ROMANS 13 & CHRIST’S “CLERGY RESPONSE TEAMS”
ROMANS 13 & CHRIST’S “CLERGY RESPONSE TEAMS”
by Brother Gregory Williams
January 21, 2009
Pastors across the country have been called on by the Department of Homeland Security to join “Clergy Response Teams” in order to placate and control the people of America in the event of local or national emergencies. Jeff Ferrell, a reporter for KSLA in Shreveport, claimed that “For the clergy team, one of the biggest tools that they will have in helping calm the public down or to obey the law is the bible itself, specifically Romans 13.” This idea was affirmed in the report by Dr. Durell Turberville who was quoted as saying, “because the government is established by the Lord, you know. And, that’s what we believe in the Christian faith. That’s what’s stated in the scripture.”
I believe that we may be “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” and “ to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, but I do not see where that gives us a right to blame God for the governments we establish by that consent for ourselves.
According to the Bible when the “voice of the people” elected Saul and established a government under his authority, God called it a “rejection” of Him.
“And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” 1 Samuel 8:7
When the Israelites were freed from the bondage of Egypt by Moses the people were told in Deuteronomy 17:16 to never go back to that type of government again. Even Jesus said we were not to be like the governments of other nations, where their benefactors exercise authority one over the other.
“And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so…” Luke 22:25, Matthew 20:25, Mark 10:42
Certainly all governments are not established by God. Were the governments of Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, all ordained by God? What of George the III? If all governments are ordained of God, Americans owe George a sincere apology and should learn to sing God save the queen.
So, what is Paul trying to tell us in Romans 13? Today, when any Christian attempts to question the authority or right of government to limit the rights, choices, or liberties of the people they commonly hear pastors and other Christians reciting Romans 13. Unfortunately these pastors and their followers are under a strong delusion that has crept into the thinking of modern Christians.
Romans 13, in the King James version of the Bible, begins:
“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.” Romans 13:1
We should have a hard time understanding this statement by Paul to mean that we must be obedient to all governments, while, Paul himself was constantly getting into trouble with governments for supposedly disobeying. All we have to do to resolve this apparent dilemma is honestly look anew at the text itself.
In any unabridged English dictionary the word power can have over a dozen different definitions. The question is which of these many definitions should we apply to our thinking when we read these words of Paul? Does it mean the authority of government, the power to act, or the right to choose?
To understand Paul we simply need to know what the word Paul actually used and what it truly means within the context of the Bible. The word translated into power in Romans 13 is one of more than half a dozen Greek words which are all translated into the single English word power within the New Testament.
The Greek word used in Romans 13 by Paul is exousia, which is defined: “power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases.” It is translated “right” in Hebrews 13:10 and Revelations 22:14, and it is even translated “liberty” in Paul’s own 1Corinthians 8:9.
Everywhere in the original text of the Bible the translation of exousia as liberty or right would fit the context of scripture. One may translate it as power, but only in the sense of the power of choice. Most modern ministers might object to this conclusion and no one should merely take my word for this interpretation. What is the opinion of others concerning the word exousia? Does it mean the power of government, or the power of choice?
In Plato’s notes, we find the “Greek words for freedom (are) eleutheros (liberal/Free), exousia (Freedom/Power to do something), …” You would think that Plato would know what the words meant back then.
In Bryn Mawr’s Classical Review, the word exousia is said to express “the new concept of freedom, in opposition to the already defunct and unhelpful eleutheria.” Even the Greek Glossary of Aristotelian Terms states that exousia means “right”. Aristotle, another guy who should know what the Greek actually means exemplifies exousia’s use in the statement, “The right (exousia) to do anything one wishes…”
The Greek word exousia is considered to be one of the strongest words in the Greek language representing the idea of liberty. Accepting the idea that Romans 13 is actually a statement by Paul in support of individual liberty, rather than a command to submit to the commands of authoritarian rulers, will be difficult for some pastors and Christians alike to admit.
There should be no question that the word exousia in the original text means power in the sense of “the right to choose” or “liberty of choice.” And if so, then Romans 13 should be read and understood as saying:
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher liberty. For there is no liberty but of God: the liberties that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the liberty, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the liberty? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same.” Romans 13: 1,3
Can this really be true? Was Paul talking about liberty and not the subjugation of the people under rulers? From the beginning to the end, the Bible is talking about the liberty of men under God rather than the subjection of the people under other men like Cain, Lemech, Nimrod, Pharaoh, and even Herod or Caesar. If God endowed us with our right to choose why would he want us to give that right to choose to other men? Understanding that the word exousia can and does mean liberty seems to turn the world upside down for some ministers.
Pastors need to reexamine what they have been led to believe the authors of the Gospel are actually saying. If not, then the people need to reexamine the scriptures and maybe their pastors. We all need to rightly divide the word of truth, because many have been cunningly deceived by some who have “crept in unawares… denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Jeff Ferrell, the KSLA-TV reporter, also stated that, “Such clergy response teams would walk a tight-rope during martial law between the demands of the government on the one side, versus the wishes of the public on the other.”
First of all, the lawful demands of a “government of the people, for the people, and by the people” would be the same as the “wishes of the people.” If they are not the same, then something is not as it should be. Secondly, the “wishes of the people” who believe in God can never usurp the rights of their neighbors without doing violence to the command of God, Moses, and Christ to love our neighbor as ourselves.
God desires that every man should have the unimpaired and divine right of choice as long as that choice does not violate the right of our neighbor to make his own choices. There is a distinction between the privileges of governments granted by the people and the rights of the people granted by God, but the ministers of Christ should not be trying to walk that line as a tightrope. They should be squarely on the side of the people and their God given rights.
The Church was instituted by Christ to serve the purposes of God. The governments of the world usually have their own administers. One of God’s purposes is to return every man to his family and to his possessions through the exercise of faith, hope, and charity in the ways of Christ under the perfect law of liberty. While we should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s we are also told to give to God what is God’s. Often governments may think they have a right to that which should belong to God. That would be an intolerable usurpation and it is the job of the clergy to be on the side of the people on God’s behalf.
Abraham, Moses, and Christ came to set men free in spirit and in truth. The “Clergy Response Teams” of Christ must act in the service to His purposes, even if that means that they may appear to disobey the demands of men or their governments.
“Then Peter and the [other] apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29
If lies and deception are the bars and bricks that form our own mental prison, then vanity and pride are the mortar that binds them together. From the beginning , our Creator has allowed that men have the power to choose to be free souls under God or go under the authority of other men and their gods. That choice is never without consequences. We are not faithful to God unless we choose to accept the inherent and correlative responsibilities of those Natural Rights He has individually endowed upon all mankind.
We must not only care about the rights of others, while exercising our own, but we must fulfill that obligation without infringing on the rights of our neighbor to make their own choices. To accomplish that mission prescribed by God we must discover the whole truth and provide for it.
1 – Hebrew-English and Greek-English Lexicons, OnlineBible.com
2 – 1 Corinthians 8:9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.
3 – Plato’s Notes, Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt, University of Iowa
4 – Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2001.08.19 On this issue, see S. Bobzien, Determinism and Freedom in Stoic Philosophy, Oxford 1998, chap. 6.
5 – Aristotle and Politics, Standford.
6 – Lawmakers and Ordinary People in Aristotle, by Paul Bullen (1996) (VI. 4.1318b38-1319a4)
7 – Jude 1:4
8 – Leviticus 25:10 … proclaim liberty throughout [all] the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.
9 – James 1:25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth [therein], he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.