"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.IV No.XI Pg.12-13,15b
June 1942

The Christian's Relation To Civil Authority

Cecil B. Douthitt

There are three institutions of society "ordained of God" the family, the state, and the church. God has clearly stated His purposes in the establishment and existence of all three of these units, and he has assigned a work to each.

Christians are members of all three of these institutions. It is not only their privilege, it is their duty also, to participate in the work which God has assigned to the three groups of which Christians are a part.

All the work which God has assigned to the family, or the state, or the church, is just and right and honorable. None of the work is cruel, oppressive, or evil. It is contrary to the will of God, and therefore sinful, for any one or all of these groups to do wrong, and the Christian becomes guilty in the sight of God when he participates in any wrong done by his family, his nation, or the church. Under no condition can a Christian say, "Let us do evil, that good may come." (Rom. 3:8.) It is always wrong for a Christian to fail to do what he knows to be right, regardless of what his family, nation or church may think or command. "To him therefore that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (Jas. 4:17.)

Parents are the divinely constituted authority in the home, and it is right for the children to obey them. (Eph. 6:1.) However, children who are old enough to be accountable to God are under an authority higher than the parental authority. Sometimes the command of a parent is contrary to the command of Christ. Under such conditions the child must obey Christ rather than the parent.

A Christian boy or girl who lies and steals is a thief and a sinner in the sight of God, even though the parent did command it, and no authority on earth can make it otherwise. On a few occasions parents have forbidden their children to be baptized. But children who are old enough to be responsible to God for their deeds will not receive immunity on the ground that their parents forbade their obedience to the gospel. People must obey the gospel regardless of any parental command to the contrary. This is accepted generally.

That which is true of the Christian's relation to parental authority is also true of the Christian's relation to the authority of the "higher powers," or civil government, which are "ordained of God." Christian citizens must obey the authorities of their nation to the same extent that Christian children must obey the authority in their home. When a command of "the powers that be" runs counter to a command of Christ, then Christians must "obey God rather than men."

In every dispensation "higher powers" have been "ordained of God" to bear the sword as "an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil." "The powers that be are ordained of God" for a terror "to the evil" and guilty; not for a terror to the innocent and good. While performing this duty "they are ministers of God's service." This is not an evil work; it is just and right. (Rom. 13:1-7.)

In Gen. 9:6, God stated a principle that appears in one form or another in His law for each dispensation: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." If this principle had not been included in the New Testament, God would not have said that the "higher powers" are ministers of his service while bearing the sword, an instrument of death, against the evil and guilty. The policemen who protect the innocent by means of deadly weapons, and the soldiers who protected Paul, the prisoner, by means of deadly weapons, are doing the very work for which God appointed or ordained the "higher powers;" and God never "ordained" any unit of society to do wrong. Therefore it is right to terrorize the guilty and protect the innocent with the sword, an instrument of death.

On many occasions the "powers that be" have become a terror to the innocent and good. They were not ordained of God for that purpose. They were not doing "God's service" while destroying the righteous and persecuting the innocent, but were in rebellion against God. No Christian can participate in that kind of work, even though the "higher powers" command him to do so. He must refuse and take the consequences.

Jesus experienced a six-fold trial—three Jewish and three Roman. He was crucified by order of the "powers that be." But those who crucified Him were murderers nevertheless. (Acts 2:23; 3:17.) Therefore it is possible for one to be a murderer, even when carrying out the orders of the civil authorities.

The "higher powers" in the city of Jerusalem were "ordained of God" to punish the guilty and to be "an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil." But they were not "ordained of God" to punish the innocent, imprison the apostles, and slay Christians. When they did that, they were in rebellion against God, and every citizen and every officer who participated in carrying out the wicked orders of the "rulers" was guilty before God. Saul of Tarsus had a part in that kind of work for a time. After he became a Christian he made no claim of innocence upon the ground that he was only following the orders of the powers that be; he frankly confessed guilt and that he sinned against God in partaking of the evil work of the "powers that be." (Acts 22:3-5; 1 Tim. 1:13-15.)

