I recently wrote a blog on God’s sovereignty and ungodly rulers (see here). That led to this question from Bruce:
Thanks, Bob, for your response. I do agree. But could you please explain this a little further within the framework of the American Revolution?
I was hoping to avoid the question.
On the one hand, it seems clear that the American Revolution violated Romans 13:1-7, as well as many other texts in Scripture.
On the other hand, it seems equally clear that the results of the Revolution were extremely positive.
The key in answering this question is avoiding saying things that are contrary to Scripture.
Lots of sinful actions have resulted in great good. The cross is the prime example. It was sinful for the Jews and the Romans to kill the sinless Son of God. Yet He had to die for us so that we could be born again by faith in Him.
One of my top ten verses in the Bible is Gen 50:20. Joseph had been sold into slavery and taken to Egypt. Joseph rose to a position of power in Potiphar’s house. Then he was sent to prison by the sinful actions of Potiphar’s wife. Once again, he rose to power. But the Pharaoh’s cupbearer did not keep his promise to tell Pharaoh about him. Even so, God brought Joseph out of prison, and he rose to the number two position in all of Egypt. During the seven years of famine that struck the earth, Joseph’s brothers came to get food. On their second trip, he revealed himself to them. They were naturally afraid for their lives since they had betrayed him. But his response showed a man with keen spiritual insight: “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day to save many people alive.”
Was Joseph a type of Christ? It sure looks like he was. Genesis 50:20 applies to the cross as well.
My answer, therefore, is that the American Revolution was indeed a violation of Romans 13. But God used those sinful actions to produce good. See this article by Gotquestions.org for more details.
Bruce’s question led me to a two-part question that has bothered me lately: First, was the Civil War a violation of Romans 13? Second, are states free today to secede from the Union without violating Scripture?
It depends on how we understand the Constitution. The Constitution does not explicitly prohibit secession. In fact, many historians say that there was a verbal agreement among the founders that the states were free to withdraw from the Union if they wished. I am not a political scientist. Maybe I am wrong. (Here is an online debate on the issue.) But I think that states pulling out of the Union was not a violation of the Constitution and hence not a violation of Romans 13. Each state is a governing authority in and of itself.
Some people on both sides of the political aisle have suggested it might be time for the U.S. to separate into two separate countries, with blue states becoming one country and red states another. Whether that would be a violation of Romans 13 depends on whether the Constitution prohibits secession.
I will not be joining a modern American Revolution or a modern war between the states. However, if the states chose to divide into two separate countries, or fifty separate countries, I would not be displeased.