Why Should Christians Submit to Governments? // Ask an African Pastor

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The Bible teaches that governments are instituted by God. Even in the face of sin and corruption – unless the rules set up contravene those of of God himself – believers should respect and obey these authorities. We  must pray for our governments, and encourage young Christians to go into politics. However, our real hope lies in the certain knowledge that a better kingdom on earth is coming. One ruled by Christ.

What the Bible says about governing authorities

The Bible teaches us in Romans 13 that governing authorities are instituted by God (Romans 13:1). So, if it is authority that is in many ways delegated by God, it would make sense that those who belong to countries – or citizens – ought to not ignore what the government is saying because in doing so – the Bible is clear – we are ignoring God’s authority itself.

The only places where I think we would be right in ignoring governing authorities and the rules that they set up is when they are contravening the rules of God himself.

In all ways that we can submit to governments we are called to do so. We should be those who are seeking to speak about them with honour.

So, if a government says you are not permitted to worship, if a government says you are not permitted to tell your children about the Gospel or teach them about what the Bible says about male and female – what Biblical marriage is – as a believer you cannot submit yourself to that government because you would be actually disobeying God himself.

What should our response be?

In all ways that we can submit to governments we are called to do so. We should be those who are seeking to speak about them with honour. We have instructions about this in 1 Timothy (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Churches are being asked to pray for governments. The reasons there stipulated show us that we actually should desire to see our countries ordered so that the Gospel can continue to spread. So we pray for governments to do what they should be doing so that we can walk the streets. So that we can continue to send out evangelists. See churches planted. Meet with the freedom of worship. And we trust that the result of that will be that all men will come to a saving knowledge of the Lord.

But what if governments are corrupt and perpetrate injustice?

That said, governments are also filled up with sinners. Just like we are sinners. What this means is that there is going to be corruption. There is going to be injustice. The very people set up to oversee that which is right – to be mediators of the justice and righteousness of God – sometimes sadly, because of the fallen state of man and the fallen state of this world, are going to be the very people who are perpetrating that which is actually wrong.

So, across the scriptures from beginning to the end its not uncommon to see a cry being raised up to the Lord. Habakkuk is a good book to see the prophet raising up a cry to the Lord because its clear that he is seeing injustice everywhere (Habakkuk 1:1-4). Its interesting when you read, especially in the minor prophets and the major prophets, that the solution is never “lets have a coup! Lets go to the streets, lets organise!” That’s never the solution. Constantly believers are being pointed to another kingdom. There is going to be a time that will come when there will be another government that will break in into this government. Another kingdom that will break in into this dark, fallen kingdom. In that place, righteousness shall run like the mighty rivers and the believer constantly looks forward to that day.

The new heavens and the new earth are coming and we are longing to see Christ set up his kingdom on earth and rule

Lawful objection is right

This means that its appropriate for believers to be saddened by injustices performed by governments who should actually be doing that which is right. That their response in times like that – yes, where appropriate and in the ways that the law permits them to – they should speak up. They should voice that which is wrong. That’s absolutely fine, within the purview of the law. But they are also not hopeless. The solution is not merely to see the governments change. If that can be achieved, let it be achieved. Let it be pursued. If there are believers who can pursue political positions, Amen to that. We should encourage it. We should support it. But even as we do so, we should keep an eye to the coming kingdom.

Our hope is in the coming kingdom of Christ

In my own country its no different to most of the countries around the world. There are reasons why we can give thanks to the government as we see things moving in a good direction. And there are many examples of ways in which we hope that things were better than they really are. We seek to encourage people to speak with respect to those who are in authority. We need to see more young christians pursuing political positions and seeking to effect change in governments. But ultimately we hope to proclaim a Gospel that gives our people hope. The new heavens and the new earth are coming and we are longing to see Christ set up his kingdom on earth and rule.