Should Christians and Pastors Obey or Disobey Unfair Laws [Romans 13 and Shutting Down Churches]

Craig HueyBible, Church, Current Events24 Comments

Across America, pastors are disobeying the law and opening up their churches.

And across America, Christians are disobeying laws to have home Bible studies to minister to the broken and hurting. And yes, to attend church.

Some have said to me that disobeying government orders to shut down Sunday church services and other gatherings of believers is a violation of Romans 13.

They’re very concerned that these specific pastors and churches are violating a scriptural principal.

I’d like to take a brief look at this controversial issue.

Anyone who studies Romans knows how controversial it is. Books have been written about it. Many studies have been made on it.

When I was a singles pastor, I took three years to go through the book of Romans…word by word, verse by verse, chapter by chapter.

I had more people attending Romans chapter 13 than other portions of the book of Romans. (Incidentally, the most popular, packed-out exposition was on predestination.)

The issue of Romans 13 and obeying authority has been something that throughout church history Christians have struggled with.

Let me put this into perspective.

When we take a look at the Bible, we see throughout scripture those who disobey unfair and unjust government commands.

  • Moses disobeyed the Pharaoh as we see in the book of Exodus.
  • Paul was constantly in jail because he was violating customs and laws that interfered with spreading the gospel. He lost his life because of it.
  • Peter was told by the authorities to cease teaching and preaching in the name of Jesus. He said to those in authority over him, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). After being arrested a second time and questioned about his disobedience, Peter declared emphatically, “We must obey God rather than men”
    (Acts 5:29).

We see it with Gideon, Ehud, Jepthah, Samson, and Deborah – all were charged explicitly by God to resist the rulers who were practicing injustice against the people and interfering with God’s people.

We see it in church history with Martin Luther and John Calvin.

We see it in those who fled oppression throughout the world and came to America.

We saw it in abolitionists such as Harriet Tubman who defied the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 by helping slaves escape from the south and flee to northern states.

We saw it in Corrie ten Boom who hid and protected Jews from NAZI government forces in Germany – and lied to NAZI officers when they came looking for Jews.

We saw it with Martin Luther King, Jr. standing up against the oppression of people simply based upon their skin color.

Go back to the American Revolution. In the American Revolution, Christians were often divided, but we were fighting for our freedom against oppression.

That’s where Patrick Henry said:

“Is life so dear or peace and safety so sweet as to be purchased at the price of slavery?”

Were all these examples violations of scripture? No.

Those who say Christians are in violation of scripture if they are opposed to today’s tyrannical government officials telling us not to worship are not considering the entirety of God’s word. They are reacting in fear of man.

“The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” (Proverbs 29:25)

When we look at Romans 13, we need to understand that the principle of being in subjection to governing authorities has to be balanced with the rest of scripture. When we see God opposing injustice and resisting oppression and abuses of government authority, is this a contradiction of Romans 13? No, it isn’t.

We cannot give up human rights and our Constitutional rights for human safety or for pure obedience to government.

Those pastors and Christians who say we must obey the governing authorities  and simply be obedient no matter what they say are ignoring all the Christians who rose up against Nazi Germany, who rose up against the Soviet Union, who are rising up against Communism in Venezuela and in China and in Cuba.

They are seeking freedom and they are seeking liberty based upon something greater than the dictatorial actions of those in leadership.

When the Bible says we should submit to every ordinance of man and be subject to the governing authorities, we cannot pull this passage out of context and ignore the whole counsel of God. 

We cannot choose to obey Romans 13 while at the same time disobeying Hebrews 10:

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

What do you think? Email me at [email protected].

Here are the rest of this week’s articles:

24 Comments on “Should Christians and Pastors Obey or Disobey Unfair Laws [Romans 13 and Shutting Down Churches]”

  1. Yes, you need to read and understand the “entire bible”, not interpreted verse by verse only.
    The same think when Jesus said “give to Cesar what belong to Cesar and give to God what belong to God”. Is that has similarity?

  2. Come on…This isn’t Rocket Science

    Read just a portion of the preamble of the US Declaration of Independence, and see the safeguards our forefathers included in their vision for our nation’s guidance:

    “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

    But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

    We should not be taking this lying down; it’s time to get on our knees, repent before our LORD, find out His plan, then move like something is chasing us!

