Political Revolution in the Reformed Tradition, One: Romans 13:1-7

WCSK Subordination Civil Authority

How does a Christian faithfully serve God when he or she lives under a civil authority that either denies God’s existence or treats God as a subordinate? What happens when civil authorities exalt themselves above the Lord and try (for example) to usurp authority in the Church or the home? Is “do as they say” the proper biblical response for the Christian? Should you pay taxes if the State intends to use that money for evil? In his illuminating new book, Political Revolution in the Reformed Tradition, Dr. Sam Waldron provides comprehensive biblical answers to many perplexing questions, including those just mentioned. Here, I will focus on the answers to five broad questions, and such answers should equip you with clarity as you wrestle with faithfully living out God’s Word. Those questions are:

  1. Where does the government come from?
  2. What is a civil authority called to do?
  3. Does the Bible support or prohibit political revolution?
  4. What is the relationship between subordination to civil magistrates and obedience to the same authorities?
  5. Does Romans 13 call us to obey the government blindly in all situations?

I will use Waldron’s book as a foundation and guide to help the Christian, who is called to think and act biblically while simultaneously residing in the midst of two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world.

Consequently, I believe that Political Revolution is a book that Christians will find beneficial at this time since it provides crucial perspectives for both the Church and the individual Christian as they navigate through the perplexing ethical and societal questions that have recently emerged. Although the Political Revolution was originally written by Dr. Waldron as a doctoral thesis almost four decades ago, its biblical wisdom and thoughtful exegesis remain as timely as ever. Many of the points made here will be succinct summaries of Waldron’s work. I will make explicit mention when I quote Dr. Waldron verbatim. In numerous other places, I will paraphrase. Of course, for a more comprehensive explanation, I refer everyone back to the book.

Accordingly, the central point I will communicate today (with Dr. Waldron’s help) is that, biblically speaking, whenever we think about secular authority, we first ought never to look out but rather to look up and consider that (i) only God is the ultimate, unconditional, and sovereign authority, and (ii) because secular authority is not sovereign, it is both subordinate and accountable to the Lord. Throughout this episode, I will interchangeably use several terms that all refer to governmental powers: secular authority, civil magistrates, civil authority, and the State.

The central Scripture talked about in Political Revolution is Romans 13:1-7. This is fitting because these New Testament verses give us the clearest explanation of our obligation to secular authorities. The text says:

Every person is to be subject 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 servant 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 servant of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Pay to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; respect to whom respect; honor to whom honor.

Question One

This brings me to the first question to be answered: Where does the government come from? In short, from God. Hence, because secular authority is ordered by the Lord, it does not come from men. Recall what Romans 13:1-2 says:

Every person is to be subject 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. (italics mine)

So, because civil authority is the ordinance, minister, and servant of God, subordination to it will be a blessing for the righteous, generally speaking. Why? Because we are subject to the design God has appointed. The same principle would apply to children obeying their parents or church members acting in subordination to their church elders.

The divine origin of civil authority tells us that—contrary to the traditional American conception of democracy—the State is not “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It is of God and by God, for there is no authority except from God. Thus, political power is not derived from the consent of the governed or by an original social contract or agreement. Such a contract results in mutual obligations for both the governed and the governor. God’s design is not mutual, but flows downward from Himself to the State and then to the individual. Having a clear biblical understanding of God’s ordering of civil authority is important because if a person were to invest in the non-biblical idea that secular authority comes from men, what results is a man being sovereign to the exclusion of God. The unavoidable result of this thinking is a person with a self-serving ideology of secular power in which the self reigns supreme and any affront to personal liberty is a reason to resist authority and champion individual autonomy. However, according to Romans, “[W]hoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” As I will explain later, none of this suggests that a Christian is ever called to blindly obey secular power and merely “do what they say” in all situations. The point here is that in all circumstances, we are called to look through and above secular power and recognize that it would not exist unless God had ordained it. Accordingly, no Christian is ever called to be an anarchist because they would have a godless view of civil government while professing faith in God.

