What Does the Bible Say About Obeying the Government?

what does the bible say

Whether or not a Christian should obey the government is becoming a much more relevant question these days.

With increased government overreach and control, it is a good time to examine what the Bible says about listening to the government. Does the Bible teach that we should always obey the government? 

The Bible says that we should obey the government, as long as those in authority are not violating the laws of God. If the government passes laws that are opposed to God’s law, we are not required by God to obey them. 

What Does the Bible Say About Obeying the Laws of the Land? 

The Bible makes it clear that Christians should obey the laws of the land, as long as those laws don’t violate God’s law, which is higher. God is the ultimate and final authority. He should be obeyed at all costs. 

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, Titus 1:3 

Rulers of the land are supposed to be a terror to evil and praise those who do good. When we obey authorities in what is right, we honor God. But when those in authority become workers of evil, we are not supposed to submit to their ways that are contrary to God. Rulers of the land are supposed to punish evildoers, not empower them.  

When rulers and those in authority agree with and uphold the laws of God, they become ministers of God and we are instructed to obey them, showing that our conduct is upright and honorable. A Christian should not suffer because of their bad behavior, but should be in subjection to the Godly laws of the land that are in place to hold back evil. 

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. Romans 13:1-7

When a government has righteous leaders, they make righteous laws that keep things in order. Crimes are punished. Those who do wrong to their neighbor suffer the consequences. These types of laws are in line with God’s Word and should be followed by Christians. 

Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 1 Peter 2:13-14

What Does the Bible Say About Obeying Unjust Laws? 

There are certain times where civil disobedience is called for. When obeying a law of the land would cause you to disobey God’s law, then you must make the choice to obey God rather than man. 

An example of this in the Bible is found in Acts 4 and 5. Peter and John were threatened and commanded by those in authority not to preach in the Name of Jesus. 

But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Acts 4: 17-20

Peter and John chose to obey God rather than man. They made a decision to disobey the law of the land in order to obey God. Any man-made law that requires us to disobey our God should be civilly disobeyed. 

Again in Acts 5, Peter and the other apostles declared that it was right to obey God over man. 

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them,  saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. Acts 5: 27-29

Another example is found in Exodus 1:17. The king of Egypt had commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill all the sons of the Hebrew women. But these midwives refused to do this evil!

The Bible says that rather than obeying the king, they chose to fear the Lord and preserve the life of these male children. There are times when serving the Lord requires disobedience to evil commands. 

However, the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but kept the male children alive. Exodus 1:20 MEV

The Bible records that because of their decision to fear God rather than obey the king, God dealt well with the midwives (Exodus 1:20).

I can’t even imagine all the blessing packed into those words- “God dealt well with the midwives”!

In Hebrews 10, the Bible commands Christians to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. 

not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25

This is a command from God through His written Word.

If the government creates a law forbidding the Church from assembling ourselves together, then we must make the decision to obey God rather than man. 

If the government creates laws that would hinder us from loving our neighbor, or from healing the sick, or from any other command of God, we must be bold enough to obey God rather than man, despite the consequences. This requires great boldness and a commitment to honor God no matter what. 

What Does the Bible Say About Praying for Government Leaders? 

Not only does the Bible tell us when to obey the government, but the Word of God also commands us to honor and pray for our leaders. 

 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. 1 Peter 2:17

I recently was in a store and heard a song playing on someone’s phone. The song was cursing the leader of our country. I sensed the fear of God in my spirit and immediately a verse in 2 Peter came to my mind. 

and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord. 2 Peter 2:10-11

Even the angels do not speak evil of dignitaries! As a follower of Christ, there should never be an instance where we speak evil of our leaders. In fact, we are commanded to speak evil of no one. 

to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. Titus 3:2

Of course there are going to be leaders that we don’t agree with, but we are told to pray for them. 

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and ]reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2: 1-4

Praying for your leaders is a responsibility as a Christian, in order that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life. Make a decision to pray for your nation and for your leaders.

Your prayers make a difference! Here are some prayer guides to get you started: https://truthandliberty.net/prayer-guides/.  

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