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REVELATION 13 REVISITED

January 17, 2010

It seems that every time someone such as myself attempts to encourage our Fijian people to resist an unconstitutional or otherwise reprehensible, and oppressive government, we hear the retort, “What about Romans Chapter 13? We Christians must submit to government. Any government. Read your Bible, and leave me alone.” Or words to that effect.

No doubt, some who use this argument are sincere. They are only repeating what they have heard their pastor and other religious leaders say. On the other hand, let’s be honest enough to admit that some who use this argument are just plain lazy, apathetic, and indifferent. They want an easy way out.And Romans 13 is their escape from responsibility. I suspect this is the much larger group, by the way.Nevertheless, for the benefit of those who are sincere (but obviously misinformed), let’s briefly examine Romans Chapter 13. I quote Romans Chapter 13, verses 1 through 7, from the Authorized King James text:

“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. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, 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 power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”

Do our Christian friends who use these verses to teach that we should not oppose Fiji’s illegal regime and leaders really believe that those who have appointed themselves to lord over the people have unlimited authority to do anything they want without opposition? I doubt whether they truly believe that. For example, what if our President decided to resurrect the old monarchal custom of Jus Primae Noctis (Law of First Night)? That was the old medieval custom when the king claimed the right to sleep with a subject’s bride on the first night of their marriage. Would our sincere Christian brethren sheepishly say, “Romans Chapter 13 says we must submit to the government”? I think not. And would any of us respect any man who would submit to such a law?

Limits of authority So, there are limits to authority. A father has authority in his home, but does this give him power to abuse his wife and children? Of course not. An employer has authority on the job, but does this give him power to control the private lives of his employees? No. A pastor has overseer authority in the church, but does this give him power to tell employers in his church how to run their businesses? Of course not. All human authority is limited in nature. No man has unlimited authority over the lives of other men. (Lordship and Sovereignty is the exclusive domain of Jesus Christ.)

By the same token, a civil magistrate has authority in civil matters, but his authority is limited and defined. Observe that Romans Chapter 13 clearly limits the authority of civil government by strictly defining its purpose:

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil . . . For he is the minister of God to thee for good . .. for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

Notice that civil government must not be a “terror to good works.” It has no power or authority to terrorize good works or good people.It cannot terrorise the people. God never gave it that authority. And any government that oversteps that divine boundary has no divine authority or protection. This is a basic principle of Natural Law (and all of Fiji’s legal documents–including the Fiji Constitution–are founded upon the God-ordained principles of  Natural Law).

The apostle clearly states that civil government is a “minister of God to thee for good.” It is a not a minister of God for evil. Civil magistrates have a divine duty to “execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” They have no authority to execute wrath upon him that doeth good. None. Zilch. Zero. And anyone who says they do is lying. So, even in the midst of telling Christians to submit to civil authority, Romans Chapter 13 limits the power and reach of civil authority.

Did Moses violate God’s principle of submission to authority when he killed the Egyptian taskmaster in defense of his fellow Hebrew? Did Elijah violate God’s principle of submission to authority when he openly challenged Ahab and Jezebel? Did David violate God’s principle of submission to authority when he refused to surrender to Saul’s troops?

Did Daniel violate God’s principle of submission to authority when he disobeyed the king’s command to not pray audibly to God? Did the three Hebrew children violate God’s principle of submission to authority when they refused to bow to the image of the state? Did John the Baptist violate God’s principle of submission to authority when he publicly scolded King Herod for his infidelity? Did Simon Peter and the other Apostles violate God’s principle of submission to authority when they refused to stop preaching on the streets of Jerusalem? Did Paul violate God’s principle of submission to authority when he refused to obey those authorities who demanded that he abandon hismissionary work? In fact, Paul spent almost as much time in jail as he did out of jail.

Remember that every apostle of Christ (except John) was killed by hostile civil authorities opposed to their endeavors. Christians throughout church history were imprisoned, tortured, or killed by civil authorities of all stripes for refusing to submit to their various laws and prohibitions. Did all of these Christian martyrs violate God’s principle of submission to authority?

So, even the great prophets, apostles, and writers of the Bible (including the writer of Romans Chapter 13) understood that human authority–even civil authority–is limited. Plus, Paul makes it clear that our submission to civil authority must be predicated on more than fear of governmental retaliation. Notice, he said, “Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” Meaning, our obedience to civil authority is more than just “because they said so.” It is also a matter of conscience. This means we must think and reason for ourselves regarding the justness and rightness of our government’s laws. Obedience is not automatic or robotic. It is a result of both rational deliberation and moral approbation.

Therefore, there are times when civil authority may need to be resisted. Either governmental abuse of power or the violation of conscience (or both) could precipitate civil disobedience. Of course, how and when we decide to resist civil authority is an entirely separate issue. And I will reserve that discussion for another time.