The rejection of the idea of a social contract thus informs us that for a citizen of any country on earth, it would be non-biblical to ultimately appeal to any form of a national charter. So, for Americans, appealing to the Constitution as a foundation of our rights is bogus without acknowledging that God Himself is the ultimate source of all that is good, right, and true. This, of course, does not suggest that appealing to the Constitution is wrong; in fact, doing so is biblical when the said appeal is grounded in God’s truth. As I have written before, God created man in His own image, giving all people the freedom to think, speak, and act. Therefore, appealing to the First Amendment is grounded in divine truth because freedom of speech is grounded in freedom gifted to all human beings by the Lord.

Furthermore, the rejection of the idea of a social contract also dismantles the revolutionary idea that the people have a “right” to violently revolt or disengage if the government fails to fulfill its presupposed responsibilities to the people. The reality is that we live in a fallen world, and nothing on this side of Paradise is going to be either perfect or ideal. This includes whatever form of civil authority we live under. Objective right and wrong will never change, but just because Christians may not like their government (or prefer its current leaders) doesn’t give them the right to discard what God has ordained. What God gives, only God can take away. This principle must be applied broadly because the form of the government is irrelevant to the legitimacy of the government. God ordains civil authority in general and not specific forms of that authority, for example, democracy or socialism. The fact that the apostle Paul explicitly requires subordination to imperial Rome (the same civil authority that crucified Christ) in Romans 13 must be faced by those who condition subordination to any civil government on its conformity to certain standards.

What has been discussed thus far certainly does not dismiss the fact that when governments degenerate and godless immorality flourishes, the hearts of the godly are deeply troubled. On the one hand, civil authority is ordered by God, and His decretive will is that which determines “whatever comes to pass.” That will is the standard by which all things occur (Romans 9:19; Acts 4:27-28; Isaiah 46:10-11; Genesis 50:20). Yet, God’s decretive will is not the ethical standard of all human conduct. Consequently, the mere existence of an evil state can fall within God’s decretive will, yet that same authority is still in gross violation of His moral Law. That is because God’s ordering of civil authority does not just apply to individuals; it also establishes the duty of a civil authority before God. Romans 13 is frequently misinterpreted because it is not taken into account that it also applies to those in civil authority. Hence, both the governed and the governor are called to act in accordance with divine truth. Nothing and no one is exempt from answering to the Lord.

Many people may flee from the idea that holy omniscience permits the rule of godless, immoral, and tyrannical regimes. Shouldn’t God ordain only Christ-loving civil magistrates? Let us not forget that, historically, there was a time when God ruled directly over an earthly kingdom: in the era of the theocratic kingdom of Israel. Back then, the genuine leader of the earthly government was God Himself. However, the age of theocracy is now over. Why? Because God’s own people rejected Him and therefore inherited the consequences. It was God Himself who destroyed the theocratic kingdom of Israel and transferred civil authority over to the Gentiles. Accordingly, the authority of Gentile kingdoms originated in covenantal curses; this is a crucial biblical lesson never to forget. Consequently, life under these Gentile kingdoms continues and will continue to be a curse for the people of God. The dominion of kingdoms like the Babylonians and the Assyrians would not have come about without the people’s first brazen rebellion against Yahweh.

Recognizing the transfer of authority to the Gentiles is important because a perversion of biblical teaching would be to focus our attention on social change or to “Christianize” secular authority. This is a deceitfully false hope. The true hope of the people of God is the re-establishment of the theocratic kingdom after human history ends in a new heaven and earth. This will not be the achievement of civil reformation but of divine intervention.

That answers the question, where does the government come from? Governing authorities come from God.

Question Two

What is a civil authority called to do? The answer to this question is straightforward. Civil authority is responsible for maintaining law and order. This means, primarily, restraining evil; secondarily, protecting those who do good. This answer is plain from the text. Romans 13:3-5 says:

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

God ordains secular authority. Because God is good, He calls on the said authority to wield the power of the sword—or to use force—to restrain evil and protect good. What becomes readily clear, then, is that secular authority is a manifestation of the common grace of God to all people. (The Church is a manifestation of special grace to a particular people, the elect.) Because the Lord is concerned with the welfare of the unregenerate as well, He ordains a body that will curb evil and promote good in society. After all, even thieves would be content with a system to which they could resort if their belongings were stolen!

