The Moral Dilemma of Submitting to Every Ordinance of Man
Believers should observer the laws of the land, of course, but if the law permits ungodly behavior, we should obey God instead.
Many of today’s preachers and politicians often quote 1 Peter 2:13-14, to encourage people to submit to the laws of the land. That they must obey the hierarchy of men in authority and political power such as kings and presidents, governors, and the police.
1 Peter chapter 2 reads; “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” Verses 13, 14.
It also says that we should submit to those officially superior to us such as managers and supervisors; it reads; “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.” Verse 18. Meaning, even if the superior is aggressive, we should submit as we would unto the Lord.
Many people would find this hard to do when their manager or superior is asking them to do grievous things, to go above and beyond, but the Lord says that we should comply and do what they ask even if it grieves our spirit, because suffering for doing something right is better than suffering for doing something wrong. And we should learn to suffer as Christ suffered while here on this earth.
The moral dilemma comes in when we are asked to do something against God’s will, such as murdering, stealing or any other transgression condemned by the Law. However, the Bible counters any ordinances of man that defies God’s Law by reminding believers in Romans 13:8-10 which reads:
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Thus, if a believer is empowered with the Holy Ghost, which instills love in the heart (Romans 5:5), they will obey God first and owe nothing to man. No one has to do what man orders if it defies God’s law and vexes the Holy Spirit within them. This is the liberty wherewith God has made us free from the sins of the flesh.
Man does not completely comply with Gods law even when he writes his own laws, so believers have a moral and spiritually inspired obligation to uphold God’s law above man’s law, if they do not want to be condemned of God. If a believer is doing the will of God, he is not bound by the laws of the land simply because the Holy Ghost does not defy God’s law, and will not break the law.
For example, if man orders a believer to enlist in the military, go over seas and kill the enemy, is the believer obligated to God’s law or man’s ordinance? If the believer has the Holy Ghost, they will not commit murder because of the love in their heart toward their perceived enemy, therefore the believer has fulfilled the law of God. We are commanded by God to love our enemies, not murder them.
Furthermore, man’s law allows men (and believers) to commit adultery, divorce, have abortions, commit bribery, usury and more. Though these ordinances are allowed by man, is the believer free to do these things apart from God’s law? “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” Romans 6:1.
Jesus addressed this very issue suggesting that believers should not follow after those who make the laws simply because they sit in positions of authority. He says; “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not." St. Matt. 23:3.
Though the men of today write laws and ordinances for the public to follow, the scriptures say that as believers we are strangers passing through this land but we should follow the Word of the Lord first before the ordinances of man, because they write the laws but do not follow them themselves. 1 Peter 2:9-11.
Believers should observer the laws of the land, of course, but if the law permits ungodly behavior, we should obey God instead. Permissively, the laws of the land are written for evildoers, not for those that do well, believers should not fear the laws and should easily submit to authority. However, there is a fine line between legality and sin.