibility is to promote and preserve good while preventing and punishing evil. The phrase “it is a minister of God,” used twice in verse 4, incontestably instructs and reminds the reader that authority is a reflection of the character and will of God on the earth. For this reason alone, human beings (God’s unique creation) should be/must be in subjection to their authority figures. Being willingly subject to authority is directly tied to the authority being willingly subject to the Creator. In this relationship alone, human beings discover the divine good/morality (the conscience of God) and the freedom (from evil) that makes the people both productive and happy in the fullest sense (Galatians 5:13-26).
Like all of us, the Founders of this nation were not perfect saints, but they were people of faith who believed in the God of Scripture and knew that He was the only Giver and Taker of rights, having no human rival. If people lose God (and with Him, His authority), they also lose goodness, justice, righteousness, peace, unconditional love, morality, purpose, freedom, and happiness. The qualities for which human beings long and need are lost without subjection to the true and only God.
My prayer is that the people of Iran are able to remove the dictatorship that has so long oppressed the Iranian citizens; however, the only prayer I can offer is one with a request that along with the overthrow of the present government, the people also find the true Creator and Lord. Only in the authority of God the Father, Son and Spirit can His blessings be bestowed and His promises fulfilled. This is the intent of Romans 13:1-5.
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