As secularism continues its encroachment upon our society and government, it is difficult for professed believers in America to come to grips with submitting to a government so far removed from its religious moorings. The false claims of infidels and God-haters notwithstanding, America’s roots are firmly in religious thought and expression.
But we would do well to remember that the church was born in a time and place that gave her no governmental protections nor any guaranteed liberties. The church thrived in this environment and continued to grow despite overt governmental opposition and persecution. While we are nowhere close to this at present, American is certainly heading in that direction.
Paul is clear that those who resist government resist the ordinance of God. The word “ordinance” means “arrangement” or “institution.” Thus, civil government is a divinely given institution and is God’s arrangement for man’s good.
Note that Paul did not say democracy or representative republic. The ruling power of that day was the Roman government. No one would better understand the many atrocities and excesses of government than those who received this epistle. Nevertheless, they were commanded to be in obedience and subjection to the civil authorities.
The only “out” we have in this matter is when the government leaves its divine appointments and begins to infringe on God’s territory. As Peter told the local authorities in Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Ane even then we are only permitted and commanded to disobey in the matter pertaining to God’s law. We don’t get to “throw out the baby with the bathwater.”
Also, we don’t get to dismiss our obligations to government simply because we do not like who is in office, who is ruling, or what policies are pursued. We must still pay our taxes and customs. And we must still pay our respect to the governing authorities (cf 2 Peter 2:10-12).
Finally, we are commanded to pray for our leaders and for those who lead other nations. Keeping them in prayer will help us keep ourselves in check.