“The Powers that Be Are Ordained of God” The American Sentinel 2, 5, pp. 35, 36.

WE stated above that the whole Bible bears out the plain truth and the obvious sense of the statement that “the powers that be are ordained of God.” We have not space to present all the texts that might be given in direct proof of it, but we shall give enough to show that Paul when he wrote this declaration was only doing as was his wont, reasoning out of the Scriptures.

Everybody knows that Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon, and that he was a heathen. Yet God spake by his prophet directly to Nebuchadnezzar, and said, “Thou, O King, art a king of kings; for the God of Heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all.” Daniel 2:37, 38. Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord sent yokes and bonds to the kingdoms of Edom, and Moab, and Ammon, and Tyre, and Sidon, by the messengers that came from these kings to Jerusalem, and with them also he sent this message: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Thus shall ye say unto your masters; I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me. And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; … and all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son’s son, until the very time of his land come; and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him. And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the Lord, with the sword and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.” Jeremiah 27:4-8.

Now as Nebuchadnezzar was a heathen, and as his kingdom was a heathen kingdom, we can hardly think that even the National Reformers would pronounce his authority to be exactly “God’s ideal of civil government.” Yet there can be no shadow of doubt that the power possessed by Nebuchadnezzar and exercised by him over all the kingdoms and peoples round about, was a power that was ordained of God, for the word of God says so, and said so to him. In the time of Nebuchadnezzar the power that was was ordained of God. Nor was it only in the time of Nebuchadnezzar. The word of the Lord by Jeremiah asserted not only that this power was [36] give to him, but to “his son and his son’s son” as well; and this succession covered the whole period of the kingdom of Babylon from Nebuchadnezzar to its fall. Therefore the proof is positive that the power of the Empire of Babylon was ordained of God.

The grandson of Nebuchadnezzar—Belshazzar—in the midst of the riotous feast of Tammuz, was told by the prophet of the Lord, “God hath numbered thy kingdom and finished it;” and, “Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” The commander who led the forces of the Medes and Persians was Cyrus the Persian. And of him the Lord had said: “Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut.” “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure.” Isaiah 45:1; 44:28. When Babylon fell, the rule of the Medo-Persian Empire fell first to Darius the Mede, instead of to Cyrus. And the angel Gabriel said to Daniel, “I in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him.” Daniel 11:1. Therefore the word of God is clear that the power of the Medo-Persian government was ordained of God.

But not to multiply instances by noting them in detail, we will quote the scripture that sums up the whole subject in few words: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever; for wisdom and might are his; and he changeth the times and the seasons; he removeth kings, and setteth up kings.” Daniel 2:20, 21. “The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” Daniel 4:25. These texts assuredly demonstrate the principle declared by Paul in Romans 13:1, that “there is no power but of God;” and that “the powers that be are ordained of God.” But if these texts should not be enough to demonstrate it, then we may add the crucial text of all Scripture. When Christ stood before Pilate, “Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.” John 19:10, 11.

The demonstration is complete, therefore, that the words of Romans 13:1, are a statement of fact and not of theory; that “the powers that be are ordained of God;” and that “there is no power but of God.” As the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will; when he has given the power to whom he will, whether to Babylon, to Medo-Persia, to Grecia, to Rome, to England, or to the United States; whether that will be direct or permissive, who shall say that that power is not of him? and who shall say that that is not the power that ought to be? And to such powers Christians are taught to be respectful, quiet, peaceable, obedient subjects, and not revolutionists. The following from Macaulay is to the point:—

“The power which the apostle… pronounces to be ordained of God, are not the powers that can be traced back to a legitimate origin, but the powers that be. When Jesus was asked whether the chosen people might lawfully give tribute to Cesar, he replied by asking the questioners, not whether Cesar could make out a pedigree derived from the old royal house of Judah, but whether the coin which they scrupled to pay into Cesar’s treasury came from Cesar’s mint, in other words, whether Cesar actually possessed the authority and performed the functions of a ruler.

“It is generally held, with much appearance of reason, that the most trustworthy comment on the text of the Gospels and Epistles is to be found in the practice of the primitive Christians, when that practice can be satisfactorily ascertained; and it so happened that the times during which the church is universally acknowledged to have been in the highest state of purity were times of frequent and violent political change. One at least of the apostles appears to have lived to see four emperors pulled down in a little more than a year. Of the martyrs of the third century a great proportion must have been able to remember ten or twelve revolutions. Those martyrs must have had occasion often to consider what was their duty towards a prince just raised to power by a successful insurrection. That they were, one and all, deterred by the fear of punishment from doing what they thought right, is an imputation which no candid infidel would throw on them. Yet, if there be any proposition which can with perfect confidence be affirmed touching the early Christians, it is this, that they never once refused obedience to any actual ruler on account of the illegitimacy of his title. At one time, indeed, the supreme power was claimed by twenty or thirty competitors. Every province from Britain to Egypt had its own Augustus…. Yet it does not appear that, in any place, the faithful had any scruple about submitting to the person who, in that place, exercised the imperial functions. While the Christian of Rome obeyed Aurelian, the Christian of Lyons obeyed Tetricus, and the Christian of Palmyra obeyed Zenobia. ‘Day and night’—such were the words which the great Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, addressed to the representative of Valerian and Gallienus—‘day and night do we Christians pray to the one true God for the safety of our emperors.’”History of England, chap. 14..

These, however, were law-abiding subjects and citizens, and not National Reform revolutionists.

A. T. J.

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