Authority Established by God

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”
—Romans 13:1 New International Version

THE APOSTLE PAUL in writing to the brethren in Rome was telling them that they must be subject to the governing authorities. At the time, Rome was a universal empire ruling the Western World. How much guidance did God give to the heads of state who, by his permission, became governing authorities? This varied widely and depended upon the character of the man so chosen.


Israel’s leaders were guided and directed by God. Beginning with Moses and Joshua, we note how God spoke to Moses and told him, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” (Exod. 33:14) God manifested his presence with a cloudy pillar over the Tabernacle by day and a fiery pillar by night. To Joshua God said, after Moses had died, “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.” (Josh. 1:2) These two faithful servants of God consulted him on all of their problems and looked to him for guidance.

When Israel conquered the land of Canaan and became established in the land during the period of the Judges, whenever the people did evil and were overcome by their enemies, God raised up a faithful person to lead them. They were called judges, and such were Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, and Samuel, among the better known of these.

During Samuel’s tenure as judge, the people wanted a king. Samuel was old and his sons did not walk in his ways but took bribes and perverted judgment. (I Sam. 8:1-5) The Lord told Samuel to hearken to the people and that they had not rejected him, “but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” (vs. 7) The people received their wish and Saul was made king over Israel.


Saul started well, and was humble at first. When he disobeyed God’s command, the Lord rejected him, and had David anointed as his replacement. David, however, did not take office officially until Saul had died. To complicate matters further, after Solomon’s reign the nation of Israel became divided into the northern ten-tribe kingdom (called Israel), and into the southern two-tribe kingdom (called Judah). There were good kings and evil kings. Almost all of the ten-tribe kings were evil and only a few of the two-tribe kings were good. The ten-tribe kingdom was punished first, and taken captive by the Assyrians. The two-tribe kingdom continued for another hundred years more before they were punished and taken captive by Babylon. At the time that Babylonian captivity was imminent, God said to Zedekiah through Ezekiel, “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him.”—Ezek. 21:26,27


Once Israel’s kingdom came to an end, it would not be reestablished ‘until he come whose right it is.’ This was referring to Jesus and his church, as the completed Christ, receiving the kingdom from the Father. In the interim, Gentile rule would prevail by God’s permission. Babylon was the first, and Nebuchadnezzar ruled. Daniel interpreted dreams for him, including one which told of God debasing the king when pride lifted up his heart and he took credit for Babylon’s greatness. He became a mad man and, like the beast of the field, ate grass. When his reason was restored, he acknowledged God’s greatness. (Dan. 4) In spite of several remarkable incidents in his reign, he failed to see God’s hand in his affairs until this humbling experience occurred.

Of all Gentile rulers, probably the most outstanding was Cyrus of Persia, who was used by God to proclaim a decree to have his people, captive in Babylon, return to Judah to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:1-4; II Chron. 36:22,23) Before Cyrus was born, it was prophesied of him, “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid. Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden.” (Isa. 44:25; 45:1) This may be because Cyrus was intended to be a type of our Lord Jesus.

The remaining Gentile powers did not have rulers that acknowledged God as did Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus. Alexander the Great conquered the world, but there is no record of him acknowledging God as the great supreme Creator of the universe. Nor is there any record of the Roman caesars doing so. The kings of Europe became involved with the great harlot who made the inhabitants of earth drunk with the wine of her fornication. Many of them acknowledged God, but were not acquainted with him because of the errors promulgated by the ‘woman’ that controlled them.


Meanwhile, hidden away in a remote area of the then civilized world were the continents of North and South America. When it was time to explore these areas, the North American Continent became a refuge for those fleeing religious persecution in Europe. Eventually the thirteen colonies of Great Britain revolted against their mother country and became the United States of America. Their leaders were God-fearing men, and the new nation became the stronghold of Protestantism.

Over the years of this new nation’s existence, the presidents elected to office have had various degrees of faith. Not much has been published about the degree of faith held by these men. Some were more religious than others. Now that we have a president in the White House who openly discusses his faith, reads Bible sermons every morning, and has Bible studies in the White House, the effect of this faith on his decisions has appeared in the media. In the Newsweek issue of March 10, 2003, a complete history of how President George W. Bush received his faith, and the influence it had on his personal life, was published in an article entitled, “Bush and God.” There were two articles published—the first, by Howard Fineman, tells how faith changed his life and shapes his presidency. The second, by Martin Martz, tells why his ‘God talk’ worries friends and foes.

