Revisiting Romans 13
In recent years, Christians in particular have interpreted Romans 13 as a command for unlimited submission to government by God. Many proponents of this belief have sat passively by, in the soft pews of their place of worship, while evil has triumphed in most areas of family and church life. In our pacifistic smugness, many have allowed government to become god without even knowing. Yet, when confronted with the true meaning of Romans 13, absurd accusations are shouted in religious rhetoric toward those who would dare to break an unjust law or even to question the almighty government. The opponents of unlimited submission to government are deemed as rebellious, anarchist and disobedient. However, there is no practical, historical or biblical consistency in the shallow arguments of these simpletons.
First of all, unlimited submission to government is not practical. For a philosophy to be a valid philosophy, it must be consistent. As a result, it does not make practical sense to blindly obey a tyrant like Adolf Hitler or deem a law such as abortion on demand a legitimate law just because one’s government says it is public policy. However, if Romans 13 teaches unlimited submission to government, then we must obey and acknowledge all laws, good and bad, as the will of God. If all governments are of God, then all laws are of God. This is not practical from any point of view.
Second, it is not historical. Our founding fathers recognized and understood tyranny and despotism. They perceived the ultimate end of the king’s actions. Thus, they besought George III to relent in his persecutions and implored him to uphold his covenantal agreement.
In July of 1774, our forefathers met in Fairfax County, Virginia, and considered ways of forcing Great Britain to redress American grievances. George Washington and George Mason were the instrumental agents in drafting what has come to be known as the “Fairfax Resolves.”
Ponder for a moment Resolves five and six:
“Resolved that the claim lately assumed and exercised by the British Parliament, of making all such Laws as they think fit, to govern the people of these colonies, contrary to the first Principles of the Constitution, and the original Compacts by which we are dependent upon the British Crown and Government; but is totally incompatible with the privileges of a free people, and the natural Rights of Mankind; will render our own Legislatures merely nominal and nugatory, and is calculated to reduce us from a state of freedom and happiness to slavery and misery.”
“Resolved that Taxation and Representation are in their nature inseparable; that the right of withholding, or of giving and granting their own money is the only effectual security to a free people, against the encroachments of Despotism and Tyranny; and that whenever they yield to one they quickly fall prey to the other.”
All of the Resolves are loaded with bullets that explode against a tyrannical and despotic government. The “shot that was heard around the world on Lexington green was loaded in the “Fairfax Resolves.” How can one make that statement? After pleading with George III to uphold his covenantal agreement and after seeking for a redress of grievances, the “coup de grace” is plainly stated in the twenty-third Resolve:
“Resolved that it be recommended to the Deputies of the General Congress to draw up and transmit an humble and dutiful petition and remonstrance to his Majesty, asserting with decent firmness our just and constitutional Rights and Privileges, lamenting the fatal necessity of being compelled to enter into measures disgusting to his Majesty and his Parliament, or injurious to our fellow subjects in Great Britain; declaring the strongest terms of duty and affection to his Majesty’s person, family and government, and our desire to continue our dependence upon Great Britain; and must humbly beseeching his Majesty, not to reduce his faithful subjects of America to a state of desperation, and to reflect, that from our Sovereign there can be but one appeal.”
In simple terms, the Resolves offered George III two obvious choices. One was to fulfill his covenantal obligations and be the king and ruler to the American colonists that he had agreed to be, or second, to prepare for war. George III was asked to “reflect upon the fact, that if he did not keep his end of the covenant, there could be but one appeal!”
Last and most importantly, it is not biblical. Daniel disobeyed King Darius and went to the lion’s den. The three Hebrew children broke the law for not bowing. The parents hid the baby Moses from Pharaoh. Rahab lied to protect the Hebrew spies. The Apostles went to prison for preaching Christ in the authority of Heaven. Paul and his followers in Acts 17 did contrary to all the decrees of Caesar in order to make Jesus the King. Even Jesus lived in direct opposition of the political religious leaders of his day and went to the cross for us.
Romans 13 is a treatise by Paul the Apostle on the institution of model government. As we rightly divide the word of truth and take this passage in its total context, we will discover seven truths.
