Does the Bible Command Absolute Obedience to the Government?

In times of national or international crisis strong feelings increase against governments. The last one-hundred years in America have seen many protests and riots against the federal, state and local governments. The last several years have endured the shameful chaos of the Black Lives Matter riots and the appalling spectacle of the Capitol riots. Some Americans seem to feel it is their duty to engage in less than peaceful protests.

Does the Bible permit Christian’s to disobey their government? Scripture gives repeated, strong commands to obey the government. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” (Romans 13:1) “Be subject to principalities and powers, obey magistrates.” (Titus 3:1) First Peter says, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” When questioned about submitting to the taxes of the Roman government, Jesus taught obedience. “Render unto Caesar that things which are Caesar’s.”

The Bible clearly teaches that Christian’s must obey the government in all things. However, one exception to this rule can be found in the New Testament. The Christian must disobey their government when the governing body demands disobedience to God’s commands. The Christian must obey the government when it says to wear a seat belt or pay taxes. The Christian must not obey the government if it forbids preaching the gospel (or proselytizing, as it is often called) or if it requires Christian churches to solemnize homosexual weddings. The Bible is clear, the Christian must always obey the Bible first and their governors second.

A caution is in order. Disobedience to the government must only take place when a clear command of God is at stake. The mask mandates during the pandemic did not violate God’s Word, therefore, where those mandates were legally enacted the Christian had the duty to obey them. Christian’s may disagree with a law and they have the freedom in America to voice their disagreement and to use all legal means to change the law. Christian’s cannot disobey a law just because they disagree with it or because it violates a strongly held belief. Christian’s are only permitted to disobey when the law of man clearly contradicts the commands of God.

Christians live in obedience to the government but place obedience to God over submission to the government because God is Supreme. God sets up and overthrows governments. God appoints governments and establishes each government official to be a minister of God for the promotion of good, the protection of the innocent and the punishment of evil. (Romans 13:1-6) All governments are under the control of God, even those governments which Him and His authority. The Christian obeys God because God rules over all nation, all kings and all men. The Christian obeys kings, presidents, judges and officers because God rules over all nations and has appointed those officials for good. We must obey earthly authorities because God gave them that authority. To disobey them is to disobey God, but above all else we must obey God in all things.