Old Herod was one of those "higher powers" "ordained of God" to punish the guilty. But God never ordained him to kill innocent children. He was not doing "God's service" when he murdered those children of Bethlehem. (Matt. 2:16.) And Joseph was not guilty of "withstanding the ordinance of God" by fleeing to Egypt with the infant Jesus. Killing the innocent is sinful, even when the "higher powers" command it.

Pharaoh was another one of those "higher powers" "ordained of God." But God did not ordain him to drown the innocent children of the Israelites. Of course, Pharaoh thought the national security (Ex. 1:10) justified his murderous decree (Ex. 1:22), but that did not make it right. The midwives were not resisting the "ordinance of God" in refusing to obey the king's commandment. God blessed them for refusing to obey the "powers that be." It was because they feared God that they and the parents of Moses were not afraid of the king's commandment.

Peter and John boldly refused to obey civil authority when obedience to that authority would cause them to fail to do what they knew was right. (Acts 5:29.) Daniel, the three Hebrew worthies, and a few other Biblical characters could be pointed out to show that citizens of a kingdom of this world are always justified in refusing to obey the wicked edicts of civil rulers.

King George III was cruel, oppressive and unjust toward certain of his subjects on this continent. It would be hard for any man to prove that the American colonies were resisting the "ordinance of God" in resisting the oppression of that fanatical ruler and establishing an independent government of their own.

The government of Japan is numbered among the "higher powers" that are "ordained of God." A few of its subjects are Christians, and if they are called to serve in the Japanese army, they should refuse to drop deadly explosives on innocent women and children and open cities far removed from any military objective, even when ordered to do so, and take the consequences. For God does not order Hirohito, or Hitler, or any other ruler to kill the innocent. The plea that national security requires it has no more foundation than Pharaoh's plea. (Ex. 1:10.) Since the beginning of the civil war in Spain it has been proved over and over again that the killing of civilians avails nothing.

It is one thing for a policeman while shooting at an armed and barricaded criminal to accidentally hit an innocent bystander; it is quite a different thing for that policeman to deliberately aim at an innocent by-stander. It is one thing for a soldier to aim at a military objective of an aggressor and accidentally kill innocent civilians; it is quite another thing for that soldier to deliberately aim his bombs at innocent civilians, as has been done many times by the armies of the Axis powers.

How anyone who knows anything at all about the teaching of the New Testament can conscientiously argue that a Japanese Christian, or a Christian of any other nationality, can kill the innocent and remain guiltless on the ground that the "higher powers" ordered it done, is rather hard to understand. One might as well argue that a Christian boy or girl may lie and steal and remain guiltless on the ground that the parent ordered it done; for obedience to civil authority is no more binding than obedience to parental authority.

A political set-up that orders faithful Christians to kill one another just because they happen to live on opposite sides of the Mason and Dixon line, or on opposite sides of any other boundary, is contrary to everything taught in the New Testament by Christ and the apostles. Being a soldier is not a license to commit crime by the authority of the civil government.

The church, like the family and the nation, is ordained of God to do a good work (Eph. 3:10), not an evil work. All the members can and should participate in the good work. When the church does an evil work it has departed from its God given purpose, and every member who partakes of that evil work is guilty before God, and every member who refuses to participate in that evil work is innocent and blessed of God. The church at Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6) became evil and every one who partook of that evil was guilty in the sight of God. But there were a "few names in Sardis that did not defile their garments" and the Lord said of them, "They shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy."

God never loses sight of the individual in the family, nation, or church. In the judgment at the last great day each must stand or fall as an individual.



The "New Christian Leader" did not live long. It reminds me of the story of the man in a fast moving car who said, "This is a pretty town, wasn't it?" and never missed a verb. The "New Christian Leader" is just what some people want, wasn't it? It was born of a questionnaire—born to be all affirmative. Its progenitors made it after their image and in their likeness. It was a paper after their own heart, because it was not negative. It was all "pro" and no "con;" all "for" and none "against;" all "yea" and no "nay." There was to be no knocking.

