Unlimited: A Matter of Conscience
Sep 4, 2023 147
Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience (Romans 13:5).
Paul here gives us a higher order of moral reasoning. We are not only to obey the civil authorities over us in order to avoid punishment. That is the lowest possible level of moral reasoning. Instead, we are to submit to them as a matter of conscience.
For Paul, a Christian’s “conscience” means more than simply a naturally-derived and individual sense of right and wrong. Here, Paul is referring to submitting to those in authority because it is God’s will for our lives and it is a reflection of our duty to be humble.
We are to submit to them as a matter of conscience.
This is not a blanket commandment that we are to submit to earthly authorities in all things, and some will be quick to point out situations in which earthly laws go against the laws of God’s kingdom. However, rightly understood, we should see that these situations are definitely the exception and not the rule.
The apostle Paul himself experienced this conflict between divine and earthy authority. He was commanded to stop preaching, and he did not obey the government in this. Like Paul, Peter understood that,
It is important to understand, however, the apostles always submitted to government authority in that they didn’t attempt to overthrow or harm those who persecuted them.
Reflect on the story of the apostles. Think about the experiences of Peter and Paul. Where did they draw the line of conscience in submission to earthly authorities? Is that where you would draw the line? Why? Why not?