The Ordinances of Men

“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 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.” (1 Peter 2:13-14)

The phrase “ordinances of man” literally means “human creations.” Since only God can really create, that means we must regard laws of legislatures or presidential orders or even kingly decrees as having divine authority. Therefore, in order to maintain a good witness before men, God expects us to submit to all these man-made laws and directives.

That even includes such unpopular laws as speed limits. Christians should not be tax cheats or anything that tends to undermine legitimate authority, and certainly should never break any of the multitude of laws that are based upon or consistent with the laws or commandments of God. We rightly must honor our leaders, not only great presidents such as Washington and Lincoln, but all who have positions of authority. Remember that “there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1), even though there are occasions when (for good and justifiable reasons) God gives power to unworthy men.

Such ungodly leaders will be themselves judged by God in His own way and time. Our job is simply to “render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:7).

The one great exception to this principle, of course, is when their laws go against the laws of God. Then, “we ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29) and be willing to take the consequences. “If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:16). HMM


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