John Gavazzoni
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Subjection without Obedience
By John Gavazzoni

Very representative of the need to "rightly cut the truth," is the challenge of reconciling the God-honored disobedience to the demands of this world's system – by the servants of God, as recorded in both Old and New Testaments – with Paul's imperative that the believer be subject to the arrangement of authorities over him.

It has been thoughtlessly assumed by many sincere believers that in Rom. 13 Paul was insisting upon obedience to the system, not noting, and therefore not "rightly cutting the word of truth," that Paul wasn't talking about obedience, but subjection; there is a difference.

This subjection, of which the apostle wrote in Rom. 13, needs to be understood in the context of the subjection of which he wrote in chapter 8 of the same epistle. Believers in this nation, and all across the world, may find this to be a particularly pertinent distinction especially in facing the days ahead in this present life.

The authorities ordained of God that regulate much of how we live out our earthly existence are integral to the whole complex of things that impose futility (emptiness, frustration, vanity) upon our creaturehood. There is no escaping that imposition that traces finally to the throne of God.

Though this article will hardly answer all the questions that easily arise in the thoughtful mind, it might be used of the Lord to instigate the beginning of a fresh, edifying perspective re: the role of government in our lives, especially as earthly government becomes more and more overtly adversarial to a life of obedience to Jesus Christ.

What are we to understand about the juxtaposition of Paul's exhortation re: subjection, and Peter declaring that "we ought to obey God, rather than men"? It is easy to slip into the deception of becoming system fighters instead of compliant hearers of God's Word. Jonathan Mitchell's translation of the New Testament brings out that disposition which is at the heart of true obedience to God. By the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we become compliant hearers of the Word of God. It is the Spirit-power of the Word of God, not it's letter, that produces such compliance of heart AND the futility imposed upon our creaturehood – by nothing other than the will of God working through this present evil system, which ultimately serves the will of God in our lives.

To set out to free ourselves from all that is adversarial, is to miss the truth that "the adversary," AS adversarial, AS the spirit of this present evil world – IN that VERY CAPACITY – is God's unwilling but inescapable servant of our creaturehood's glorious destiny. There is the saying, "you can't fight the system." Well, we as slaves of Jesus Christ, are not to fight it, but to recognize, and be compliant to our Lord's inclusion of its place within the outworking of His purpose in the fulfillment of creation's yearning for true liberty.

The situations in which believers shine most brightly by the outshining of the glory within them – the glory that raised Christ from the dead – have always been those situations of a classically adversarial constitution. Not at all unlike the situation faced by Christians of the first centuries A.D., of confessing that Jesus is Lord, in the face of a system that demanded recognition of the lordship of Caesar, might be in our day that of finding ourselves faced with having to confess Jesus as Lord over all, including Mohammed – and all leaders of nations and of other world religions.

We would surely, in that situation, be labeled as being obscenely and obstinately intolerant, as well as being the major obstacle to world peace – for after all, isn't it obvious to all that "the prophet's" religion is a religion of peace? What a wonderful God-opportunity that would present, as in, "My confession is that Jesus Christ is Lord of all, absolutely, and yes, He is Lord of Mohammed, who will, with all humanity, bow his knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."

John GavazzoniJohn Gavazzoni
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