(An 5 day Open Letter to Christians After the Election)
Day 2 – God’s Sovereignty
It is now November 8, 2012. It is my hope that you have come to terms with the fact that the election is over. One thing that comforts my heart is the knowledge that God is sovereign over the rulers of mankind. Therefore I can turn to Romans 13 and take comfort in what it says. Let’s take a closer look at what this passage says and find out a little more the answer to the question, “Where do we go from here?”
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 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. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Romans 13:1-4, NASB
Let’s start at verse one and walk through this passage. The first things we see here is that we are to be in subjection to the governing authorities. That means that an overthrow of this current government is out of the question. God allows for governments to be overthrown, but I won’t be participating in that activity. The reason for this is found later in this passage. There is no authority except from God – and those which exist are established by God. There is the comfort of God’s sovereignty over the affairs of mankind. Therefore I can know that our current government under the leadership of President Barak Obama is what God has established for the United States for the next four years. Since we live under a constitutional republic, that means that his power is limited by the Constitution of the United States – and that he, as well as the Congress and the Judiciary, are to adhere to the governing principles of that document. Ours is not a system of absolute power – but of shared power between three branches of government. Where we go from here – is to support our government and to pray for our leaders. That is what God instructs us to do in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 when Paul writes the following under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4. NASB) Note that we embrace a “peaceable life” so that the Gospel may go forth. That is the gist of verse 4.
When we look at the remainder of Romans 13:1-4, we need to recognize some things. First of all, we do not need to assume that because God allowed the establishment of President Obama for a second term in office, that God agrees with his policies or his beliefs. God allowed many rulers to come into power for His purposes. But those purposes were never for them to do evil and act contrary to His Word. We need to note that three times God says that government is established “for good,” in Romans 13.
- Rulers should make us fear evil behavior – and embrace “the good”
- Rulers are to praise those who “do good.”
- Rulers are a minister of God for good.
Often when people say God is sovereign over our government – they don’t include the context of the Scriptures. God allows governments – but holds them accountable for the good – and this good is defined by the morals put forth in Scripture. That means God allowed this government – but will hold President Obama accountable for every baby aborted by his policies. God will also hold our president (and any other one from either party) accountable for “the good” of the people. Unfortunately for him that means God will hold him accountable for advancing homosexuality, which God calls an abomination. God held the presidents of our nation who oppressed the Indians and treated them unjustly by stealing their land. He holds the presidents who allowed and advanced slavery in our nation accountable for their actions. He holds the presidents in the 50-60’s accountable for the racism they upheld and for how they oppressed the black population of our nation. The men who allowed dogs to attack black protesters in Birmingham, Alabama – and who drove them away with powerful water cannons – they were accountable to God. It might do us well to review Psalm 2 at this point.
Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, "Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!" He who sits in the heavens laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying, "But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain." "I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. 'Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession. 'You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.' "Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! Psalm 2:1-12
A very brief review of this Psalm is as follows. The kings and rulers, whom God allowed and established, decided to call God’s laws fetters and cords that bound them. All their raging just elicited derisive laughter from God. He reminds all the kings and rulers that God has installed His Son on the throne of the universe. Jesus is given all power to shatter the kingdoms and nations like a rod of iron would shatter earthenware plates. The end of the Psalm involves God telling the kings and judges to be discerning. They need to humble themselves and honor God’s Son – or else they will perish in the way and experience His wrath. The blessed king, ruler, and judge – is the one who takes refuge in God’s Son – Who is the ultimate ruler! Wow, what a difference a Psalm makes! Yes, God has established President Obama over our nation – but He has NOT done so for the purpose of negating the morality that is clearly presented in the Scriptures. If anything, a government is to punish those who do evil. And please remember that evil is defined by the Bible – not by what our culture calls it in the current calendar year.
Now let me do my best to sum up what this means for us who wonder where do we go from here. If you remember, the first thing we are to do is to pray for our leaders. My guess is that most of us who are conservative evangelicals did not do that very much over the past 4 years. I will confess that I did it haphazardly – not with any great consistency. That will change over the next four years. My president seriously needs my prayers for wisdom. Any president does. He also needs me to pray for him to repent from his current positions on abortion and homosexuality. They are both very wrong – and will be harmful to him. He will stand before God and give an account for advancing abortion more than any president in history. He will do the same for how he has advanced the homosexual agenda. Not only will these things harm him – they will also harm our nation. My prayers MUST be motivated out of genuine concern and love for him – and genuine concern and love for our nation. THEY SHOULD NOT BE MOTIVATED BY ANGER AND BITTERNESS! If we are not praying – or our prayers are motivated by something so perverse as wanting the Republicans to win – we need to repent. God uses godly, praying people to change people – not governments. If we are not praying – there will be no change in the people of our nation – and if there is no change in the hearts of people via the Gospel – there will be no change in our nation.
God has sovereignly allowed this government. He will also sovereignly hold it accountable for the power He has given them. That is something that honestly should terrify us for ANYONE who rises to power over ANY state or nation. Our place is to choose to love our leaders by praying for them. Our prayers for them should not include a political agenda of any party. They should be motivated by love – and should manifest themselves in a cry for the Gospel and a godly life to prosper no matter who is in power.
Where do we go from here? We go to our knees to pray for our duly elected leaders. We go to our knees out of love for them and love for our country. We go knowing that God, who allowed them to come to power under His sovereignty – will also sovereignly hold them accountable to punish evil and advance “the good.” We do not seek to bring judgment on them – or allow bitterness to grow in our hearts against them. Listen to Paul! He ministered and lived under one of the most wicked despots of all time, Nero. We don’t hear him say anything about the government – except to give them honor where honor is due (which he always did in every illegal trial he underwent) – and to pray for them – so that the Gospel could advance no matter who is sitting on the throne. Good counsel – good biblical counsel – for those who lived in the first century – as well as the 21st as well.