Lesson 6 – The Christian and Civil Government

The Christian and Civil Government

Lesson Aim:    To show all governmental authority is established by God; therefore, they are not a cause of fear for those who do good.

Scriptures:       Romans 13:1-7; I Peter 2:13-17; Acts 4:18-20.

Word Definitions:

1.      Power (Greek– exousia). Privilege, authority, the same word is used in verses one, two, and three.

2.      Tribute (phoros).   Tax, burden.  Same word used in Luke 20:22.

3.      Custom (telos).       Toll, same as Matt, 17:25.

4.      Fear (phobls).          Terror.

5.      Honor (time).           Weight, esteem.


One milestone on the road to maturity is to understand that mankind does not have much power.  The man “in Adam” is slow to accept this fact.  Some do, and it becomes a source of exceeding fear.  Mankind fears what he or she cannot conquer.   The struggle for power in this world has more to do with security than glory.  Mankind feels secure when they have all powers in their control.  This cannot happen; therefore, they continue to struggle, or they withdraw in fear.

There is an alternate solution to absolute control.  It is to have a very good friend who is in control.  This alternate solution is where the Christian finds his or her security.  Christians believe there is no authority except from God.  We believe the Most High rules in the kingdoms of men (Dan. 4:17).  We realize we do not have the power to control the forces in this world; however, our Father is in absolute control.  We understand God has given all power in relation to mankind over to His Son, Jesus Christ “in Christ” (Eph. 1:21).  He is “the king eternal, immortal and invisible.”  I Tim. 1:17.  Unless we can accept this fact, we will surely fear our government.  Fear is an unhealthy emotion.  It robs people of their happiness.  When we do believe all authority is from God, then it behoves us to accept our government in a subjective manner.  “Blessed are the gentle for they shall inherit the earth.”  Matt. 5:5

The meek or gentle attitude is a healthy emotional attitude of a happy person.  Consequently, our happiness is deeply involved in our attitude toward our government.  This includes everything from the city to the federal government.  When we accept governmental powers as having been established by God, then as Christians, we will know they are for our good.  We know God causes all things to work for good for those who love Him (Rom. 8:28).  This removes an unhealthy emotion of fear toward government.  We replace fear with meekness, a healthy emotion.  The question that generally arises in a discussion like this is, “What about corrupt government?”   “Did God not mean for us to respect only good governments?”  God expects us to be in subjection to the ruling government in our land.  God is fully aware governments conducted by men are unjust.  This is why He wants the affairs of the church settled by the church.

Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?  I Cor. 6:1

In spite of the fact that governments are unrighteous, God’s wisdom is they are needed to maintain order in this world.  They work equally well for the man “in Adam” in the world and the man in Adam “in Christ.”   Even though all the government officials might be corrupt, they still must pass laws to protect their own possessions and provide security for their own lives.  They may have gained their wealth by lawless means; however, they will pass laws to protect their own wealth.   Even an official who is a murderer would not pass a law to allow murder.   In this we see how God can use unrighteous people to enact and maintain laws that work for the good of all.  The rule is; “the rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil.”  Rom 12:3.  The exception to the rule is when the laws of men are contrary to the laws of God.  For instance, in the case of Peter and the other apostles being told by the Sanhedrin to stop preaching; They “replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men.’   “  Acts 5:29

The governing authorities are authorized by God as ministers for good. They are not authorized to exclude God from our lives because whether they realize it or not, they are God’s ministers for our good.  They are also God’s avengers and they bring His wrath upon those who do evil in this world.

Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience  sake.  Rom. 13:5

Mankind is usually law-abiding.  We fear the wrath of the law.  A Christian has a second reason for abiding by the law and giving honor to those who are in official positions.  We do not like to have guilt on our consciences.  Guilt mars our fellowship with God and makes us unhappy because it robs us of our glory.  Guilt is the result of failing to be a slave to God’s righteousness.  It is in violation of our sanctification.  Because we realize the governing authorities are nothing less than ministers of God, we serve them in order to maintain a clear conscience.

The difference in “subjection because of wrath” and “subjection because of conscience” is this:  the one who is obedient because of wrath gets away with his evil momentarily; that is, if he or she does not get caught by the law officer.   The Christians who are subjective for conscience sake always gets caught when we break the law of life – even if the policeman wasn’t looking.  Our conscience monitors God’s righteousness.  Our thoughts, working in conjunction with our consciences, condemn us when we do not do things God’s way (Rom. 2:14, 15).

It takes money to maintain governing authorities and their programs.  They collect money by assessing taxes and custom duties.  A Christian will not cheat the government because of the wrath of government and for conscience’s sake.  The latter brings more punishment than the former.  It is wonderful to live a life with a clear conscience.  It is impossible to develop as a son of God with guilt on our consciences.  Remember, only the blood of Jesus can purge our conscience from guilt (Heb. 9:13, 14).  When we dishonor governing authorities and cheat on our tax bills, we undo all Jesus did for us on the cross.

God’s will is proven to be good, acceptable and perfect by Christians as we live in subjection to the governing authorities.

For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.  Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond slaves of God. Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God. Give honor to the king.  I Peter 2:15-17

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why do people desire power?
  2. What is the next best thing to being in control of a situation?
  3. What will our emotions be toward governing authorities if we do not believe they are under God’s control?
  4. When we accept our civil government as being ordained by God, what attitude should we manifest?
  5. Explain I Corinthians 6:1.
  6. How can God use unjust government officials to serve the citizens?
  7. What is the exception to the rule of being in subjection to governing authorities?
  8. How does it work out so a Christian never gets away with breaking the law of the land?
  9. Why does mankind usually abide by the law?
  10. What are all the implications when a Christian cheats on his tax obligations?

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