Civil Government: An Exposition of Romans 13:1-7, Part 4 by James Wilson

Part 4

The design of the appointment of civil rulers, or of the institution of civil government.

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.” Verse 3.

This and the subsequent section furnish us with the key to the entire passage. Had the apostle merely enjoined subjection to civil authorities, as he does in the terms of the first and second, adding no explanations, giving no clue to the character of the power to which his injunction is designed to apply, it would have been difficult, perhaps impossible, from the passage itself, to have shown any limitations — we might have been compelled to resort mainly to other Scriptures for light as to the duty really, after all, enjoined. We might, indeed, have obtained some light from the term ( ) and from the phrase ( ) we could have evaded the advocate of “passive obedience and non-resistance,” but we would almost have despaired of convincing him. But with the apostle’s own explanations all is clear. He enjoins obedience, but he adds a reason drawn from the character of the power, and so limits, most clearly and conclusively, his own injunction: “for rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.”

1. Paul here defines a government set up and engaged in attending to its appropriate functions: “Rulers are not a terror,” &c. Hitherto, the subject has been government — civil government as a divine institution. Here, for the first time, we meet with a direct reference to magistrates actually employed in administering the affairs of the commonwealth, including, of course, legislators, judges, and executive officers. This change of phraseology is not without design. It is clearly intended to establish a distinction — a distinction existing in the very nature of the case between the institution of government and governors themselves. The institution of government is to be studied, governors are to be tried, or if the expression be more correct, the entire character and operations of government, as it actually exists, urges its claim upon the citizen and the Christian.

2. The governors to whom the injunction of Paul applies “are not a terror to good works.” To what does Paul here refer? to what class of “works?” Does this phrase mean no more, as Tholuck explains it, than such works as are the opposite of resistance and rebellion? Most certainly not. Such an interpretation puts an entirely new meaning upon the phrase “good works,” and would, moreover, fix upon the apostle the charge of expressing himself with an unaccountable obscurity and meagerness. Does it mean such “works” as industry, honesty, and the orderly discharge of common, social, and relative duties? No doubt these are included in it. But even this is a very defective interpretation. There must be added, at least, such things as come under the head of common morality. But we go farther. Paul here speaks, not as a mere heathen philosopher, but as a Christian minister, and an apostle of Christ. What then are “good works?” The answer is clear. They are such as the law of Christ demands: they are all the external results and fruits of the operations of the Spirit of Christ. Among these, as already intimated, will be found all that is comprehended under the name of morals; but they include much more — Sabbath sanctification, the public profession of the name and truth of Christ — His worship, and efforts to advance his kingdom and interest. Thus Ephesians 2:10. “Created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” II Timothy 3:17. “That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” I Timothy 3:1. “He that desireth the office of a bishop desireth a good work.” II Thessalonians 2:17. “Stablish you in every good work and work;” this good work being, in part, what is referred to elsewhere in addressing the Thessalonian church, that from them “the word of the Lord had sounded out.” Revelation 2:26. “And he that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations;” and, finally, Revelation 14:13. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord — that they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them.”

It is not denied that, in most of these passages and similar ones, works of morality are meant; but in some, the immediate and only reference is to “works” peculiarly denominated religious, and in no instance can these be excluded. How can we imagine that Paul departed, in the passage before us, from the current meaning which every Christian attaches to this phrase.16 Now, to such “works” magistrates — those referred to by the apostle — will not be “a terror.” Against such as practice these, he will enact no laws. And does not the principle already taught, that magistracy is the “ordinance of God,” abundantly confirm this? It is, in fact, a most serious error, and one that has led to many others, that God has ordained any institution among men, or sanctions any, in which the promotion of his glory as the Supreme Law-giver, and the alone object of worship and religious homage, is not a chief end. “The Lord hath made all things for himself,” Job 16:27. And of every people, in a certain sense, does God say, as He said with a peculiar emphasis of ancient Israel, and says of the Church, “This people have I formed for myself, to show forth my praise.” This is expressly asserted of the family relation, Malachi 2:15. And as to government, who questions that among the patriarchs, all authority, including what we now term civil, was to be so employed? We cannot conceive of an intelligent and devout patriarch, or subject of patriarchal government, who would not regard the patriarchal authority as given for the glory of God, in the patronage of “good works” of a religious, as well as of a common moral character. And finally, God himself gave a government to his own chosen Israel, and in defining its powers and functions, leaves no doubt that all the “good works” to which this government was not to be “a terror,” were works such as have been specified above as those, in part, intended by Paul. In short, there is every reason — the phrase itself—  the ends of the institution of government —  its history and the direct teachings of the Most High in the institutes given to Israel —  to believe that among the works here meant are those that come under the head of religion — religion in its exterior manifestations.