  3. I am confused more than ever. In Calif . many churches are opening and obeying the laws of health and safety distancing. They are all joining on May 31, 2020…which is Pentacost…Listen to Jack Hibbs message from May 6,2020. Do we honor Acts or Romans???
    Denise

  4. The orders by government were promulgated to protect the public from harm based on what they believe is the best available scientific opinion and were not introduced as anti Christian measures. Therefore, Christians should abide by it and that would be a good witness to others. They should not give the impression that they are claiming to be above the law wanting to be rebellious for no good reason.

    Pastors and churches should not give the impression that their congregations have no depth of faith and belief and will fall away at the slightest opportunity. If they do fall away, they have not been fed good spiritual food and the pastors did not do their job properly. Pastors and churches should embrace the available technology and use it to continue worshiping and teaching/leaning corporately from home. Smaller churches (the number of members, not buildings) should get advice from larger ones, if they need to. Churches should be willing to share and learn from each other as to what works best. Some churches have experienced growth under these temporary situation where their services were conducted online.

    California’s decision to allow schools to open before allowing churches could meet in their own buildings, might be based on the view (whether sound or not) that children need education and it is a priority whereas churches can continue to exist for longer without needing to meet in buildings and their members will be safer for doing so. I am not sure that children and teachers should be exposed to greater risk than churches because they would miss out on a few month’s education. I think, it would be better to change school calendars to catch up on the missed education rather than increasing the number of deaths of children and teachers.

  5. 17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.
    The title “Caesar” adopted by the first emperors of Rome who deemed themselves to be divine-gods.
    So, when my Lord asks the question may I ask, what are God’s things as opposed to the things of Satan? All things belong and are ruled over by our God- except for sin, the domain of the Caesar’s. The professing christians bow their knee to government. Confessing Christians bow to our Lord, Jesus the Christ and Savior. The Holy Spirit has NOT subjected His bride to follow the will of evil government.

  6. The “Ruling Authorities” will one day demand believers fall on their faces & worship the beast & his image. Will the Romans 13 crowd submit & obey the “Ruling Authorities” then also?

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  8. I don’t think this should be a “line in the sand” issue. If we really were honest with ourselves we would admit that we have been inching into Satan’s clutches since the day Samuel went to God and said the people are demanding a king. God not only warned Samuel what would happen if the people got their wish, but He also gave Samuel the reason the people were demanding a king. He said it was because they were rejecting God. Look at all the “big things” we have already given into. We use debt currency which God said is an abomination; we allow TSA to manhandle us as if we were a slab of meat; we have become “Pod people” walking around with masks on and harming ourselves by not breathing God’s fresh air. Even those who have handed down these latest instructions are amazed at how easy it was to get the whole world in line because of our FEAR. God tells us “worry about nothing, but pray about everything”. We have to stop hoping that some governmental person or ruling will get us out of messes we get ourselves into and get on our knees repenting and trusting in God again. Maybe it might even be helpful for us to turn off the radio and television and turn to Bible Study instead. I found one program on the internet where they go through the entire bible every five years (ttb.org) and I’m sure there are many others if we just look.

  9. I thought they said, separation of church and State? So using their logic it does not apply to you. Simple no?

  10. Was it Peter that said that IT WAS BETTER TO OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MAN. Best for each pastor to ask the Holy Spirit directly then go with that. Best to ask Him about all of the details involved as well ( social distancing, masks, hand sanitizer etc )

  11. actually the beast is govt so unless you want to worship the beast we shouldn’t have none!
    Exousia is the word translated for power in what Romans 13 says.
    Meaning the word power on Romans we was wrongfully translated from the word Exousia.
    Exousia means liberty not power.
    Antichrist is also a replacement of god not some man in the middle east or Putin, or the Catholic church or the pope or any other nonsense that’s been taught. But it’s here already as in our leaders around the world. The seven headed water beast comes from as its said in Revelations peoples nations and
    tongues as in our Creation from our politics. Not EU or Israel centered as what has been wrongfully taught.
    Any church that teaches Romans 13 means power is the false prophet.
    But notice 7 heads might mean and could be better translated as 7 continents since peoples nations and tongues come from them all. Now I know some will say Antarctica the 7th continent doesn’t have much to do with it and maybe but Nations people and tongues is the water beast that has 7 heads and there are representatives from all over the world in Antarctica so…?
    Regardless waiting on Antichrist will get you lost! Looking for ways in the modern world especially when people don’t really want Christ to return for if the did they wouldn’t keep changing the narrative or the tune as to what they think will be it or make people look over hell’s creation for truth.
    If what you say is true then do it already stop talking about it do it!
    But even if a third Brick and mortar Temple was to be rebuilt no one is going to enter it and claim to be god.
    The temple is rebuilt but it’s living stone as in people that has already made that third temple.
    and its been in amongst Christians playing god that’s fulfilled that prophecy.
    That’s been revealed now!

