Dear Kirkers, Romans 13, 1 Peter 2, and 1 Peter 4 Are Still God’s Word

Some of the responses to yesterday’s essay by members of Christ Church, Moscow, ID (known locally as “The Kirk”) most certainly did not meet even the minimal standards for the comment box. The comment policy reads: “Comments are welcome but must observe the moral law. Comments that are profane, deny the gospel, advance positions contrary to the Reformed confession, or irritate the management are subject to deletion. Anonymous comments, posted without permission, are forbidden.” Some of the comments by Kirkers and their supporters on BigSocMedia were even worse. More troubling, however, is their apparent ignorance of major sections of the New Testament addressing how Christians ought to regard the civil magistrate. This seems like a good time for all of us to review and meditate upon them.


Romans 13

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. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Romans 13:1–7.

1 Peter 2

13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Peter 2:13–25.

1 Peter 4

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And 

“If the righteous is scarcely saved, 

what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 

19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Peter 4:12–19.

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  1. I do not see that their conduct in singing Psalms and Hymns in a public place as worship to God is in any way contradictory to the Scriptures you have mentioned. They are, like Daniel, going against an unjust edict that is attempting to put constraints on the worship of God. Praise God that they are willing to be unlawfully detained for the name of Jesus. Are our Chinese brothers and sisters wrong to worship God in unsactioned churches? Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrong to oppose Hitler? Was the Apostle Paul wrong to preach in the streets contrary to the Emperor? Were the Huguenots wrong to worship as they did? Were the puritans wrong to oppose the crown? Most importantly, was Jesus Christ wrong to oppose the Jewish religious leaders? At what point do you believe it is godly and right to go against tyrants and worship God at all costs? I hope these comments are taken as they are meant. To edify.

  2. Dr. Clark,
    Where does one put the local government defying the Federal? The obvious present example goes like this:
    Properly worn and fitted face masks reduce, but do not eliminate viral transmission*. The federal government has a limited set of powers the remainder, until the 14th amendment which limited local governments in the same manner the federal government is.
    Continuing: while wearing a properly fitted face mask is preferred to not wearing one at all, the responsible thing is to no not be exposed or expose others if at all possible. I strongly support private companies and individuals requiring mask usage, I strongly oppose the government doing the same, as Constitutionally they have no mandate or authority to do so. Prior to the 14th amendment the states and localities would have had the power, authority, responsibility to do so.

    On one hand, I am a trained emergency responder for CBRN events and when I go out in public I wear a tyvek suit, tape down ankles and wrists, change gloves routinely and wear a full face p100 respirator as though I was involved (and fully believe we are) in a hazmat situation.

    When stores and businesses started putting up signs saying due to local ordinances they required mask usage, I refused to use their services, when they changed it to say they required mask usage, as took responsibility for the choice, I again began patronage.

    I believe that I am following the abiding law of the land, but properly resisting power grabs that are unwarranted.

    My solution, as stated above, was to refuse patronage in a city where over reach occurred, thus denying them taxes. But also to contact municipal leaders and inform them of such and in one case threaten legal action, which became unnecessary in less than 24 hours due to action by the governor.

    How then do we respond to overreaches by governmental authority? On one hand, our founding documents suggest we have the individual and corporate responsibility to do so, yet also puts us in conflict with local government.


    • Robert,

      To be clear, I think that too many local and state governments have taken the opportunity of the pandemic to expand their authority and are abusing it. Speaking personally (i.e., not in my office as minister of the gospel) I support the petition to recall Gov. Newsom because of his abuse of his authority.

      That said, the Federal government has issued guidelines and not laws. The federal government has no authority to issue a mask mandate etc.

      Where there is a genuine conflict between the Federal and state governments, I think that Christians would probably come to differing conclusions. Morally I think it would be a matter of Christian liberty. It’s a question that would have to be decided on some other basis than Scripture, e.g., natural law, political philosophy, reason etc.

    • And I strongly believe that the Federal Government should issue guidelines, disregarding the reliability of those guidelines (some are very good, some are very bad, some are theater, as are most political guidelines) I suspect the answer I am seeking is outside HB’s area of operation. I was just wondering when the Federal Government and local government are in conflict, to whom do we defer. I suspect the answer is case by case that which most closely correspond to a Reformed ethic, respects the weaker brother, and advocates the lowest box in the Soap, Ballot, Jury, Cartridge series.

  3. RSC,

    It looks like, at least on some occasions, you might advocate defying governing authorities. It looks on the positive side we might call it “civil disobedience.” Could you say more about this more positive defiance of government and how to square it with the passages ?


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