The Christian's Obligation to Earthly Governments

Presidential Election Sermon, November 2016, FBC-Elmer
Romans 13:1-9; Luke 20:24-25

This Tuesday is Election Day and three days later is Veteran's Day. Then comes Thanksgiving! That is quite appropriate. We can thank God and our veterans for the freedom that is ours to determine who rules our nation, states and communities. Without veterans there would be no Election Day and without God, there would nothing to be thankful for and no Thanksgiving Day.

I hear Christians say that they are not going to vote this year because they don't like either candidate. I understand their frustration and I must admit that my feelings are no different, but I cannot come to the same conclusion. To give up my right to vote is to give up my freedoms and betray those veterans who fought and even gave their lives to preserve our freedoms.

The question many are asking is, So who can I vote for? How should I cast my ballot under such circumstances?

I cannot and will not tell anyone who to vote for, but it is my hope and prayer that each of us will be able to vote with a good conscience before God when this message is over.

Scripture: Romans 13:1-9
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.


1. A difficult Scripture
Many well-intentioned Bible expositors think the Apostle Paul went too far in making this statement. Some contend that these verses represent Paul's opinion and not God's directive word.

I believe that Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit and that this admonishment is the inspired Word of God. Let me tell you why I say this.

2. If anyone has any power at all over other people, it is because God ordains it. Matthew 28:1-20
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. (v. 1-8)

And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. (vs. 9-10)

Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (v. 11-20)

On November 9th, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump can boast that they won the presidential election, but they can NEVER honestly claim that it was their own doing. Nor can voters claim to have done it. God alone decides who becomes President of the United States of America or of any other nation.

We may choose a pastor by a unanimous vote according to the church constitution, but God determines who, if anyone. will be the next Pastor of FBC-Elmer.

And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? (Luke 12:16-20)

In 1985, we stepped down as pastor of the church in Ampflwang in order to devote more time to the Bible Institute. The church called a pastor who served them well until 1991. It was 7 years before the church called another pastor, but during that time God blessed and the church grew. They even helped us to start a new church in Frankenburg during that time. They finally called an Austrian pastor in 1998 by a unanimous vote. Within a couple of months, he began teaching things that were unscriptural and the church asked him to resign. He finally left the church taking several couples with him. It was an ugly situation, but God ordained it! The church has been greatly blessed over the past 18 years -- without a pastor! In 2001, shortly before we returned to America, I had the joy of baptizing 8 recently saved adults. A few weeks ago, the church celebrated its 50th anniversary. Half of that time the church had no pastor, yet there are many young families and a vibrant youth group in the church today.

America has a two-party system today. One party is called the Democrats and the other is called Republicans. Actually, America is a "democratic republic", but in the final analyses, it is God who ordains government. It has been the same around the world ever since God created it. Read the Bible!

3. God sets us free
Ever since creation, nearly all nations have been monarchies, oligarchies or dictatorships. The common people have seldom had any say whatsoever in government matters. The natural man without God has never been free. He is in bondage to Satan and sin. But those who believed in God and kept his Word have always been free! Religion has always been a strong force that has vied with governments for control of the masses. For this reason, many governments and religious groups formed coalitions to keep the people subservient. In the Old Testament, heathen nations had their national gods. You recall Daniel who refused to obey the king's command to bow down and worship his image. You have also heard of the Holy Roman Empire, which ruled much of Europe throughout the middle ages. At the time of Christ, the Roman government and Jewish leaders found it convenient to cooperate in order to maintain control of the nation. All of these were fiercely opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but the Bible says, If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. John 8:36.

When God created animals, they were told to multiply "after their kind." When God created man, he created him in God's own image, with a free will to make choices. Man was also commanded to multiply, but not "after his kind." Every man or woman who has ever entered this world must choose. Adam and Eve chose to follow Satan and sinned. Others have chosen to conform to God's image. That is the only right choice we can make that is absolutely certain! And that is the only way we can become truly free!

Few Americans understand the purpose of the United States Constitution. The founders intended to make America a nation of choice rather than a few powerful individuals ruling over the masses. Because many Americans were Christians who held God's Word in high esteem and sought to obey it, our constitution worked well for the nation. Many Christians have been misled to think that America is a Christian nation. Today, most Americans are not believers and show little respect for God's Word.

