|From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase|
Some Christians are claiming that the election of either would be contrary to God's eternal plan. But Scripture shows us that the opposite is true. God often raises up evil leaders for His purposes. The question is: What must Christians do in response?
What Has Been Said?
Ever since the 2008 election, letters to the editor, postings on numerous blogs, and even pronouncements from pulpits have expressed what seems to be the view of many Christians. Here is one example:
God did not elect Barack Hussein Obama president: the American people did...
God will not inaugurate Barack Hussein Obama...America will....
God IS in charge, all REAL authority does come from God, but NOT everything that happens in this world comports with God's long-term plans. Most often, the human race does all it can to stand in God's way and hinder God's perfect will for humankind.
The election of Barack Hussein Obama, in my opinion, is an obstacle to God's perfect plan, NOT part of His plan, and certainly NOT something he "pre-ordained."1
The writer of this letter concluded by repeating his assertion that, as he put it, "in my book" the election of Barack Obama was not God's will.
Events of the Obama years have only increased this kind of rhetoric in some circles. Many are rightly alarmed by the anti-Christian positions he has taken, and that his administration has especially targeted Evangelical Christians for persecution and the teachings of the Bible for suppression, and has openly promoted homosexuality. Within the past week the United States Civil Rights Commission has characterized advocacy of religious freedom as nothing more than code-language for religious hatred.
America: An Anomaly in World History
But one would think, from the comments of many Evangelicals, that this is the first time in history that Christians have ever faced such things. We need to remind ourselves that the history of this world is the unfolding of the eternal plan of God. We need to remind ourselves of God's relationship to the rulers of this world, of the attitude that Jesus and the apostles instructed early Christians to have toward the cruel and ungodly rulers of their time, and of the pattern that we find in much of subsequent church history.
The fact is, the enjoyment of such a high degree of religious freedom in North America over the past four hundred years is an anomaly in world history. There have been few such long-term safe havens for Christians on this earth. The much more normal case has been for true believers to face opposition, persecution, and worse at the hands of civil authorities.
Have both cases been God's will? Is an ungodly ruler ordained of God? What really matters in answering those questions is not man's opinion - not how things are "in my book" as the writer cited above put it. What matters is how things are in God's Book - what His Word says is true.
God's Relationship With the World's Rulers
And so, let us take up the things of which we need to remind ourselves. First of all, what does God's Word tell us about His relationship to the rulers of this world? Scripture makes it clear that no earthly ruler comes to power or remains in power apart from God's direct choosing:
I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are on the ground, by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and have given it to whom it seemed proper to Me. (Jeremiah 27:5)
For exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another. (Psalm 75:6-7)
And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings... (Daniel 2:21)
...the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men. (Daniel 4:17)
...the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses. (Daniel 4:25 and 32)
He loosens the bonds of kings, and binds their waist with a belt. (Job 12:18)
Is it true, as the writer of the letter to the editor insisted, that human beings can "stand in God's way and hinder God's perfect will for humankind?" Absolutely not:
All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, "What have You done?" (Daniel 4:35)
[God] works all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).
The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. (Proverbs 16:33)
Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has taught Him? With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless. Scarcely shall they be planted, scarcely shall they be sown, scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth, when He will also blow on them, and they will wither, and the whirlwind will take them away like stubble.
"To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?" says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: "My way is hidden from the LORD, and my just claim is passed over by my God"? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:13-31)
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void [literally, fruitless], but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:8-11)
In short, if man could thwart God's perfect plan, then it would not be a perfect plan! And whether on November 9th the world awakens to find Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton as president-elect, it will be but one small sentence in the unfolding of the grand, eternal plan of God. No matter who is in the White House, the Lord Jesus Christ will still be on the throne.
God's Plan: Rarely "Perfect" to Human Eyes
Scripture shows us that God has raised up many rulers who, to put it mildly, did not honor Him. Some have, for political advantage, pandered to gullible Christians for their support (or at least non-opposition) with empty promises. Many of them have literally shaken their fists at the Lord of the universe. Many have led or participated in pagan worship that involved perversion and even human sacrifice. Many have sought to exterminate the people of God.
Even so, as Pharaoh of Egypt stood against God's demand through Moses to "let My people go" - by turns either threatening Israel with greater persecution or proclaiming empty promises of liberation - the Lord said this to Pharaoh through Moses: "But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth" (Exodus 9:16). So it is with every ruler of this world, because the Lord raises up every one by His sovereign authority and purpose.
