1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
The right of man to exercise lordship over his fellow man beyond the circle of his own family, was not granted to him "by the grace of God."... Even his domestic sovereignty was to cease, when the time came for one to leave father and mother.
...If man's domestic sovereignty be thus qualified and limited by the grace of God, shall we say that He conferred on man "a divine right " to govern his species in its spiritual and civil concerns, to found kingdoms and empires, and to invent religions as a means of imparting durability to their thrones? What God permits and regulates is one thing; and what He appoints is another.
He permits thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, to exist; He regulates them, setting over them the basest of men (Dan. 4:17), if such answer His intentions best, prevents them circumventing His purposes, and commands His saints to "be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but it is under God (upo qeou marginal reading:) the powers that be are set under God -- upo tou qeou tetagmenai eisin. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the regulation of God -- tou qeou diatagh: and they that resist shall receive to themselves punishment. For the magistrates are not a terror to good deeds, but to the evil. * * * Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is a servant of God unto that which is good for thee" (Rom. 13:1-5).
God did not commission man to set up these powers. All He required of him was to obey whatsoever He chose to appoint. But, when man became a rebel, his rebellious spirit was transmitted to his posterity; and, refusing to be governed by the grace of God, they founded dominions of their own, upon principles which were utterly subversive of the government of God upon the earth.
He could as easily have quashed their treasonable proceedings as He stopped the building of Babel; but in His wisdom He chose rather to give them scope, and to subject their usurpations to such regulations as would in the end, promote His own glory and their confusion. Therefore it is that Paul says, "every power is under God; and the powers that be are placed under Him." This is matter of great consolation and rejoicing to His saints; for, though the tyrants may propose, it is God only that disposes events.
The saints who understand the word will keep aloof from politics. None are more interested in them than they; but they will mix themselves up neither with one party nor another; for God regulates them all: therefore to be found in any such strife, would be to contend in some way or other against Him. The servant of the Lord must not strive, except "for the faith once delivered to the saints." For this He is commanded to "contend earnestly " (Jude 3); because such a contention is to "fight the good fight of faith," and to "lay hold on eternal life."
In the beginning, then, God reserved to Himself the right of dominion over the human race. He gave it not to Adam, nor to his posterity, but claimed the undivided sovereignty over all man's concerns for Himself by right of creation; and for him whom He might ordain as His representative upon earth.
All the kingdoms that have, or do exist, with the exception of the Commonwealth of Israel, are based upon the usurpation of the rights of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ; nor is there a king or queen, pope or emperor, among the Gentiles, who reigns "by the grace of God." They reign by the same grace, or favour, by which sin reigns over the nations.
They have no favour in the eyes of God.
He bears with them for a time; and makes use of them as His sword to maintain order among the lawless, until His gracious purposes in favour of His saints shall be manifested, according to the arrangement of the times He has disposed. Then, "will His saints be joyful in glory; and the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand: to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute upon them the judgment written: this honor have all His saints. Praise ye the Lord " (Psalm 149:5-9).
Elpis Israel 1.2.
"The powers that be" are subordinated to divine power; for "there is no power but of God; the powers that be have been placed under the Theos" (Rom. 13:1) that is, no power is permitted to exist contrary to and independent of His will. In this sense they are apo Theou "of God"; and that the powers may not run riot in trying to develop their own policy, they are subjected to the guardianship of invisible potentates, which is expressed in Paul's words by the phrase
"have been placed under the Theos."
The truth of this is amply illustrated in Scripture. Is anything to be accomplished in relation to "Yahweh's" purpose in respect to individuals? He sends three Elohal-Men to Abraham and two to Lot; Jacob saw an encampment of them at Mahanaim, and wrestled with one, who put his thigh out of joint, and surnamed him Israel, at Peniel.
He called the place of this contest Peniel, because he had seen penal "the faces of" , Ail, power; "for," said he, "I have seen Elohim faces to faces, and my soul escaped" (Gen. 32:30) that is, his life was not taken away. It is unnecessary to cite any more instances. The reader's recollection will suggest many.
