Scripture, the State, and Resisting Authority

There certainly are times when it is right to say no to the State:

The more the state defies God and his values, and the more the churches meekly sit by submitting to everything, with no questions asked, the more I become uncomfortable, and the more I need to point out some biblical truths. And those truths include the following: the state is not absolute, and there are times where God’s people must obey God rather than man.

Civil disobedience in other words can at times be called for. As we see the state shutting down churches and the like, using things like a virus as their justification, there is all the more need for believers to think clearly – and biblically – about all this.

Religious freedom matters, and as the state increasingly seems to be stamping on our basic human rights and liberties, the church needs to stop being passive and cowardly here, but to take a stand. Sadly however this has not been happening very much, with only a minority of churches and church leaders showing some backbone and some resistance.

This is surprising, given how often Scripture speaks about those who have resisted the state – and praises them for doing so. In a recent article I listed 12 biblical cases of disobedience to authorities (13, if you count one case which may be less clear). That piece is found here: billmuehlenberg.com/2021/03/24/12-biblical-cases-of-civil-disobedience/

I mentioned in that article that one could find more such cases. Well I have another two cases to add to the list – they both have arisen from my current reading of 1 Samuel. Let me speak briefly to them, and then close with some snippets from a new article on this matter.

In 1 Samuel 14 we read about Saul’s rash vow. It involves Saul and his son Jonathan and one of their battles with the Philistines. The key part of this is found in verses 24-30:

And the men of Israel had been hard pressed that day, so Saul had laid an oath on the people, saying, “Cursed be the man who eats food until it is evening and I am avenged on my enemies.” So none of the people had tasted food. Now when all the people came to the forest, behold, there was honey on the ground. And when the people entered the forest, behold, the honey was dropping, but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath, so he put out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb and put his hand to his mouth, and his eyes became bright. Then one of the people said, “Your father strictly charged the people with an oath, saying, ‘Cursed be the man who eats food this day.’” And the people were faint. Then Jonathan said, “My father has troubled the land. See how my eyes have become bright because I tasted a little of this honey. How much better if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies that they found. For now the defeat among the Philistines has not been great.”

Here we see Jonathan deliberately defying the order of his own father – who was also the ruler of Israel. Yes, at first he was unaware of this order, but even when informed about it, he knew how foolish it was, and how God’s people should not be bound by it.

Some Christians might be getting a bit squeamish here, but they need to go back a chapter. In 1 Samuel 13:13-14 we read about how God had already rejected Saul as being king because of his disobedience. Indeed, the prophet Samuel was not blindly submitting to the king, but bravely confronting him and holding him to account.

Samuel has made it perfectly clear to the king that the kingdom would be taken away from him and given to another who would rightly follow the Lord. God still used faithful Jonathan, and he still blessed his people, but he was through with the wicked king Saul.

The second case is found in 1 Samuel 22. By now we see just how bad King Saul had become, and how God’s choice for a righteous ruler was clearly with young David. Saul believed the bogus report of an Edomite about the priests of God, so he ordered them to be killed. As we read in verses 16-20:

And the king said, “You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you and all your father’s house.” And the king said to the guard who stood about him, “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because their hand also is with David, and they knew that he fled and did not disclose it to me.” But the servants of the king would not put out their hand to strike the priests of the Lord. Then the king said to Doeg, “You turn and strike the priests.” And Doeg the Edomite turned and struck down the priests, and he killed on that day eighty-five persons who wore the linen ephod. And Nob, the city of the priests, he put to the sword; both man and woman, child and infant, ox, donkey and sheep, he put to the sword. But one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David.

The servants of Saul could see what an evil thing this ruling was, and they refused to carry it out. As Richard Phillips put it:

For Saul’s guards, passive acquiescence to an evil ruler inevitably collided with orders to commit grave sins against God’s law. The time had come when faithful Israelites would have to take a stand against evil or find themselves engaged in sacrilegious opposition to God. It was encouraging to learn that none of them were willing to “put out their hand to strike the priests of the Lord” (1 Sam. 22:17). This refusal to obey the king could not have failed to bring them to trouble.

So in both of these cases the biblical text has made it clear who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. Saul the king of Israel was the bad dude in both episodes, while those who disobeyed the king’s edicts were clearly seen as the good guys.

Let me finish with a brand-new piece by American Christian commentator Mario Murillo. In it he speaks about when we should submit to government and when we should not. He looks at how we should understand passages such as Romans 13:1-7, and then he concludes his piece this way:

God not only does not endorse evil government: He will have no part in it. “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with You—they who frame and hide their unrighteous doings under [the sacred name of] law?” (Psalm 94:20). There is your answer. A corrupt throne (government) cannot be allied with God. He cannot have fellowship with it. 

 

When a government creates evil laws God cannot be allied with it—because evil laws are the worst form of wickedness.

 

They are damnable because they give legitimacy to evil. Matthew Henry said, “Iniquity is daring enough even when human laws are against it, which often prove too weak to give an effectual check to it; but how insolent, how mischievous, is it when it is backed by a law! Iniquity is not the better, but much the worse, for being enacted by law; nor will it excuse those that practice it to say that they did but do as they were bidden.”

