Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. [Romans 13:1]*
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,
for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. [1 Timothy 2:1-3]
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work. [Titus 3:1]
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme,
or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—
as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.
Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. [1 Peter 2:13-17]
I must confess that I struggle with these passages—not with trying to discern their meaning, but with the application in my life. It is easy to pray for a leader who lives a transparent godly life and seeks to honor Him both in word and deed. It is more difficult to follow the teaching of Scripture when the leader falls into the category which Paul described in Romans 1:28 as being given over to a depraved (NASB) [debased in the NKJV] mind. But we must keep in mind that, when Paul and Peter wrote the passages above, under the inspiration and prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Roman emperor was Nero, a clear example of someone who was not only totally, but also utterly, depraved—in other words, evil incarnate. What made it even more difficult for Paul and Peter was that they wrote in a time and culture which was ruled by a monarch who was an absolute tyrant—who answered to and was accountable to no human agency.
We who live in the United States of America, on the other hand, live in a time and culture in which those who are chosen to lead us are not chosen by [from the human perspective] accident of birth or the casting of lots by a priest. Those who lead us are chosen from among us by ballot. Because we live under a republican form of government with a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” [as Lincoln expressed it], wherein those who govern are elected by the consent of those being governed, and because, as Christians, Jesus Christ must be Lord of all if He is Lord at all, then casting our ballots entails certain responsibilities/principles:
Principle #1: The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me: “He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” [2 Samuel 23:3]
In other words, we get the rulers we deserve. If we have ungodly leaders, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Conversely, this means we must actively seek Godly people to lead us. This is difficult in a pluralistic and relativistic society such as ours, especially as that society becomes increasingly antagonistic towards Christianity and seeks to marginalize us. However, the principle remains: we cannot support those who are ungodly.
Principle #2: Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure. [1 Timothy 5:22]
While some commentators believe this was Paul’s instruction to Timothy to avoid ordaining men as elders hastily [e.g., the Bible Knowledge Commentary, NT:744, the NKJV Study Bible, p. 1919, the MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1869], others suggest a broader application in not being hasty to restore a backslider to fellowship [e.g. the Ryrie Study Bible, p. 1923]. Regardless, an even broader application is that whomever we identify with and support in a leadership role, we therefore share the responsibility for any sin committed by that person, along with any consequences for that sin. I know of people who claim to be Christian, but then claim that just because they vote for pro-abortion, pro-homosexual candidates for office, they are exempt from the judgment due because of their favored candidate’s [im]moral positions. The prophet Samuel clearly taught that such thinking is wrong-headed when he told the people of Israel that in choosing a king to lead them, they were guilty of any judgment the king brought upon them through his federal headship [1 Samuel 8:10-18].
Principle #3: Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them.
For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. [Romans 16:17-18]
But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. [2 Thessalonians 3:6]
For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,
traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! [2 Timothy 3:2-5]
Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned. [Titus 3:10-11]
While these passages deal specifically with the issue of dealing with those who, while claiming to be believers in our immediate fellowship, yet persist in walking after the flesh, there is a broader application. Every president elected in history of this country has claimed to be a follower of Christ in some respect. Yet, in many respects, those professions have been shallow lip-service, or, as Paul wrote to Timothy: . . .having a form of godliness but denying its power. And how does Paul say we should treat such people? Avoid them. “Withdraw from” them. From such people turn away! Reject them. I find it inconceivable, given this stance, that Paul would encourage any believer in this country to give his or her support to a political party which not only sanctions the slaughter of infants in the womb, but wants the taxpayers to subsidize such atrocities. I find it inconceivable that the same person who wrote Romans 11 would want us to lend our political support to a party bent on destroying the Jewish race by aligning ourselves spiritually, financially, and politically with Islam. I find it inconceivable that the one who wrote 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 would find it acceptable to support the gay and lesbian political agenda. Therefore the application here is that we must, by any legal means available, seek the removal from public office of anyone who does not follow Godly principles–whether it be through impeachment, recall, or turning them out of office at election time.
Principle #4: And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” [Matthew 22:21]
But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” [Acts 5:29]
Until the restoration of all things at the coming of Christ, the kingdoms of this world are in the thrall of the evil one, and therefore in conflict with the Lordship of Christ. So there will be times when believers must face a choice: obedience to a world system and rejection of the commands of Christ, or obedience to Christ in the face of persecution. It is said that Athanasius, who was exiled 5 times for his faith, at one trial was told by the emperor: “The world is against you, Athanasius!” At this, he responded: “No! Athanasius is against the world.” We have no obligation in Scripture to yield allegiance to any world system when such allegiance would require us to violate the revealed will of God. Such choices may come yet to imprisonment or even death in this country. For we are told in Scripture: Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. [2 Timothy 3:12] Therefore such rejection of the world in favor of Christ will be considered treasonous by the world. Are we prepared to pay that price?
* Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.