When you think of government it is highly probable that the only thing that comes to mind is Akron City Council, Mayor Plusquelic, your county commissioners, Congressman Ryan, or President Obama; something or someone connected with civil government. When you study government in scripture you will shortly notice that God has set up several levels of government, most of which have nothing to do with civil government. In fact, if you think about it the most basic level of government discussed in scripture is Christian self government, or the Christian's obligation to obey the law of God. From the individual God's order of government builds to the family, the church and finally the state.
There is a common thread that runs through the levels of government which God has instituted. Christ is the head. If Christ is not head the government is illegitimate. That is not to say that God does not allow one to submit to these illegitimate authorities as a means of ordering society. However, society, whether the society of family, church, state, business, or whatever level of society it may be, will crumble if it does not submit to the ultimate authority, Jesus Christ. God will see to that.
On the other hand, a subject living under an illegitimate government is obligated to do every thing in his power to bring those in authority over him under the authority of Jesus Christ. It starts with the individual. When following his conscience or his own “common sense” leads him to depart from the revealed law of God he must do everything he can to reign himself in. Sure, it is only through the power of God that he can do this, but he must do it. Most have never equated man's obligation to submit his individual actions to God with the principle of resistance to illegitimate government, but then again, most have never really considered that self control is a form of government. Recognizing this will help as you mull over the inconsistency of some in applying this principle.
Many seem to require Christians to submit to illegitimate civil authority to extremes, yet, because of the influence of feminism on American society, allow much freedom for wives to take on responsibilities that God gave to their husbands. On the other hand, there are some who are eager to join in resistance to tyrannical civil government, but allow almost no recourse to a wife who lives under a tyrant in the home.
God instituted several levels of government. He also knew that evil men would pervert His requirements for government at each of these levels. Therefore God provided guidelines for dealing with the usurpation of God-directed authority. John Knox, the Scottish reformer, influenced many of the reformers with these doctrines of resistance to illegitimate authority. It would be wise to heed his advice when contemplating resistance. Specifically speaking of armed resistance against tyrants Knox advised Christians that this was to be a last resort after every thing else had been exhausted, including prayer and long suffering patience.
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