Should We Always Submit to the Government?

Today’s question comes from Deborah:

I’m reading Titus and have a question regarding Titus 3:1. I do utilize your commentary when studying but still would appreciate some clarification on this piece of scripture.

President Biden has mandated vaccines effective Jan 4. This will put my husband out of work as we have chosen, or we must receive the jab. How do we reconcile this “disobedience” as it relates to Titus 3:1? Is it similar to the religious exemptions Daniel and his friends practiced? I know these choices can come with consequence.

Titus 3:1 (NKJV)

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work

Titus 3:1 (NLT)

Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good.

God has commanded His people – the disciples of Jesus Christ – to submit to authority in many different areas or spheres.

  • Submission is directed generally in the congregation – Christians are, in general, to “submit to one another” (Ephesians 5:21).
  • Submission is commanded in the church, with congregants commanded to submit to church leaders (Hebrews 13:17).
  • Submission is commanded in the workplace, with slaves commanded to submit to masters, with the analogy of employees commanded to submit to their employers (Ephesians 6:5)
  • Submission is commanded in the home – children are commanded to submit to their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3) and wives to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22).
  • Submission is commanded from citizens to their government as here in Titus 3:1 and Romans 13:1-2.

Romans 13:1-2

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.

We have these different areas or spheres of submission: congregation, workplace, family, government. The principles of submission are consistent in the different areas.

  • Submission isn’t just complying or submitting when you agree. This is important and often neglected.
  • Submission – in these human spheres – is never That is, if any of these areas of authority command us to do something that goes against God’s command, we obey God first.

So, there is a tension here:

  • We can sin by not submitting when we should, and really just submitting when we happen to agree (which isn’t submission at all).
  • We can sin by submitting to government against the commandment of God.

It’s especially difficult when the commandment of God is expressed in a matter of conscience, not a specific command. I think this is valid – to stand on our conscience as Christians. But we should make sure that it is our Christian conscience.

  • Not mere peer pressure.
  • Not mere social media agitation.
  • Not merely a reaction to news outlets.

But if our conscience is prompted by God, by our relationship with Jesus Christ and not merely these other things – then there is a place for disobeying the government based on our Christian conscience.

There are some people who want a vaccination exemption because their Christian conscience has genuinely moved them. There are others who are really doing it because of peer pressure, social media agitation, or reaction to news outlets.

If you are seeking a vaccination exemption on the basis of Christian conscience, then please take the time before the Lord to really seek Him about it – ask Him to test your heart, to see that it really is for the right reasons before God.

And, if we disobey government in obedience to God – then we must, as Deborah said, bear the consequences.

So to review:

We have these different areas or spheres of submission: congregation, workplace, family, government. The principles of submission are consistent in the different areas.

  • Submission isn’t just complying or submitting when you agree. This is important and often neglected.
  • Submission – in these human spheres – is never That is, if any of these areas of authority command us to do something that goes against God’s command, we obey God first.

Why didn’t God just remove Satan and evil from the universe?

Why didn’t God just kill Satan directly when he became evil to get rid of all evil in the universe before it could spread to humans?

That is a great question. Let me simply answer it this way. God had a purpose in allowing Satan’s sin and destruction. The purpose is that God wanted to bring forth something greater than a world of innocence. We normally think that a world of innocence would be the greatest good – a world where sin had never happened, a world where Adam and Eve and mankind following would just be in the Garden of Eden. Now, we may think that way; I’m not saying we’re crazy to think that way. But that’s not what the Bible says.

The Bible tells us that greater than the world of innocence is the world of redemption. And we must never forget that. The world of redemption is greater than the world of innocence. Friends, let’s come back to this idea again and again. God wanted to do something greater than a world of innocence. He wanted to do a world of redemption. To make a world of redemption, sin, destruction, and brokenness must be allowed into the equation. That’s why God did not kill Satan directly, because God had a purpose, even for the evil of Satan.