Now, to such, “rulers are not a terror.” Such rulers as Paul refers to will so legislate, so judge, so apply law, as that not only the upright and peaceable, but the fearers of God and the servants of Christ, will be subject to no hindrance, exposed to no danger from the civil arm, in their Christian profession and efforts: such rulers will so act as that Christ may be preached, his law defended, his authority maintained, his church propagated, without fear of offending “the powers that be.”

3. These rulers use their powers for the restraint of evil — “but a ‘terror to the evil.’” To ascertain the import of the term “evil,” we have only to institute a contrast between this clause and the preceding. “Good works” as such works as are appropriate to the honest, peaceable and moral. Of course, “evil works” are such as dishonesty, turbulence, theft, and all gross departures from morality.

“Good works” are such as honor Christ, the Sabbath, the Scriptures, and the name and supreme dignity of a Three-one God. “Evil” works are such as are adverse to all these — blasphemy, profanity, idolatry, and Sabbath violation. Can it be possible that an inspired apostle could use this term in any narrower sense, particularly in defining a divine ordinance?

To all these the rulers here meant are for a “terror.” They enact such laws, and so administer these enactments, as that all disorder, vice, and open disregard to God and religion may be discountenanced, and, when circumstances demand this, restrained.

Here, again, we may appeal to collateral sources of argument, to the uniform testimony of the Word of God, and to the examples of all enlightened nations. To the former we need only refer. From the patriarchal ages onward until the cannon of Old Testament revelation — none can doubt that divinely approved civil governments, and acts of civil rulers, are of this character — a “terror to evil works;” and in the New, so far as this aspect of national institutions is referred to, we have but the continuation of the same teachings. “The law,” says Paul — meaning, in part, at least, the law of God as established among the Jews—  “is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners,” &c.; and “if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.” (Timothy 1:9, 10) Nor has any Christian nation found itself able fully to reduce to practice any other theory. In words, many do, indeed, deny that acts injurious to morality even, and more, that acts hurtful to religion, can rightfully become subjects of cognizance by the magistrate; but just so far as Christian principle has made itself felt, either directly or by tradition, among any people, have they been obliged to conform to the apostle’s definition; very defectively it is true, in most instances, but still sufficiently to show that Christian sense and a regard for the general welfare of society, will not be satisfied without some acknowledgement of the principle. Hence, the laws by which the Sabbath is guarded — laws against shameful vices — laws against blasphemy and profanity —  or to present the same fact in a more general and more striking form, where is the government that would think itself justifiable in guarding against the spread of acknowledged moral good, as they do of moral evil?

Nor does it weaken the force of our argument, drawn from the practice of nations, that the legislation to which we have referred is affirmed to be only an indirect way of answering what some call the only end of civil rule — the preservation of peace and of property. At all events, it is admitted to be necessary: and if necessary, there can be no question whatever that this sort of governmental action was contemplated in the institution itself. So far as our present purpose is concerned, this is enough; for Paul, certainly, did not intend to omit, in his definition of the function of rulers, a class of acts without which they cannot carry on a permanently wholesome administration of affairs.

