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Bible verses about Submission to Government
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Daniel 7:27

Daniel 7:27 promises rulership to the saints in God's government, which is why an essential decision in our lives revolves around government. Government is the overriding issue in the Bible. Who will rule in our lives, God or Satan? It is that simple.

Israel rejected God's rule. When Israel desired a king, it was because they did not want God to rule them (I Samuel 8:7). Will we do the same? That is the critical issue that must be resolved in our lives. How can we reject God's rule? By insisting on being our own general—by putting ourselves, not God, at the forefront of the battles we fight every day. We simply do not allow Him to be our King and Commander.

The examples of the first and second Adam prove how vital the subject of government is. In the Garden of Eden, the test that Adam and Eve failed was the test of government. To whose rule would they submit—God's or Satan's? The Devil's temptation of Christ (Matthew 4; Luke 4) was the same test: Would He submit to God's or Satan's government? Jesus passed the test, rejecting Satan's offers for personal gain. Because God neither changes nor varies, He is a God of patterns. We, then, have the same test to pass. To which government will we submit?

There is a direct connection between prayer and submission to God's government. When we pray, we are prostrating ourselves before Him, calling on His great name, and recognizing His power, omnipotence, omniscience, immutability, wisdom, mercy, and grace. Interestingly, Jesus called the Temple, in which God dwelt, "a house of prayer" (Luke 19:46). We now are temples of His Holy Spirit in which He dwells (I Corinthians 3:16), so we, too, should be houses of prayer.

Prayer is a spiritual blessing God gives to us as a major tool for growth. Prayer at any time is an exercise in humbling ourselves, as it forces us to admit our humanity, inadequacy, dependence, and need. It is an admission that we are not self-sufficient. Those who humble themselves before His sovereignty are those to whom He gives His attention (Isaiah 66:2).

We desperately need a vital relationship with God and all that He will give to us by His grace to achieve His purpose for us. His gifts flow to the humble because they will submit to His government and His will, and for that reason, God will withhold no good gift from them (Romans 8:32; Psalm 84:11). By prayer, and especially by striving to pray always, we are submitting every thought, word, and action to the scrutiny and governance of the great God.

The Israelites did not want God to rule their lives directly; they did not want to submit to His rule. If we are not striving to pray always, we are making the same mistake. Their decision put them in the position of having to fight their own battles. If we make the same mistake, we get the same results—but worse. Why would God want anyone in His eternal Family who demonstrates an unwillingness to submit to His governance on every occasion?

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Six)


 

John 19:10-11

History shows that the primary enemies of the church arise from humans influenced by Satan and his demons - and history continually repeats itself. The clearest examples of where these enemies lie are shown in the lives and ministries of Jesus Christ and the apostles. Did not the established religious and governmental leaders of their day, such as Caiaphas, the Pharisees and Sadducees, Pilate, the Herods, etc., willingly cooperate in persecuting them?

Searching into God's authority over these enemies will help us to see how complete and all-encompassing is His power over everything. Past events show that civil governments and false churches are always the true church's most dangerous adversaries.

Here, "power" refers to civil authority, and Jesus informs us that Pilate, a powerful Roman governor of Judea, who had authority over life and death, derived his authority from God. The authority would not be his if God had not given it to him directly. We can infer that Pilate was specifically given his particular civil authority. Why is this important for us to know and believe?

Proverbs 21:1 adds an important truth: "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes." The Living Bible paraphrases this as, "Just as water is turned into irrigation ditches, so the Lord directs the king's thoughts, He turns them wherever He wants to."

This fact helps us understand God's sovereignty and much of history too. If the thoughts of a king - representing the highest, most influential, and most powerful person in the nation - are in God's hand, and He has the power to influence his decisions toward the outcome that pleases Him, are not all human governors completely under the Almighty's sovereign control? Clearly, God has the power to move all history in the direction He wishes it to go. His desire will always be done. Romans 13:1-2 makes this deduction certain:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

Not only does God have the power to move those already in office, but He appointed them in the first place! Since Paul writes this directly to Christians, and Christians have lived throughout history and in virtually every place on earth, the wording suggests that this command has timeless, universal application. Thus, God reveals that, in the final analysis, all civil magistrates, from the emperor on down to the lower authorities - and religious authorities as well - owe to God their appointments and rights to govern.