Luke 13:24 says “strive” to enter the narrow gate. The NLT uses the phrase “work hard”. How can I view this verse and not fall into the temptation of believing that I need to work towards salvation?

Luke 13:24 – Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

I think that’s a very significant verse. It tells us that the kingdom of God is not to be engaged with passively. We are not saved by our good works or our hard work. But we are saved so that we can do good works, and we can work hard for the kingdom of God. I’m always blown away by 1 Corinthians 15:10, where Paul tells us that he endeavored greatly, that he worked harder than any of the other apostles. Make no mistake about it, the apostle Paul was a hard-working apostle. But he didn’t work hard to earn his salvation. He worked hard because he was saved.
So, what’s the difference? The difference is very important. There’s an order involved, just like when a horse pulls a cart, or a car pulls a trailer; something must be in front, and something must be behind. The car must be in front if it’s going to pull the trailer. By the same token, our good works must follow our salvation, but we don’t work in order to be saved.
Jesus is pointing out something that’s very important. We receive salvation passively. We just receive it. It’s the gift of God that we receive by faith. However, having been saved, we engage with the kingdom of God actively. That’s what Jesus is pointing to. Our engagement with the kingdom of God must be active. The Bible says that we as Christians should not be asleep, in the metaphorical sense. We shouldn’t be sleepwalking through it; we should be active and engaged in our Christian life. It’s a matter of having things in proper order.

Were Adam and Eve allowed to partake of the fruit from the Tree of Life before the fall?

Your question is, were Adam and Eve allowed to partake of the fruit? Yes, they were allowed to partake. Did they partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life before the vote? We don’t know. The Bible doesn’t tell us. But yes, they were they allowed. The only tree prohibited to them was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I would recommend you look at Genesis 2-3, if you don’t really know what I’m talking about here. If you carefully read it, you’ll notice that we are told that they were only prohibited from partaking from one tree, not two. But we aren’t told if they did partake from the fruit of the Tree of Life.

Should we comply when the Antichrist government says get the Mark of the Beast?

Absolutely not. I’m glad you raised the question. No one should take the Mark of the Beast. We are commanded to obey the government, but not when they tell us to disobey God. In the book of Revelation, the receiving of the Mark of the Beast is connected to the worship of this world leader or its governmental system of some kind. That is absolutely idolatry and sin against God, a sin which God specifically speaks against. So yes, we have a general command to obey the government and to submit to government. But no, their authority over any person or over the believer is not absolute. When they tell us to disobey God, we obey God first and disobey the government.

God never commands absolute submission on a human level. We know the Bible says in Ephesians 5:22, and in other New Testament passages such as Colossians and 1 Peter, that wives should submit to their husband. It plainly says that. But no one should think that it is an absolute submission. It does not mean that, no matter what the husband does, the wife is to submit. A wife does not need to submit to an abusive husband and just continue to take a beating. That would be disobedience to God.

While there is a strong command for believers to submit, in congregation, in workplaces, in family and government, it is a strong command, but it is not an absolute command.

When Sarah asked Abraham to lay with her maid servant after God promised them a son, could this be seen as losing faith?

God made his promise to Abraham and Sarah about having a child. They are known for their faith. Sara asked Abraham to lay with her maidservant after the promise, could this be seen as losing faith?

Yes, it was absolutely losing faith. Abram and Sarai were guilty of doing what we often do. Let’s just be honest; we often do this. We sin by trying to help God out in the fulfillment of His promises when we act in a sinful or unbelieving way. There are times, of course, when our activity is incorporated into the fulfillment of God’s promise; I don’t want to give the impression that we are completely passive regarding God’s promises. But we are never to sin. We’re never to act in unbelief regarding God’s promise. That’s what Abram and Sarai did, in pursuing the path of having a child through the maid servant, Hagar.

So yes, you’re correct; that was a demonstration of their unbelief. It was unbelief that ended up causing a lot of trouble. Now, let me say this. We see tremendous faith later in Abraham and Sarah. The faith of being willing to sacrifice your son, that’s faith. However, it’s comforting for us to know that it was not an absolute faith, from the very beginning. Abraham and Sarah grew and developed in faith through the years. And that’s encouraging for all of us. I sometimes think that if Abraham sometimes shared my unbelief, that means that sometimes I can share his faith. Praise the Lord.

Which day is the Sabbath day?

On the Jewish calendar, there’s no doubt the Sabbath was the seventh day. Saturday is what we would call it. On the Jewish calendar, it would be from sundown Friday night until sundown Saturday night. That span of time is not exactly the same 24 hours which we would use in a modern Western calendar. That day, the seventh day, was the Sabbath, on the Jewish calendar.

Christians began to meet together and to worship God on the first day of the week. We find evidence of this in the book of Acts, 1 Corinthians, and Colossians. Perhaps this was in memorial of that being the day on which the resurrected Christ was revealed to His disciples. We know from the New Testament Scriptures that Christian disciples gathered together on the first day, and they began to regard that as their Sabbath. Maybe this was because, in the earliest church, all the Christians were originally Jewish Christians, and they would go to synagogue on Saturday. So, on the first day of the week, Sunday, they would have their own gatherings as Christians; maybe it started out that way.

So, the Jewish understanding of the Sabbath is no doubt the 24 hours across Friday into Saturday. But the Christian world, starting in the book of Acts, 1 Corinthians and Colossians, makes reference that God gives believers the liberty to regard every day as the Sabbath. That began the pattern of worshiping God on the first day.

But let’s be honest, there is no direct command from God that we must worship Him on a particular day. Even though worshiping God on a Sunday is a well ingrained tradition in most of the Christian world, a pattern that goes back to Biblical times, we can’t say that that day of the week is a specific command. So, if somebody’s time of worship, the Word, community with God’s people, and prayer together with God’s people, happens on Saturday, or Thursday, or Sunday, they have liberty in Jesus Christ to do exactly those things.

Why is the Passover always mentioned in term of Christ being our sacrifice, and not the Day of Atonement?

There was an aspect of atonement in the Passover. By atonement, we mean the atoning work of having sin passed over and paid for by a representative. In the Passover, it was accomplished by the blood of that lamb. The lamb was the subject of judgment, so that the people within the house marked by the Passover blood would not be the subjects of judgment.

I think God wanted a focus on the Day of Atonement more for national Israel, and He wanted Passover to be more world-encompassing. Notice this. At the first Passover recorded in the Book of Exodus, the children of Israel were still in Egypt, and just about to begin their great exodus out of Egypt. The blood of the Passover lamb would have been good for anybody who offered it. If an Egyptian, or an Amalekite, or a Hittite, or an Israelite offered the Passover lamb, and applied the blood to their doorposts as God commanded, they were spared the judgment of the firstborn. So, there was something trans-national about the Passover from its very beginning, whereas the Day of Atonement was always focused on national Israel.

I’m thinking now that perhaps God puts an emphasis on the Passover instead of the Day of Atonement, because He wants to emphasize that aspect of atonement for all the nations which will believe in God’s Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, rather than just something that was specifically engineered for Israel alone. It’s an emphasis on the trans-national aspect of Passover, more than the focused national aspect of the Day of Atonement.

In Matthew 28, what did Jesus mean about making disciples and baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit? How does it apply to believers today?

Matthew 28:18-20 – And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

We usually call this passage of Scripture the Great Commission. What did Jesus mean when He said to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? I don’t think Jesus was communicating a specific baptismal formula. There is a group in the Christian world who say that you must be baptized into the name of Jesus, and only into the name of Jesus. There is another group in the Christian world which believes that the person who baptizes you must say exactly, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” just like it says here in Matthew 28. They believe that if you do not use that baptismal formula, then you’re not really baptized, and you’re not really saved.

Let me say, I think that this is a misfocused controversy. I do not believe that God is emphasizing the baptismal formula of words which are spoken at baptism. Rather, you need to baptize that person into or in the name of the Triune God, the God who really exists. When we’re talking about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, we are simply talking about the God who actually exists. We don’t believe in the Trinity or the Triune God, simply because it’s a matter of theology that we happen to latch on to. No, we earnestly believe in it because that is what the Bible teaches. It’s the God who really exists.

So, I think the emphasis is that we need to baptize people in the name of the biblical God. I would not relate it to a formula. Now, let me just say this. When I baptize people, this is what I say: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; I baptize you in the name of Jesus.” I cover both bases, not because I’m hung up on it, but because I don’t want somebody to come to that person later and say, “In whose name were you baptized?”, and try to shake them. Look, we cover both the bases, so there’s no problem to it at all. Those words of Jesus don’t imply a baptismal formula, but rather to baptize in the name of the biblical God, the Triune God, the God who is truly exists.

Next, Jesus’ command to make disciples reminds us that, in the Christian world, conversion is not the only goal. Discipleship is the goal. Sometimes Christians get on the wrong track. They think only in terms of the bare minimum a person must do to be saved and try to get people to do that. For example, there was a prominent pastor in the United States some years ago, named Andy Stanley, who told pastors that they really don’t need to teach the Old Testament to their congregations, because you don’t need the Old Testament in order to be saved.

Let me just say: I agree, you don’t need the Old Testament to be saved. But our goal is not the mere salvation of people, as if mere conversion is enough. Our goal is discipleship. And you need a whole Bible to make a whole disciple. So, I think the error is thinking in terms of the bare minimum that we can do for people, or have them do, to be saved. And then once they do that bare minimum, then hey, whatever.

No; we’re not out to make mere converts. Our goal is to make disciples: people who know how to pray, people who know how to read their Bibles, people know how to live a Christian life in holiness, people who know how to fast, people will know how to give. These are different aspects of plain “shoe leather” discipleship. This is what God calls us to do. That is the Great Commission, and that’s what believers should be doing today.

Again, these verses aren’t a baptismal formula; they direct us to baptize in the name of the true God, the God of the Bible, the God who truly exists, and they communicate an emphasis on discipleship, which is to last to this day.

If Paul said that he works harder than the other Apostles, does that mean he will receive a greater reward?

If Paul said that he works harder than the other apostles, yet not him, but God’s grace in him, do you believe that he has a greater reward from God than the other apostles?

1 Corinthians 15:10 – But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

Based on that verse, do I believe Paul has a greater reward from God than the other apostles? Yes, I do. The Bible talks about us being rewarded commensurate with our faithfulness and our fruit. Working hard is one way that faithfulness can be demonstrated. If Paul’s faithfulness was demonstrated by hard work, and if he worked harder than the other apostles, then we would say that there would be more reward for the Apostle Paul. I don’t have any problem saying that.

We need to remember that God has every right to reward in ways which we might regard as unexpected or even unusual. It’s easy for us to think that we have God’s reward all figured out, but we don’t. God can and will reward in ways that seem to us to be simply unexpected. So, we can’t act as if we have it all figured out when it comes to God’s reward.

How long did the cherubim guard the entrance to the Garden of Eden?

Genesis 3:24 – So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

Well, I wonder too. Some people believe that those cherubim were there at the Garden of Eden until the Flood. Now look, let’s be honest, the Bible doesn’t say how long they were there, so I’m with you in wondering. But I will say with great confidence that they were there for at least some time. We really can’t speak where the Bible doesn’t speak, but it is something interesting to think about.

What does the Bible say about a woman officiating a wedding?

Here’s David’s teaching on 1 Timothy 2 about the roles of men and women in the church:

What does the Bible say about a woman officiating a wedding? I know 1 Timothy says that women shouldn’t have authority over a man. I know that there are some women pastors who officiate weddings, but not sure if that’s Biblical.

First, I agree with the more traditional explanation and understanding of 1 Timothy 2, where Paul says that he does not allow a woman to teach or have authority over a man in the congregation. The context is about congregational life, and church services in particular. I don’t think it applies to the workplace or to politics or education and so on, but it certainly does apply to the Christian congregation.

I follow a more traditional understanding of this passage. If people are interested, I’ve done a very in-depth teaching on this topic through 1 Timothy 2 on my YouTube channel:

Does that mean that a woman is prohibited from performing a marriage ceremony? I would regard this as a gray area. But I would still lean towards saying no. In other words, it means that a woman should not perform a wedding ceremony.

I want to acknowledge there are arguments to be made on both sides. The “Yes” side of the equation would say, “Yes, a woman could conduct a marriage ceremony, because the Bible itself does not give us any specific instruction as to who can conduct a marriage ceremony”; or “As long as it’s done in honor before the Lord and according to general Scriptural principle, the Bible doesn’t tell us who can or cannot conduct a wedding ceremony. Therefore, we shouldn’t say who can or cannot conduct a wedding ceremony.” That’s on the “Yes” side of it.

I would regard the “No” side of it to be a stronger case, but I can’t say it’s an absolute case. This side would argue that the recognition of a marriage before God and before the state is something that should be done by a duly recognized minister, someone who is ordained. An ordination in this sense, biblically speaking, according to the New Testament, is reserved for men, and not for women, in leadership of the congregation.

I understand that these are matters of great controversy. There are people who really debate these things. So, while acknowledging that I don’t think the Bible speaks on this in a clear and absolute way, although I can see why somebody would argue for the “Yes” position on that, I think a stronger case is to be made for the “No” position.

On a different sphere, there are believers who get married before a judge or a justice of the peace, and not in a church or before a pastor. What if that judge or justice of the peace is a woman? Well, I don’t think you have any argument against that, biblically speaking. The difference would be whether it was a church wedding.

Is it possible that Satan causes us to remember our old sins?

Is it possible that Satan causes us to remember our old sins and the temptation that went with it, attempting to lead us back into that sin? This happens to me occasionally and I find myself fighting with memory to forget it.

Yes, absolutely, that’s possible. We understand that the devil is a monster. The devil wants to steal, kill, and destroy. One of the things he wants to steal, kill, and destroy is the joyful, confident assurance of the believer. He’ll use any weapon he can to work against those things. If he can try to dredge up the memory of old sins, then he’ll do it.

I want to suggest something to you. I think I first read this regarding Martin Luther, but maybe it was somebody else; let’s just say it was Martin Luther. Luther once said, “When the devil tries to persuade you that you’re a sinner, and remind you of your sin, don’t argue with him. Don’t try to protest to him that you’re not. As he lists off your sins, you can even tell the devil, ‘Hey, you know, there’s a few you forgotten about, let me remind you about this, and that, and the other thing!’”

Because look, we have sinned a lot. There is a lot for which God has forgiven us. But this is the attitude we need to have when Satan brings such accusations against us: “Yes, I know that I am a great sinner, but praise the Lord, I have an even greater Savior in Jesus Christ.” That really needs to be our attitude. We understand that we’re sinners; yes, we get it. But we have an even greater Savior. So, the key to this is not in any way trying to minimize our sin. The key to this is trying to maximize and glorify Jesus Christ, in who He is and what He does for us.

Why did Jesus need to cleanse Heaven with His blood, as in Hebrews 9?

That is a great question. The blood of cleansing in the Old Testament sacrificial system was not given merely to cleanse something that was impure, but to protect the purity of things that were already pure. Think of the veil of the Temple that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, or the sprinkling of blood upon the Ark of the Covenant itself. It’s not that those things were impure or unholy, but they received the blood of cleansing to promote to honor. The blood of cleansing recognized their holiness and recognized the atonement that had happened, which would bring cleansing from sin.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that there was sin which needed to be cleansed. There were other purposes and other significance. The significance of that blood of cleansing and atonement was broader than just the cleansing or purification from sin.

In this broader sense, the Bible says that Jesus offered His blood. I don’t know if we would literally say that Jesus sprinkled blood in Heaven, but He did it at least in form and as a picture. That may very well be to what Hebrews 9 refers.