For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. – Romans 13:3a
Politics is a part of life. It seems politics has become an obsession in our day. Everybody has an opinion. Everybody has chosen a side. Everybody seems to have been tattooed with a label (some literally!). Democrat, Republican, RINO (i.e. Republican In Name Only), Progressive, Conservative, Alt-Left, Alt-Right, Communist, Socialist, Democratic, Federalist, Republican, “Patriot,” “Traitor,” I could go on an on. We see divisions everywhere. There are more and more political mobs and rioting. Political anarchists, insurrectionists and revolutionaries are on the move. Actors and actresses (if such gender declarative titles are acceptable to you), news casters, sports figures, talk show hosts, those employed and those unemployed, young, old and in-between, male and female and those in-between, everybody is expressing their political views. Political statements are being made by activists dancing naked in the streets or kneeling at a game. Law and order is being seen as a crime. There’s fighting about immigration and citizenship. There’s serious issues with our voting system. People are looking at the political climate and building family bunkers and loading them up with at least six months of supplies for the coming demise of society. It’s all bound up in the web of politics. It should be clear and evident to all in our day, politics is significant. Politics affect life.
Politics is not the answer to life’s questions or the solution to life’s problems. We have to keep politics in its place. The only sufficient solutions to life’s problems and answers to life’s questions are found in God. They are bound up in Jesus and revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. You may disagree with that, but in the end, you’ll find it to be true. But even if you accept God as your solution and answer, if you seek His truth and will in the area of politics (and really for life in general), you’ll discover He really doesn’t endorse isolationism or willful ignorance of this area of life.
Even if we look to God for solutions and answers to the topic of politics, we will find He has some important things for us to consider. Abstinence from government is really in reality not an option. There are those who choose to stand on the sidelines and are satisfied to ignore all things political. But politics is in our face. It’s banging down our doors. It’s creeping more and more into our lives. It does this through taxation. Everything from the food and drinks we consume to the access to the places we want to go, are taxed by those in politics. Our wages, property, inheritance, education, communication, transportation, and just about everything else are imposed upon with taxes. Politics also directly affects our freedoms. Freedom to speak, freedom to worship, freedom to assemble, freedom to have a say in government, and freedom to live like we want to live are all some of the areas politics and government affect. Our right to privacy is being directly affected by politics. More and more and in many ways, we hear the warning, “Big Brother is watching you. Big Brother is spying on you.” Politics is even coming into play with robots equipped with Artificial Intelligence that one day may threaten our existence. We can’t avoid politics. But we can’t let politics overwhelm us either. We can’t let politics enslave us. We have to find a way to keep politics in its place.
Politics has to do with the mechanics of government. There are all kinds of governments, all have their warts and weaknesses. Really, no matter the government, because fallen sinful people are involved, it is doomed to frustration, futility, and failure. We won’t have a true right working political system of government until Jesus returns to lead it. And that Jesus led government will reign gloriously for a thousand years! But what do we do in the political governmental systems we live in until then? God in His Word instructs us.
Romans 13:3-4 – “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.”
A righteous government “is God’s minister.” A “minister” is a “servant.” True purpose and reason for being for a government is found in their service to God. This presupposes a government’s belief in God. And as a servant of God a government should seek God’s purposes.
Here in these verses, God’s purposes for government are spelled out as encouraging “good” and being a “terror . . . to evil.” If you do “good,” (Greek agathŏs) or that which benefits others, promotes wellness and joy, you have nothing to fear. If you do “evil” (Greek kakos) or that which is defined by the words, depraved, intrinsically worthless, injurious, harmful, bad, rotten or wicked, then look out, government is there to expose it and put a stop to it. That is the prime purpose of government according to God’s Word.
But it’s important to properly define what is “good” isn’t it? Right away we can see by applying “good” and “evil” to our society that what some people call “good” others would call “evil.” Indeed, Isaiah spoke of a time when good and evil would be confused. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). This happened in Israel and it led to her destruction and captivity. It is a principle that marks the condition of any nation. When you can’t tell “good” from “evil,” you’re ready for destruction and captivity. Really, since good and evil are diametrically opposed to each other, if we can define one of these words it will give us a good start on defining the other by contrast. Let’s focus on “good.”