In John 5:17, Jesus provides insight into God's activity throughout the millennia of this creation: "Jesus answered them, 'My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.'" God's labors are the continuous managing and ruling over the affairs of men. He has not gone "way off somewhere," but is actively involved in bringing His purpose to pass at all times. By His will and in His providence, authorities are appointed to maintain order, to encourage good conduct, and to punish wrongdoing.

Thus, anyone who believes God is confronted by a matter of biblical truth and clear logic. How will any of our enemies "get around," deflect, or nullify the real unseen Power who stands behind and above the visible powers that be? His will will stand. So, to whom do we turn in time of need?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part Two)


 

Romans 12:14

At the very least, Paul derived this from the example of Christ, who submitted to wicked and corrupt officials and authorities. Jesus had every right to rebel. He was completely innocent and had done nothing wrong—nothing of which He was accused had been part of His conduct. However, He had every intention of doing the right thing, and He carried through with it.

The true Christian consciously chooses to suffer evil rather than do evil because it would be wrong to do anything other than what Christ did. He set the example. He is the archetype; He is the One who goes before. The Christian is not a masochist, but by faith, he takes steps to prevent war. He does this because he recognizes that two wrongs do not make a right. Just because someone abuses authority does not give him the right from God to fail to submit to it. This is why there is never any real thought to war. Somebody gets into power and abuses his authority, and those who are under him react carnally and retaliate to get back at the one in authority—and the cycle never ends!

Will there ever be peace? There will be peace when people submit to God, and that means submitting to His way. If everybody would submit to God's way, war would stop overnight—that would be the end! But men will not submit to God (Romans 8:7). A major principle we are to learn in this life is to submit under duress, under abuse—when the pressure is on and the desire to retaliate is strongest. We have to learn not to justify our retaliation by saying, "He made me do it—the Devil made me do it!" All the ways of man are right in his own eyes (Proverbs 14:12).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Romans 13:1-2

Of course, God's spiritual law is of prime importance and takes precedence over all other law. As Peter said, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29) when a conflict between the two occurs. Though breaking man's laws may not always be sin, a rebellious attitude against what God appoints over us will in time lead to transgressing God's law. One who will not submit to law in one area will not submit to it in others.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Sin Is Spiritual!


 

Ephesians 5:21

Why do we submit? Out of respect for God, which is what Jesus did. He submitted to the authority of Pilate because of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Colossians 3:22-25

Is God involved in our lives? Paul is bringing the example of Christ, and His attitude toward those who were in authority, all the way down to an employment level. In Ephesians 5:21, he brought it down to a relationship within a congregation. But in both cases, the submitting was done out of respect for God—not because the authority was great, not because the person was a better man or woman—in fact, it had nothing whatever to do with the character of the person in authority.

Our submission has everything to do with our relationship to God, what we know of Him, and the purpose He is working out. The biblical definition of submission is clear. This instruction is in perfect harmony with Romans 12 where he says, "Live with all men in peace," as well as, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay!"

Submission is an act of faith. It has nothing at all to do with the quality of character of the person to whom we are submitting. It does not matter whether he is a good or a bad guy. It does not matter whether or not we feel what he is doing is unjust. It may be very unjust—as the taking of Christ's life was very unjust. But Christ submitted to whatever God permitted—out of fear, out of respect, out of faith that God had Him in His hands and nothing would happen before its time. He knew God was concerned about the outcome of His life.

So then, biblical submission is respecting divinely appointed authority out of respect for Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Colossians 3:22

We need to understand that what Paul is writing - "servants obey in all things" - excludes breaking the commands of God. He means obey all things pertaining to one's occupation.

Slavery was an accepted practice in Roman culture. Everybody who was anybody had slaves. Rome's population (just the city of Rome) has been estimated at well over one million people during the time that this book was written. One-half of the people in the city were slaves! And they were not, in most cases, just menial workers; slavery extended into the professions. In those days, doctors were often slaves, as were schoolteachers. Slavery extended into every area of society.

Were the apostles social crusaders? No, they were not. They did not try to change society. Their job was to work on changing individuals, especially those within the church. God permitted slavery to exist, and through Paul, He told Christians to operate within it. Not to overthrow it, but to work within it. Nobody is saying that the Bible says slavery is good. The Bible does not say such a thing. God wants everyone to be free. In this case, though, slavery was a part of the culture, and God nowhere instructs His people to overthrow it.

