Copyright © 1997 AFLM
July/August, 1997 Volume XII Number 7 - DEPARTMENTS
Point of View
Do I submit to tyranny?
The Bible says "No!"
by John Winter
Do I submit to tyranny? The Bible says "No!" Sadly most of the evangelical church since the time of Calvin has taught the opposite -- submission to tyranny.
Luther said, "If the government takes your possessions, your life and limb and whatever you have, say: I gladly give it to you. I recognize you as my masters. I shall gladly obey you."
Calvin would agree. Both taught an individual always aobeys his goverment, no matter how tyranical. They allowed two exceptions -- the preaching of the gospel and revolution in extreme circumstances. But the preachers of the American Revolution differed drastically. Their message was, "Give me liberty or give me death." Calvin and Luther said, "Be a slave." Patrick Henry said, "Be free."
What does the Bible say? The pivotal messaage is Romans 13: 1-7. The first two verses appear to be saying submit to all governments -- good or bad.
"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."
But the context, I believe, forces you to a very different conclusion, namely, that you obey neither a tyrant nor his tyranny. To prove this point let us assume that Luther and Calvin were right. Thus, into the passage I will put the name of a famous tyrant -- Joseph Stalin -- to see if all seven verses will permit their view. If you lived in the USSR in 1950, you would -- according to Luther and Calvin -- have to read the passage as follows:
"(1) Everyone must submit himself to Joseph Stalin, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. (2) Consequently, he who rebels against Joseph Stalin is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. (3) For Joseph Stalin holds no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of Joseph Stalin? Then do what is right and Joseph Stalin will commend you. (4) For Joseph Stalin is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid for he does not bear the sword in vain. Joseph Stalin is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (5) Therefore it is necessary to submit to Joseph Stalin, not only because of possible punishment, but also because of conscience. (6) This is why you pay taxes, for Joseph Stalin is God's servant, who gives full time to governing. (7) Give Joseph Stalin what you owe him: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenure, then revenue; if honor, then honor."
When you put a specific tyrant in that passage, it self-destructs. This is because the word "authorities" has a built-in limitation in the context. The first two verses are fine, but from the third verse on, the pasage becomes ludicrous.
Verse 3b: "Do you want to be free from fear of Joseph Stalin? Then do what is right and Joseph Stalin will commend you."
According to this verse, if, in 1950, you set up a soup kitchen in Red Square, Moscow, to feed the starving, homeless children of political prisoners in Siberia, you would have nothing to fear because you would be doing what was right. Furthermore, the verse says Stalin would have commended you. Perhaps Stalin would have come out of the Kremlin, shook your hand, and invited you to lunch.
Verse 4a: "For Joseph Stalin is God's servant to do you good."
Now this would have been a challenging text for a preacher in the Ukraine during the winter Stalin was starving ten million Ukranians to death.
Verse 4b: "Joseph Stalin is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer."
Stalin himself was the most evil "wrongdoer" in the USSR. For this passage to make sense, Stalin would have to punish himself along with all who assisted him in carrying out his evil wishes.
Verse 6b: "Joseph Stalin is God's servant, who gives full time to governing."
Stalin did not govern. He gave his full time to murder, theft, and deceit -- tyranny. He was the serial killer of all time. How can Stalin be called God's servant -- especially when the context defines such a person as one who does you good and punishes wrongdoers?
There is absolutely no way tyrants can be included in this passage. When the first two verses talk about "governing authorities," they mean authorities "God has established," That is, leaders who are "God's servants" to do you good and punish wrongdoers. The God-ordained limits of government are doing you good and punishing evil-doers -- no more, no less. Thus, I submit only to laws within these boundaries. Anything beyond is tyranny. And I am not alone in believing that the governing authorities of Romans 13 does not include tyrants. This is exactly the position of the American preachers prior to the revolution. Listen to two of them:
"But, depend upon it, no government is God's ordinance but that which is for the good of mankind." Rev. Samuel Webster (1777)
"Where tyranny begins, government ends." Rev. Samuel West (1776)
Here is God's opinion of tyranny:
"He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike _ an abomination to the Lord." Proverbs 17: 15
Tyranny is an abomination to God! Are not governments justifying the wicked -- being soft on young offenders and pornographers and promoting the feminist and homosexual agendas? Then condemning the righteous -- 40 million innocent pre-borns, pro-life picketers and rescuers, parents who spank their children, and honest, hard-working North Americans who are robbed hourly to fill the tax trough?
Such are our abominable governments.
What can you do in the increasingly tyrannical atmosphere of North America? Three things. First, go back to your Bible and study the book of Genesis over and over again asking God to teach you all the principles that apply to government -- and then move your way through the rest of the Bible. The church has lost the biblical teaching on government, but it is there if you search for it. Second, as you study your Bible, "outwit" tyranny as the Wise Men "outwitted" Herod in Matthew 2: 1-18. And third, we need to bring healing to our land through personal and corporate repentance.
"If my people who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7: 14
"My people" are the righteous who live by faith and they will humbly seek God's face by searching the Scriptures for the truth.
"You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."
John Winter is a retired teacher and a pro-life activist who has been arrested nine times with Operation Rescue and the Lambs of Christ.