 

Notice how at the end, Henry says we can’t use the excuse that we were just obeying the law. That is why Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

 

The laws being created by Democrats, using the coronavirus as an excuse, are far worse than the virus itself because, unlike the virus, those new laws become permanent. It is time for the church to wake up and take action, beginning with voting the evildoers out of office and quit calling our submission a godly thing, when it is just a cowardly thing.

 

“WHO WILL RISE UP FOR ME AGAINST THE EVILDOERS? WHO WILL STAND UP FOR ME AGAINST THE WORKERS OF INIQUITY?” (Psalm 94:16). mariomurilloministries.wordpress.com/2021/03/29/do-you-know-when-and-when-not-to-submit-to-government/  

I am now working on more pieces about such matters, looking at various examples from church history. One interesting case in point involves the Scottish Reformation and John Knox. Stay tuned for that article and others like it in this ongoing and irregular series of pieces about Christians and the State.

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10 Replies to “Scripture, the State, and Resisting Authority”

  1. I know a person who lost his job because he refused to participate in saying the Welcome to Country (W2C) or the Acknowledgement of Country (AoC) because he believe its go against his faith.

    The principal at the College terminated his contract. Its suppose to be a Christian school. They sacked the person because he stood up for God!

    I can’t image a Muslim who refused to say the AoC or the W2C get sack.

  2. Bravo, sir. May we have some more? A topical question that I am struggling with is: how do you respond Biblically to Elders in a Church (mine) who carefully make sure they pray for ‘President Biden that he would be guided and blessed by the Lord’ every Sunday? They were not so careful when President Trump was president. I have begun stepping out of the Sanctuary when the Elder comes to the platform to pray. I would like to explain why this prayer is wrong, or wrong headed, but I don’t know. I pray for the “quick repentance of the fascists who have illegally taken over my country, and if they fail to repent, that the Lord would remove them quickly”.

  3. Sorry about sending this at Easter but unless we act quickly we will be divided between those who are vaccinated and have a passport and a remnant of free thinking ‘undesirables’. Please send on to your contacts

    “Hi all. For those unaware, the National Cabinet is working on plans for a new “Digital Vaccine Passport” that will be mandatory for anyone wanting to travel overseas with an announcement on the rollout expected within a couple of weeks. The passport will provide proof of an indiviuals vaccination, so any Australian citizen wishing to travel overseas will be required by law to provide evidence of vaccination, or they will not be allowed to board ANY airline. The aim is for the Digital Pass to, over time, be expanded to include a whole range of activities and places, from sports stadiums, gyms, schools and universities, to theatres and possibly even your workplace.
    Whatever your views are on the Covid-19 vaccine, any policy or law that divides a population between ‘the vaccinated’ and ‘the unvaccinated’ must surely ring alarm bells for anyone who cares about the future of our freedoms in this country. Divisions like this will swiftly lead to a quasi ‘caste’ system, where one group will become a ‘favoured’ class, enjoying privileges and rights denied to a ‘pariah’ class of ‘untouchables’ who would, by any measure, become the most discriminated against group in Australia’s history (think of the social credit system used in China today).

    There is currently a Petition running, but it is due to close on April the 14th: Petition EN2463 – Government to commit no rolling out any e-vaccinations
    e-petitions – Parliament of Australia
    atus/immunity passport”
    “There are currently 12,346 signatures, but if we can get to 20,000 signatures, the House of Representatives will be forced to debate these new laws on the floor of Parliament, and hopefully make them at least have to submit it to a Senate Inquiry first. If you love this country and the freedoms that have been fought for, please sign this petition, as all evil needs to succeed is for good people to do nothing. “

  4. Apparently the Nuremberg defense goes back a long way.

    The left has never hated the Nazis or any other tyrannical government only that they weren’t them. The Bolsheviks complained about what the czar did but did far worse when in power. They make people think they care and things will be different even lie about there opponents (accuse others of that which you are guilty) but power is what they want. They wish to be God and will accept NO rivals. I saw a cartoon recently were two scientists were talking one lamenting about people saying they are playing god and the other says that is ridiculous…. I’m not playing! That sentiment could easily come fore these revolutionaries in charge of governments these days.

  5. Thank you Bill for your very informative article. The scriptures you shared of men & women of great courage are such an encouragement in the face of this ever changing world we are now living in.

    Gail Foster, thank you for sharing that e-petition information, but alas, I have not been able to locate it using any of the information you have given. I would really like to sign it & try to get others on board.

  6. Thinking of civil disobedience towards a corrupt government made me wonder if the prophetic warning of Jesus: “when you see the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place” referred to future human scientists and their sponsors who seek to replace God the Father of creation by creating synthethic replicants of humans (the human body being a temple) but excising the soul from the five senses?

  7. Jeff Vines had a sermon recently where he referred to Martin Luther King’s letter from jail in Birmingham. I think it is a good summary of how Christians should respond to unjust laws.

    We should respond peacefully, lovingly and with preparedness to suffer the consequences.

  8. Joshua 24:14-15
    English Standard Version
    Choose Whom You Will Serve

    14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

  9. Praise the Lord for TRUTH……Jesus is the TRUTH….HIS word is TRUTH…..
    thanks Bill for sharing scripture, that is TRUTH

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