Who Is In Charge?


“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God had instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.” Romans 13:1-4a.

Now this is a really tough one! Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul insisted that believers obey the government. What! Paul, you can’t be serious! Obey Nero’s government? Submit to Nero’s authority? But he was murdering Christians just because they refused to call him “Lord”. How right was that?

But that is not what Paul said. He wrote that believers must submit to governing authorities, not because they were right but because God put them there. But what if they were wrong? Submit! What if they were cruel? Submit! What if they were unjust? Submit! What if they were downright evil? Submit! But why? They were harming Christians.

There are some very important reasons why God calls us to obey the government, whether it is good or evil.

1. In a fallen world it is necessary to have recognised authority structures. Since we are sinful and selfish, it is not natural for us to govern our own hearts. Unity has been destroyed and it’s everyone for himself. Without God’s delegated authority, society would destroy itself in a heartbeat. Where mob rule replaces authority and submission, a community or a country descends into chaos.

2. Wrongdoers must be removed from society because they not only prey on people but they also infect the whole community for evil. One rotten apple in a box will destroy the whole box in the end.

3. The safety of an entire community is at stake. When a serial killer or some other criminal is on the loose, for example, fear reigns until he is apprehended and removed to a place where he can no longer prey on the unsuspecting. This is only possible where people have the authority to do so.

But, you ask, what about those who suffer unjustly at the hands of God’s delegated authority, like the believers were experiencing even as Paul wrote? Why does God allow the righteous to suffer? Once again, God’s word gives us clear answers:

“Dear friends,” Peter wrote, “do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice, inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you…If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? “ 1 Peter 4:12-13; 15-17.

“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should submit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” 1 Peter 4:19.

There are at least two outcomes of unjust suffering:

1. The faith of God’s people is purified of selfishness and self-seeking and is anchored in God alone and for His glory.

2. Those who inflict suffering are being ripened for judgment.

More of this tomorrow…


THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Luella Campbell

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