Civil Government


Many of us are breathing a deep sigh of relief because the election campaign is over. While free elections set our country off from many others, and our manner of choosing our government is an envy of many, the fact is that it also reveals the dark side of the human nature in the lies, innuendo, and slander that characterizes many campaigns. However good the system, it is a flawed one in that candidates often seek to win by destroying the opponent rather than by promoting their program.

While each nation is free to choose its government in its own way, the fact is that the institution of government is of God. While we may find it difficult to have respect toward individuals, yet we are to have respect toward God’s institution. In Romans 13 we read, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” In 1 Peter 2 we read, “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” Our Lord Jesus Himself told the people to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s (Matthew 22:21). Jesus and His apostles lived during the time of a heathen and corrupt government. Nevertheless, they did not counsel rebellion.

Martin Luther, who is remembered for being God’s instrument in the Reformation of the church, also had an influence on the political life of his time. He speaks yet today. “Government is instituted, not in order to seek its own profit at the expense of its subjects and to exercise its self-will on them but in order to provide for the best interests of its subjects” (WLS, Vol II, para.1767). He wrote in 1523, ” Here you see that government should be elected by the votes of the people. Reason also dictates this. … For to force a government upon a people against its will is perilous and pernicious” (Para. 1755). One time he said that if a country cannot have a wise and prudent rule, a wise and wicked ruler is to be preferred over a saintly but stupid one.

With the conclusion of the election, some will feel they got a “ruler” with whom they completely disagree. Others, even those whose candidate won, will not have gotten the one with whom they agree in all things.

Yet the Christian realizes that the will of the people has been worked under God. God has permitted to come to office for His own purposes that one who now is elected. We realize also that ultimately it is God Who is the determiner of the fates of nations (Acts 17:26). Regardless of who sits in the seat of authority, the Lord will work His will for the welfare of the nation whether it is for judgment or blessing. And without doubt the will of God will serve the benefit of His chosen, holy nation – the believers in Christ Jesus. It certainly is not to the loss of a Christian if the governance of this nation should fill us with greater longing for heaven!

In the meantime, Christians who are pilgrimming through this world will respect God’s institution and pray that the Lord will bless all who are elected with wisdom, courage, integrity, and moral strength and rectitude to govern for the welfare of the nation they serve.