When Jesus told His disciples that He was going to Jerusalem to be put to death, His disciples tried to oppose Him, as we read in Matthew 16:21-23 -
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."
God's perfect plan did not appear to be perfect to human eyes. But His ways are not our ways. As He was about to be led away to be crucified, the Lord of the universe declared to the governor Pontius Pilate, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above" (John 19:11).
Certainly, this nation has departed from God's Word, and has exalted evil men and evil practices to places of honor and prominence. For that reason, America stands under God's judgment. It should not surprise us that God would raise up evil leaders as a means of judgment. But let us not think for one moment that we understand all of God's reasons for choosing such a man to lead this nation. God's Word makes it clear that this development in our nation's history is but one of the innumerable details of His eternal plan. In the future consummation of all things, the universe will see and understand that even this has redounded to His eternal glory.
What Is Our Duty as Christians?
What, then, is our duty as Christians according to God's Word?
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. (Romans 13:1-7)
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men - as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2:13-17)
Your response may be, "Yes - but look at the kinds of rulers we have today!" or "Yes - but look at the ungodly candidates who are presenting themselves to the voters in this year's U. S. presidential election. How can we be subject to them?" What is the Biblical answer? Consider the kinds of rulers of whom Paul and Peter were speaking when they wrote the words above under divine inspiration.
History records that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who reigned during most of the life of Christ on earth (14 to 37 A. D.) was notoriously paranoid, cruel, and vengeful. Historical accounts include lurid tales of his sexual perversity, both private and public. Tiberius arrested and summarily executed many of his political opponents without the judicial trial stipulated by Roman law. In many of his dominions he appointed the most corrupt governors imaginable. It was under Tiberius that the public persona of the emperor shifted from that of a priest of the pagan gods to that of a god himself. But it was of this emperor Tiberius that Jesus said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's" (Mark 12:17).
Caligula, who ruled from 37 A.D. to 41 A.D., was notoriously cruel. He engaged in and publicly promoted adultery and all sorts of sexual perversion, including homosexuality and incest. Caligula was one of the major figures in the establishment of the worship of the emperor as a god. Although it did not come to pass, Caligula made plans to have a statue of himself erected at the temple in Jerusalem so that he could be worshipped there.
Caligula's successor Claudius (41-54 A.D.) was likewise a cruel man, promoted the cult of emperor deification, and opposed the attempts of Christians to win others to their faith as illegal "proselytizing."
The emperor Nero (54-68 A.D.) instituted a program of extensive persecution of Christians who refused to say that "Caesar is Lord," including torture and execution by the most horrible means. According to later Christian writers such as Eusebius (late third century) the apostles Paul and Peter were both executed during Nero's bloody reign.
Dear friends, these were the realities of New Testament times. The pattern is much the same throughout the lines of subsequent history, which pass through such events as the killing of thousands of Christians during the rise of Islam, hundreds of thousands who suffered and died under Roman Catholic inquisitions, and countless Bible-believers of the 20th century who suffered and died under Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, and others - and the present worldwide bloodshed under the banners of Islam.
Unlike their counterparts in other lands, American Christians, with very few exceptions, "have not yet resisted unto bloodshed, striving against sin" (Hebrews 12:4). Unless the Lord is merciful, as our nation's present decline continues that day may come. But our constant duty as Christians under all kinds of rulers is to pray for our rulers, and give them the honor they are due. Even though the American constitutional republic is now only the disintegrating shell of that which the founders established, it is also the duty of American Christians to pray, work, and vote, whenever possible and as long as it is possible, for the election of those who honor God, and to pray that God in mercy would deliver us from the evil plans of evil rulers.
We are also to obey God rather than men when man's law clearly conflicts with God's Word (Acts 4:19, 5:29). It is, above all, our duty to obey the Word of God in every area of life and ministry. That is going to become increasingly difficult in the years ahead, but those who truly belong to Christ must never fail to do it. We must always keep in mind our true calling and destiny. As Paul told first-century believers who lived in the midst of the pagan cruelty of the Roman Empire:
Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame - who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:17-21)
1. Tom Quigley, "God Did Not Elect Obama," letter to the editor of WorldNetDaily, http://www.worldnetdaily.com/, as viewed on 12/12/2008. Capitalization and punctuation are in the original.
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