In the first article, a brief supplement appeared entitled “Gospel on the Potomac,” by Kenneth Woodward. It said:

“Whenever a president speaks openly of his religious faith, citizens want to know how that faith affects his political priorities. And so we look for clues. But the lines between religious convictions and public policy are seldom clear, even in retrospect.

“Consider: for the past ten years the world’s most powerful nation has been led by white, Southern, churchgoing, evangelical Protestants—Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Each opted to attend the church of his wife’s choice. And in both cases that choice was Methodist. But in religion—as in politics—the two presidents could not be less alike. For Clinton, hymn-singing and Gospel preaching are performance arts, and Sunday in the White House wasn’t Sunday without a stroll down the street, Bible in hand, for an hour of gregarious fellowship. In this Clinton remained—and remains—Baptist to the core. Bush’s religion is cut from a more personal fabric of faith.

“The lesson is that denominational labels no longer tell much about those who wear them. Woodrow Wilson, a Presbyterian and Calvinist to the core, was one of the few American presidents of whom it could be said that to know his religious pedigree was to know the man. John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism was a political factor in the 1960 president race, but in his life it was little more than clan inheritance. Ronald Reagan was the first president of our post-denominational society; he rarely attended church and his religious rhetoric was generic Christian.

“Like the current president, Jimmy Carter is a born-again Christian. But his spiritual rebirth was an adolescent rite of passage built into the socially constructed rituals of Southern Baptist culture. Everyone (except some folks in the media) knew where this Sunday-school teacher in the White House was coming from. In contrast, Bush’s spiritual transformation occurred outside the conventional church context; it emerged from the self-confessing, testimony-giving intimacy of a Christian support group. This makes Bush’s understanding of faith different from other presidents, but hardly unique.”


One would expect that a president who is religious, and promotes Bible study, would be accepted by his people. This is not the case. Several articles have been written on the concerns people have about the mix of Bible and politics. One appearing in the Sacramento Bee on February 17, 2003, was entitled “Faith Can Compromise Presidency.” After briefly telling of Bush’s conversion, the article said:

“We now learn from The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush, a new book by ex-speechwriter and conservative thinker David Frum, that White House advisers attend Bible study groups not because they are required to, but because they are expected to. According to Frum, evangelicalism has made some policy-makers ‘the gentlest souls, the most patient, the least argumentative.’

“Following President Clinton’s failure in character, some Americans may find assurance in a president who turns to the Bible to become a better person. Indeed, Bush laces his most newsworthy speeches with biblical references. He identified America with the forces of good as he battles the ‘axis of evil.’ Most recently, the loss of the Columbia shuttle inspired a quote from the prophet Isaiah.

“Whatever faith’s actual influence on policy-making may be, however, it offers no guarantee for effective decisions. Indeed, history suggests that strict religious doctrine can lead to black-and-white reasoning, especially during war.

“A devout Presbyterian, President Woodrow Wilson believed God ordained him to be president. ‘God save us from compromise,’ he once noted. ‘He who is not with me is against me.’

“He defined America’s entrance into the Great War as a moral crusade from which good must arise. During the Senate debate over America’s joining the League of Nations, Wilson emerged as a tragic figure, preferring defeat over modestly accommodating his political opponents. One does not compromise with God.

“Likewise, President Herbert Hoover’s Quaker faith in community volunteerism proved wholly inadequate in treating the catastrophic problems of the Great Depression.

“The faith upon which our most admired presidents drew strength was usually more ambiguous than Bush’s and balanced with a rich humanity. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt both knew the Scriptures and saw history as the working out of God’s will. Neither were avid churchgoers, and Lincoln was especially wary of organized religion. For both men, faith was a private, personal matter that rejected dogma. Eleanor Roosevelt once asked her husband if he was convinced of the truth of Christian doctrine.

