Does the Bible Teach Limited or Unlimited Submission to Government?
Updated: Feb 16
The Bible is sufficient for all areas of life, including politics and government (Rom 13; 2 Tim 3:16-17). The Bible teaches that we should honour God in all areas of our life—including how we employ our legal privileges as citizens and our conduct under authority to civil authorities who are given an office that is ordained of God (Rom 13:1-5). It should be reverence and honour for the office. Do we then obey whatever they say? No. Not at the expense of obedience to Gods Word. “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (Jn 7:24).
Our freedoms are being forfeited by the minute, fought for freedoms that are hard to obtain, and easy to lose. Our leaders are bent on destroying our nation and our freedoms, and this Chinese virus is all the excuse they need. Like the corrupt politician says, ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste.’ Of course all this been going on for some time now, but it’s ramping up and people are kowtowing. We shouldn’t be.
The numerical restrictions are completely arbitrary in nature. There has been no tested nor proven scientific or medical data to show us what “number” of people that congregate together are a danger to society. The number has varied from place to place and moment by moment. First 250, then 50 and now 15. When politicians assign an “acceptable” number of people allowed in a private church of God, they are reducing our right to freedom of religion.
Don’t be deceived; there is more here to what meets the eye. To deny a Christian his obligation to gather with his local body is to put him at odds with a Biblical tenet of the faith, and the government is testing who we will obey. That has never changed, and it’s noted throughout the Bible. Although it may seem commendable to protect society from the Chinese manufactured virus, just like influenza right (?), the local congregation of believers are to meet in His local visible church (Matt 18:20; Eph 6:18) on His appointed day (Ac 2:1).
It is true that the government hasn’t forbidden the preaching of the Gospel and the Word of God, but biblical worship and church is far more than preaching. Would God see it fit for a pastor to shepherd the invisible, universal church by preaching into a microphone to an unseen audience. This feeds into the heresy of “the universal, invisible church” doctrine. Although I may be criticized for being uncaring or unloving about the physical health of children, the elderly, and the weak, one should consider the Lord’s perspective toward Israel, “But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised” (Num 14:31).
What is at biblical stake when the Lord’s scriptural churches are denied assembling?
First and foremost, the assembly is the designated place (physical assembly) on the designated day (Sunday) when the God of Creation and Redemption wants to meet with His people (Matt 18:20; Rev 1:13; Ac 2:1).
Second, the pastor, the bishop or overseer, must oversee the visible flock: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Ac 20:28). Overseeing the flock cannot realistically be done via Facebook or live streaming. Corporate accountability is quickly diminished.
Thirdly, the assembly must come together for fellowship and for the practice of the ordinances, even the Lord’s Table: “Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another” (1 Cor 11:17-34; 14:23, 26). Although other biblical arguments could be put forth, we must recognize the ultimate goal of Satan behind social health concerns is the attack upon the Lord’s institution of the local church. One’s spiritual health is far more important than one’s physical or financial health (3 Jn 1:2). Our desire ought to be “valiant for the truth” (Jer 9:3)!
The following list shows numerous examples of saints from the Bible who resisted civil authority and ended up getting in serious trouble with the government. These ministers of the Lord God directly resisted the power (authority) of civil government, and they received the blessings of God for doing so:’
Moses broke civil laws to protect and nobly defend a Jewish slave by killing a taskmaster for abuse and attempted murder (Ex 2:11-12; Ac 7:24-25) and God made him the first leader of the nation of Israel. (It wasn’t wrong what he did.)
David refused to submit to the government authority of Saul's troops (1 Sam 19).
Daniel resisted the State by refusing to keep silent in his prayers (Dan 6).
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego defied the higher powers by refusing to worship a statue (Dan 3).
John the Baptist was imprisoned & beheaded for telling the truth to a State ruler about his adulterous relationship and his other evils (Matt 14:1-12; Lk 3:19). They directly resisted commandments from the king of Babylon, and God protected them from the punishment of the government.
Apostles were thrown in jail for refusing to obey the governing rulers (Ac 5:17-18).
Christians were rounded up and thrown in jail for resisting government authority (Ac 8:1-3).
Christians defied the governor of Damascus who was attempting to apprehend Paul, and helped him escape through a window in a basket by a wall (2 Cor 11:32-33; Ac 9:23-25).
Apostles sent to prison for breaking local laws (Ac 16:16-24).
God commanded the wise men to disobey the State ruler (Matt 2:7-12), which consequently resulted in the slaying of all children in Bethlehem and area two years old and under (Matt 2:16-18).
What's fascinating about this, is that in all these instances of saints defying government ordinances, they had the protection of the Lord God. We need to understand that just as we are subjected to the authority of government, government is subjected to the authority of God, and there are circumstances where the authority of God trumps that of government.
This is not to say that we are to resist any government authority we don't like, because we need to be in submission to rulers over us (Rom 13); it’s just not unlimited or unqualified submission. Many pastors and “evangelical” leaders are deceiving people to obey whatever the government tells them to do, just go along with it because "God says so," but this is just one more teaching that reflects our day of horrible compromise and adulterated “Christianity.”
Popular heretics like John MacArthur is one of them, preaching an unlimited submission to all governing authority no matter what they are or what they tell us to do: "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. That is an unqualified statement. It doesn't qualify who those governing authorities are and it doesn’t qualify what subjection might mean. Therefore we can conclude that we have an unqualified, unmitigated command to be subjected to the governing authorities, whatever they are." (“Why Christians Submit to the Government," GTY, Jan 30, 2011).
Unqualified means complete and unlimited; unmitigated means absolute. What MacArthur told his congregation was that Christians have an unlimited and absolute commandment to do whatever an authority tells us to do, without consideration of the circumstances. He continues later: "So the government is divinely decreed and to resist it is to resist God. Let me add another point. Those who do resist will be punished." (ibid).
So this would then mean that Paul, Moses, Peter, Daniel, David, and many others throughout the entire Bible directly defied God's commandment to abide by the ruling authorities of their day, but for some strange reason, they weren't punished and instead received God's blessings and protection during their ordeals against governing authorities. This then means the words coming out of MacArthur's mouth are contrary to God's Word. [After I wrote this, MacArthur eventually went against his own words, and defied the government authorities and kept church. I guess when the coffers start running low, we are allowed to disobey the government after all!]
Christians are commanded not to judge according to the appearance (e.g. having a badge, sitting behind the bench in a courtroom, man behind the pulpit, etc), but to judge righteously according to the Word of God (Jn 7:24).
“We ought to obey God rather than man.” (Ac. 5:29).
Moses, “choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt:” (Heb 11:25-26).
Please note furthermore that no matter what the government does to Christians and if we must pay the price for obeying God, we must remember Gods command to “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt 5:44).