What If the Government Commands You to do Something God Forbids?

What If the Government Commands You to do Something God Forbids?

Romans 13:1-7 – Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. 

As residents of this world but citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, there is often a great tension on our lives and decision making when it comes to both following God and the government. So, what do you do when the government commands you to do something God forbids? We look to both the Old and New Testament for a few examples of those who were in similar circumstances, and they were oftentimes blessed and elevated.

In the book of Exodus, God’s people were prospering because they were fulfilling the command to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). But the Pharaoh in charge didn’t like the increased population growth of Hebrew boys because, once they grew up, they could create an army and overthrow his unjust government.

So, the Pharaoh tells all the midwives to kill all the boys when they’re born. It sounds horrible right? There’s a lot of places even today where they’re trying to make this legal.

It’s interesting because the Pharaoh isn’t even named but there are two Hebrew midwives who are actually named – Shiprah and Puah. They were pro-life and they probably oversaw a large number of midwives, so they probably made the decision for all of them that they wouldn’t kill the babies. And, as a result, people like Moses got to live and deliver God’s people. Sometimes when you’re delivering a baby, you’re delivering someone who’s going to deliver a lot of other people from slavery and bondage. Because these ladies were pro-life heroes, their names are recorded so they can be honored for all of eternity.

In addition, Joseph was a slave and worked for a governmental leader named Potiphar. Potiphar’s wife tries to get Joseph to sleep with her “because the government says so” and Joseph tells her he can’t because His God forbids adultery and sex outside of marriage. So, he’s falsely accused of rape and thrown in prison, but he continued submitting to God and not the government. While in jail, God elevates him to be in charge of all the prisoners and, ultimately, he’s given the gift of interpreting dreams by which he becomes the second most powerful man in Egypt.

In the book of Joshua, there’s a gal named Rahab, who is a prostitute, which would be at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. Joshua sends spies into the land, and she welcomes them and hides them. When the government shows up and asks where they are, so they can kill them, she lies to save them. Because of this, she’s listed in Hebrews among the heroes of the faith and in Matthew’s Gospel, she’s actually listed in the family genealogy of Jesus because she protects human life and stands up to unjust government.

In Daniel, which I had the honor of preaching through last spring, King Nebuchadnezzar, who is literally a demon-possessed, counterfeit false god with high self-esteem has a 300-foot statue of himself built. Thousands of people bow down but there’s three guys who don’t – Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They’re thrown in the fire but, all of a sudden, they realize there’s a fourth person with them in the fire and it’s Jesus and he saves them from a burning fire. It’s a miracle.

Even Jesus’ parents practiced their own civil disobedience. When Jesus was a little boy, Herod, the demonic governor, hears through the Wise Men about Jesus and believes He’ll be a threat to his “power”. So, he orders for young boys to be killed. To save His life, Jesus’ parents literally change their citizenship and relocate to another nation for a time until this Godless governor dies.

The ultimate declaration of our allegiance echoes the same words of the early church. When they were asked to say, “Caesar is Lord”, they responded with “Jesus Christ is Lord”. Let’s do the same when asked by the government to call anyone else “Lord” in word or deed. When the government commands you to do something God forbids, you need to obey God and not government.

What has the government asked you to do that you know God commands you not to?

To find the free Romans 12-16 digital study guide for individuals and small groups, hear Pastor Mark’s entire sermon series on Romans, or find a free mountain of Bible teaching visit legacy.realfaith.com or download the Real Faith app.

Mark Driscoll
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