In relation to national affairs, the Eternal Power employes armies of them.
Phanerosis - Yahweh manifested in the Cherubim
Let every soul be subject to the higher powers
This passage practically deals with the question: "How can we, who are subject to God. submit to those who are opposed to Him?" The answer is, that although on the surface it appears otherwise, there is no power but what is of God.
The kings of the earth have one object in what they do, and God, who controls them, has another. The king of Assyria went against Israel for his own aggrandisement; but, in reality, he was an instrument, invisibly wielded by God against his people. "Howbeit," said the prophet, "he meaneth not so."- Isaiah 10:7.
He does it to aggrandize himself, but he cannot go beyond his appointed line.
"Shall the saw shake itself against him who uses it?"
So it is with all the kingdoms of the earth; God is making use of them; God superintends them by the angels of his power.
...The kingdoms, now existing, are provisionally of God's appointment. God's purpose to make the earth a habitation of order, love, intelligence, and glory, requires a preliminary prevalence of evil, and yet the evil must be regulated. If evil were allowed to run riot, it would make the world a desert in which it would be impossible for the preliminary work of trial in patient obedience to be done; we could never assemble here this morning if evil were not controlled in its operations.
There is a necessity for a certain machinery to exist, and God has appointed that machinery, but only for mechanical service. It is, so to speak, but the scaffolding for the erection of the future building. They are a crude work; the saints are called to a higher work in all respects. Even now, it is highest work to preach the gospel of the future kingdom.
Paul's explanations on this point are perfectly necessary. These governments are of God's appointment; therefore, if you resist them, you will be resisting God. The truth teaches us to be the most obedient subjects in the realm. It imposes upon us the attitude of subjects, having nothing to do with State questions, except to obey, and give honour and respect to the constituted authorities for the time being, when their commands do not conflict with what God requires. Submission and respect, in these circumstances, are a duty. We disobey if we refuse them.
Sunday morning 33 - TC 01/1872
Both Jew and Gentile believers had an individual duty to perform.They both would have felt an enmity against those in power. The Jews had borne the burden of the Roman oppression with great uneasiness. They considered that the whole heathen magistracy was founded in a system of idolatry, opposed to God and an abomination in His sight.
The Gentile converts would naturally consider with abhorrence the system of idolatry which they had forsaken. But in Christ both had to understand the higher principles which were now required of them.
The Christadelphian Expositor
Royal visit to Birmingham
A great stir has been caused in Birmingham by a visit from the Queen. The immediate occasion of the visit was the laying of the foundation of a public building ("the new law courts"); but the visit was understood and accepted as the beginning of the celebration of the Jubilee of Her Majesty's reign...
The only representation the truth had in the midst of the general display was the exhibition of a large banner, 21 feet square, bearing the words "An Open Bible the Glory of Victoria's Reign." The words had a meaning the public would not appreciate, namely, that the Bible had been opened during the last 50 years.
The exhibition of the banner combined a testimony for the truth with the manifestation of respect for the powers that be which are ordained of God for the time being. The subject of the relation of the brethren to such a matter was the topic of an informal and friendly exchange of thought at the Thursday night meeting, March 17th. A brother had referred disparagingly to the preparations for the Royal Visit, remarking how much good the money spent on them would do if distributed among the poor.
Brother Shuttleworth said he did not quite relish that view of the subject. We were commanded to give honour to the rulers, and it seemed to him that those who took part in the honouring of human rulers would be more likely to bow the knee to Christ at His coming than those who acted in the spirit of the Bradlaugh sentiment, of "Down with everything that's up."
Brother Roberts supported brother Shuttleworth's remarks, arguing that even on the score of political expediency, it was wise to maintain and honour the throne as the keystone of the social arch. When the French, nearly a hundred years ago, struck off their king's head, they were not long before they would have given all they had to have it on again. The abolition of royalty liberated the lawless elements at the base of society, and when power came into the hands of the mob, there was an end of all security for any man.
