Dear members of PRCW and readers: This is a continuation of yesterday’s thoughts on the Bible’s teachings on civil authorities from Article 36 of our Belgic Confession of Faith (abbreviated as ‘BC’ in the rest below).
Today the Manitoba government is expected to announce how it is going to ease restrictions on public life in our fight against COVID-19. The news is probably coming out the moment that this is being written. This is why it is good to be reminded of our calling.
It was said yesterday that the government is responsible before God. It is a very high calling and they are, before God, required to promote His kingdom and the Gospel ministry. They can’t expect to be blessed if they don’t.
How are we to be subject to them? There are four things that are mentioned in BC Article 36:
1. For one thing, it says we are called to pray for those in authority. This is the express command of God through the Apostle Paul in I Timothy 2: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” We don’t always like what we see in our politicians or what they do. Instead of only complaining about their actions, we should pray for them. Pray for their salvation. Pray that they may change. The Bible calls us to pray in church in public prayers for those who are in authority.
Who else but the saints of Jesus Christ can pray for them? Who else can make a difference in the life of our country? Only God’s people can pray – and so we need to pray that the government would continue to give us freedom so that we may leave quiet & peaceful lives, and that others might be encouraged to come into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Nebuchadnezzar was proud and ungodly. But the Lord brought him to his knees and humbled him. He eventually acknowledged the Lord to be the true God.
2. That being said, the BC very wisely says, “we are to obey them in all things which are not repugnant to the Word of God.” There are limitations to our obedience to them for we are always called to obey the Lord.
We have sinful people over us, and when they insist that those under them do what is contrary to the will of God, then is our responsibility to disobey them. For example, if they command ministers to stop preaching God’s Word against societal sins, we don’t obey that. We preach the truth – always! And we are to pray for those who are living this way. We call them to repentance & faith in Jesus Christ – as well as anyone who is living in sin, whether that be adultery or any another sin.
We need to be consistent with God’s Word – and to be vigilant in that respect – especially in our day. For we are the salt of the earth, and our saltiness depends on how attuned we are to the Lord Jesus Christ and to His Word.
3. Also we are to pay taxes. We’re to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. In our text, Paul teaches this (Romans 13:6, 7).
It costs money to enforce laws and policies. It costs money to promote justice. We’re not to think that, just because the government wastes so much tax revenue that they shouldn’t be paid. God’s Word says: we are to pay our taxes. When we don’t, we are not only sinning against men; we are sinning against the Lord.
If you think about all the laws in place in order to keep things in good order, you could almost make an endless list: we need to have driver’s licenses, building permits, licenses to haul hazardous waste, marriage licenses, every kind of license imaginable. There are by-laws for walking your dog, by-laws for shoveling snow. We must have traffic lights and rules for the road otherwise everyone would be smashing into each other on our streets and highways. There are building codes and standards. We might not always agree with how many thousands of laws and different agencies that have been put in place – yet without certain laws, we would have chaos. Thankfully, we have laws of order in place.
4. And last we are called to honour and respect them. Romans 13:7 says, “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour.” That’s hard to do when the honour of one’s office has much to do with the way that they conduct themselves. Even when we disagree – and it may be disagreeing strongly – we are to show respect for the sake of their office.
Consider deBres, and his submission. This was his testimony in the midst of death. De Bres called upon the church to honour those in authority even though he himself was unjustly treated and had to face the noose for his faith. Before his execution, he called on the church to do the same.
What kind of witness are we if we do not respect them when voicing our concerns?
Some of the restrictions on large gatherings, like our worship services, during this time are also heartbreaking and it can lead to some frustration & restlessness. It’s been trying on our patience. But here too, if we desire some leniency from those in authority, we must ask for it respectfully.
We also may have legitimate concerns over policies and over the country’s handlings of the economy, etc.
We are to humbly inform them where there needs to be room for change according to God’s Word, but to do so with humble spirit. Think about that when you speak or write to your MPs or MLAs. Your attitude is going to come out in the way that you speak to them.
1 Peter 3:15 says: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” We’re to answer with gentleness and respect.
Even though it is difficult, we, as Christians, are still to recognize the place that God has given them; we are still to honour them as rulers. Therefore, it is important that we actively speak out with respect to this. We should write and e-mail our minister of justice or local MPs about the issues of the day. We need to ask our government to uphold just laws and to change them when not in conformity with the truth. We’re to pray for those in authority that they would see their sins. But we do all this in obedience to God’s Word – with humility and respect. For there a ministers for good and ministers to punish evil. As Peter says in 1 Peter 2: “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”
But let us remember above all who is in authority. It’s the Lord Jesus Christ. We may not always understand why things are so bad in the world. But all things have their purposes in the Lord and all things are directly for His glory and for His kingdom purposes. All men are called to account. Let us therefore as Christians follow the Lord and his commands and may the Lord in his grace renew our country through our witness to the world and through our prayers and godly conduct!
Pastor Rich Anjema