1. Good government is ordained by God.
2. Government officials are to be good ministers who represent God.
3. We the people must obey good and godly laws.
4. As we relate Romans 13 to America, our U.S. Constitution is the higher power, not the IRS tax code.
5. Good government is not to be feared.
6. In America we are to pay honor and custom and constitutional taxes to whom it is due.
7. Government is to protect the righteous and punish the wicked.
As a result, we have a practical, historical and biblical mandate to fervently disobey any unconstitutional laws and all government officials who cease to be good ministers of Jesus Christ. God almighty is the only power that deserves unlimited obedience.
Both the Clinton and Bush Administrations Began with an Assault on Religion
On January 20, 1993 William Jefferson Clinton was sworn in as the 42nd President of the United States, on February 28 his Attorney General Janet Reno personally ordered Federal Agents to begin what would be a 51 day siege of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas that ended in the fiery deaths of 86 members of this Seventh Day sect including many women and children. On January 20, 2001 George Walker Bush was sworn in as the 43rd President of the United States, on February 13 his Attorney General John Ashcroft personally ordered the raid on the Indianapolis Baptist Temple in Indianapolis, Indiana that resulted in worshipers being hauled out of a prayer meeting, the buildings padlocked and eventually sold and the sanctuary bulldozed to make room for a Charter School where a Christian School once stood with several hundred enrolled. It should be noted that both men put their hand on the Holy Bible as they took the oath to uphold the Constitution of the U.S. which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion nor prohibit the free exercise thereof” and yet Mr. Ashcroft has admitted that destroying a Christian church was his first act after he took office.
Mr. Ashcroft devoted six pages of his recent book Never Again to the Baptist Temple events. The following article written by Pastor Robert McCurry of Sharpsburg, Georgia sets the record straight. We are reprinting this excellent article in this issue:
Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft Maligns Indianapolis Baptist Temple in New Book By Robert McCurry
Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has written a book entitled Never Again- Securing America And Restoring Justice (Center Steel, 2007). He devotes seven pages of his book to what he describes as “a sixteen-year dispute between the Indianapolis Temple and the Internal Revenue Service.” Since he, as U.S. Attorney General, knew the truth about this “dispute” it is amazing to see that his remarks are marred by a number of deliberate egregious untruths and distorted personal representations that are apparently intended to malign the Indianapolis Baptist Temple. (ibid pp 93-100)
Here is a list of these egregious untruths and distortions:
One, Ashcroft accuses Indianapolis Baptist Temple of “tax evasion.” This is untrue. The Internal Revenue service never accused Indianapolis Baptist Temple of “tax evasion.” Where is Ashcroft’s evidence of such a charge?
Two, Ashcroft correctly states: “The church . . . stopped withholding federal income tax, Social Security, and Medicare taxes from the paychecks of its employees….1 The employees paid their own taxes on the money they received from the church.” This was the crux of the controversy. The IRS alleged the church failed to collect and remit these referenced taxes, but Ashcroft acknowledges that these referenced taxes were paid by those who “received money from the church.”
Three, Ashcroft states: “The church itself continued to accrue back taxes, penalties, and interest . . .” This is untrue. Indianapolis Baptist Temple was nontaxable and had no tax liabilities in any amount.r others.” This is a ludicrous statement designed to malign the character and integrity of Dr. Greg Dixon. The same statement can be made of President George Bush or any other leader. But why make such a statement when there was no evidence or even suspicions of such a probability? The answer is obvious.
Two, Ashcroft implies that Indianapolis Baptist Temple was similar or akin to the Branch Davidians who were accused of hoarding weapons, World Trade Center Terrorists, Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh, and the militia movement at large in America. The answer is obvious.
Three, Ashcroft implies that Indianapolis Baptist Temple was not a people of peace and had no respect for authorities; protested and acted with violence to further their religious views; was similar to those who bomb abortion clinics. Why make such comparisons and raise such suspicions when there is no evidence to substantiate these things? The answer is obvious.
Some astounding and alarming statements made by Ashcroft:
One, Ashcroft admits that the government seizure of the Indianapolis Baptist Temple’s properties was “the first incident in U.S. history in which a church was seized by the IRS for tax reasons.”
