When to Not Obey Government

Posted on September 27, 2021

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By David Ettinger

Christian Obedience
To obey or not obey? When it comes to government, this is often a paradoxical question for Christians.

There are several passages in the Bible which implore Christians to pray for our governmental leaders and to submit to them. Two in particular stand out: 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and 1 Peter 2:13-17.

Perhaps the weightiest of the governmental passages is Romans 13:1-7. This passage clearly commands believers to obey their governmental leaders – but with a caveat. Christians are to obey government, but only when the government is doing its part, that is, fulfilling the purpose for which God created it.

Let’s take a brief look at several verses from Romans 13.

Verses 1-2
“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.”

God is the creator of human government. He did so to help keep things orderly here on Earth. Not only has God created government, He has given it His authority – His seal of approval. As such and as a general rule, Christians should obey the laws government makes. Such laws include paying taxes, not stealing, assaulting, or killing, and driving safely. These are all good laws, and when government enforces them, it obeys God (albeit unknowingly).

Verse 4
This is where the caveat lies.

“… for it [government] 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.”

Note the term “servant of God.” The government is a tool of God, and is to conduct itself as He has ordained. Government is to enforce common-sense laws and rule according to God’s biblical principles. This does not mean government has to be “religious,” or that it cannot be made up of atheists. What it does mean is that governmental leaders are not to act against God’s divine commands as presented in the Bible.

Verses 5-6
“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.”

There is that phrase again – “servants of God.” Again, this doesn’t require governmental leaders to be believers, but that they must govern in accordance with God’s commands. And they are certainly NOT to govern in violation of God’s divine laws.

The Bottom Line
So, when should Christians oppose government?

One major area concerns church attendance. God’s law clearly states: “and let’s consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds, not abandoning our own meeting together, as is the habit of some people, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

God commands His people to meet together in fellowship, the foremost way by attending church regularly. During the Covid-19 pandemic, governments throughout the world ordered churches to close their doors. There was, and is, justification in this.

However, I believe this is setting the stage for Western governments – for no legitimate reason – to start shuttering church doors, preventing believers from meeting. These governments will enact such abusive laws and enforce them. When this happens, Christians must not obey. We must never say, “Well, the Bible says we must obey the government, so I guess we can’t meet.” Wrong! We must keep meeting. If we are forced to go “underground,” then underground it is!

Don’t forget, we are to obey government ONLY when it is operating as God’s servant – that is, doing that for which God created it. Once government turns against God by oppressing Christians, it has become an enemy of God, and we are not to obey it in these areas.

Once government starts passing laws forbidding prayer, declaring the Bible a hate book, and calling those things “good” which the Bible calls “evil,” it has betrayed its role as God’s servant and has become God’s enemy.

The bottom line is that the world is heading toward a one-world government, with one “beastly” ruler leading it (Revelation 13; Daniel 7:16-24). This beast, the Antichrist, “will do as he pleases, and he will exalt himself and boast against every god and will speak dreadful things against the God of gods” (Daniel 11:36). As such, he “opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4).

This is where the world is heading; therefore we should expect governments throughout the world to be ever conforming to this mode, paving the way for the Antichrist.

As believers, we must know what we believe, and the only way to do this is by persistently reading our Bibles. Obeying increasingly corrupt Western governments will become more and more the challenge for the Christian, but if we seek God’s counsel through prayer and Bible study, we will be able to navigate the extraordinary circumstances awaiting us.

May God give us the discernment we so desperately need!