“God is the only [ultimate] ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim 6:15). He has given all authority in heaven and earth to Jesus, fulfilling what the prophets of old declared, “The government will be on His shoulders…His ever-expanding government will never end” (Isa 9:6,7; Mt 28:18; Jn 13:3; 1 Cor 15:27; Eph 1:22). “Christ is the head over every power and authority” – this will finally and completely become eternal reality when all humanity bows and declares that Jesus is Lord, acknowledging His authority (Lk 1:32,33; Phil 2:8-11; Col 2:10; Heb 2:8; Rev 11:15). However, till that time various governing authorities have been established by God, and everyone must submit themselves to them as disobeying is in effect rebelling against Him (Rom 13:1-6).
Do I pray for those who govern me?
The NT teaching includes how we are to respond to those in places of authority and government: pray for leaders, even if they persecute you (Mt 5:44; 1 Tim 2:1,2); when compelled to go one mile go an extra one (Mt 5:41); be submissive, respect and obey them but if instructed to do what is sinful, obey God and be prepared for the consequences (Act 4:19; 1 Tim 6:1; Tit 3:1; Heb 13:17); give to human systems what is due them but give to God what is His – which is total heart allegiance (Mt 22:21; Rom 13:7).
Our ultimate allegiance must be to God
government so we are not punished for disobedience, and so we do not violate our conscience (Rom 13:5; 1 Tim 1:19; Heb 13:18; 1 Pet 2:13-17, 3:16). However, if we endure injustice this is a way of expressing God’s grace (1 Pet 2:19-21).
Even though a government establishes various laws it does not necessarily mean they are just and beneficial for the good of the people. When a government goes beyond their authority and exceeds their constitutional legal powers this is abuse, with the humanistic response is often protests and civil disobedience. Unfortunately, what may start off in a non-violent way can quickly turn aggressive and nasty. The Christian way is utilizing prayer and submitting to the unjust treatment (Mt 5:44; Eph 6:5-9; Col 3:22-25). If the government's directives are in violation of Scripture believers are to obey God, but accepting the outcome of disobeying human laws (Ex 1:17; Act 5:29).
Joseph is the prime example of a Godly person in the political arena (Gen 41:39ff). Believers should be well represented in government structures to help direct their country in formulating and bringing about God honouring laws. We are to be "salt" and "light" in the world (Mt 5:13-16). This means we bring the flavour of Christ into society and point people to Him.
The Israelites experience
When the Israelites came out of Egypt, Moses acted as the representative of God, appointing officials to help lead and govern the people who were God’s treasured possession – a holy nation and kingdom of priests (Ex 18:14-26, 19:5,6). Thus began a theocracy – a nation under God’s rulership that was designed to be unique, separate from the rest of the world and belonging to God. The focal point of the theocracy was the tabernacle, then later the temple, which symbolised the dwelling place of God among His people. As Jerusalem was where the temple was situated it became known as the Holy city.
For a time, there were judges or rulers, but the people wanted a visible human king to rule them like other nations (1 Sam 8:4-7). Saul, the first king did not serve God well and was rejected. He was replaced by King David, a man after God’s own heart (Act 13:22). From then followed a succession of kings, some good, but many evil ones, who led the people away from God, resulting in their being exiled in Babylon around 587 BC.
Since then until 1948, when Israel regained sovereignty of its homeland, Israel was under various controlling nations. During the time of Christ, Palestine was still under Roman control, although the Jews were allowed their own King. A succession of men of Jewish descent bearing the title Herod were in control but answerable to a Roman governor (Pilate). At His birth Jesus was considered a threat by the ruling Herod (Mt 2:2,13-16). Various Jewish groups formed (eg. Zealots and Sadducees) all seeking in their own way to restore the kingdom of Israel and to be free of Roman repression. In fact, all Jews were looking for their Messiah to come and deliver them from the harsh Roman bondage. Even the disciples had this opinion (Act 1:6).
Jesus came, not to necessarily deliver people from physical bondage and control, but to set mankind free in the spiritual realm which is of greater and long-term significance (Jn 8:32,36). Am I allowing the Spirit within to liberate me from the corruption of the old ruling nature?