On every ground, then, we maintain that Paul designs, in these phrases, to furnish us with a summary, but very comprehensive, view of the official character of such rulers as may lawfully claim our conscientious allegiance and subjection. They are such as render themselves “a terror” not to “good works,” in any sound sense, but “to the evil” in every sense in which outward acts are so. Such are the “powers” whom “God has ordained;” such he owns as his “ministers;” the resistance offered to these offends him. All this we will find amply confirmed by the Apostle himself when he proceeds, immediately, to apply the general statement to the different classes of citizens in the State, to the good and the bad.17

16 “For temporal princes — not to punish men for any works that are good in themselves (like those which the Christian religion enjoin towards God and man,”) & c. Guyse in loco.

17 Inferences will be deduced from this section, in connection with those of the subsequent section.

Lucifer Rising, Part 1 by Carl Teichrib

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! —Isaiah 14:12

“LUCIFER, the Light-bearer! Strange and mysterious name to give to the Spirit of Darkness! Lucifer, the Son of the Morning! Is it he who bears the Light…Doubt it not!” —Albert Pike, preeminent Masonic authority, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, p. 321

“A generation would soon be born that had never known a world without Lucifer.” Best selling author and world-renowned scientist, Arthur C. Clarke, penned these words in his science fiction masterpiece, 2010: Odyssey Two–a book/movie sequel to his ground breaking 1968 work, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Unknown to those who only watched 2010, there was a major difference between the motion picture and the novel. Eerily, the book contained a section titled “Lucifer Rising.”

In Clarke’s Lucifer Rising story line, the hydrogen atmosphere on the planet Jupiter is ignited. The ensuing new “little” sun is dubbed “Lucifer” and illuminates the earth with its light. The result: darkness no longer existed. Fear, suspicion, and crimes of the night disappear. Mankind has become illuminated through the light of Lucifer.

To occultists and New Agers, the symbology of Arthur C. Clarke’s writing was unmistakable. Lucifer, the “light bearer” shines his knowledge (occult “truth”) upon all humanity, chasing away fear and ignorance, and providing mankind with the opportunity to discover his own intellect.

While Arthur C. Clarke helped to perpetuate the occult view of Lucifer, the source authority on the subject of the fallen angel is the Bible. According to Ezekiel, Lucifer was an anointed cherub created by God, he was gifted with wonderful musical abilities, and was adorned with beautiful gemstones. He was also a creature of intelligence, possessing memory and a will–and pride. Scripture makes it clear that he led an angelic rebellion against God, attempting to become “like the Most High” (Isaiah 14). In response God condemned Lucifer, along with those angels who had chosen to follow him in disobedience, and removed them from their exulted heavenly positions. Lucifer–an eternal being–is now named Satan, the devil, the king of death, and the god of this world. Scripture warns us about Lucifer’s current obsession: to twist God’s word, to lead souls to spiritual death, and to assail his wrath against earth’s inhabitants–those whom Christ died for.

While Christianity views Lucifer as the personification of evil, the esoteric teachings of the occult and the New Age movement embrace him as an agent of intellectual and spiritual freedom. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the “mother” of the New Age movement and modern occultism, taught in her Secret Doctrine that Lucifer was “higher and older than Jehovah, and had to be sacrificed to the new dogma” of the Church. She further expressed in her “great work” that Satan, under different god-names, is really an allegory of “Good, and Sacrifice, a God of Wisdom.” Blavatsky believed that Satan was the only god of earth, “is one with the Logos,” and is the “cosmic reflection of God.”