To this day, most world religions are state sanctioned, recognized or sponsored. Historically, this has also been true of "mainstream Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church persecuted any person or group that refused to submit to Roman church authority. In Greece, Russia and other nations, it is the Orthodox Church which enjoys that status. Most Arab nations are intolerant of any religion other than Islam. ISIS is the best modern example of a church state in which government and religion are one and the same.

The Virginia Colony was established under the Church of England, and was expected to become a "Great Anglican Nation". Unfortunately for England and the Anglican Church, nearly all of the first settlers died of disease, hunger or in skirmishes with Native Americans. When news of mass death and hardships became known, attempts to persuade British citizens to migrate to the new world fell of deaf ears.

On the other hand, there were large numbers of persecuted minority groups and peasants in Europe who had nothing to lose. A large percentage of the next wave of settlers in the "New World" came to escape life under an intolerant State/Church type government. These were the Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites, Quakers, Huguenots, Moravians and other anabaptist groups. Signers of the Constitution were determined that the United States would never recognize an official state church, or worse, become a church state.

The Mormons hoped to become a state church. Founder, Joseph Smith was running for the US Presidency when he was killed June 27, 1844. Five years later, in 1849, Brigham Young declared an area covering nearly half of the Western United States as the "State of Deseret." The plan was for Deseret to become a church state, but it was thwarted by the US a year later.

4. Only free people can choose
We served as missionaries in Austria nearly four decades, but we had no voice in Austrian politics. We submitted to local authorities, obeyed all laws and celebrated Austrian holidays, but we were free. We were and are free because we have given our lives to God, who ordains the powers that be.

When we read Paul's words carefully, it becomes clear that he calls upon us to choose to obey. Paul's own life bears this out. He and Silas were unjustly imprisoned in Philippi, but God sent an earthquake that set them free - or did it? They were already free! They voluntarily remained subject to the authority which imprisoned them. And God gave them a bunch of converts and a new church. In Acts 28 we have the story of Paul's trip to Rome where he was to be arraigned before Caesar. We read of the shipwreck. We read of the captain, sailors, ship's owners and the soldiers who watched the prisoners including Paul. Paul was an obedient prisoner for the sake of the gospel. Going to Rome and appealing to the Emperor was his idea, not theirs. In the end, Paul was in charge, giving orders and encouraging everyone. All on board were rescued, a tribal chief on the island of Melita was saved and a new church probably started.

Let us look at John the Baptist. He was different to be sure, but he was a good citizen and obeyed the laws. He called the self-righteous Pharisees and scribes to repentance and even called out Herod for his adulterous relationship. It cost him his head, but he remained obedient to the government and to God until his final breath.

5. No matter what the outcome of this election, I will be subject to the law If the next government doubles our taxes, I will try to pay them, and if I can't, I will go to jail. If the new rulers take all my freedoms, they cannot take my faith.

If you read our scripture passage carefully, you will see that Paul mentions two sets of laws. He speaks of man's laws that are supposed to be for the good of all. He also speaks of God's laws. When these laws are in conflict, there is no question about which laws Paul would obey. Jesus told the hypocritical Pharisees, Why tempt ye me? Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar's. And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's. (Luke 20:25) Paul was often beaten and imprisoned for obeying God rather than man. If that is my lot, so be it. But as long as I am able, I will vote.

When the sons of Jacob sold their brother into Egypt, that was not very nice, but Joseph made the best of it with God's help. He did his best to serve Pharaoh's chief executioner until he was wrongly accused and thrown into prison. He did his best to help the Jailor and fellow prisoners. He served Pharaoh as best he could until nearly all Egypt and the livestock belonged to the king. Then all Egyptians became the king's servants. As thanks, Pharaoh committed the Israelites to hard slave labor.

The Jews cried out to God (Exodus 3:23) and he heard them. He sent Moses to deliver them, but most Jews wanted nothing to do with that murderer. I doubt seriously that Moses would have become their leader had there been a democratic election.

This election is not just for a President. The Congress and Senate will also be elected. Supreme Court Justices will be appointed by the next President. I look at the platform of the candidates. Both are very open about what they plan to do if elected. We can only hope that one is telling the truth and the other is lying if elected.

Finally, I hear people say that their vote won't count anyway. If that is your statement, you are absolutely right. Your vote will not count, but you had better not complain about government - ever! You and I have only one vote, but we also have an all-powerful God who ordains leaders. If you vote without praying about it, you should be ashamed. I have been and shall continue to pray for this election. And no matter who wins, I will pray for them.

Why tempt ye me? Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar's. And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's. (Luke 20:25)

Ralph V Harvey