One of the central points of division between Catholics and Protestants is in the area of authority. Does the church sit over and alongside the authority of the Bible? Or is the Bible the authority over the church? Catholics affirm the former, as a protestant, I affirm the latter. The church does not regulate the Bible, the Bible regulates the church.
Peter and the Apostles
That central point has many implications in how a person views the world, even politics. The Bible reveals the law of God. The law of God is higher than any earthy authority. That is precisely why Peter and the apostles answered back to the high priest, “We obey must obey God rather than man.” (Acts 5:29) The where and who of authority is consequential. The Apostles understood that the highest authority on earth is God.
John the Baptist
This is the very same foundation that John the Baptist was building on when he confronted Herod. Notice how Luke describes the confrontation between the Wild Man and the Ruler, “So with many other exhortations he preached the good news to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brothers wife, and for the all the evil things that Herod had done”. John the Baptist understood very clearly that Herod was a man under the law of God. That is why John confronted him, not only about Herodias, but about all the evil things Herod had done.
Covid and Romans 13
Romans 13 and 1 Peter 12, became a central point of contention in 2020. Covid hit and then the far more damaging Covid response came from governments large and small. What was the church to do in light of Romans 13? Well, protestants turned Catholic. Well, sort of. Protestants interpreted Romans 13 to mean governing authorities are of higher authority than the commands of God. We understood God-given authority to mean absolute authority. We failed to understand is that even in a Monarchy, God’s law is higher than a King’s. Herod was not the law. Neither was Nero. All human authority is under the rule of God and the regulation of his word.
Another area of confusion for the church has been a failure understanding who is King in America. Consequently, we have a underdeveloped understanding of governing authorities. America was founded by Protestants. They understood that the law is king and the King is not law. Thank you, Samuel Rutherford. Our nation was founded as a constitutional republic with the power of the king spread away from a central person and into the hands of the people. We the people have governing responsibilities in this country. In large part, in 2020, we laid down our civic responsibilities before God and man.
No matter what country you live in and no matter what kind of government presides there, one thing we have to understand is the protestant and Biblical view of God’s law over civil magistrates. Romans 13 does not give governments unquestioned and unregulated authority. No government sits above God’s law. And the people must understand that our submission to any earthly authority stops the second that authority commands or forbids anything contrary to God’s law. We need to rediscover our Protestant roots and stop living like functional Catholics in regard to authority.
Jesus is king everywhere. We must understand and act on that one simple truth! Let’s go!