In the same way that the Law of Moses was used as a means to curb sin, civil authority has been ordained to curb evil. Civil authority is both necessary and essential: consider what human society would be without law and order, where every person merely does what it right in her or her own eyes. Furthermore, I believe that one of God’s good purposes in ordaining civil authority is to test human nature. Sin always compels the sinner to excuse himself when he is at fault. He will blame everyone and everything but himself. There needs to be an external curb so that one man’s transgression does not spill over onto his neighbor’s front porch. Because, like the Law of Moses, secular law and order do not change hearts. It does not create or produce righteousness; it only punishes a transgression after the fact. The crucial point here is that while civil authority is necessary and essential, it is not transformative. Only God changes hearts and minds.

The State restrains evil, protects good, and uses force to do so. One point that I would argue (not Waldron) is that because the State bears the power of the sword, it may use capital punishment as an instrument of its justice. This is fitting since an ideal State takes the protection of life seriously. Some may balk at this assertion and quote Jesus’s command to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) and to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:43-44). But, let us not forget that those are commands given to individuals. In Romans 13, we are talking about the corporate body that constitutes secular authority. The authority of capital punishment is also found in the Old Testament, where God established a covenant with Noah and the subsequent order after the flood. In Genesis 9:6, God says:

Whoever sheds human blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made mankind. (italics mine)

God regards all human life as sacred. Therefore, to restrain the evil of murder, the ultimate natural punishment is permitted (execution). Take note that God’s justice is also proportional (i.e., “an eye for an eye”) in that He calls for the death of a murderer. The principle does not, for example, call for the death of a thief or a trespasser.

Consider as well that, according to Romans 13, the State’s operations are largely defensive as it relates to individuals. That is, an individual first does good, and then he or she gains the approval of civil magistrates. However, if an individual does wrong, they will be met with forceful restraint. The State does not take the initiative but rather responds to the actions of individuals. Strictly speaking, civil authority is not called to necessarily be an agent that proactively seeks to do good deeds itself but rather commends the good deeds performed by other individuals. As mentioned before, this should temper the zeal of those who want to use secular laws to make the kingdom of earth like the kingdom of heaven.

I have provided an answer to the question: What is civil authority called to do? Nevertheless, let us not forget what the Christian is called to do while living in the midst of secular authority. That, of course, is how Paul explains things: by informing Christians of their responsibility before moving on to that of the magistrates. To repeat, Romans 13:1 says:

Every person is to be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

Hence, biblically speaking, we are called to be model citizens because our subjection to the State honors our Lord and our behavior is an example to both Christians and non-believers. Generally speaking, Christians are acting biblically when their governor, mayor, or representative can use them as an illustration and say, “Follow their example.” In an ideal world, all Christians would live in subjection to a moral, good State that would approve of righteous behavior.

That’s how civil authority is supposed to work, but often fails. Sadly, sometimes secular authority does the opposite of what it’s called to do: that is, restrain good and encourage evil. How the Christian navigates that fallen reality will be addressed in the fourth question.

Question Three

Let us now move on to the third question: Does the Bible support or prohibit political revolution? No. The Bible explicitly does not support the violent political revolution. As Waldron writes:

“Violent, political revolution is both a violation of the Scriptures and a contradiction of the teaching of the historical fount of the Reformed tradition, John Calvin.”

In fact, Waldron argues persuasively that in Romans 13, the apostle Paul was specifically speaking out against violent Jewish revolutionaries who wanted to overthrow the Roman regime. At the time, Jewish nationalism, with its violent, revolutionary tendencies, was a palpable influence on Roman Christians (c.f. Barabbas in Luke 23:19 and 13:1, where Galileans were slaughtered). In line with this, consider the explicit warnings against joining with revolutionaries in Ecclesiastes 8:2-5 and Proverbs 24:21-22.

Additionally, justly famous are Jesus’s words to Peter to put his sword back in its place upon His arrest. As Jesus Himself says, “[F]or all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Consider Jesus’ explicit renunciation of the revolutionary use of the sword in John 18:36:

My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.

