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Sunday, August 9, 2020

To Obey Or Not To Obey

“’For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good.’ Even in the Roman legal code, there was a strong sense of justice. That’s what Paul and Peter are talking about here [in 1 Peter 2]. I repeat what I said in my other video on the same subject: the state government of California promotes, endorses, and supports the murder of children in the womb. And just so you know, baby-killing nodes are open and running in California right now.”

When it comes to the current issue concerning COVID, if one were to write down the opinions proffered by every so-called expert, it would probably be possible to fill the entire state of Texas with the paper that exercise would generate. And it is not just experts. Everyone and anyone with a particular platform (something that today just about anyone with a computer has), have also set themselves up as the authority when it comes to the virus and what we, and especially the government, should and should not be doing about it. From one side you hear that if we don’t wear masks the whole world is going to end in the zombie apocalypse. From the other, you hear that if we give in and wear masks, the next thing that will happen is that we will all be sent to the salt mines.

The quotation above was offered by Alan, aka “Polite Leader” during one of his YouTube channel webcasts. He was discussing the fact that the state of California has threatened John Macarthur with arrest as well as the imposition of a $1,000 daily fine on Grace Community Church if it continues to insist on remaining open for services on Sunday. There is also an article making the rounds on Facebook about Gil Garcetti, the distinguished mayor of Los Angeles, threatening anyone with cutting power and water to their homes if they dare have large gatherings (presumably including Bible studies).

What does all this mean? My interest here is not concerning the COVID situation in general. As with just about every other medical and scientific issue, there are as many ideas and beliefs about how the virus behaves and what it can do as there are scientists. To hitch your wagon to one of those individuals or group of individuals is a fool’s errand. They will change their mind from one day to the next simply because they are fallible human beings like the rest of us. When something like this virus hits, it takes us all by surprise. To be sure, scientists who are studying this illness know more about it than the average Joe, certainly more than this average Joe. But we need to bear in mind that the situation changes rapidly and that we don’t have all the answers.

But what really takes me aback, is this seemingly revisionist effort by some to redefine Romans 13 and what it means for us today. If we continue to listen to the aforementioned webcast, we will hear Alan catalog a series of sinful behaviors that California condones. Homosexual marriage, transsexuality, celebrating Harvey Milk Day, etc., etc. But he then goes on to say that “the government of California is not a Romans 13, 1 Peter 2 government. It is in fact an Acts 5 government [the Jewish leadership that attempted to suppress the preaching of the gospel], and to that government the apostles said ‘we ought to obey God rather than men’.” The obvious implication is that we do not need to subject ourselves to the government of California because they are not legitimate. I must confess that I had not heard this line of argument before recent times. The first time I heard it was a couple of weeks ago from another internet apologist. Although it sounds good at first, if you don’t pay attention to it closely, on closer inspection you will see just how dangerous such line of thinking can be.

Many make the argument that when we seek to understand a biblical passage, we must understand, among other things, the historical context in which it was written. But in order to make the argument outlined above, one would have to ignore the world in which Paul penned those words in Romans 13. The Roman government approved of ceremonial killing in circuses. It went about subjugating countless countries. It approved of slavery and enforced servant-hood. It looked the other way when its citizen exposed new born children in order to get rid of them. It promoted Caesar worship, the worship of countless idols, and temple prostitution. And yes, persecuted the church mercilessly for nearly 200 years. Are we now going to say that the Christians of the time should have risen up in arms to “defend their rights”? Was the Roman government a “Romans 13 government”? If not, then what was the point that Paul wanted to make? In the same passage he tells the Romans that we pay taxes for conscience’s sake. “Why Paul, you should have told them to withhold their taxes since they were being used for all kinds of immoral behavior.”

Folks, we can debate the merits of disobeying the “do not meet” orders. We can discuss whether such orders infringe on the command that God has given the church to meet. All that can be discussed and argued, and indeed has been, at great length. Opinions will vary as to where the church should draw the line. Some think that the elders at GCC are doing exactly the right thing. Others are not so sure. But one thing is certain: to argue that we should ignore Romans 13 because our particular government is not acting in accordance with God’s design for government, is an extremely dangerous position to take. Every government is, to one extent or another, ungodly. Every government will make decisions that will be contrary to God’s revealed will. Can we then ignore government and treat it as illegitimate? That is the argument that many made about Donald Trump not being their president!

We may not like the government we currently have. We may think it ungodly, immoral, corrupt. But it is still the government that God has ordained. Or are we now to posit the argument that the current state government in California somehow slipped through the cracks before God had a chance to determine which government that state was going to have? Those of us who are Reformed certainly should know better. The governments in California, in Texas, in New York and everywhere in between have been ordained by God for His own purposes. And the fact that in many cases they are ungodly may just be in order to bring about the judgment of this nation. But whether for judgement or not, we don’t get to pick and choose what government we obey. Yes, we obey God rather than man. But we do so only when the laws of man conflict with the laws of God. Otherwise, we don’t get to pick what suits us and, if we do, we do so at our own peril!




2 comments:

  1. You hit it out of the park. I too have been making the point (mostly w/o success at FB) that Romans 13 was penned when governments were horrendous, of much worse stripe (or so it seems to me) than our own. Likewise, I too have encountered of late variations of this "not legitimate" argument which serves to exonerate unlawful (antinomian) behavior among Christians and seems to utterly negate Romans 13. I am with you on this. I simply marvel that otherwise sound Christians, even ones we both know in common, do not see this....and have been seduced by a view of "rights" that are more politically motivated that spiritually underwritten.

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    1. Thanks, David. I don't have an issue disobeying government if what they tell me to do, or not to do, goes against what God has commanded me to do, or not to do. But this willy nilly disregard for what government says because it is an "illegitimate" government is not based on Scripture, but on "Americanism." As you correctly point out in your comment, we seem to be losing sight of the fact that we are, first and foremost, Christians whose citizenship is in heaven. Instead, we are replacing some sort of American Gospel for the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Ironic that we have done so in spite of the fact that we hear, every week, how we are to be people of the Book! I can't help but think that perhaps this is primarily a reaction to the anarchy of the left. But if we're going to answer the left with a variation of our own anarchy, where are we going to end up? Nowhere good, that's for sure. Thanks again for your comments!

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