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April 11, 2014

TISCIONE: The Christian and the government

By LOU TISCIONE

The church in the Old Testament lived under a theocracy. That is, both the church and state were one. God anointed kings. Civil laws and religious laws were one and the same.

Today we don’t live in a theocracy. In fact, there is only one society in the world that is considered a theocracy. It is Islam. As you may know, in Islam-controlled countries the civilian population lives under religious law.

In the New Testament, God revealed three circles of life over which He rules: the family, the church and the government.

The Apostle Paul wrote of the Christian’s relationship to civil government. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1)

The first principle under which Christians live in relation to the civil government is to submit to the governing authorities. “To be subject to” is to live under by submitting oneself to authority. This command is crystal clear. Yet what if the governing authority is evil?

Before answering this, it is necessary to understand the historical context under which Paul wrote this letter. The likely date for the writing of Romans is approximately 57 A.D. At that time, the Roman Empire was ruled by Nero. Nero’s rule was between 54 A.D. and 68 A.D. One need not do a great deal of research to discover the behavior of Nero.

Tacitus, a Roman Historian who lived during Nero’s reign, wrote of some of Nero’s atrocities: “Before killing the Christian, Nero used them to amuse the people. Some were dressed in furs, to be killed by dogs. Others were crucified. Still others were set on fire early in the night, so that they might illumine it …” (Annals 15.44)

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