“Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme.”
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man
The “ordinance of man” is human government. God wants us to obey the national entity over which he placed us (Mt. 22:21; Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Ti. 2:2; Tit 3:1-2). These are not ordinances of God but of men. This may refer to any social institution of man. In the New Testament, the state was authoritarian.
The word “submit” is the same term used for the wife’s relation to her husband. It means to arrange yourself under. God wants us to arrange ourselves under civil government and not be the cause of civil unrest. A citizen who submits to the government does not diminish personhood; it enhances good government.
The word “submit” is a command. It is also a military word and means to arrange yourself under higher-ranking authority. The soldier is to fall in rank. God wants us to fall in rank with our government. You say, “Even if the government is godless?” Yes, Nero was the king at this time. Slavery was at its peak in Roman history.
The word “submit” does not imply that Christians are to live without backbones. God does not want Christians to operate with fragile passivity. Spiritual spinelessness is no virtue. That will undermine our spiritual foundations.
The Christian’s testimony will cause him enough suffering; why should the Christian add to his misery by disobeying the government? Interestingly, Peter uses this argument in a book that argues the reasons for Christian suffering. One cause of Christian suffering is persecution from the government.
God placed human government as an authority in our lives.
Is anarchy ever justified? Were the Colonial forebearers in the United States justified in casting off the authority of England? Was it right for the Christian to be involved in the Boston Tea Party? Does a Christian have the right not to pay taxes?
The one exception to obedience to government is when the government violates the higher authority of God (Acts 4:19, 20; 5:29). Then we should not obey the government but God. Even then, we still submit to a higher law, a higher authority. It is a matter of priority of principle. Do we live under God’s authority or ours? It is a matter of choice.