“How Are the ‘Powers that Be’ Ordained?” American Sentinel 11, 4, pp. 25, 26.

January 23, 1896

THIS question is answered by the Scriptures: “The powers that be are ordained of God.” 483

“There is not power 484 but of God,” just as there is no life but of God; he is the source of all life and of all authority, and where either exists it is by the ordinance of God.

“For by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” 485

This is not saying, however, that all things created or ordained by God are used for the purpose for which he ordained them. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood,” says the apostle, “but against principalities, against powers.” 486 And again of Christ we read: “Having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them.” 487

In these texts it is declared that we wrestle against powers, and that Christ triumphed over powers; and yet these powers are among the things which he himself created; why then do we resist them, and why did Christ himself triumph over them? It is because they have been perverted from the purpose for which they were ordained and are used for another purpose, just as the powers which God gives to man are so often used in sinning against him. The power 488 that crushes out the life of the victim of lust or malice is just as truly from God as is the power that feeds the hungry or rescues the perishing; but the one is perverted and used to dishonor God; the other is used for the purpose for which it was was [sic.] ordained, and God is honored thereby. The latter exercise of power is legitimate; the former is usurpation. To illustrate: Suppose President Cleveland should declare war against Great Britain, would not everybody say he had not power to do it? that it was not an act of power but of usurpation? Certainly; because while such a thing is a physical and moral possibility, the President has no such authority. The people have ordained no such power in the President, but have, by the Constitution, vested it in Congress.

Since God is not the author of sin, and has given no man or set of men authority to practice oppression, all governmental injustice is as antagonistic to the divine ordinance of civil authority as a declaration of war by the President without the consent of Congress would be to the Constitution of the United States.

Satan, now the enemy of all righteousness, was once a mighty angel in heaven. He was created by God, and by his mighty power was ordained in him by the Creator; but he was not made a devil, nor was his power given to him for the ruin of man. He was created perfect. His God-given powers were to be used for the glory of his Creator, who thus addresses him after his fall:—

“Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering…. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.” 489 “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: … I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” 490

It was by usurpation that Satan fell, and just as his power has been perverted, so man’s God-ordained powers have been turned aside from the purposes for which they were given, and have been used to dishonor the Creator. The power of choice and of self-defense, the authority to protect the weak, to punish the evil-doer, and to reward the upright, which God gives to man, is too often used for injustice and oppression. But such acts are without the warrant of any divine ordinance; for God ordains no evil.

We never think of excusing the perpetrators of crime because the power that wields the bludgeon that strikes down beings created in the image of God, springs from the Creator. The Lord has given every man sufficient power to kill if he so wills, but he has given no ma power to kill. The murderer is therefore without excuse. No more should we think of justifying acts of usurpation on the part of human governments, because “the powers that be are ordained of God.” 491 Civil power is ordained of God; but the innate sense of justice implanted in every breast tells us that its sphere is not unlimited; 492 while the divine Word plainly declares that such power is “for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well.” 493

It is a self-evident truth that man is endowed by his Creator with certain inalienable rights. All wrong, therefore, under color of civil authority, is an act of usurpation and not of God-ordained power. The power that is ordained of God is plainly declared in the Scriptures to be, not for rapine, outrage, and murder, as recently witnessed in Armenia; not for the persecution of honest men for conscience’ sake, as is too often seen in our [26] own land; not to be a “terror to good works, but to the evil.”

God never made a Herod, a Nero or a Torquemada; he created men in his own image and clothed them with power to do good to their fellowmen. But by usurpation these men made themselves the monsters of cruelty they were, just as Lucifer, the light bearer, became Satan, the adversary, and just as the Turkish officials in Armenia have by acts of unsurpassed barbarity and injustice demonstrated that instead of being the ministers of God “for good,” revengers “to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil,” they are the emissaries of Satan and enemies of mankind.

As Madame Roland, on her way to the guillotine, exclaimed: “O Liberty, Liberty, how many crimes are committed in thy name,” so might the victims of fanatical hate in all ages, from the time of Rome to the present moment, and in all places, from the mountains of Armenia to the fertile fields of our own fair land, exclaim, “O Book of God, how much of human malice and cruelty has sought shelter in a perversion of thy sublime declaration: ‘There is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.’”

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