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#58983 Mon Jun 17, 2024 3:55 PM
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In a book called ‘A Revolutionary Reading of Romans 13’ by Timothy L. Decker, which is endorsed by people like Samuel Waldron.

I found something I found interesting.


Quote
Lawful Authority and the 1689

Samuel Rutherford was an important Puritan voice in Scotland during the 1600s. In one of his most important contributions to the church, he wrote Lex Rex, Latin for “the law is king.” Of the many insights he enumerates, a few stand out. He says, regarding Romans 13, “We must needs be subject to the royal office for conscience, by reason of the fifth commandment; but we must not needs be subject to the man who is king if he command things unlawful.”201 In order to make his case and confirm this interpretation of Romans 13, he draws a distinction between the office of the magistracy and the officer holding the office. He went on to say that “Paul forbids us to resist the power, in abstracto (Rom. 13); therefore, it must be the man, in concreto, that we must resist.”202 Such an argument is built on the supposition that the magistrate as a sphere is what is ordained unto submission. The Christian is only to be in submission to the person filling the position of the magistrate when the magistrate is acting lawfully, or as Rutherford puts it, when the magistrate is “using the power lawfully,”203 which is to say, acting in accordance with the proper authority vested in that sphere.

It is the language of what is considered “lawful” that is of great importance here. This language is infused into the very confessional documents Rutherford helped construct. Westminster Confession 23.4 says, “It is the duty of the people to pray for magistrates, to honour their persons, to pay them tribute and other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience’ sake” (italics added). Not only do we see the distinction maintained between the office of magistrate in the abstract and the individual person to be honored, but there is also this language of what is “lawful.” Only those things considered lawful must be obeyed. This language probably comes from Rutherford. Following the same terminology, he says, “But no powers commanding things unlawful, and killing the innocent people of God, can be ἐχουσίαι ὑπερεχούσαι [exousiai huperexousai] higher powers.”204 Or, they are unworthy of honor. Rutherford is using Romans 13:7 to gauge application of Romans 13:1.

Earlier in the Westminster Confession, the very matter that we have been arguing for from Romans 13 (prohibition against private revolution) becomes clear, with its first uses of the term “lawful.” WCF 20.4 says, “And because the powers which God hath ordained, and the liberty which Christ hath purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another; they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God” (italics added). In other words, since God has ordained these spheres of sovereignty, particularly the church and state, opposition to the legitimate powers and their lawful carrying out of such powers is resistance to God.

In WCF 21.4, prayer is mentioned “for things lawful.” This is very helpful for understanding what is meant by “lawful” in WCF chapters 20 and 23. To pray for something not lawful would be to pray for something unseemly, something unjust, or something unrighteous. In his 1845 exposition of the Westminster Confession, the Scottish Presbyterian pastor Robert Shaw simply explained the language at 21.4 to mean “prayer is to be made for things that are lawful, or according to the will of God.”205 As it pertains to what is lawful for the civil magistrate, we have but to turn to Romans 13:3–4. Anything beyond those teachings, anything in conflict with those teachings, and anything that would encroach upon the other spheres of governmental authority, such as church or family, must be considered unlawful. To pray for such unlawful things would be an affront to the God who desires to hear the prayers of his children.

Coming back to the term “lawful” as it pertains to the magistrate, the Westminster Confession says that obedience is required only of commands that are “lawful,” which is to say that they accord with the will of God. We must consider that a command from the magistrate that is in conflict with his own laws (thus within his own sphere of authority), exceeds his God-ordained function, or infringes on another sphere’s authority is by definition a command that is not lawful. It is then not to be obeyed, according to the Westminster Confession. In my biased opinion, the 2LBC improves upon this statement, saying at 24.3, “Civil magistrates being set up by God for the ends aforesaid; subjection, in all lawful things commanded by them, ought to be yielded by us in the Lord, not only for wrath, but for conscience’ sake.” This statement is an improvement on the WCF for at least two reasons. First of all, 2LBC uses the terminology of “submission” rather than “obedience”—the knee-jerk reaction of so many. Second, it not only seems to indicate that God has sovereignly and therefore providentially installed each person in the magistracy (whether for good or for tyranny) but also that the focus of God setting up these magistrates is not his will of decree but his will of command (“for the ends aforesaid”). The “ends aforesaid,” the purposes behind God installing the magistrates, is referring back to 24.1: “God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, has ordained civil magistrates to be under him, over the people, for his own glory and the public good; and to this end has armed them with the power of the sword, for defense and encouragement of them that do good, and for the punishment of evil doers.” The passage cited at this point is Romans 13:1–4. For the confessional Baptist, such an understanding of Romans 13 as detailed here is woven into the very fabric of his theological tradition.

It would seem, therefore, that those who framed WCF and 2LBC understood both sphere sovereignty and the prescriptive role of Romans 13:3–4 for the civil magistrate. And the Baptist confession clearly points out that submission is only rendered in lawful matters. If a magistrate legislates, executes, or adjudicates something not lawful, not according to God’s will as dictated by God for the magistrate (Rom. 13:3–4) nor within its own sphere of authority, then Romans 13:7 and Proverbs 28:1 apply: “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor”; “As snow in summer and rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.” Fear and honor are not befitting a magistrate who is either negligent in his duty or tyrannical in his rule. This would include the magistrate usurping other spheres of authority and asserting his own rule in matters not pertaining to the civil sphere.

