From Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium
The Function of Human Government
The general function of human government, as instituted by God, may be said to be threefold: to protect, punish, and promote.
1. The Function of Protection: The moment Adam sinned it was obvious that civilizations would need some form of restraint and rule to protect citizens from themselves. An example of this function is seen in Acts 21:27-37> where Roman soldiers step in and save Paul from being murdered by his own enraged countrymen in Jerusalem.
2. The Function of Punishment: Both Paul and Peter bring this out. Paul writes that duly appointed human officials are to be regarded as God's servants to "bear the sword," that is, to impose punishment upon criminals (vv. 3>, 4>). Peter tells us that governors are "sent by him for the punishment of evildoers" (1 Pet 2:13>, 14>).
3. The Function of Promotion: Human government is to promote the general welfare of the community where its laws are in effect. Paul commands us to pray for human leaders "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (1 Tim 2:1>, 2>). New King James Version Notes, Thomas Nelson, p. 1152
Our Responsibility to Human Government (1 Pet 2:13>)
It is impossible for a believer to be a good Christian and a bad citizen at the same time. As children of God our responsibility to human government is threefold:
1. We are to recognize and accept that the powers that be are ordained by God. "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." (Rom 13:1>) This truth applies even to atheistic human governments unless, of course, the law is anti- scriptural. In that situation the believer must obey God rather than man (Acts 4:18-20>). In fact, when Paul wrote those words in Romans 13:1>, the evil emperor Nero was on the throne. See also Titus 3:1>.
2. We are to pay our taxes to human government (Matt. 17:24-7>; 22:21>, Rom. 13:7>).
3. We are to pray for the leaders in human government. "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior" (1 Tim 2:1-3>). New King James Version Notes, Thomas Nelson, p. 1270
We are to take responsibility for the right ordering of civil society without falling prey to the idea that it is within our power to build the Kingdom of God on earth.