Blavatsky also equated Lucifer with Jesus Christ. This thinking is partially derived from various mystical interpretations of God’s Word. In Revelation 22:16 Jesus is called the “bright and morning star,” and in Isaiah Lucifer is referred to as the “son of the morning” (the NIV also says “son of the dawn”). Mystically and astrologically speaking, the bright and morning star is Venus, which, in the teachings of occult schools, is symbolically Lucifer. And in the solar cults, the morning star is frequently referred to as the Sun, or “son” of the morning, and “son of god.” According to Blavatsky’s esoteric theology, “Lucifer is divine and terrestrial light, the ‘Holy Ghost’ and ‘Satan,’ at one and the same time…” Her Secret Doctrine further stated,

“And now it stands proven that Satan, or the Red Fiery Dragon, the ‘Lord of Phosphorus,’ and Lucifer, or ‘Light-Bearer,’ is in us: it is our Mind – our tempter and Redeemer, our intelligent liberator and Saviour from pure animalism.” (Vol. 2, p. 513)

Thankfully the Bible sets the record straight, and in a very simple and non-confusing manner: 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us: “for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”

For a time the Theosophical Society published Lucifer magazine, a monthly periodical which proclaimed the inverted doctrine of Lucifer coming to redeem humanity. In the February, 1917 issue of Theosophy, the publication of the United Lodge of Theosophists in Los Angeles, an article reprinted from an early edition of Lucifer magazine gives a detailed account of Theosophical creation:

“And, when God said: ‘Let there be light,’ Intelligence was made and light appeared.

“Then, the Intelligence which God had breathed forth, like a planet detached from the Sun, took the form of a splendid Angel and the heavens saluted him with the name Lucifer.

“Intelligence awoke and it fathomed its own depths as it heard this apostrophe of the divine Word, ‘Let there be Light.’ It felt itself to be free, for God had commanded it so to be, and it answered, raising its head and spreading its wings, ‘I will not be Slavery.’…”

“God then unloosed from his bosom the thread of splendour which held back the superb spirit, and as he watched him dive into the night, cutting in it a path of glory, he loved the child of his thought, and smiling with a smile ineffable, he murmured to himself: ‘How fair a thing was this Light!’…”

“Perhaps Lucifer, in plunging into the night, drew with him a shower of Stars and Suns by the attraction of his glory?” (italics in original)

Our present day occult revival is firmly rooted within these teachings. And not unlike today, Theosophy itself sprang up during a surge of occult interest. During the 1800’s, Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, Mormonism, Hermetic Orders such as the Golden Dawn, the blossoming of reincarnation teachings, and the writings of occultists such as Eliphas Levi and Aleister Crowley, had cut deep groves into the spiritual fabric of society. Borrowing from these demonic sources, Helena Blavatsky and her organization became fertile ground for spiritual seekers and experimenters. Theosophy, boiling out of this cauldron of mysticism, not only spawned the New Age Movement, but a host of other mystical orders and schools of thought–including Nazism.

Once hidden within the occult priesthood of the mystery religions, the New Age Movement has now made the teachings of Lucifer available to the public. Hence, a new period of rejuvenated spiritual experimentation has taken shape. But while this new generation of mysticism is flourishing, its Luciferic doctrines are old–going back to the early days of history when a serpent claimed that mankind could “be like God” (Genesis 3:5). Today, the New Age Movement and the secret doctrines of the occult are attempting to do what Lucifer himself tried, to be “like the Most High.” Their claim to the throne: the Satanic “redemption” of man’s intellect.

The Bible plainly tells us that Jesus Christ, not Lucifer, is the savior of humanity. Jesus Christ alone offers salvation from Lucifer’s “illumination” of pride, greed, selfishness, hatred, maliciousness, deceit, pain, and death. Unfortunately, mankind has bought the lie of the dark lord, and is willfully being manipulated to build an earthly kingdom for the Destroyer.

The question boils down to this: Whom will you serve? Jesus Christ, who sacrificed Himself–the light of the world–for our spiritual freedom, or Lucifer, the “father of lies” and binder of souls? You need to choose this day.

“God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” —1 John 1:5-7

Copyright: Carl Teichrib, 2002.

Carl Teichrib, a Canadian-based researcher and writer on globalization, is Chief Editor of Forcing Change – a monthly intelligence journal engaged in analyzing and documenting global economic, political, and socio-religious trends.