Such was the case against Judah’s King Uzziah when he usurped his spherical authority and sought to act as a priest and burn incense on the altar (2 Chron. 26:16). The priests interposed, resisted, and even physically withstood this brazen king. Their response to the unlawfulness of Uzziah’s acts and their resistance to him were not only proper but in keeping with Romans 13. The KJV does an excellent job of representing the issue of sphere sovereignty in the reply of the priests: “And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense” (2 Chron. 26:18 KJV, italics added). The right of resistance applies to sinful laws that either prevent obedience or enforce wickedness. Here, in 2 Chronicles 26, when the magistrate acts in a way that “appertaineth not” unto his proper sphere or God-ordained function, resistance is proper and upholds Romans 13.

We began this chapter using the slot-car track illustration. Perhaps it is best that we conclude with it. Sphere sovereignty teaches there are primarily three lanes that work together for the good of human flourishing. They each work properly and at their best in relation to the other two when they remain in their own lane and only seek to control the speed of their own race car. That is not to say that one lane or car might not influence another racer to speed up or slow down. However, it would be considered cheating if a number of rule violations occurred: (1) if one car or controller or lane were removed from the track, (2) if one lane were governed by another racer already in charge of his or her own lane, (3) if there were any kind of interference from one racer to another that prohibited a car’s ability to move about its own lane freely and unimpeded.

If we understand such simple rules for slot-car racetracks, how much more, then, should we see these concepts governing the God-ordained institutions relevant for life and prosperity? For the Christian, how can we not see such an illustration casting light on our understanding and application of Romans 13? Surely the matter of sphere sovereignty and the violations of it would manifestly affect whether a Christian or church blindly or unquestioningly submitted to a civil magistrate. When Romans 13 comes into contact with sphere sovereignty, one is forced to reckon with the reality that such sheep-like behavior among Christians is not what Paul is commanding.

I also listened to a sermon series by Samuel Waldron, that I found great.
The sermon however, has created quite a bit of controversy even in the Reformed community, who believe that governments acted within their rights during Covid.

Tom #58984 Mon Jun 17, 2024 5:54 PM
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As I have too often mentioned here before on this matter:

1. The reading of Rom 13 IN CONTEXT; near and far, using the "Analogy of Faith" cannot justify the "blind and complete obedience" view of some... e.g., those referenced regarding the mandates given during the Covid19 debacle.

2. In the U.S., we have a Constitution to which ALL government officials are to give allegiance and swear to uphold, obey and defend. The actions taken by the majority of governors, mayors, et al was contrary to the Constitution. Thus the 'magistrate(s)' overstepped their allowed authority and trampled upon the freedoms of men as guaranteed by that Constitution and therefore obedience to their mandates were illegal and non-binding and even more so, worthy of disobedience of the people.

A Christian can stand on Scripture alone and be assured that the above quotes by Waldron are inline with true biblical doctrine concerning the Magistrate, IMO.


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Tom #58985 Mon Jun 17, 2024 7:25 PM
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Pilgrim

Unfortunately, even otherwise solid pastors and Christians disagreed with Waldron.
I really have not seen an issue that has divided Christians as much as this issue.

Even my former Reformed Baptist pastor where I used to live took issue with Waldron on this issue. It shocked me, because he is a big fan of Waldron.
One friend of mine who was training to be an elder in that Church, left that Church over the issue.
Apparently his wife had told a friend in the Church, about a sermon on Romans 13, by an Edmonton pastor who went to jail for 23 days for keeping Church open.That sermon was in line With what Waldron said.
A complaint was made to the elders and eventually it led to my friend and others leaving that Church over it.


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Tom #58986 Mon Jun 17, 2024 9:26 PM
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So, if a government official demanded that all male infants be slaughtered they would obey that order, right? No? on what authority would they disobey the order? What basis do these people choose to obey the magistrate or ignore his/her orders? If a magistrate demands one sin, no Christian has the obligation to obey that order. If a magistrate orders that Christians do not do what they are obligated to do the likewise they have no authority to obey that order. No magistrate has the power nor authority to forbid the gathering of God's people to offer up worship to God; no they are under GOD'S command to gather together and worship the one true God. Your "friends" are practicing "situation ethics" never mind wresting the Scriptures to their own destruction. Thousands of believers have lost their lives resisting tyrants who required them to disobey God. We are in the last days and shall be until the Lord returns and in those days there will be a great falling away which is God's way of winnowing the wheat and the chaff and dividing the sheep and the goats. I have no desire to be a goat or to be swept away as a useless piece of chaff. I choose to fight the good fight until the end by God's grace and strength. That includes resisting godless tyrants who are serving as magistrates on this earth who unknowingly serve the one true living God to either bring good upon God's people or to bring judgement upon the wicked or to bring the wayward elect to repentance.


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Pilgrim #58987 Mon Jun 17, 2024 10:41 PM
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The disagreement seems to be whether or not the magistrate went beyond the roles they are given by God.

Many, if not the majority of Christians I know believe, that requiring the Church to shut down during the pandemic seem to believe obeying the government is the “loving your neighbor”, thing to do.
Some of them believe that the government went overboard; but according to many believe under the circumstances it was understandable.
I think that is a lot of hogwash. Sometimes I felt like I needed to walk on egg shells, because of my stand even among family members.
Some of who are in the medical field and are open that they feel Churches who disobeyed the government lockdowns during Covid, deserved any repercussions they got. I am happy to say, that although some pastors already served time in jail. All of them were found not guilty when their court cases finally happened.

I am not exactly quiet about my views on the issue. So it required a lot of restraint and prayer on my part. Yet, I am afraid that on at least two occasions, I acted out in the flesh and I put my adult daughter in tears.


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