Beyond that, we in Fiji do not live under a monarchy. We have no king. There is no single governing official in this country ( well that is before Bainimarama). Fiji’s”supreme Law” does not rest with any man or any group of men. Fiji’s “supreme Law” does not rest with the President, the Congress, or even the Supreme Court. In Fiji, the Fiji  Constitution is the “supreme Law of the Land.” Under our laws, every governing official publicly promises to submit to the Constitution of Fiji. Do readers understand the significance of this distinction? I hope so. This means that, in Fiji, the “higher powers” are not the men who occupy elected office; they are the tenets and principles set forth in the 1997 Constitution. Under our laws and form of government, it is the duty of every elected official to obey the 1997 Constitution. Therefore, this is how Romans Chapter 13 reads to Fijians:

“Let every soul be subject unto the [1997 Constitution.] For there is no [Constitution] but of God: the

[Constitution] that be [is] ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the [Constitution], resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For [the Constitution is] not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the [Constitution]? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For [the Constitution] is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that

which is evil, be afraid; for [the Constitution] beareth not the sword in vain: for [the Constitution] is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for [the Constitution is] God’s minister, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”

Dear Christian friend, the above is exactly the proper understanding of our responsibility to civil authority in these islands, according to the teaching of Romans Chapter 13.

Furthermore, Christians, above all people, should desire that their elected representatives submit to the Constitution, because it is constitutional government that has done more to protect Christian liberty than any other governing document ever devised in Fiji. As I have noted before in this column, Biblical principles and Natural Law form the foundation of all three of Fiji’s founding documents: the Deed of Cession, the Fiji Constitution, and the

Bill of Rights.

As a result, Christians in Fiji (for the most part) have not had to face the painful decision to “obey God rather than men” and defy their civil authorities, until today. The problem in Fiji today is that we have allowed a few people to violate their oaths of office and to ignore–and blatantly disobey–the “supreme Law of the Land,” the 1997 Constitution. Therefore, if we truly believe Romans Chapter 13, we will insist and demand that our civil magistrates submit to the 1997 Constitution.Now, how many of us Christians are going to truly obey Romans Chapter 13?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. EnufDictatorship permalink
    January 17, 2010 8:41 PM

    Vinaka Free Fiji!!!

    Such true and appropriate sentiments. Our next question then is – which of our elected leaders either civil or religious or otherwise is willing to stand up like the prophets and disciples before to challenge this evil regime.

    And then again, we’re also rest assured that Voreqe’s evil reign will come to a very sad, slow and unimaginable death just like the evil men before him. He has damned and his day of reckoning will come.

    But as you have pointed out, as a nation we should work together to tell Voreqe that we detest the way he is treating us like common underlings assuming we need him to save us. Go to hell Voreqe!!!

  2. Jale permalink
    January 17, 2010 9:46 PM

    The traditional Fijian leaders who traditionally have the responsibility to look after their people should be the first to at least voice their opposition to the illegal regime. They have outlived their use, all they do now is to demand peoples’ respect and service and perhaps big slice of rental income from their people’s land rent.

    These hard times have shown the chiefs up as useless, cowards and not worth the people’s respect

  3. Nacanieli Rogoimuri permalink
    January 18, 2010 7:55 AM

    The Bible is so clear on who we should give our allegiance to. Yes, the constitution of the land is the supreme law and if these leaders do not abide by it, then they do not deserve our respect, we should do all we can to remove them. bainimarama and his team of usurpers have shown little regard for the constitution and only use it when it benefits them.

    Further, they have taken another step and have declared the constitution null and void by abrogating it in 2009. So what constitution are we to refer to?

    We are blessed that even if our country’s constitution can face its demise like the 1997 one, we have a constitution that no man, not even Bainimarama or Iloilo or Nailatikau can abrogate. That is the Holy Law of God found in Exodus 20, the 10 Commandments.

    In the absence of a constitution we can make our own judgement on the ruling junta by checking out their performance against the 10 Commandments. Give them your allegiance and respect if they are seen to be following accordingly, otherwise, we are given the freedom to disobey them, protest against them and remove them.

  4. ofa permalink
    January 18, 2010 11:23 AM

    Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists all have been fighting oppressive regimes side by side with other civil society groups all around the world. In South America the catholic church was instrumental in bringing down military dictatorships, Buddhist monks in Miranmar have led uprisings against the military dictatorship there. I cannot imagine a god who would condone and support a brutal regime that oppresses his churches, murders innocents, steals from people and tramples on human rights.

  5. Mark Manning permalink
    January 19, 2010 12:06 PM

    Frank Bainimarama was warned in 2004 :-
    http://www.accessmylibrary.com/article-1G1-120163328/officer-had-warned-army.html

  6. Navosavakadua permalink
    January 19, 2010 6:02 PM

    To those who urge submission to the military dictatorship on the grounds of Romans 13 I say: if you believe in that principle then you agree that Frank Bainimarama is one who has not submitted to the government and constitution under which he lived. In other words you agree that his rule is against the word of God.

    Romans 13 is not a justification for the violent seizure of power nor does it give those who’ve seized power by force the right to expect submission from citizens.

    What Paul saw as coming from God was authority, government according to laws and constitutions, not rule by violence and oppression.

    The Bainimarama dictatorship is guilty of many things. It has wrecked the economy, plundered the government coffers for the benefit of the military and caused hardship by sacking thousands of civil servants without proper legal process. But the biggest crime of the Bainimarama regime is against the rule of law.

    Without the rule of law no-one is safe. Anyone who thinks bowing down to the military dictatorship is supporting the rule of law is a fool. What they’re supporting is the rule of armed force.

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