…I have watched, with great horror, the way Romans chapter 13 has been increasingly misinterpreted by pastors and laymen alike.
- Dr. Chuck Baldwin
Romans 13: The True Meaning of Submission, by Timothy Baldwin and Chuck Baldwin
This book, written by Chuck Baldwin and his son Timothy, examines the meaning of Romans 13, a chapter used by many Christians to advocate that we must obey the government no matter what.
Now, regarding such Christians, there was a time that I would have said something like “except if the government tells us that we cannot go to church on Easter Sunday,” but I can no longer even say that much….
Would such Christians also demand submission of a wife to a husband no matter what? An employee to an employer? A church member to a pastor? Yet these are also examples of governing authorities.
Instead of being understood as a chapter requiring Christians to submit to government (meaning the modern state), the passage describes the proper and expected role of those in governing positions. For example, verse 3 offers: “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.” Or verse 4: “For he is the minister of God to thee for good.”
So, what of rulers who are a “terror to good works”? Or they are not ministering for good? Well, such in governing authority are not conforming to God’s requirement of Romans 13.
The book is ten chapters long, with a total of 144 pages. About forty of these pages offer over six-hundred endnotes – it is a very well documented and researched book. I have written much on this topic (most recently here, written a few weeks after the madness of March 2020), so I will only highlight a few of the many areas that struck me as points I had not previously considered:
The Greek word for “power” connotes the meaning of limited authority…
The authors note that the same Greek word is used when Jesus describes, for example, the limited authority a master gives his servant to perform certain works. This understanding is consistent with the verses from Romans 13 cited above: the authority is given to governing powers in order to be a terror to the evil; to be a minister for good. The authority is limited only to such things – most certainly, not to be the opposite of such things.
So, how do we know when to submit and when not to submit. The authors offer some considerations, all in accord with the responsibility demanded for the one in authority: husbands are to love their wives; parents are to nurture and properly admonish their children, and not provoke them to wrath; pastors are to watch for the souls of their flock; masters are to treat their servants justly. When this guidance is not followed, one need not submit.
How, then, can this be applied to government? Romans 13 describes what is good, God-ordained government. It does not change the standard set by God, as described in numerous other Biblical passages:
So Scripture reveals, government must protect the innocent, protect freedom and rights, provide justice, give fair trials to all accused, provide expeditious due process of law and fair judgement, punish evil, and protect state borders….
Which, it should be clear, is precisely the opposite of the actions taken by the current government we are told by many Christians that we must obey.
The laws implemented in society necessarily reflect a religious belief system.
This is a very noteworthy point. Politics is always downstream from religion. Do the laws of the United States (or virtually every other government or multi-national entity) reflect a Christian religion? Laws allowing the bombing of innocents overseas (for which too many Christians applaud); laws condoning and supporting the murder of unborn children; laws that strip parents of their authority over their children; laws that teach corruption, even to toddlers in government-approved pre-schools. Is any of this Biblically supported?
One could hardly justify in the name of “Christian duty” submission to government which causes harm to innocent persons.
Read the above list again, and add a few dozen other equally egregious examples. Which leads to the obvious conclusion:
The very purpose of law is to restrain evil men, not to give evil men God’s ordination.
Those who pass and enforce such laws are evil men.
The authors then make a very interesting argument regarding natural rights by looking through the other end of the telescope, in a manner of speaking:
…there could be no (1) stealing if there were no right to private property; (2) murder if there were no right to life; (3) coveting were there not security in one’s property; and (4) theft were there no right to keep property.
There are countless references to examples in the Bible of the earliest patriarchs, prophets, Jesus, the Apostle Paul, all disobeying government or questioning the good in obeying the government. Let’s not forget these….
Eventually, as government’s actions become more and more evil, the cause of resistance towards government becomes more and more righteous.
These words were written ten years ago, and nine years before the actions dating to March, 2020. They certainly ring truer than ever.
Scriptures, common sense, natural law, and human history all confirm that unconditional submission creates anything but peace….
No justice, no peace.