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How Far Will the ‘Romans 13’ Crowd Go to Submit to Government?

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When we use the term ‘Romans 13 Crowd‘ we refer to those who refuse to apply basic scriptural exposition to the passage or who refuse to apply context to their application of the passage. These Christians insist that asking questions to help our understanding and inform our obedience to the Scripture is “placing the Constitution above the Bible.”

These questions include:

  • Given that we do not have an emperor, who or what is our governing authority?
  • What happens when governing authorities collide with contradictory decrees? How do we determine our highest governing authority?
  • Are there limits in jurisdictional power of governments geographically (municipal, county, state, federal, regional, global) or categorically (is it ecclesiastical or only civil)?
  • What makes something a legitimate governing authority?

Some perceive these questions to be an attempt to usurp Scripture with political philosophy. But unless these questions are asked, the truth is that Romans 13 can’t be obeyed at all.

Sure, the easiest (and laziest) route to go interpretively is to simply summarize these Bible passages as “obey.” The question obey who? is then met with derision, as though the question betrays some kind of rebellious spirit.

In reality, Scripture application is impossible without Scriptural exposition. These questions must be asked. No one violates Romans 13 as much as the theologian who insists that it means obey everyone. Certainly, obeying an imposter or usurper of legitimate ruling authority would be perceived as disobedience – if not downright treason – to a rightful ruling authority, yes? Imagine South Koreans obeying the edicts of Kim Jong Il; it would result in prison time. The Christian must ask the above questions or else risk committing treason in the name of obeying Romans 13.

Although unlikely, imagine a significant portion of America’s evangelicals obeying the Jihad declaration made by a prominent Sunni Muslim cleric in the name of following Romans 13. Certainly we could see the idiocy of it. For a dozen different reasons we might all deduce the cleric’s claim to authority to be dubious but on what grounds should we disobey?

Imagine the World Health Organization implements a policy that says every country has to provide legal abortion? What if the United Nations began to implement policies that criminalize speaking out against Islam? For our European brothers, what if the European Union made it a hate-crime to refuse religious services to someone pretending to be transgender? What if the International Criminal Court treated proselytizing like laws against genocide?

These aren’t hypotheticals. These are all things that have either happened or at one time were in the process. Why would a Christian not have to submit to these bodies like the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the European Union, or the International Criminal Court?

Discerning Christians ask additional questions like:

  • Does an entity have authority just because it says it has authority?
  • Does an entity have greater authority than another entity because it has a greater capacity to do violence (larger police forces, larger military, etc)?
  • Does an entity have greater authority because it covers a larger geographical area (if national governments have more authority than state governments, do international governments have more authority than national ones)?

And if the answer is no to any of these questions, why not? Doesn’t Romans 13 just tell us to submit to our authorities? Isn’t asking qualifying questions rebellious?

John MacArthur’s church closed during our current coronavirus panic – in the name of “Romans 13” – because the California governor said to. Then, they prepared to open because the U.S. president said so. Then, they announced their closure again because the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said to.

Question: Why would Grace Community Church not likewise submit to any number of international bodies that claim to have authority over California? Now answer that question without appealing to the United States Constitution.

My eschatology says a New World Order is coming, and all signs currently point to an impending global control over both national and international governments with authority over trade, civil liberties, commerce, and technology. You would be a fool not to say so, whether from reading your Bible or just the newspaper.

Why would the Romans 13 crowd not submit to the New World Order? In terms of Scripture, they would have no coherent answer not to:

  • It will claim widespread governing authority
  • It will back up that authority with realistic threats of overwhelming force
  • It will appear to many to be legitimately formed and will probably be ratified by treaty

Sooner or later, if the Romans 13 Crowd is going to resist eschatological certainties, they will have to appeal to things like the U.S. Constitution, the rule-of-law, national sovereignty, natural rights, or the law of God.

So far, they seem unwilling to do any of the above. Not only might the Romans 13 Crowd submit to a One World Government, if their doctrine doesn’t change, they’ll have to.