What Is The Source of Government?
Scripture tells us that government comes from God, so we are to obey the government.
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. - Matthew 7:21-23
The above also reveals one of the purposes of government... to fight evil. However, there is a more basic description of what government is to do:
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles domineer over them, and those in high position exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wants to become prominent among you shall be your servant, and whoever desires to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” - Matthew 7:21-23
This indicates that those who rule (government in our case) are there to serve those whom they rule. Of course, what that means can be interpreted in many ways, some of which are highly self-serving. So we turn to Romans 13 to learn that "serving" means to punish evil. We see this again in 1st Peter chapter two:
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. - 1 Peter 2:13-14
1st Peter not only reiterates that government is to fight (punish) evil, it defines another purpose of government, which is to praise those who do right.
What About Ungodly Government?
What if the government is fighting that which is good, and praising that which is evil? And not only praising what is evil, but actually implementing what is evil? Does that mean it is time for a revolution and overthrowing the government?
Yes, but there are constraints. We do not have a right as individuals, nor as a mob, to overthrow the government. We are to use those who are already in positions of authority to take the appropriate action.
For example, the Roman government of the first century was a brutal, unjust government. Nero, one of the worst Roman emperors, ruled from the year 54 until 68. He was tyrannical, murderous, debauched, and pointed to Christians as the scape goats for Rome burning in the year 64. The result was that Christians were killed in horrific ways for the amusement of the citizens of Rome. Persecution was severe. Parts of the New Testament were written during the rule of Nero, yet nowhere does scripture call for, or even hint that Christians should have revolted against Rome.
In the U.S. today there are numerous means available for getting rid of an unBiblical government. They include the ballot box and impeachment. In addition, state governments hold positions of authority and may take actions to confront and even force changes in the federal government. The doctrine of "lesser magistrate" is an example in which subordinate powers may remove a king or other ruler. Taking it to an even more serious level, all governments are accountable to both God and the people they govern and there are times when a revolt is justified. The people may form a new government (not a mob), that rejects and replaces an unlawful and unBiblical government. The American Revolution is an example of this.
However, Consider These...
Christianity grows the most under harsh persecution. God uses persecution to grow and purify His church.
What will government be like in the Tribulation? Not very Godly. Yet it is God's will that the Tribulation happen, and if we currently are in the lead-up to the Tribulation, shouldn't we expect government to be getting worse and worse?
In other words, God does not promise us a Biblical government, He does promise that all governments come from Him. He is in control. No matter how bad our government is, you can be assured God has not lost control. Yes, if government tells us to violate what God commands, we have the obligation to disobey the government. However, there is never a call in scripture to revolt against the Roman government.
What About Guns? Can a Christian Own a Gun?
Yes, Christians can own guns. There is nothing evil about owning a weapon. Weapons are not banned by scripture. Biblically (your local government may disagree) you may defend your family with deadly force, if there is a violent threat or potential for harm. An example would be an armed man breaking into your home and attempting to rape your wife and daughters. However, if the government comes to arrest us because we are Christians, we are not to fight. We may defend ourselves from criminal threats, but when someone personally offends us, or is trying to "get at Christ" through us (persecution of Christians), we are to turn the other cheek.
You will be hated by all because of My name... - Matthew 10:22a
But I say to you, do not show opposition against an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other toward him also. - Matthew 5:39
Examples of what the government is to do:
- Punish evil (as defined by God)
- Prohibit and punish evil behavior, such as:
- Inaccurate weights and measures
- Maintain police and military
- Control borders
- Praise that which is good
Examples of what the government is not to do:
- Provide charity (welfare)
- Have authority over education
- Provide housing
- Manage the economy
Go Deeper: THREE VIDEOS
We have produced three 30 minute videos, with Biblical government expert Doug Lundin, that provide the Biblical foundation for the authority government has, and what government is supposed to do and not supposed to do:
The Biblical Role of Government:
If your time is limited, we have excerpts (under 12 minutes each) of the three videos that highlight some of the key points from each of the above videos. Tap here to watch the shorter videos.