Two, Ashcroft admits that he sacrificed the congregation of the Indianapolis Baptist Temple to prove that he was sincere at his Senate confirmation hearings. “For all the fuss during my confirmation hearings by the ACLU and other liberal groups fretting whether or not I would uphold the law in cases that touched on matters of faith, hardly a word was reported when the Christian attorney general enforced the law in the church tax evasion case. “
Three, Ashcroft, a professing Christian and an Assembly of God lay preacher, admits that he used his power as the U.S. Attorney General to enforce his religious beliefs. “I was deeply concerned over the standoff. Yet on the other hand, Christians obey the law and ‘render to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar.’ In other words, pay your taxes! The Indianapolis Baptist Temple defied that scriptural injunction as well as the law of the land. And I was sworn to uphold that law.”
Four, Ashcroft is double-tongued as illustrated by the following: “He complicated his already controversial appointment as Attorney General of the United States, when he spoke at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. In this speech, Attorney John Ashcroft told the students the historical facts ‘that America’s greatness stems from the triumph of ‘eternal authority’ over ‘civic authority’ [and] said the United States was founded by spiritual patriots who bucked the king of England’s tax collectors by saying, ‘We have no king but Jesus’”. (One Nation Under God, Dr. David C. Gibbs, Jr. President Christian Law Association With Jerry Newcombe, Christian Law Association, 2003-06, p 317).
Interestingly, Ashcroft applauds the “spiritual patriots who bucked the king of England’s tax collectors” for objecting to individual taxation and even commends them for proclaiming, “We have no king but Jesus.” But in contradistinction, he applauds America’s “tax collectors” for prosecuting Indianapolis Baptist Temple and seizing church properties for alleged taxes it did not owe. He further condemns Indianapolis Baptist Temple for its stand and proclamation that Jesus Christ is the sole Lord and Head of His Church and the IBT congregations position that “We have no King but Jesus!”
Five, Ashcroft admits that it was his decision to seize the church. “The night before we planned to make a move on the church, we received word from the White House: they wanted to send a representative to negotiate with the church leaders. I thought that was a bad idea and told the White House so . . . I was finally able to convince the White House . . . Late that night, the White House dropped their objections to our recommendation, and our plan proceeded. ‘If you want to do this, the burden of responsibility is on you,’ they said. . . . I gave the order to go ahead at dawn the next morning. Fully armed U.S. marshals stormed the church, executing the plan perfectly”. George W. Bush was President at that time.
Six, in essence Ashcroft says that Indianapolis Baptist Temple is unlike Christ and he slanders pastors, churches, and Christians in general who believe that Jesus Christ is the sole Lord and only Head of His Church.
It will be wise for every pastor and church in America to remember: What civil government can do to one pastor and church in America it can — and eventually will — do to every pastor and church in America!
Wake up, preachers! Wake up, Christians! Wake up, America!
Robert McCurry is the former pastor of the Heritage Baptist Church of Sharpsburg, Georgia and is the Editor of the outstanding newsletter entitled The Wake Up Herald. Pastor McCurry may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Pastors and Congregation of IBT owe a great debt to Bro. McCurry for the many hours that he has given through the years at his own expense on behalf of our church without remuneration.
1The position of IBT throughout their court case was that those who ministered at the church in whatever capacity were not employees as defined by the Internal Revenue Code, but rather ministers as defined by the Holy Scriptures exercising their spiritual gifts in the ministry of the Lord’s church for love gifts that the church was able to provide. There was even an understanding that if the church did not have the funds that they would not receive their love gifts, or they might be late in receiving them which did happen through the years.
Beginning in 1984, after the church stopped operating as a legal entity such as a corporation or unincorporated association, it no longer withheld taxes of any kind on the “employees”, which they were when the church was incorporated, including FICA taxes.
At that point if they believed they had a tax liability, they paid their own and the record shows that as Ashcroft said in his book, all taxes were paid. If in fact all taxes were paid, how could the church have a $6 million tax liability including penalty and interest? At least three times, in face to face meetings, we told the IRS agents that all taxes had been for the assessment period. They also audited approximately fifty of our ministers and verified that it was true. Now it stands to reason, that if all taxes were paid, there could be no tax liability on the part of the church. But because our educational ministry had not signed the FICA tax exemption form, and we had not collected the tax, their position was, we had broken the law. However to do either on the part of the church would have not only violated the scriptures concerning the Lordship of Christ over the church, but also would have run roughshod over the U.S. and Indiana Constitutions in the area of the Religious Liberty clauses.