Bible Reading: I Peter 2:1-16
Key Verse: Verses 14 - "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.”
Key Words: for the punishment of evildoers
The general function of human government, as instituted by God, may be said to be threefold: to protect, punish, and promote.
- The Function of Protection: The moment Adam sinned it was obvious that civilizations would need some form of restraint and rule to protect citizens from themselves. An example of this function is seen in Acts 21:27-37 where Roman soldiers step in and save Paul from being murdered by his own enraged countrymen in Jerusalem.
- The Function of Punishment: Both Paul and Peter bring this out. Paul writes that duly appointed human officials are to be regarded as God’s servants to “bear the sword,” that is, to impose punishment upon criminals (verses 3, 4). Peter tells us that governors are “sent by him for the punishment of evildoers” (I Peter 2:13, 14).
- The Function of Promotion: Human government is to promote the general welfare of the community where its laws are in effect. Paul commands us to pray for human leaders “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (I Timothy 2:1, 2).
It is impossible for a believer to be a good Christian and a bad citizen at the same time. As children of God our responsibility to human government is threefold:
- We are to recognize and accept that the powers that be are ordained by God. “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” (Romans 13:1). This truth applies even to atheistic human governments unless, of course, the law is anti-Scriptural. In that situation the believer must obey God rather than man (Acts 4:18-20). In fact, when Paul wrote those words in Romans 13:1, the evil emperor Nero was on the throne. See also Titus 3:1.
- We are to pay our taxes to human government (Matthew 17:24-27, 22:21; Romans 13:7).
- We are to pray for the leaders in human government. “I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men: For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour” (I Timothy 2:1-3).
What to do:
✞ Understand what the true function of government is and pray that those in government will “do right.”
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