This all begs the question that Waldron intelligently asks: “If Jesus would not permit the use of the sword to prevent the greatest injustice of all time (His Crucifixion), then what occasion may justify an armed revolt against existing authorities?”

Waldron equates political revolution with violence. (Thus, a movement without violence is not a revolution, properly defined.) Therefore, non-violent, civil disobedience is not regarded by Waldron as a “revolution” and is therefore biblically permissible in certain contexts. That is because, with non-violent resistance, the person isn’t trying to forcibly overthrow an authority God has ordained; rather, they honor the authority God has ordered while peaceably refusing to participate in specific manifestations of that authority that do not align with divine truth. Moreover, if the existing law of a political entity permits a revolution, it cannot properly be called a “revolution” because the agents are merely acting within the bounds of the existing law.

There is an explicit biblical prohibition against violent political revolution for the individual Christian. However, the calculus changes if you are a civil magistrate. We, as individuals, are not called to bear the sword to restrain evil in society at large. The State is called to bear the sword. Hence, it is biblical for civil magistrates to violently revolt against civil authority; in fact, they would be doing the wrong thing if they did not do so. Rulers are “[avengers] who carry out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). Indeed, wrongdoers can be rulers themselves.

Is a violent revolution ever justified? Not by private citizens. However, violent revolution is perfectly legitimate with proper causation for those whose vocation is to exercise authority (civil magistrates). The only biblical justification for the use of armed force in a revolution exists only when, in essence, the State revolts against the State.

Question Four

Let’s proceed to the fourth question: What is the relationship between subordination to civil magistrates and obedience to the same authorities?

Romans 13:1 gives us our marching orders on how we are to relate to civil authorities:

Every person is to be subject to the governing authorities.

To be subject to can also be translated to subordinate. Subordination comes from the Greek word hupotasso (ὑποτάσσω). The same word is also used in reference to the authority of parents, husbands, civil government, and God. No honest Bible student can deny that hupotasso and obedience are related. Still, these two terms are distinct, and in context, hupotasso does not properly translate to obedience. Obedience basically means you do what they say. Consequently, children are commanded to obey their parents in the Lord (Ephesians 6:1). So, in Romans 13, the apostle Paul is not commanding us to simply obey and do everything the State says; rather, the apostle tells us to be subordinate.

How are obedience and subordination different? Subordination is more developed than obedience and speaks to not just what one does on the outside but also to an inward disposition that accepts being under an order or authority with calm acquiescence. One of the clearest ways to distinguish between obedience and subordination is to look at their antonyms in the New Testament. The opposite of obedience is disobedience. The opposite of subordination is not disobedience; it is enmity, insubordination, or hostility (e.g., exthros in Romans 8:7 and anthisteimi [resisting] in James 4:7). Hence, subordination is a civil virtue that has as its contrasting vice, armed rebellion.

To properly define subordination, Waldron quotes John Murray from The Epistle to the Romans:

“Subjection indicates the recognition of our subordination in the whole realm of the magistrate’s jurisdiction and willing subservience to their authority.”

The Christian who lives in subordination to civil authority recognizes that all authority comes from God. They may not like, prefer, or agree with everything their civil magistrates say or do, but the subordinate Christian submits to said authority nonetheless because it has been ordered by the Lord. The subordinate person lives with a non-begrudging internal frame of mind characterized by trust in God’s sovereignty. This God-honoring way of thinking on the inside begets outward behavior that is God-glorifying.

Now we have to be careful on this point and not allow purposeful subordination to bleed over into blind obedience. Biblically defined, subordination to the State never endorses sin, because if it does, it is no longer subordination; it is sin, plain and simple. It is a complete violation of the Scriptures to ever make excuses for sin to obey earthly authorities. God still hates sin, whether you commit it voluntarily or are compelled to do so by the civil magistrate. Again, the point is that subordination to authority can never compel sin. In such cases, the authority is operating outside of its assigned jurisdiction, making said compulsion invalid.