The people began cutting off each other's heads, until blood flowed like water. It was not until another king arose, Napoleon I., that safety returned. British royalty was a poor provision for the real needs of mankind. Nevertheless, it was better than popular anarchy. It was at least an ornamental and comfortable form for the current barbarism to have, and for the time being it was a divine arrangement to which it was the duty of the saints to be in respectful submission.
The Christadelphian, April 1887.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
Not a terror
... which is true, apart from the special experiences of the believers in Paul's day, and Paul does not refer to them.
Writing to the Romans before the authorities at Rome had lent themselves to the work of persecution, his remarks have probable reference to their lenity, and not to the rulers of the Jews, at whose hands he had experienced the principal part of his sufferings.
His dealings with the Roman authorities up to the time of writing, had rather been in the way of invoking their protection; as when he was seized in Jerusalem and rescued from the mob by the Roman soldiers, and again when his status as a Roman freeman was recognised as a protection against scourging, and again when the Roman captain gave him an escort to Cesarea, to get him out of the way of a Jewish plot to kill him, and again, when he claimed the protection of the Roman law, as against Jewish intrigue.
"To the Jews I have done no wrong, I stand before Cæsar's judgment seat, there I ought to be judged; I appeal unto Cæsar."
In a general way, the statement is true of all governments, that it is only the evilly disposed who suffer from them; with those who are submissive, the authorities have nothing to do but protect them.
Apart from bad laws, they inflict hardship on those only who do evil; as Peter says
"who is he that will harm you if ye follow that which is good?" "Wherefore," says Paul, summarising his argument. "we must be in subjection not only for wrath but for conscience sake."
That is, not only as a matter of expediency in the sense of keeping on the favourable side of the law, but as a matter of principle, the disciples of Christ have nothing to do with the rulers but to be subject-not to resist nor to take any part in the process of resisting what they do or may think well to do.
In this aspect it is apparent it would be much out of place for brethren or sisters to take part in the movements to overthrow governments, movements which even if successful, we know would bring nothing but anarchy; but whether successful or not successful, we are excluded from taking part in till the Lord himself begins.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
... it is no business of ours what the governments do with the money they extort from us in the shape of tribute. The tribute, levied on the Christians in Rome, went to pay for the support of the idolatrous temples;
... It is not a matter of conscience; we have nothing to do with the uses to which the State puts the money. All we have to do is to pay when ordered, and see that we do not countenance the abominations which they uphold.
The "rights of man" are no standard for the action of a [Christadelphian]; abstractly, God only has "rights." Our only concern, is to know what he would have us to do on this point. His will is plain. We are to submit, "looking for the blessed hope" of the manifestation of his power, in which the saint, is to participate after trial.
We need not and must not reach our hands to the political machinery which at present exists. We know how hopeles it is for human efforts to make the world better, for the world is 6,000 years old in the experiment of human good, and as far off as ever from the condition of things desired.
Effective good requires infallible wisdom and infallible power. When these are on the earth, it will be a satisfaction and a glory to have to do with government. At present it is vexation of spirit. Stand aloof from human movements and lay hold on God's movement, which he has given us the honour of assisting.
The Christadelphian, Jan 1872
The suggestion of a collective Christadelphian Jubilee address to Her Majesty came too late for practical consideration.
Perhaps it is as well. While called upon to honour the ruling authorities, we are not at liberty to act as their friends. They are the world, and friendship given or received would mean God's enmity.
To present congratulatory addresses would certainly be coming forward in the character of friends which would be unnatural.
It is the right thing for the "churches" to do: for "they are of the world, and therefore the world heareth them."
8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
it is an apostolic precept. You can be under a debt of a gratitude as much as you like, but keep money out of the obligation; this is good advice, even apart from precept, but here is precept, therefore a binding rule on those who submit to apostolic law. There are many evils connected with debt.
"The borrower is servant to the lender,"
The debt is something between you which has power to cloud friendship; it is always an anxiety; a worm that gnaws the roots of joy. At last perhaps it is a seed of hatred and strife. Keep the air clear of debt, and the sun will have a better chance.
