The President does not have the authority of a king
In the Church, there are two great misunderstandings regarding authority in our nation. The first great misunderstanding regarding authority in our nation is the idea that believers must be in submission to governing authorities no matter what. I discussed this idea in great detail last week in The Authority of God and Kings. The second great misunderstanding regarding authority in our nation is the idea that the President of the United States of America has authority like a king does. Many believers think that the President has full authority over our nation as a king would. There are many believers who think that Christians must submit to the President.
If you ask a believer about governing authorities in the Bible, they will likely point to Romans 13. It is common among believers to think that the President is the governing authority that Romans 13 describes. However, if we truly understand what the supreme law of our nation is, then we can begin to have a better understanding of how Romans 13 applies to us.
Romans 13 should be applied practically
“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.” Romans 13:1-5
I would like you to try something that you may not have tried before. Read Romans 13:1-5 again and this time replace the phrase governing authorities and the word authority with the words The Constitution. That is a practical application of Romans 13 if you are a citizen of the United States of America.
It has been suggested that believers should submit to our President, because Paul was subject to his king, Nero. However, that is a flawed understanding of the application of scripture to the governing authorities of our nation. We must apply scripture to our lives in the present day among our present government. The President is not a king. He is not our earthly governing authority. The Constitution is! According to the supreme law of the land, the President is actually subject to the Constitution like we are.
What it means to submit to governing authorities in the USA
The President has limited authority over our nation. The President is limited by what is known as the separation of powers, which are defined in the first three articles of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution also clearly identifies the true governing authority of this nation. Article VI states, “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”
What happens if the President acts outside of the Constitution? Does that make the Constitution irrelevant? Absolutely not. If he acts outside of the Constitution then he is breaking the law. The Constitution is still the supreme law of our land, even if the President doesn’t abide by it. As our seventeenth President Andrew Johnson said, “Outside of the Constitution we have no legal authority more than private citizens, and within it we have only so much as that instrument gives us. This broad principle limits all our functions and applies to all subjects.”
The truth for believers is that the Constitution is the supreme authority in our nation, second only to God. How do you feel about the Constitution being your governing authority as a citizen of this nation? How well do you understand the Constitution?