Romans 13:1 (NIV)
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Our Verse of the Day is not always seen in a positive light … especially when we can survey the history of governments and rulers that have come and gone over the millennia. Some have been viewed as forces for good; while others have proliferated evil against their own people and surrounding countries. While we do not always agree with the government authorities over us, in democratic and republic forms, citizens are still afforded the privilege to cast their votes for whom they believe will best serve the purposes of God. And so, I believe we should exercise our right to vote whenever possible for this very reason….
Romans 13:1-7 (NIV)
1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
To me, the primary principal that we need to understand from this verse is the sovereignty of God. There is no vote cast … no military coup … no passing of a monarchal crown … no political violence or war that God has not permitted to occur within His greater sovereign will. Sometimes that is hard for us to understand when we see the mistreatment and suffering of innocent people under a totalitarian regime; but we trust that God will cause all things to work for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Cf. Romans 8:28) In addition, we need to realize that the higher purposes of God will always result in His glory … not the glory of man or any other. (Cf. Isaiah 42:8; 48:10-11) God, speaking through Moses, declared to Pharaoh His sovereignty saying, “For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Cf. Exodus 9:15-16; Romans 9:17) On this side of history, we now know the glory God achieved through this ancient Egyptian king….
We cannot know all the reasons why God exercises His sovereign will in the ways that He chooses; but we do know what God has revealed in His Word is the assurance that He is working His will for our ultimate good. We can look at the historical records of King Cyrus, King Darius, and King Artaxerxes during the captivity of Israel in the Babylonian Empire. (Cf. Ezra 6:14) We can look at the testimonies of some Old Testament Prophets:
2 Chronicles 20:5-6 (NIV)
5 Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard 6 and said: “Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.
Jeremiah 10:6-7 (NIV)
6 No one is like you, Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. 7 Who should not fear you, King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise leaders of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.
Zephaniah 3:7-8 (NIV)
7 Of Jerusalem I thought, ‘Surely you will fear me and accept correction!’ Then her place of refuge would not be destroyed, nor all my punishments come upon all those I appointed over her. But they were still eager to act corruptly in all they did. 8 Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord, “for the day I will stand up to testify. I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them— all my fierce anger. The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger.
These are just a few examples of where the Scriptures have testified to the sovereignty of God … not only over the nation of Israel … but over all the nations and kingdoms of the earth. And if you think of these events in theological terms, the sovereign work of God has been to bring Israel into a faithful, covenant relationship with Himself. And that is what He desires for all believers! Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) So perhaps we need to view God with this perspective in mind. What God permits in the geopolitical realm is to accomplish His will and purpose in the spiritual realms of our hearts. The authorities over us are part of the context in which each of us live out the message of the Gospel. I think Isaiah 48 provides great insight into how God works in the lives of His people in order to bring them to the obedience of faith. I encourage you to read it….
Both Peter and Paul admonished believers to submit to the governmental and civil authorities over us; to show proper respect for them and their offices; and to pray for them so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives:
1 Peter 2:13-17 (NIV)
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)
1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Well, there is certainly more that could be discussed on this topic, but I think this will suffice to get us focused in the right direction. And I hope that you will see your freedom to vote is part of the context in which God is working His will on the earth. I urge you to exercise your right and to pray for those in office as well as those seeking office. Pray they will be servants of God as they fulfill the responsibilities of their offices. Ask God to fill them with the knowledge of His will through all wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. (Cf. Colossians 1:9) Then, perhaps, we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. Amen.