Sunday, November 13, 2005

Coercive Power

Paul says judges “bear the sword” (Rom 13;4). The sword is a symbol of punishment. This is a confirmation of the Old Testament teaching that judges have the power of coercion. They do not need to turn the other cheek or repay evil with good (Rom 12:21), but are required to punish those who break the law. This can only be done by using force.

This passage is not a justification of absolute political authority or democratic political powers. It is a confirmation of the role of judges as developed in the books of the law. God instituted rule by law which must include enforcement by judges. This is the authority that was instituted by God.

Paul warns that resisting what God has instituted is dangerous. This is a challenging thought. We think that a Parliament is better than a King, but neither is instituted by God. A parliament puts the law of the people above God’s law applied by judges. A king put his own laws above God’s law. So any nation that is ruled by a king or a parliament is “is rebelling against what God has instituted” and will “bring judgment on themselves”.

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