Today, very few people have ever been a slave like those whom Paul was addressing here. However, most of us work for a living, and the principle holds true for that area.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

Titus 3:1-2

The Phillips translation renders these two verses as:

Remind your people to recognize the power of those who rule and bear authority. They must obey them and be prepared to render whatever good service they can. They are not to speak evil of any man, they must not be quarrelsome but reasonable, showing every consideration to all men.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 8): Ephesians 4 (E)


 

1 Peter 2:13-15

It is easy to feel put upon by government—municipal government, state government, national government—governments in general. They take advantage of us. They put the pressure on us through taxes. They won't allow us to do things that we feel we ought to be able to do. We can begin to feel as though we are being taken advantage of by government.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

1 Peter 2:13

Peter agrees perfectly with Paul (Ephesians 5:21). He agrees with Romans 13:1, where Paul says that all authority comes from God. We submit, not because we are weak, but out of respect for God because He governs everything. He either causes or permits things to take place.

The word "ordinance" is not translated well, as it does not mean "law." It is more closely related to the English word "institution"—"every institution of man." What is more interesting is that this word is rarely used in a context in relation to men. It is always used in relation to God! Peter means, then, that we must submit to every institution of man because it was instituted by God!

Notice this in context. Peter is referring to agencies of the Roman government—the Roman equivalents of the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Defense, etc. He is talking about the Roman equivalents of the Secret Police, the DEA, the NEA, or any other part of the Roman government that may have had some police or administrative power over the lives of Christians. Peter is saying that God permitted these institutions to be organized. We should not look upon them as if God condones them, but recognize that these governmental authorities exist for His ultimate purpose. They, therefore, have His authority behind them.

Americans love to rebel. They love to feel as though they are free and are just as good as anybody else. But it is not a matter of being "just as good as anybody else." In the eyes of God, His people are far better than anybody else! Yet, even those who are far better than anybody else in the eyes of God are still required by Him to submit to the authorities that He has permitted to be in place—whether in the civil government, church government, or family government!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

1 Peter 2:17-21

There is oppression and abuse all over the world. "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." People abuse when they amass power'whether it be in the family, in the community, or in the nation. There is plenty of abuse of authority. In this nation, we are moving rapidly toward the time when Christians will be abused far worse than they have ever been in the past. We have been called to this'to submit to evil out of respect for God, out of faith. This does not mean we are submit to do evil, but to submit to God in the face of evil.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

1 Peter 2:21-23

The world will not submit to God, which is why the world is in the state that it is! Rather than submit to God, men seek to gratify - or satisfy - their desires. The pattern began early, when Lucifer did it, resulting in war with God! Then came Adam and Eve, who also did not submit to God. God said, "You may eat of all of the trees in the Garden" - there may have been hundreds of them - "but there is that one there of which I do not want you to eat." Instead, they followed their own desire, taking from the very tree God said not to eat. This, of course, brought them into conflict with God!

The Christian is called to suppress his lusts. It is not wrong to have desire, but it is wrong not to suppress the lust that can lead a person to exceed his own authority and therefore bring himself into a state of disobedience or non-submission to the authority that God permits in this world.

So to this we were called. We are to be among the first harvest, which will include all of those people, beginning with righteous Abel, who submitted to God rather than man. They did what they did for the same reason that we will do what we will do - we all see God ruling His creation and know that our first priority in life is to submit to Him!

Jesus Christ, Peter says, committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. Jesus knew that Pilate was wrong. He knew that Ananias was wrong and that all the Sanhedrin was wrong. But He submitted to death and to the authority that was constituted by God in those men. He knew there would be a judgment. Those men will be judged for what they did by the very God that Christ, by faith, submitted to. He let God make the decision as to whether He was doing what was right or whether Ananias and Pilate were doing what was right. He did not resist the government, but allowed them to take His life. The resurrection proves that Jesus was right. The resurrection shows God's judgment because He vindicated His Son.

I hope we get the point: God will vindicate us by a resurrection because we submit to Him and to His way even though we may be caught in the evil of abusive people in positions of power - whether husband, employer, local police, or national government.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

 




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