What is God’s understanding of human government?

Upright Rulers


By Spencer D Gear

I was engaged in discussion with 2 know him on Christian Forums. His original topic was his refusal to accept the teaching of both Paul and Peter on God’s instruction on human government. He wrote:

This is what Romans 13:1-4 states:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer (NIV).

This was 2 know him’s response:

Not only was Paul wrong in his statements listed above, but they contradict Jesus’ precepts.

You cannot serve 2 masters and yet Jesus’ authority is constantly disobeyed by those in power and you and Paul claim they are somehow servants of God while they contradict Jesus’ teachings which he claimed are the commandments of God. I guess God is schizophrenic.

Paul was not only wrong but he was never taught by Jesus. It is unfortunate that you cannot see what is clearly before you, about the err of Paul’s philosophies, but you will never know Jesus, as you aught to, as long as you accept the ignorance of Paul’s beliefs.[1]

I (OzSpen) responded to him as follows (I have used the first person in addressing him):[2]

Governments are ministers of God

We ARE taught that governments are ministers of God, or as the NLT translates, they are “God’s servants”:

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. 2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. 3 For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. 4 The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. 5 So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. 6 Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority (Rom. 13:1-7 NLT)

The exception: When we should disobey government

The Scriptures do give us the exception when we must not obey governments or other human authorities:

But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority (Acts 5:29 NLT).

People may not like God’s teaching from Paul, but we are responsible for obeying governing authorities. They are placed there by God. But we must not obey ungodly laws.

Those who disagree with what Paul has taught under theopneustos (God-breathed) authority – see 2 Tim. 3:16-17 – are in a dangerous zone when they try to supercede God’s authority.

There is another portion of Scripture that affirms the authority given by God to government. It is in 1 Peter 2:13-17:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor (NIV).

What about the authority of 2 Peter?

In responding to another person about this Scripture, 2knowhim took the opportunity to denigrate 2 Peter and its authority:

Anarchy is self rule. It is much preferred that you rule yourself then have another rule you unless you can be assured their rule is right and you accept their authority by choice NOT FORCE. All earthly governments rule BY FORCE.

As for Peter, he did not write 2 Peter and most Greek scholars affirm this. For many reasons I can know for sure that Peter could not have affirmed earthly governments, but the fundamental reason for my absolute surety of this, is because Peter saw Jesus as his King and to affirm another man as as co-ruler with Christ who make Him to have 2 masters.

Paul’s statements about those in power not being a terror to good works, mean that Jesus, Paul and the Apostles that were killed by the Rulers of Rome as well as those who were thrown to the lions were doing evil works: OR PAUL WAS WRONG. And his statements that those who bear the sword are ministers/servants of God go against Jesus’ teachings so how are they his servants?

In the Old Covenant it is never meant that the children of Israel should have a King and all the enforcement of the laws were to be carried out by those who were transgressed against. To enforce punishment yourself, or have law-enforcement punnish a violator of your rights, is to not make you a follower of Christ: as he taught against this behavior. If you judge others GOD will also JUDGE YOU.[3]

I responded: ‘Please present your evidence that 2 Peter was not written by Peter. “Most Greek scholars affirm this” is an awful way to present non-evidence’.[4]

This was his reply: Originally posted by 2 know him:

As I have stated once before, in order for Peter to affirm the authority of any man other then the Christ would be to accept the rule of men as being from God. Let’s say you are in power, would you say that your rule would be the rule of God? How ignorant and self deluded you must be to truly be: to believe such garbage. God allows you to sit in judgment of others just as he allows men to sin but to think he accepts your judging others as okay? Total nonsense. You might do well to remember that God never intended for the children of Israel to have a king and he gave them one and stated: “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

Your rule against the teachings of Christ, being God’s judgments, when God says the children of Israels kings would not be His Rule: how arrogant are you.

Peter knew Jesus was the King of Israel and only a disciple of Paul would have fallen into the same err that Paul made himself, for accepting earthly kings as God’s servants.[5]

How should I respond?[6] I stated that this kind of statement demonstrates your ignorance of the totality of Scripture. According to Proverbs 8:12-16, wisdom [the Lord] makes kings to reign, rulers to decree, princes to rule, nobles to govern justly:

“I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
and I find knowledge and discretion.
13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
and perverted speech I hate.
14 I have counsel and sound wisdom;
I have insight; I have strength.
15 By me kings reign,
and rulers decree what is just;
16 by me princes rule,
and nobles, all who govern justly (ESV).

It is 2knowhim who is out of touch with biblical reality. The Trinitarian God cannot rule against the judgments of Christ. They are one and the same ONE God. That’s the teaching of Scripture.
His presuppositions have dominated his post. They include:

  1. To say that ‘for Peter to affirm the authority of any man other then the Christ would be to accept the rule of men as being from God’. This is your presupposition. The infallible word of God has told us that God uses governments (and human beings) as SERVANTS under God. You impose on the text your own humanistic views and thus get eisegesis.
  2. “How ignorant and self deluded you must be to truly be: to believe such garbage…. Total nonsense.” When you use an ad hominem logical fallacy against me, you not only demonstrate the illogic of what you state, but we can’t have a logical discussion when you violate a fundamental of the logical mind the Lord has given us. Please quit your ad hominem personal attacks on me!
  3. “Your rule against the teachings of Christ”…. No, it is your imposed teaching on Scripture that the rest of the NT does not agree with the teachings of Christ. The NT is a totality. You can pick and choose what you want to believe, but that is humanism and not Christ-centred godliness.
  4. “only a disciple of Paul would have fallen into the same err that Paul made himself, for accepting earthly kings as God’s servants.” Here you have stated your opinion as a human being. I would rather listen to the theopneustos (God-breathed) Scriptures. They have more authority than any of your and my writings. Those God-breathed Scriptures state that “governing authorities” are “from God and those that exist have been instituted by God”. More than that, “Whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Rom. 13:2). When you resist this biblical teaching, as you are doing in this thread, God’s warning is that you “will incur judgment”. That’s not what I said. It is from the Lord God and what he has given us in the God-breathed Scripture.

You have some very dangerous presuppositions that have severe divine ramifications, based on Romans 13:2.
You engage in avoidance and it will not do in honest discussion. This is what I asked of you:

Please present your evidence that 2 Peter was not written by Peter. “Most Greek scholars affirm this” is an awful way to present non-evidence.

But in your post, there was not a word of evidence to support your view of the authorship of 2 Peter. ZERO evidence. That is not the way to engage in honest discussion.


We obey the laws of human government, except when they conflict with the law of God. So when governments promote euthanasia, abortion, taking mind-altering illicit drugs, homosexual marriage, and refusing to allow freedom of religion, I will disobey government.

See my articles:

‘We must obey God rather than human beings’

(Acts 5:29 NIV).



[1] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘Can you be a Christian and support unchristian actions?’, 8 May 2012, #37, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7654555-4/ (Accessed 11 May 2012).

[2] Ibid., #46.

[3] Ibid., #47.

[4] OzSpen, ibid., #48.

[5] Ibid., #50.

[6] OzSpen, ibid., #52


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 October 2015.