Obey the authorities

The Bible has much to say about obedience and respect for authority. “Honour your father and your mother” is a key principle, enshrined in the Ten Commandments. We obey our parents, and from that learn to respect all legitimate authorities. So, says John Calvin, “we ought to have no doubt that the Lord here lays down this universal rule – viz. that knowing how every individual is set over us by his appointment, we should pay them reverence, gratitude, obedience, and every duty in our power. And it makes no difference whether those on whom the honour is conferred are deserving or not” (Institutes 2.8.35-36).

The early Christians were told to be subject to the secular authorities over them (Romans 13:1-7). They should pay their taxes and respect those God had placed over them. Peter told them to honour the emperor, who at the time was Nero—hardly a commendable or praiseworthy leader! Christians are to “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” (1 Peter 2:13-17). They were not to be trouble-makers, stirring up rebellions. Peace and stability can be great blessings from God, and those of us who live in peaceful, ordered societies should give thanks for this to God.

The Anglican Homilies have something to say on this matter too. They put it like this…

“Blessed be God that we in this realm of England do not feel the horrible calamities, miseries, and wretchedness which all those who lack this godly order do undoubtedly feel and suffer. And praised be God, that we know the great and excellent benefit of God showed towards us in this manner. God has sent us his high gift, our most dear sovereign Lord, King Edward the Sixth with godly, wise, and honourable counsel, with other superiors and inferiors in a beautiful order.

Wherefore, let us subjects do our bounden duties, giving hearty thanks to God and praying for the preservation of this godly order. Let us all obey, even from the bottom of our hearts, all their godly proceedings, laws, statutes, proclamations, and injunctions, with all other godly orders. Let us consider the scriptures of the Holy Spirit, which persuade and command us all obediently to be subject: First and chiefly, to the King’s Majesty, supreme head over all; and next, to his honourable counsel, and to all other nobles, magistrates, and officers, which by God’s goodness are placed and ordered. For Almighty God is the only author and provider of this aforementioned state and order, as it is written of God, in the book of the Proverbs, “By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly. I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.” (Proverbs 8:15-17 ESV).”


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