The Bible clearly teaches that we should obey civil authority.
God’s grace is evident in the existence of various organizations and structures in human society. We see this first in the human family, evidenced in the fact that Adam and Eve remained husband and wife after the fall and then had children, both sons and daughters (Genesis 5:4). Adam and Eve’s children married and formed families for themselves (Genesis 4:17, 19, 26). The human family persists today, not simply as an institution for believers, but for all people.
Human government is also a result of common grace. It was instituted in principle by God after the flood (Genesis 9:6), and is clearly stated to be given by God in Romans 13:1: “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” It is clear that government is a gift from God for mankind generally, for Paul says the ruler is “God’s servant for your good” and that he is “the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). One of the primary means God uses to restrain evil in the world is human government. Human laws and police forces and judicial systems provide a powerful deterrent to evil actions, and these are necessary, for there is much evil in the world that is irrational and that can only be restrained by force, because it will not be deterred by reason or education. We are to obey these authorities (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13-14)
Of course, the sinfulness of man can also affect governments themselves, so that they become corrupt and actually encourage evil rather than encourage good. This is just to say that human government, like all the other blessings of common grace that God gives, can be used either for good or for evil purposes.
The question is this: when the American colonies took up arms against the King, were they in violation of the teaching found in Romans 13?
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Dr. Michael Farris is Chancellor of Patrick Henry College and Chairman and Counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association. He is also an ordained Baptist minister. As a constitutional attorney, Dr. Farris argued before the United States Supreme Court, seven U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal, and ten state supreme courts.
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