What is the Legitimate Function of Government?   1 comment

“For he is God’s minster to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minster, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4)

The only legitimate function of the civil magistrate is to protect society. Reasonably, this would be achieved by executing God’s wrath on evildoers — what we would call criminals, who pose an internal threat to society — and by repelling attack and invasion by foreign aggressors, which are external threats to society.

Yes, this has a secular counterpart — the oath of office that vows to protect the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic.

Beyond these duties, Romans 13 cannot be used to grant the civil magistrate further authority. Christians have a duty to respond with submission to the magistrate who faithfully exercises those duties and to provide material aid (taxes and personal actions) that finance these legitimate functions of government. Beyond that, Christians are to show due respect to officials as we are to show due respect to our fellow citizens.

Some Greek scholars suggest that Romans 13 is a prescriptive passage. It speaks of what “higher powers” are supposed to be, no t what they are intrinsically. As God’s minister, the civil official is obligated to obey God’s law and to property apply it to society. Conversely, if an official becomes “a terror to good works” (verse 3), and rewards evil rather than punishing it, he then “bears the sword in vain”. He is no longer “God’s minister to you for good” and it becomes the duty of Christians to  resist his unlawful rule as we would resist the rule of Satan.

Yes, God may deliver His people over to an oppressive civil magistrate as chastisement for sin, but we are not obligated to deliver ourselves and our consciences over to that which is contrary to God’s word. To say that the laws of the civil government are unequivocally the “ordinances of God” is blasphemous because sometimes those civil laws are evil. The magistrate ceases to be God’s minister when his rule contradicts God’s law.

The question is — how far does the Christian obligation to resist go under circumstances where the coercive power of the state has been used to violate God’s commands?

One response to “What is the Legitimate Function of Government?

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  1. Merely a smiling visitor here to share the love , btw outstanding style. Audacity, a lot more audacity and always audacity. by Georges Jacques Danton. defbkeddddka

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