A good farmer "affirms" his crop by tilling the soil and fertilizing it. He "denies" the weeds and insects. The net results are constructive. A good sculptor is good at knocking. He denies all that he does not affirm. He constructs from the stone the desired image by knocking away the undesired.

The preacher of the gospel is like a sculptor. The word of God is the hammer— "like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces." By well-directed blows error is separated from the truth. There must be a denial of yourself before you can say, "It is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me." Before the world can see the Christ in you, there must be the negative work of chipping away of the old man.

I know that "in Him is yea" (2 Cor. 1:19,20) but out of Him is "nay." In Him is the "amen" but out of Him is the "God forbid." In Christ is the affirmative, out of Him is the negative. We must love God and hate the devil. We must love the right way and hate every false way.

But we are told that the New Testament is altogether affirmative. That it does not say "Thou shalt not." Those who say "Don't" don't practice what they preach. They are against being against error.

I have just read the word of the apostles and prophets of the New Testament, to see the way they say "nay" today. I found not less than one thousand passages in which their teaching was negative. And by subjects, I'm presenting some of them to you.

Subject: GOD

"He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living." (Mark 12:27.)

"With God nothing shall be impossible" ("No word of God shall be void of power"). (Luke 1:37.)

"He left not Himself without witness" to the Gentiles. (Acts 14:17.)

"God ... dwelleth not in temples made with hands." (Acts 17:24.)

"Neither is He worshipped (or served) with men's hands, as though He needed anything." (Verse 25.)

"We ought not to think that the Godhead is like gold, etc." (Verse 29.)

"There is no respect of persons with God." (Rom. 2:11.) "There is no power but of God." (Rom. 13:1.)

"There is none other God but one." (1 Cor. 8:4.)

"But with many of them (the Israelites) God was not well pleased." (1 Cor. 10:5.)

"God is not the author of confusion." (1 Cor. 14:33.) "God is not mocked." (Gal. 6:7.)

"Dwelling in the light which no man can approach... Whom no man hath seen, nor can see." (1 Tim. 6:16.)

"God ... cannot lie." (Titus 1:2.) "God is not unrighteous." (Heb. 6:10.) "God cannot be tempted with evil." (Jas. 1:13.)

"If God spared not the angels that sinned . . ." (2 Pet. 2:4.) "Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father." (1 John 2:23.)

"Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God." (2 John 9.)

Subject: CHRIST

"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." (Matt. 5:17.)

"I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Matt. 9:13.)

"He taught them ... not as the scribes." (Mark 1:22.) "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto. . . " (Mark 10:45.)

"For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." (Luke 9:56.)

"I am not alone ... I do nothing of myself ... neither came I of myself ... I have not a devil ... I seek not mine own glory." (John 8:16, 28, 42, 49, 50.)

"No man cometh unto the Father but by me." (John 14:6.) "Without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5.)

"Soul was not left in Hades." (Acts 2:31.) "Christ pleased not Himself." (Rom. 15:3.) "Other foundation can no man lay." (1 Cor. 3:11.)

"Above ... every name ... not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." (Eph. 1:21.)

"But made Himself of no reputation. . . " (Phil. 2:7.) "Philosophy and vain deceit ... not after Christ" (Col. 2:8.) "He cannot deny Himself." (2 Tim. 2:13.)

"Thy years shall not fail." (Heb. 1:12.) on Page 15)

"He left nothing that is not put under Him." (Heb. 2:8.) "He is not ashamed to call them brethren." (Heb. 2:11.) "He took not on Him the nature of angels." (Heb. 2:16.)

"If He were on earth, He should not be a priest." (Heb. 8:4.) "Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled; reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not." (1 Pet. 2:22, 23.)

"He that hath not the Son of God hath not life." (1 John:12.)

"He that openeth and no man shutteth." (Rev. 3:7.)