Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. (Romans 13:1-2)
Christian Liberty And American Liberty
One of the most important lessons in Bible study is to understand the context of the message. Reading the New Testament epistles in light of the culture and period is paramount to gaining a better insight into how the letter was received. When Paul wrote his letter to the beloved of God in Rome, he was writing to a people that lived in the midst of Emperor worship. The government was as corrupt as any nation has been. Immorality was rampant, corruption was common, political assassination was not unheard of and the iron hand of the Roman army secured the peace in forceful oppression. This was not the land of the free and home of the brave.
The book of Romans is a great treaty on the foundation of faith and salvation. It included strong language for the Roman citizen who bore the mantle of being a Christian. Subjection to the Roman government was not a request but a command. The language of Paul would be incredulous suggesting God established the authority of the Roman government and resisting the powers would be sinful. However, the truth for the child of God is they served a higher purpose and subjected themselves to the authority of the Roman government because they were Christians. The Roman saints understood this subjection was measured by the words of Peter who declared obedience to God comes first before men. There are strong lessons for modern American Christians today that come from their example.
Living under the Roman rule was more oppressive than any time in the history of the United States. Ironically, what has caused more problems for the American Christian is the belief that God is bathed in red, white and blue. The Lord has been recreated in the totem of American patriotism allowing children of God to use their civil freedoms in the misguided notion to lambast, hurl vicious attacks and spew ungodly condemnation upon the administration of government. Freedom of speech and bearing arms has turned godly people into ungodly examples of rebellion against the governing authorities ordained of God. Resisting the authority of government is sin – plain and clear sin. Those who resist the government of the United States of America bring judgment against themselves.
We have no freedom but the freedom found in Christ and that comes from being a servant of God. Do not let the word ‘servant’ fail to impress the meaning of our relationship to the Lord. He is our master and we are slaves to His will and His will alone. This subjection to government applies to the citizens of the United States, Cuba, Brazil, France, Ethiopia, India, Russia, Liechtenstein and Nauru. Every nation in the world falls under this heading. Paul admonished the Christian living in the city of Rome to be subject to a government appointed by God. The Roman Empire fell because God destroyed it. Nations rise and fall according to the will of God. The United States will cease to exist one day because it has cast off the glory of the Lord. No matter what comes, children of God obey Him first.
Loyalty to Christ safeguards the lesser loyalties. (Ralph W. Sockman, The Highway of God, 1941)