  12. To expound on what I said.
    Gideon when asked to be king said “What? me a man should rule over you? “No! God should rule over you” Long before Israel had any kind of centralized Govt. they had smaller Republics or leaderless Republics. OR Judges.
    The congregations all collected free will tithes and when needed used it. etc. Not sure on all how but I read the Higher liberty PDF and it makes sense. Point is no one ruled over them no one was elected as a President or ruler over them No cops no long standing armies etc… Just basic liberty for all.
    Judges did judge over some of the domestic squabbles but for the most part an ordered Anarchy since they had no formal Govt other than God.
    People were free to be who and what they thought was right no neighbor telling them to mow or we’ll get the cops after you. No one telling them to not smoke etc… No one stealing your money for the public good etc. just basic liberty to worship as you saw fit. No majorities ruling over you if you didn’t want to live like everyone else, you didn’t have to, especially since you gave God thanks.
    Once kings and or elected officials came to be Israel became divided, the majority went north and a minority went south. Sound kind of familiar… but then Israel went into captivity first then Judah. later.
    We’re in bondage now again due to Kings and elected Officials.
    Romans 13 never did say power it said liberty.
    exousia

    1) power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases

    1a) leave or permission
    OR:
    https://newswithviews.com/Gregory/williams100.htm
    “Letevery soul be subject unto the higher liberty. For thereis no liberty but of God: the liberties that beare ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the liberty,resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receiveto themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works,but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the liberty? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same.” Romans 13: 1,3
    not:
    “Letevery soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no powerbut of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” Romans13:1

    1. The meaning of Exousia is given below. It has more than one meaning. In the Bible, it has been used for authority and allied meanings several times but only once for liberty. Every text has a context and it is the context that determines the meaning.

      The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon
      Strong’s Number: 1849
      Original Word exousia

      Definition
      1. power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases
      a. leave or permission
      2. physical and mental power
      a. the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises
      3. the power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege)
      4. the power of rule or government (the power of him whose will and commands must be submitted to by others and obeyed)
      a. universally
      1. authority over mankind
      b. specifically
      1. the power of judicial decisions
      2. of authority to manage domestic affairs
      c. metonymically
      1. a thing subject to authority or rule 4c
      d. jurisdiction
      1. one who possesses authority 4c
      e. a ruler, a human magistrate 4c
      f. the leading and more powerful among created beings superior to man, spiritual potentates
      g. a sign of the husband’s authority over his wife
      1. the veil with which propriety required a women to cover herself
      h. the sign of regal authority, a crown

      NAS Word Usage – Total: 102
      authorities 7, authority 65, charge 1, control 1, domain 2, dominion 1, jurisdiction 1, liberty 1, power 11, powers 1, right 11

      Greek lexicon based on Thayer’s and Smith’s Bible Dictionary plus others; this is keyed to the large Kittel and the “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.” These files are public domain.

  13. ATTENTION CHRISTIANS:
    Can you see that we are divided? People are struggling with their decisions to follow God or man. It is held above all honor that God be revered and obeyed first and foremost; “For what can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)

    The main goal here: honor the Creator in fear and reverence by keeping the 10 commandments and sharing salvation with others.

    Do not be afraid to speak the LOVE and TRUTH of God, “For perhaps, we were chosen for a time such as this?” (Esther 4:14)

    WARNING: BE READY IN THE VALLEY OF DECISION

    The Valley of Decision is a biblical name given to the Valley of Jehoshaphat by the prophet Joel. It is the location of Jehovah’s inflictions on Zion’s enemies. The Bible mentions the Valley of Jehoshaphat only twice and identifies it as the final place where God will destroy the nations. Jehoshaphat means “Yahweh judges”. The book of Joel describes this event as a gathering of all of the armies of the world into this Valley, where the Lord will pronounce judgment on all of them.

