I’ve become concerned lately about the strident political expressions of some of my brothers. I do not often, if ever, agree with the present administration either, but some (many?) of my brothers have moved from respectful disagreement (what in other countries is termed “loyal opposition”) to openly voiced disdain, contempt, and scorn. At least one brother has spoken of joining in armed revolt. When I mentioned in a comment that we are commanded in Romans 13 to be in subjection to the powers that be because they “are ordained of God” (vs1) and they are “ministers of God’s service” (vs 6, see also 4) I was answered that it was impossible that God was behind this president because he was guilty of breaking God’s law in several different ways. Specific instances were mentioned and passages cited. And I agree that President Obama is guilty of sin in the instances mentioned. So, the question that must be answered is can God be behind a national leader who is not leading his nation in a godly manner? Can God have ordained that leader?
Look first in Gen. 15:13-14. God tells Abraham that his descendants will be servants in a foreign nation and will be mistreated by that nation. Sure enough, in Exodus 1, a new Pharaoh comes to power who did not know Joseph and who leads Egypt in a horrible persecution of the Israelites. This continues through several generations of Pharaohs before Moses leads the people out of bondage and God’s promised judgment comes upon the Egyptians. The prophecy lends strong support to the idea that God was behind those Pharaohs, but, even better, we have God’s own statement in Ex. 9:16 that He had put those Pharaohs into power. That verse is also quoted by Paul in Romans 9:17. Those wicked Pharaohs were in power specifically because God wanted them to be in power.
Jump ahead 700 years or so to Isaiah. In chapter 10 we see God (speaking through Isaiah) saying that He was using Assyria as His instrument of wrath. The Assyrians weren’t aware of this; they were destroying nations and persecuting peoples for their own evil reasons. God used them to accomplish His will. Those nations who needed to be punished (including the northern kingdom of Israel) were punished, and then God punished the Assyrians for their wickedness. The evil Assyrian kings were only in power, and successful as an empire, because God had set them up for His own reasons: to be ministers of His service and accomplish His will.
Skip ahead another century and read Habakkuk. God used the wicked Chaldeans for a time to punish the Kingdom of Judah. Then He judged them for their wickedness.
Finally, let’s look at who was in power when Paul wrote Romans. Romans was most likely written at the beginning of Nero’s reign. So when Paul wrote “Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God” he was writing about a man who was not only an idolater, but who came to power by the assassination of his uncle and adopted father, killed his own mother to consolidate his power, and who would go on to begin the first Roman persecution of Christianity! The inspired Apostle wrote that this man was “ordained of God” and a “minister of God” (vs4), and that Christians were to “be in subjection” to him. In fact, the Apostle John prophesied in his Revelation that a whole line of evil Roman emperors were going to be set up by God specifically so they could persecute the early Church and help it grow. Then God would punish those wicked leaders for their sins. Meanwhile, both Paul and Peter instructed all Christians to be in subjection to those same evil emperors.
According to Romans 13:1 and 1 Peter 2:13, it is sinful for Christians to denigrate government leaders. That goes double for joining armed revolts against them. It may be my right as an American citizen to say whatever I want about the current President, but sometimes I need to forget about my rights as an American and focus on my duties as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Word of God always trumps the Constitution.
Rom 13:1-7 Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power, withstandeth the ordinance of God: and they that withstand shall receive to themselves judgment. For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. And wouldest thou have no fear of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise from the same: for he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be in subjection, not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For this cause ye pay tribute also; for they are ministers of God's service, attending continually upon this very thing. Render to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
1Pe 2:13-17 Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise to them that do well. For so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bondservants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.