In Romans 13:1-3 we read, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same” (NKJV). These verses are pretty clear, are they not? All government authorities (including city council members, mayors, governors, all the way up to the President) are “appointed by God.” He has “allowed them to come into power” and we are to obey them.

Of course, if they are asking the believer in Christ to contradict God’s Word we are not compelled to obey them. We have an example of this in Acts chapter 5. Peter and other apostles had been put in prison for preaching the gospel (see verses 12-18) and the Lord sent an angel to set them free and as he brought them out he said, “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life” (verse 20). We learn in verse 21 that they obeyed the angel’s command to preach the word of life, “And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught.” The news of their deliverance from prison and how they were now preaching the Word of God again came to the authorities (verses 22-25). How did they react? Verse 26 tells us officers were sent to bring them to before the council and then the high priest asked them (in verse 28), “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” Instead of being amazed and humbled by their supernatural deliverance from prison the governing authorities continue to command them to quit preaching in the name of Jesus! How did Peter and the apostles respond? “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” This, dear friend, is how we should respond if the government commands us to quit preaching the gospel! Jesus said in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” This command of the Lord Jesus must be obeyed and no governing authority has the right to override this command. If we are faithful we may just find ourselves in prison someday, but whatever happens we will have the peace of mind knowing that we “obeyed God rather than men.”

Now we must face this question, “Is the government’s mandate to limit church attendance a command that contradicts any of God’s commands to us? I don’t believe so, especially when we consider the fact that we are in the middle of a real pandemic. It is not unreasonable, under the circumstances, for the governing officials to restrict people coming together in places where social distancing isn’t possible. Do they sometimes “overreach?” Yes, they do, for in some places they are telling people with large church buildings to have no more than 50 people, or as little as 10. Perhaps, in these cases, they are showing their “anti-Christian sentiment,” but we should still, as we saw, “be subject to the governing authorities” and obey their mandate.

Now let’s address your question about “speaking against the government when they are involved in corrupt acts.” In Jude 8-9 we read, “Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, REJECT AUTHORITY, and SPEAK EVIL OF DIGNITARIES. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!” We learn here that we are never to “speak evil of dignitaries,” even if they are committing acts of corruption. We have a classic example of this in the book of Daniel, for young Daniel was living in the city of Babylon whose ruler (Nebuchadnezzar) was a wicked and corrupt man. But God had allowed him to come to power, even though he was corrupt. “The Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomsoever He will, and sets over it THE LOWEST OF MEN” (Daniel 4:17).  Daniel was submissive to him though in his submission he was careful not to become defiled himself. We see this in Daniel 1:8, “But Daniel purposes in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” Daniel’s submission was to God (first and foremost) and the next verse informs us that God blessed him for this submission, “Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs” (verse 9). Daniel never once spoke evil against Nebuchadnezzar or any other government official and neither should we.

We started out by quoting Romans 13:1-3 and at the time the Apostle Paul wrote those words one of the biggest tyrants that ever lived was on the throne in Rome. His name was Nero and he began a persecution against Christians that ultimately led to Paul being PUT TO DEATH FOR BEING A CHRISTIAN! Yet Paul never spoke evil of him; instead he exhorted believers to OBEY HIM since God had allowed him to come into power. This should be true of us, dear fellow-believer. We are not to be “revolutionaries” who revolt against the government; we are here, as “ambassadors for Christ” to proclaim the gospel and win precious souls to Christ (see 2nd Corinthians 5:17-21). We are “not here to change the world and make it more comfortable to live in”; we are here to be the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth” to bring glory to God and to hold forth the Word of Life so sinners can be saved (see Matthew 5:13-16; Philippians 14-16a; and Acts 16:31). As soul winners we are called “fishers of men” (see Matthew 4:19); this is our great commission from the Lord Jesus (as we saw in Mark 16:15) and thus to become involved in trying to change the world through politics would be a major distraction. A godly, elderly believer used to say, “We are not here to clean up the fish pond; we are here to catch fish!” (433.3)  (DO)