    In Christian thinking, the assembly of the multitudes waiting in the valley of decision is associated with the second advent of Christ.

    Joel 3:14 (one of the books of the prophets)
    “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.”

    THE KINGDOM OF THE LORD IS AT HAND. REPENT AND FOLLOW THE JOY OF HIS COMMANDS. GOD IS LOVE AND WISHES US TO BE A REFLECTION OF THAT BURNING LOVE. THE LORD SEES ALL AND KNOWS YOUR WORKS.

    Matthew 7:3-5
    3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

    Matthew 3:2
    “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

    Jesus says in Matthew 7:3 “But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” Be warned, what “iniquity” has taken place in your life?

    Matthew 5:13-20
    Salt and Light
    13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
    14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
    The Fulfillment of the Law
    17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

    John 1:1
    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

    Revelation 22:1-7
    Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
    6 The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.” 7 “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”

  14. The Blog article has mis-statements.

    “Some have said to me that disobeying government orders to shut down Sunday church services and other gatherings of believers …”

    “… we see throughout scripture those who disobey unfair and unjust government commands …”.

    “… today’s tyrannical government officials telling us not to worship …”

    The governments did not say to shut down church services or not to worship. The church is not the building but the believers in Christ. We have had church services every Sunday and mid-week without fail, not in church buildings but in homes using readily available technology.

    The orders to refrain from meeting in church buildings were not introduced as an attack on Christians to prevent them from practicing their faith, or to stop them evangelizing, but as part of measures that applied to all factions of society in order to limit the spread of the virus. It is a temporary measure introduced after the effect of the deadly virus in different countries was seen and some methods were seen to be successful in containing the spread of the virus.

    So, there is nothing unfair or unjust in these government commands. There is nothing tyrannical about them and they did not tell us not to worship.

    The measures were based on available scientific and medical information and erred on the side of caution to limit deaths, as it should, while other actions were taken to find a solution to the problem. Governments were fulfilling their god given responsibility to protect their people. The measures succeeded in containing the spread of the virus. Now, the restrictions on activities is being removed in steps while the results are monitored. The initial step was to increase economic activity while still limiting the gathering of large numbers of people.

    In schools, there is more separation between students in normal classrooms than in church buildings, where people sit next to each other. It is possible to increase the distances between student desks and practice social distancing. It is not easy to practice social distancing in the church context, except where the congregation has only a few people, and still have the whole church meet on church premises. Since church services are still being held in homes, it makes more sense to keep them going that way for a little longer till the results of the first step is known.

    It is the rebel element in human nature that is causing some Christians to rebel against temporary, sensible governmental restriction on larger gatherings of people and to try to justify the rebellion by using phony arguments.

  15. The article is not discerning the situation properly. First, some of the laws that the Apostles disobeyed (as cited by the author) were by religious authorizes, not the state. Secondly, this shutdown of indoor worship is not an attack on one’s Christian freedoms. Originally, the church met in homes, not in pubic places. Plus, nowadays we have the internet, zoom, Facetime, etc. The Lord has given us all sorts of ways to fellowship during a medical crisis. Thirdly, we should even have a greater concern for those in the church who might be susceptible to this virus that could possibly lead to death. How could we be so cold and callous toward those that are physically weaker in our congregation. And since this is not related to our religious freedoms, should we allow the church to be attack for being a law-breaker? Shouldn’t the church be the leader in good behavior, illustrating a model citizen of the community? As the Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 2, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.” Nero was in power as of this writing. The idea by Peter was that by our model behavior, we would silence those who might accuse us as enemies of the state or law-breakers.

  16. Consider why Jesus said what he did. What provoked the question? Did he not ask ”whos image is on this coin?” the parable has to do with ”The Image”. Man bares the image of God wheras the coin bared the image of man. It has to do with money not evil government! Jesus didn’t dismantle Rome he dismantled the oppressive laws and hypocrisy of the Pharisees. As we see in 70AD GOD ORDAINED THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE THAT WAS A IMAGE OF THINGS OBOLISHED. Jesus healed the sick so why is it so wrong to support protecting people from getting sick? One big reason why churches want to remain open is to get that hefty tithe! ”The love of money is the root of ALL evil”

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