(Read God’s Politics: The Biblical Purpose for Government, Part 1 here.)
What All This Means for Christians
The meaning and significance of Paul’s words remain the same for the Christians he wrote to in Rome and the Christians who read the book of Romans today. Christians were/are to obey their government (insofar as it doesn’t usurp God’s commands) because it is instituted by God. In turn, the just God charges human civil government with two weighty purposes: the administration of justice (restrict evil) and the promotion of the general welfare (champion righteousness).
How will a government restrict evil? Scripture says that human government is God-ordained, therefore the government ruler is “God’s minister,” and as such “bears the sword.” This is not to say that every sin is a civil offense. The primary issue here is that governments, when appropriate, should seek to use their God-given power and authority to restrict and combat that which sets itself up against the law of God. The authority is the minister of God as he carries out this task. One of the chief reasons that government should uphold God’s standards is because the law shows us our own unrighteousness (Romans 3:20). A recognition of (and repentance from) this unrighteousness is necessary for salvation (Mark 1:15).
How will a government promote righteousness? Government promotes righteousness by championing things that please God and are aligned with His moral character. However, it is important to note that even if a government is ‘righteous’ by Biblical standards, it still cannot save men. It is the Holy Spirit who changes men’s hearts, not the law. The law still condemns men. Apart from the grace of God revealed in the death of Jesus Christ, the only thing left for us is the holy and fierce wrath of God. This is why it is imperative that the Church proclaims the Gospel to all men at all times. The only way any human being on this earth will ever be saved from the condemnation of God is through the propitiation of Christ on our behalf.
Why shouldn’t the way our authorities govern be modeled after the way God governs? After all, Christ is the King of kings and will one day judge the world in righteousness and govern with justice (Psalm 9:8). We know from Scripture that God loves righteousness and hates evil (Psalm 45:7). We know that righteousness exalts a nation, and that sin is a disgrace to any people (Proverbs 14:34). Why shouldn’t our authorities be known for their hatred of the things God hates and their love for the things God loves?
In light of the testimony of Scripture, Christians should seek to elect politicians who would support the Biblical purposes of government. Voting is a very serious responsibility and should be exercised with great caution. Make sure your vote reflects the principles of God’s Word in Romans 13 and other similar passages.
If we are to give an account one day even for the idle words we mumble (Matthew 12:36), how much more will we be held accountable for the votes we cast?