Copyright © September 29, 2009
Are you interested in understanding what Romans 13 and other related verses really teach about the relationship of a church and of individual Christians and families to civil government? Has your preacher ever preached on the verses? If so, what position did he take on these verses? Did he interpret the verses in their immediate context and in the overall context of Scripture? Did he explain why the first Christians, including the apostles, as well as God’s own angels and many other biblical characters repeatedly violated, and were sometimes rewarded by God for violating, the modern American “interpretation” of those verses? Did he tell you about the Christians since New Testament days who have been subjected to the most cruel tortures and killed (tarred and feathered, twisted on racks, boiling oil poured down their throats, thrown in with wild beasts, beheaded, pulled apart, beheaded, drowned, buried alive, hanged, etc.) for disobeying the powers that be for refusing to recant their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in Him alone? Did he explain to you that in America the First Amendment provides for religious liberty and that no church is supposedly required by man’s law to incorporate, get a 501(c)(3) tax exemption, or to become a legal entity of any kind? Did he explain to you the biblical doctrines of church, state, and separation of church and state?
Romans 13.1-2 and related verses are among the most abused Bible verses in America today. I use the word “abused” as opposed to “misinterpreted,” although people also misinterpret the verses while abusing them. According to Webster’s Dictionary, abuse means “to put to a wrong or improper use” or “to use so as to injure or damage.” Webster’s defines “misinterpret” as “to explain wrongly” or “to understand wrongly.” Those who use Romans 13.1-2 and related verses to justify submission to civil government in all matters, including spiritual matters or matters involving the first four commandments, have abused those verses. They have not considered the immediate and overall context of Scripture in reaching their conclusions. They have assumed state superiority in ecclesiastical affairs and the use of religion to further state policy. Such an assumption has been labeled as Erastianism and this assumption or philosophy pervaded all Europe, with the exception of Calvin’s ecclesiocratic Geneva, after the Reformation, and achieved its greatest triumph in England. Sadly, this assumption is widely accepted in America today.
The verses used to support Erastianism include Romans 13.1-2 (“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers…. Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation….”), and other Bible verses such as Matthew 17.24-27 (“Doth not your master pay tribute? …”), Luke 20.25 (“Render unto Caesar….” which is also recorded in Matthew 22.21 and Mark 12.17.), 1 Peter 2.13-14 (“Submit to every ordinance of man….”), and 1 Timothy 2.1-6 (which exhorts Christians to pray for all men, including rulers). Many nonbelievers as well as carnal and/or baby Christians in America confidently quote one or more of these verses out of context to support their position that Christians are to bow down to civil government in all things, or all things except limitations on the preaching of salvation.
Some go further and take the unbelievable position that these verses mean that churches should become state churches by incorporating, becoming unincorporated associations or charitable trusts, operating as corporations sole, getting 501(c)(3) tax exemption, or by some other means and that churches which do not are in sin. Many of those Christians and churches who take this position pressure churches which are under God, and God only, to put themselves under the state through one of the methods mentioned above.
If you are interested in an in-depth study each of the above mentioned verses of Scripture, click on the WordPress Players below. Each segment below is an edited version of a radio broadcast. Click the following links to hear Jerald Finney’s audio teachings (Right click link and left click “Save link as…” to download):
Introduction and Matthew 17.24-27: “Doth not your master pay tribute?” (13 min. 42 sec.)
Luke 20.25, Matthew 22.21, Mark 12.17: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God, the things which be God’s” (4 min. 47 sec.)
Romans 13: “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers” (24 min. 15 sec.)
I Peter 2.13: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man….” (6 min. 6 sec.)
I Timothy 2.1-5: Pray for rulers (8 min. 6 sec.)
You may also be interested in:
More on Romans 13: The Powers/Governments God Has Ordained (article)
Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses (booklet)