“‘I never really thought much about it,’ he said. ‘I think it is just as well not to think about things like that too much.’”

The article then went on to say:

“Presidential Bible study is new and potentially risky. Less ‘spiritual’ advisers could become marginalized, their input lost in a moralistic haze. Frum writes that he felt alienated upon hearing a colleague being gently reproached for missing Bible study.

“Issues run the risk of becoming simplified as good or evil. A missionary zeal can create a belief system resistant to outside facts and information. However noble the gentle, noncombative temperament of evangelicals may be, decision-making sometimes requires passionate disagreement.”

The more critical assessment was published in the March 10th Newsweek, under the title of “The Sin of Pride.” Some excerpts from that article follow:


“Never have we historians been busier making sense of presidential God talk than now. We all knew that after a reckless youth and a fall into alcohol addiction, George W. Bush experienced a Christian conversion of the now standard ‘born again’ sort and settled down. On the path to the presidency he saw that his newfound faith appealed to a core constituency of religious conservatives and they appealed to him. His religious rhetoric became more public and more political.

“After September 11 and the president’s decision to attack Iraq, the talk that other nations found mildly amusing or merely arrogant has taken on international and historical significance. It rouses many Americans to an uncertain cause and raises antagonism among millions elsewhere. Few doubt that Bush is sincere in his faith, a worthy virtue when he alone must decide whether to lead 270 million people into war, possibly killing thousands of others. The problem isn’t with Bush’s sincerity, but with his evident conviction that he’s doing God’s will.”

Later the author wrote:

“The concerns of world religious leaders about this war have not induced the White House to open its door to a broader theological debate. The pope and the American Roman Catholic bishops—as well as Protestant bishops and many other lay and clerical leaders outside the president’s core constituency—got no hearing, only dismissal. These clerics have legitimate concerns that extend to the geopolitical scene—as well as to the American soul: how will the only remaining world power assume the burden of building a new empire? One hopes that the Bush people will keep in mind that claims of God’s always being on our side are alienating to many former or would-be allies.

“More dangerous is that Bush’s God talk will set the tinderbox that is the Muslim world on fire. Neither the president nor the American Christian majority have to yield their own faith in order to get along, but how they express it matters. Here the president has shown signs of change and growth. His first understandable outburst against terrorism led him to call for a ‘crusade’ against terrorists. Raging reaction was instant and total among offended Muslims. The term never again appeared in White House language.

“Christian theologians are wary when Bush uses the words of Jesus to draw neat lines and challenge the whole rest of the world: if you are not for us, or with us, you are against us. Without question, belief in American democracy as one of God’s blessings is part of the move against Iraq. But, as theologians in a number of faiths remind us, the demonization of the enemy—and ‘us and them’ mentality—can inhibit self-examination and repentant action, critical components of any faith.

“Long having professed that ‘our nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world of Justice,’ President Bush boasts that we are the only remaining superpower left. He gives notice that our military power and moral choices will dominate the world. He follows and leads ever since he first, as he put it, ‘heard the call’ to seek the presidency, and after Iraq he promises to transform the Middle East into utopia.”


Finally, the author of the article gave President Bush this advice:

“In the future, when Bush speaks about God and this country, as he assuredly will, one hopes he will heed the example of Abraham Lincoln. In other desperate times Lincoln had to seek Almighty guidance for what he called this ‘almost chosen people.’ That president accompanied his seeking with a theological affirmation too rarely heard now: ‘The Almighty has His own purposes.’ These purposes may not always match our own, even if we are called to highest office. Awareness of this might bring the nation and its political and religious leaders alike under judgment as we pursue, by our best lights, responsible action.”

It is evident that the Bible study by President Bush has not led him to believe that God will set up a kingdom on earth in which all will be judged in righteousness “by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31) The Apostle Paul was speaking of Jesus who will assume this task in a day appointed by him. This day is near at hand. It is then that all evil will be exposed and dealt with properly. It is then when all other authority permitted by God to deal with the problems of this present evil world will cease to exist. It was only to be temporary until he ‘whose right it is’ is given this authority by God. As the Scriptures plainly tell us, he is to be “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.”—Rev. 19:16

Dawn Bible Students Association
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