But some say we cannot help it, and doubtless there are times when people cannot help it, but in 99 cases out of a hundred, they can help it, by denying themselves.
The advantages that come of the borrowing, are very dearly bought in a higher than a commercial sense. Most borrowers find that out by experience, but it is better not to let experience teach in this matter, since we have a command; it is better to obey the command and not get into debt; a recognition of duty in this matter will greatly help.
There is nothing like duty as the motive principle of life; applied to this matter, it would save worlds of trouble. Acting on this principle of not getting into debt, people would be enabled to get out of it. Once get into debt, the difficulty of getting out is greater than dreamt of, but some people do not think about it. They see an opportunity; they conceive a desire in a certain direction; and borrowing is as easy with them as possible.
This is wrong. They have no business to handle money that is not their own; they are not sure they will live to repay; their health may fail, prospects may desert them and the lender is robbed, and that the lender may have plenty is no weakening of the obligation to give him his own.
In our circumstances, it is specially important to be particular on this point. The Lord may be upon us any day, and how discomforting for him to find us with hands and feet tied-owing and unable to do anything for his name, for the burden we have taken on our shoulders.
There is nothing but wisdom in this precept; a noble-hearted lender may forgive debt; but we must not presume on this; nay, rather refuse to be forgiven and insist on the advantage of being free and independent. Shut your ears to flattering projects. Say not "I will pay up in a year." Ye know not the year is yours. Even if ye live, things may go wrong, and ye in a fix will have to say with humiliation, "I would pay but I cannot."
The Christadelphian, Jan 1872
A bro (J.R.) calling attention to Paul's command, "owe no man anything," and Christ's words "from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away;" says: "Some seem to be of opinion that the latter renders the former null and void, and are ready to borrow for purposes of speculation.
-My view is: That we should not borrow unless compelled by dire necessity-caused by circumstances over which we have no control, such as a want of employment, sickness, &c., and that a brother under such circumstances should (if applied to and has the wherewithal) not turn away.
On the other hand, if asked for the purpose of paying debts incurred in speculation, he would be justified in not lending, as the speculation if a failure, might become the lender's loss, and not borrower's, and might disable him from providing things honest in the sight of all men. I have a horror of borrowing myself, and an old adage is, that if you want to convert a friend into an enemy, lend him money."
These remarks are self-evidently discreet. Paul's advice to keep out of debt is not inconsistent with the merciful attitude prescribed by Christ to those who may be in a position to help the distressed. On the other hand, Christ's command to be ready to help will never be used by a true man as a pretext for evading the words of Paul which are of equal authority.
A righteous man will be as afraid of burdening his neighbour as he will be of getting into debt. As to debt, it is often asked whether the modern system of credit is inconsistent with Paul's command. Attention to the context ought to dissipate anxiety on this point. Paul is commanding the payment of dues. "Render to all their dues: tribute to whom," &c. This is equivalent to commanding the payment of debt, for a "due" is a debt.
Do not put off the meeting of your obligation. Paul does not forbid the incurring of obligations, but the punctual discharge of them when due.
Your rent is not "due" till a certain day. Your quarterly account is not due till the end of the three months: so in business, if a man give you goods on credit (which of course you won't accept unless you are sure you can pay), the payment of them is not due till the time stipulated. The spirit of the two (not at all contradictory) precepts, may be expressed thus: "Pay your debts," and "Don't shut your ear to genuine distress if it is in your power to help."-Ed.
The Christadelphian, Jan 1886
12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
The fact is - and we do wisely to familiarise our minds with the fact - that the interval that yet lies between us and the Lord's coming may have no existence for us, or at all events a very brief existence indeed. Death will destroy that interval for us as effectually as if the angel of the Lord appeared to us suddenly in the midst of our occupations to tell us the Lord had come.
