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The Limits of Authority
In the foundational political treatise, Vindiciae Contra Tyrranos (A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants) first published in 1579, the author under the pen name Junius Brutus appealed to the reigning king of France for a just and righteous government.
The treatise was divided into four sections, the first of which explored The Limits to Authority. The statement is made, "It is the responsibility of princes to know the extent of their authority and of subjects to know to what extent they may obey princes."
Today, we are faced with a great number of people who promote their concept of separation of Church and State as keeping God out of civil government. In the days of France's King Henry or in the 1760s and 70s as the American patriots dealt with England's King George, kings had a similar attitude as that of politicians today-let God run the heavens, but we run the earth.
Most people alive today have never given thought as to the extent of their obligation to obey the civil authorities. In the United States, we are taught simply to obeyâ€¦ just as were the citizens in Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. And very few civil authorities ever give a moment's notice to what God might have to say about their actions.
Where do all civil rulers get their authority? Brutus says it simply, "God reigns by His own proper authority, and kings by derivation." In a society which votes for its representatives and rulers, we labour under the false assumption that authority to rule comes from the people. But any authority given by "the people" only comes via an indirect route from God Himself.
Any law, any ruling, any edict must first be filtered through the moral and ethical standards which the Lord God established in Scripture. Anything less becomes a rebellion against God Himself.
In Vindiciae it is stated, "Currently, it is commonly understood that if someone disobeys a prince concerning a commandâ€¦.he will be considered a rebelâ€¦ But he should be condemned and held as truly rebellious who does not obey God, or who obeys the king when he forbids to yield obedience to God."
Brutus gives several Biblical examples, but the most obvious is that of Israel's King Saul as he refuses to do what God had commanded thru the prophet Samuel, but then expects to make it all better by offering a sacrifice. Samuel is explicit in saying "Because you have rejected the word of the Lordâ€¦"
"It is much more grievous to offend the Creator than the creature, who is the image of the Creator."