What is “good”? The term “good” occurs 652 times in the Bible. Whew! That’s a lot. God has a lot to say on what is good. And if we serve God, goodness is bound up in what God says is good. Even if we don’t acknowledge God or choose not to serve Him, God has given all humanity a conscience by which we can intrinsically know right from wrong, good from evil. Our God-given conscience enables us to know good from evil (Romans 2:12-16). For God, right and wrong are bound up in His revealed Law (e.g. Exodus 20). To keep us from becoming legalistic or from having a wrong view of the Law, God has reduced it to a simple but profound principle of, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). It is only through the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we can receive God’s implanted love in our heart to accomplish such law-abiding living. It is when the Holy Spirit regenerates us and we are born again with a second spiritual birth that such love is poured out into our heart. Such love is not something generated by humanity but comes from God (e.g. Romans 5:5). The world has its brand of love which is limited. God’s brand of love is unlimited other than to be guided by the truth of His word (cf. Luke 6:27-36). This world needs the love of the God who loves them so much (e.g. John 3).
God’s goodness involves grace and compassion (Exodus 33:19). God’s goodness would involve the things He stands for and revealed to us about Himself such as truth, faithfulness, love, and justice, to name a few. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face” (Psalm 89:14). These are things we should seek and promote and encourage wherever we find them.
A particularly important aspect of God’s nature for government is that God is orderly (e.g. 1 Cor. 15:33 and 40). We see His order in the design of the universe and creation. When God is working we see order. Sin however brings disorder. We see this in the fall of humanity (Gen.3). When Adam and Eve sinned, they were cast out of the beautifully ordered Garden of God. They were cast out into a world where sin abounds. Thank the goodness of God “that where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20). That grace is realized in the words, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Sin and its disorder brings anxiety and lostness. Salvation in Jesus brings order and peace.
Right and wrong are closely linked to order versus disorder. This is a Biblical principle. Now, because we are sinful we often get tripped up in the dirty socks of sin strewn about our life. But the Holy Spirit has a way of pointing out the sinful disarray and then bringing us back into His order. Sometimes, God’s order conflicts with our “order,” but He has a way of straightening us out. He reconciles us when we get off course. Government can be a part of that, especially when our disorder takes the form of crime.
Government is one of God’s means to maintain enough order that complete chaos associated with sin does not reign. A good government provides orderliness by promoting good and fighting against evil. Good governments have laws designed to maintain order according to godly principles. Bad government uses law to give license to sin. That’s called licentiousness or giving license to sin. That is very bad.
The good order provided by God through government creates an environment where His truth can be shared. Anarchy enslaves with fear. It leads to intimidating circumstances. It leads to bullying in the extreme. There’s little more terrifying than the pillaging that occurs during times of rioting. Good government liberates by promoting freedom through law and its order. Our Constitution is an example of this. Government is turned on its head when it works against such freedoms. When that happens, like in our history, a Declaration of Independence may be called for:
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 
Notice in this declaration the prominence of “nature’s God,” and our “Creator.” God is at the heart of good government. Many in our government have forgotten those precious words of declared independence. And the consequence has been dire. Freedom is turned on its head when it is used to promote sin. That is what has happened in our nation of late. Without God and His truth nothing works properly for humanity.
A good citizen in a governmental system, does “good” and receives “praise from the same,” or praise from the government. If we do good, we have nothing to fear from the government seeking to be pleasing to God. But really, we should first and foremost and primarily be seeking praise from God. “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For it I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). That is true of the minister of the Gospel. But that is also true of others areas of life too, including political.
Most governments historically have little to no appreciation for, let alone belief in, the God of the Bible. That is simple and damning evidence that they are not fulfilling their God-ordained purpose. They are failing and will ultimately fail. We need to be mindful of that. Change wrought through politics and government is always going to fall short. But that doesn’t excuse us from working for the good and yes, being involved in politics.