We may assent to this without feeling its full force. There is great power in it when realised. We miss the power of it through thinking that death will be a long time in coming to us. It may, but it may not. We presume on the average of human life, but that average may not be ours. A comparatively young brother (only 27) died over a week ago, who had every prospect within four days of his death that he would have a long and healthy career. A little internal trouble, that might occur to any of us, and of which within five minutes of his death he thought he was getting better, suddenly ended his useful days - for he was very useful in the little ecclesia of which he was a member.
What has happened to him might happen to any of us; and it would mean that in a moment we would be wafted away from the midst of our mortal cares and occupations into the presence of the solemn, though glorious realities that are associated with Christ at his coming. It would seem to us a momentary, an instantaneous transition. Of course, it would not be really so in relation to the progress of events in the universe, but it would be really so in relation to our own feelings, which in this sense are everything to each of us.
We will be out of the grave before ever we are aware that we have gone in. In this case, the signs of the times and the weary evolution, it may be, of our own anxious lives, will be stopped and abolished in a moment.
Is it not wise and helpful to carry about with us a sense of this imminent possibility? The power of the idea will be instinctively felt by every one, and its value also as a corrective of life in all its relations. We can imagine, for example, how powerfully up-borne in a spiritual direction our deceased young brother would have felt during the month before his death if he had known that in four weeks, his course would be finished.
The advantage of exercising our thoughts in this way lies in the similar stimulus it will impart to us if we realise that we may but a short time have to do with the circumstances of life as it now is, and may in a brief period of time stand face to face with the Lord Jesus who was alive ages before we were born, and will live for ever, whatever may become of us.
If men could carry this thought of common sense more constantly and vividly about with them than is commonly the case, things would be different with them on many points. Many things would receive a less anxious attention, and some things would be better attended to than they are.
Bro Roberts - Applying our hearts to wisdom
14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
If, then, we are to put on the armour which is to enable us to withstand in the evil day, does it not amount to this, that we are to make it a matter of vigilant policy to follow those things that strengthen faith, and avoid those that have the tendency to weaken it. There cannot be a reasonable demur to this proposition.
But there is a great deal of unreasonable demur, and it is because of this that we must be on our guard. A friend may be the worst foe we have, if he give us evil counsel on this head and there are such foes. It is for men in earnest to resist the devil, even if he come in the guise of a friend with spiritual professions. There are things that strengthen faith, and things which weaken it.
Daily reading of the Scriptures strengthens faith; the reading of Scripturally-minded books strengthens faith; attendance at the meetings strengthens faith; faith is also strengthened by works of goodness (i.e. circulating the testimony in some shape or form, comforting the afflicted, succouring the poor), and by prayer. The company of godly men strengthens faith. Meditation in solitude, with the mind well stored in these various ways, has the same effect.
Things that weaken faith are very ready to our hand. Our own inertness is a very fruitful seed-bed of faith-choking tares. Take the Bible in what some people call "moderation," a dip in when you feel like it, and not at all if you are in no mood; read novels by the hour; leave books on the truth alone, as a kind of superfluous reading, for you who happen to "know the Truth," and only fit for handing to the stranger; go to the meetings of the brethren only now and then.
As for works of self denial, in the way of blessing uninteresting people at a sacrifice leave that to canting fanatics and morose enthusiasts, take a turn at the theatre instead and mix freely with the gay and intelligent world; receive and reciprocate and encourage the friendship of interesting people, without any reference to their attitude towards the Lord of the universe-in fact take and enjoy your liberty without stint, following habits of all pleasant kinds without reference to apostolic rules of judgement, do all those things and faith will die, and nothing will be left of the new man but his stark and staring skeleton.
Following such a course is reversing the apostolic rule of conduct. It is putting off the whole armour of God that ye may certainly fall in that evil day.
NO, dear brethren, as you value your acceptable standing with Christ in the day of his coming, shut your ears with invincible determination to all preaching of such a liberty. We have been called to liberty, but not such liberty as this, not a liberty to serve the flesh. If we are free men in our relation to men and systems, we are the Lord's bondservants, to live for him and in obedience to him in the midst of a crooked, perverse, flesh-serving generation.