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The Christian Counter


“The Powers That Be”


The Realm of Civil Power


Who should be subject to civil government?


Everyone must submit himself to the government authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1   


By whom are the powers that be ordained?


“The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Verse 1.


What does one resist that resists civil authority?


“Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” Verse 2.  


Note – That is, they who rise up against government itself; who seek anarchy and confusion; who oppose the regular execution of the laws. It is implied however, that those laws shall not be such as to violate the rights of conscience, or oppose the laws of God.


What are the proper sphere and work of civil authority?


“For rulers hold nor terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if he do you wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Verses 3,4.


For whom is the law made?


“We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers.” 1 Timothy 1:9. 


How are Christians admonished to respect civil authority?


“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good.” Titus 3:1. “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear, do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

1 Peter 2”13-17. “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Romans 13:6,7.


The Special Spiritual Realm


In what words does Christ show that there is another realm outside of Caesar’s, or civil government?


“Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

Matthew 22:21.  


To whom alone did He say worship is to be rendered?


“Jesus said to him, “Away from me Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. Matthew 4:10.


Civil Power Invades God’s Realm


What decree did King Nebuchadnezzar once make?


“As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of the gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” Daniel 3:5,6. 


Note – This decree was in direct conflict with the second commandment of God’s law, which forbids making, bowing down to, and serving images. It was religious idolatrous, and persecuting in character.


What answer did the three Hebrew captives give?


“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king. O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold that you have set up.” Verses 16-18.


What did Nebuchadnezzar then do?


“And commanded some of his strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace.” Verse 20.


After their miraculous deliverance, what did Nebuchadnezzar say?


“Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and

Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defiled the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any other god except their own God.” Verse 28.


Note – By preserving these men in the fire, God was demonstrating before the entire world, through his great kingdom, that religion is a realm outside the legitimate sphere of civil authority; and that every individual should be left free to worship, or not to worship, according to the dictates of his own conscience.


How only could the envious princes complain of Daniel?


“Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for chargers against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” Daniel 6:5.  


What decree did they prevail upon the king to make?


“The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should order an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any other god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lion’s den.” Verse 7.


Note – Unlike the decree of Nebuchadnezzar, this decree forbade the worship of the true God, and was in direct conflict with the first commandment of the Decalogue, which forbids the worship of any other god.


How did Daniel regard this decree?


“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”

Verse 10.


What was finally done with Daniel?


“So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lion’s den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” Verse 16.


What did Darius say when he came to the lion’s den?


“When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” Verse 20.

What was Daniel’s reply?


“Daniel answered, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel, and shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I done any wrong before you, O king.” Verses 21, 22.


Note – Here again was demonstrated a miracle, wrought in the face of this great nation, that with the directing, prescribing, proscribing, or interfering with religion or its exercise, civil governments can of the right have nothing whatever to do.


God’s Commands Vs. Man’s


What parting command did Christ give the disciples?


“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”

Mark 16:15.


What counter command did the Jews soon give them?


“Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” Acts 4:18.


What reply did Peter and John make?


“But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Verses 19,20.


For continuing to preach, what befell the apostles?


“Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.”

Acts 5:17,18.  


What did an angel of God then do?


“During the night an angel of the Lord opened the door of the jail and brought them out. “God and stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.” Verses 19,20.


Note – Here once again is demonstrated the fact that men have no right to interfere with the free exercise of religion, and that when the laws of men conflict with the law and Word of God, we are to obey the latter, whatever the consequences may be.


When the apostles were called before the council again, what question did the high priest ask them?

We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

Verse 28.


What reply did the apostles make?


“Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men! Verse 29.


Note – “Obedience is to be rendered to all human governments, in subordination to the will of God. These governments are a recognized necessity, in the nature of the case, and their existence is manifestly in accordance with the divine will. Hence the presumption is always in favor of the authority of civil law; and any refusal to obey, must be based on the moral proof that obedience will be sin…. It is obvious to need discussion, that the law of God, the great principle of obedience, is supreme, and that ‘we ought to obey God, rather than men,’ in any case of conflict between human law and the divine.”

James H. Fairchild, Moral Philosophy (1869 ed.), pp. 178-181.


Who is higher than the “higher powers”?


“If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still.” Ecclesiastes 5:8.  


Note – In attempting to defend the right of civil government to enforce religious observances by law, some still ask, “Shall we not obey the powers that be?” We answer, “Yes, when they are in harmony with the higher powers that be. God made His law for the entire universe. He is to be recognized, His law honored, before all the great men and the highest earthly powers.”  


Because Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman, what decree did Haman succeed in having the king issue?  


“Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews – young and old, woman and children – on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelve month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.”

Ester 3:13.


Note – God has placed the sword (civil authority) in the hands of Caesar (civil government) for the punishment of evildoers; but when the sword is raised to slay the innocent, as in the case of the children of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16); or to enforce idolatrous worship, as in the case of the three Hebrews (Daniel 3); or to prohibit the worship of the true God, as in the case of Daniel (Daniel 6); or to slay all God’s people, as in the time of Easter; or to enforce the observance of a false sabbath, as in the case of all Sunday laws, it is an abuse of civil authority, and not a proper or justifiable use of it; and God honors those who, under such circumstances, in the face of persecution, oppression, and death, remain loyal and true to Him.  God is above all earthly rulers, and His law above all human laws. He made us, and we therefore owe allegiance to Him before any earthly power, potentate, or tribunal. 


Personal Responsibility to God Alone


What is religion?


“The recognition of God as an object of worship, love and obedience.”  - Webster.  Other definitions equally good are: “The duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it.” Man’s personal relation of faith and obedience to God.”


In religious things, who alone should we call Father?


“And do not call anyone on earth ‘father, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.” Matthew 23:9.


When tempted to bow to Satan, what did Christ say?


“Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.Matthew 4:10.  (See Deuteronomy 6:13; 10:30.)


To who alone, then, is each one accountable in religion?


“So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” Romans 14:12.


Human Usurpers


What do those do, therefore, who make men accountable to them in religious affairs?


They put themselves in the place of God. (See 2 Thessalonians 2:3,4.)


Why, in religious matters, did Christ say men should not be called masters?


Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.”

 Matthew 23:10.


To who, then, as servants, are we responsible in matters of faith and worship?


“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? Too his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:4. 


Whose servants are we not to be?


“You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” 1 Corinthians 7:23. 


Note – “Satan methods ever tend to one end – to make men the slaves of men,” and thus separate them from God, destroy faith in God, and to expose men to temptation and sin. Christ’s work is to set men free, to renew faith, and to lead to willing and loyal obedience to God.” – Martin Luther.


At The Judgment Seat


Where must all appear to render their account?


“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

2 Corinthians 5:10. 


Note – Inasmuch, then, as religion is an individual matter, and each individual must give account of himself to God, it follows that there should be no human constraint or compulsion in religious affairs. 

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