Government has a mandate to oppose evil. It states, “for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” The government is to identify, expose, and stop evil, “to execute” or carry out God’s wrath on evil. Governments promoting deception and dark ventures are operating counter to their perfect purpose and will be as empty, impotent to change, and unfulfilling as any individual living in deception and dark ventures.
Of course, governments led by sinful fallen people have strayed far, far away from God’s ideal since Babel (Genesis 11). Some are worse than others. Our Federal Republic and constitutional democracy began better than most governments. But we too have strayed. That is especially true in the last 30 years. But I see changes for the better recently.
We see this scientifically as sonograms unmistakably remove the veil of willful ignorance about the humanity of children in the womb and consequently the atrocity of abortion. Our government legalized abortion in 1973. As time goes on we see that this was done on false pretenses. As sonogram technology improves and we see the personhood of the baby in the womb, laws will change. We need to work for that.
Government corruption is being identified and exposed. We see this in such activist movements as Project Veritas as well as individually by such people as Julian Assange (perhaps not a Christian but a part of this move nonetheless). And we see this in the stated political platform of the present administration to “drain the swamp.” These are all “good” things.
There is an effort today in our country to root out evil that should be applauded and supported by those God calls to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). All of this should have the Christian’s support. James spoke of a sin of omission. He was inspired to write, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). Christian, we have been inactive about supporting the “good” around us for far too long. It is sinful. We need to get up off the couch and get involved. We need to be salt and light. We need to get involved. We need to infiltrate this world and influence it for the glory of God.
But be warned, we should not be enslaved to party affiliation but rather dedicated to the efforts to do good and oppose evil whoever is promoting them. Wherever you find a party spirit in scripture it is a negative. When we side blindly with one group over another, it is sin or at least a sign of spiritual immaturity and unbecoming carnality (e.g. Acts 11 and 15; 1 Corinthians 3; Galatians 3:28). There is only One to Whom we give total allegiance, King Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:11). He’s our President, Senator, Congress-Man and political Representative above all others. Our prime citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). We serve the Kingdom of God first and guard against other allegiances that tempt us to idolatry. We can be a patriot to our earthly nation, but only inasmuch as its precepts and actions align with our heavenly citizenship. We must be clear on that. We serve here to promote God’s truth and light, His justice and impartial fairness, His mercy and grace, His sense of right and wrong. We serve God by serving others the way God would have us serve.
In this effort, we should be wary of and not surprised by the fact that the “father of lies” seeks to side track us and confuse the targets of evil by way of deception. Today we see this in “fake news” and anti-God indoctrination and misguided education. All of this needs to be exposed. Falsehoods need to be exposed by the light of the Lord which is most clearly seen in His Word. Using God’s word as a refence point for truth and justice used to be a common practice in the early stages of our nation. We need to get back to that.
This is how Christians in all nations should live as salt and light. In every nation, regardless of government system, we act as agents of light; we cut through deception and support those who act in this common cause. We speak God’s truth in the powerful love of the Spirit (Eph. 4:15). Imagine if all Christianity united internationally across their government systems in support of one another to expose evil with God’s light? It just might lead to a revival, another Great Awakening.
Practically, we expose the darkness and seek good through means such as prayer, evangelism, teaching and discipling others with God’s word, and being informed and getting involved in society politically. We fulfill God’s call on us as we infiltrate and influence the world around us for the glory of God.
All of this doesn’t mean we see ourselves as necessarily or primarily, part of government. Some will be called to participate in government systems and politics. Some will run for office. If they do, I would only counsel them to run with Jesus. Walk as He walked (1 John 2:6). There is a great need for this today. But not everyone is called into politics. What is meant here is that we see government as a means to the end of encouraging good and discouraging evil. It means we get involved. We always serve with undiluted undivided loyalty to the Kingdom of God. We keep politics in its place.
 “Evil” by the way occurs 461 times in scripture.