As stated before, the New Testament uses the term subordination in reference to the authority of husbands over wives. For example, a Christian wife is neither being rebellious nor insubordinate when she refuses to sin at her husband’s bidding. Yes, she may disobey him, but she is not being insubordinate. She recognizes that God is sovereign over the church, the world, her marriage, her family, and her. Accordingly, she isn’t being insubordinate because she doesn’t consequently reject the whole realm of her husband’s authority. Rather, she is rightfully refusing an invitation to sin by disobeying the improper use of authority. It is therefore perfectly compatible for the Christian to obey the Lord while being disobedient to earthly authorities.

Waldron also quotes John Yoder in The Politics of Jesus:

“It is not by accident that the imperative of 13:1 is not literally one of obedience. The Greek language has good words to denote obedience, in the sense of completely bending one’s will and one’s actions to the desires of another. What Paul calls for, however, is subordination. The verb is based on the same root as the ordering powers of God. Subordination is significantly different from obedience. The conscientious objector who refuses to do what the government asks him to do yet still remains under the sovereignty of that government and/or accepts the penalties it imposes, or the Christian who refuses to worship Caesar but still permits Caesar to put him to death, is being subordinate even though he is not obeying.”

Subordination is more mature than obedience because the former is discerning enough to understand that some things cannot be obeyed, and you need not have to like the things you do conform to. Subordination is also more mature than disobedience because the former is discerning enough to understand that if you reject all authority, you are in essence rejecting God.

Question Five

This brings us to the fifth and final question, which has already been partially answered: Does Romans 13 call us to obey the government blindly in all situations? The answer is no. In short, when Christ and compliance collide, choose Christ.

Biblically speaking, no authority is absolute and unlimited except that of God. Because God is sovereign, holy, omnipotent, and good, He is the only One whom we obey in all situations. We don’t have to think if doing God’s will is a good idea or not because God is God. Invariably, misery follows everyone who elects not to do God’s will.

On earth, God has ordained multiple spheres of authority, each with its own defined jurisdiction. Hence, when speaking of human institutions, subordination to any authority implies the idea of limited jurisdiction or sphere of authority. We’ve already talked about the reality that the jurisdiction of secular authorities can never supplant God, and thus cannot compel anyone to sin. The two other big spheres of authority that God has ordained are the family and the Church. It’s important to understand that, according to divine design, none of the respective spheres are subject to the others per se. For example, the State cannot intrude upon the Church, the family upon the State, or the Church upon the other two. Yet all of the spheres are subject to God. The universal subordination to the Lord is a crucial point not to miss, as many interpret Romans 13 as pertaining solely to the individual’s responsibility to the State without also considering the State’s responsibility to God. Again, as Waldron writes:

“[N]ot only does God’s ordering the existing civil authorities ground our duty but also the duty of the civil authorities toward God.”

The simple lesson to be drawn here is that just as a Christian can violate God’s will, so can civil authority. After all, civil authority is not an alien institution but is composed of fallen human beings.

The Bible teaches us sound doctrine; men create heresies. Thomas Erastus is a fitting example of such a man. Consequently, Erastianism is the heretical idea that the State is superior to the Church in ecclesiastical matters. In other words, Erastianism would say civil authority has dominion over the Church and can dictate its actions. The devil is proud of this idea. God does not teach Erastianism in the Bible. Listen to Christ’s words in Luke 20:25:

Then pay to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

What are the implications of Christ’s words here? There are certain things that don’t belong to Caesar.

Consequently, Romans 13 certainly does not call us to obey the government blindly in all situations. In fact, from time to time, the Christian may find himself in a situation where civil authority compels Him to do something God has forbidden (e.g., murder) or it compels him not to do something that God has commanded (e.g., assemble in church). When Christ and compliance collide, choose Christ. Hence, conscientious disobedience is mandated by the Scriptures when the Christian is called on to sin (either by commission or omission) by a civil authority. As alluded to in a prior example, such conscientious disobedience is neither insubordination nor rebellion. Why? Because if the State compels a Christian to sin, it has stepped out of its assigned sphere of authority, making such a compulsion void. An authority cannot command something over which it has no authority! Technically speaking, a Christian cannot disobey an order that is not a real order; he cannot be insubordinate to an authority that—in a particular avenue—has no legitimacy. When viewed this way, a refusal to sin on behalf of the State is not about disobedience to the State; it is about obedience to God. Waldon writes that being subordinate does not mean to:

“[O]bey everything they say. Obedience and subordination are often closely related, but they are two quite different things… [T]here are times when the Christian must disobey the government (Acts 4:1920; 5:29). He must obey God rather than any human authority in cases where they conflict. It is also my view that the Christian may disobey the government where it exceeds its lawful jurisdiction and invades the jurisdiction of another divinely appointed human authority, like the jurisdiction of the church or family.” (Matthew 22:21)

The simple lesson: Christians are always called to be subordinate to their respective secular powers. We are not called to always obey. The State may be disobeyed when it seeks from us obedience that would require us to sin or when it seeks to impose its power outside its assigned sphere.

I hope I have made it clear how perfectly compatible disobedience and subordination are. It must also be mentioned that conscientious disobedience is not an exception to Romans 13. Conscientious disobedience is in fact a manifestation of the subordination of Romans 13. Why? Because Christians who are subordinate to civil authority accept the consequences of their disobedience because they are subordinate to said authority. That is a key distinction between God-centered subordination and self-centered disobedience, which rejects authority outright. To illustrate, consider how the author of Romans 13 (the apostle Paul) lived out his interpretation of the text. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are (unjustly) beaten and thrown into jail for preaching the gospel. What happens? An earthquake shook the foundations of the prison, causing all the doors to open and everyone’s chains to unfasten. The next morning, the chief magistrates (the same ones who had thrown Paul and Silas in jail) sent men to have them released. What was Paul’s response? He did not say, “I blindly submit to your will and agree with what you did.” This is what the apostle says in Acts 16:37:

After beating us in public without due process—men who are Romans—[the chief magistrates] threw us into prison; and now they are releasing us secretly? No indeed! On the contrary, let them come in person and lead us out.

First, even though the doors of the jail had swung open the night before, Paul and Silas did not leave the prison and remained there until the morning! Second, Paul made it explicitly clear that the chief magistrates were violating both the Law of God and the law of Rome: they unjustly punished the pair for doing what God commanded (preaching the gospel) and also beat Roman citizens without due process. Third, Paul then called upon the civil magistrates to make amends for their error, in which they acted improperly, outside their sphere of authority, in an attempt to supplant God’s command. Paul then called on them to act within their sphere of authority and requested that the civil magistrates publicly ask them to leave voluntarily, as opposed to using force in secret for evil.

The fact that Paul did not fret, complain, or resist when he was unjustly imprisoned for carrying out God’s will is a crucial takeaway. Acts 16:25 tells us that Paul and Silas were praying and singing to God while chained. Yes, they may have disobeyed secular leaders, but they also recognized they lived in a sphere of subordination to said authorities. In other words, the chief magistrates had the authority to imprison Paul and Silas. The pair, therefore, accepted the consequences of their disobedience as part of God’s design. They did not obey God, disobey the authorities and then continue to reject every tenet of the magistrates’ jurisdiction (e.g., “You don’t have the right to imprison us”). Of course, this does not mean their imprisonment was right or good, just as the Crucifixion was neither right nor good, speaking in terms of the use of secular power.

Christians are subordinate to civil authority if they disobey a command to sin and accept the consequences of their disobedience. This is not the exception but the rule of Romans 13. With this crucial clarification in mind, I believe it will temper two extremes among Christians who seek to follow God’s Word in the midst of secular power. On the one hand, it will curb the Christian on the left, who is uncritically obedient and thinks, “If the government commands, I obey.” That is clearly not the teaching of Romans 13. On the other hand, it will also curb the Christian on the right who is selfishly insubordinate and thinks, “The government is trash, and I won’t do anything they say.” That, as well, is not the teaching of Romans 13.

That concludes the five questions we will address today. As I hope I have made clear, I highly recommend Sam Waldron’s Political Revolution in the Reformed Tradition. I believe it will be a tremendous help to any faithful student of the Bible who wants to think and act biblically when it comes to living amidst the tension of two kingdoms, of God and of the world. I certainly think this book will prove to be more valuable over time when, in the United States, it is apparent that there are progressively more areas in life where Christ and compliance are at odds.

Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *