The Christian's Relationship to the Government

W. Terry Varner
October 12, 2014

When God established His biblical worldview in Genesis 2:15-24, He declared that life was made up of relationships. His desired that man would have a relationship 1) with, the Earth by caring for it (Gen. 2:15), 2) with Him by obedience (Gen. 2:16-17), and 3) with his fellowman by establishing marriage which is the foundation of society (Gen. 2:18-24).

The biblical worldview suggests that life cannot be lived in isolation. Through His divine word, the Bible, man has sufficient directions to know how to live in these relationships by “being holy in all [our] conduct” (1 Peter 1:15). The apostle Peter discusses the Christian’s relationship to his government in 1 Peter 2:13-17.

While the Christian has a relationship to his government. The Christian has a higher citizenship [heaven] (Philip. 3:20) than his citizenship to his government. The Christian sustains a relationship to whatever government he might live under. While I desire to lived under no other government than that of the United States of America, it is a fact that the Bible nowhere declares the government of the United States God’s only ordained government. After all, the United States of America was not founded until centuries after Christianity was established.

Peter instructs Christians then living as how to live under the Roman government in 1 Peter 2:13-17. Civil government was ordained of God (cf. Rom. 13:1-7). Peter writes, as Paul in Romans 13, that the purpose of civil government is to preserve order, punish violence, and protect those law abiding citizens. “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake . . . as to those who are sent by Him for the punishment of evil-doers and for the praise of those who do good, as this is the will of God” (1 Peter 2:13-15).

As “sojourners and pilgrims” (1 Peter 2:11), we should cooperate with the government with the aims of obeying the laws of God. Our subject to our government comes from our obedience to the laws of the land when they do not conflict with the law of God. Peter said, “We ought to obey God than man” (Acts 5:29). Jesus instructs us that we are to “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). Our obedience to the government prevents criticism and offense from the world. “For this is the will of God, that by doing good [obeying the government] you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:15). In so doing, we “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17).

In 1 Peter 2:16, the Christian is “free” or has freedom. The Christian’s freedom from sin, fear, bondage, etc., does not permit the Christian to disregard the laws of the land. Government is “not a terror to good works, but to evil” (Rom. 13:3). Paul states, “Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same [government]. For he [government] is God’s minister to you for good Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’s sake” (Rom. 13:3-5). Christians are not permitted to use their liberty “as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God” (1 Peter 2:16). Christian freedom does mean being free to do as we want, but free to do as God wants. This section of Scripture is timely for our day and age. Christians are to live separate and apart from ways of the wickedness of the world.