Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God?

Posted by Chris Parker
Dec 14 2008

Graphic: First Committee’s Reverse Side of the Great Seal Design

“In the story of America’s Great Seal, a particularly relevant chapter is the imagery suggested by Benjamin Franklin in August 1776. He chose the dramatic scene described in Exodus, where people confronted a tyrant in order to gain their freedom. ….s8int.com

“Pharaoh sitting in an open Chariot, a Crown on his head and a Sword in his hand, passing through the divided Waters of the Red Sea in Pursuit of the Israelites: Rays from a Pillar of Fire in the Cloud, expressive of the divine Presence and Command, beaming on Moses who stands on the shore and extending his hand over the Sea causes it to overwhelm Pharaoh.”

“Motto: Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.”

Franklin’s design was recommended by the first committee for the reverse side of the Great Seal. The above realization was made by Benson J. Lossing for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in July 1856. The first committee made no sketch (that survives) of their design – one that is more historical than religious

Thomas Jefferson liked the motto “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God” so much, he used it on his personal seal. Also, it seems to have inspired the upper motto on the final reverse side of the Great Seal: Annuit Coeptis (God has favored our undertakings).

“Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God” echoes the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. . . whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” …..greatseal.com

Romans 13:1-7
1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor..

12 Responses

  1. Marty says:

    Interesting article. I’m just confused why a scripture commanding obedience to leaders is listed following an article that is about rebellion and abolishment of existing government. If our Founding Fathers had followed this scripture, then the USA would not exist today. That is the very reason I have never made peace with this verse. I am a sincere Christian. I’m just unsure as to how the writer of Hebrews intended for this verse to be understood. Because, if taken at face value, no government, no matter how corrupt or vile, would ever be overthrown. Otherwise, where do you draw the line between obedience and disobedience/rebellion? I’d love to hear other opinions on this scripture.

  2. Administrator says:

    You caught that did you Marty? There was a question mark after the title.

    That quote by Franklin is really kind of romantic, wishful thinking. God was not going to overthrow Pharaoh in that particular situation if he had let the people go.

    The Bible also says:1 Peter 2:18
    Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.

    Here’s the point of both verses IMHO; the people of this world see their circumstances in this world as paramount. The Christian sees their circumstances in eternity as paramount.

    Are you a slave to a man? Obtain your freedom if you can but the greater question is; are you a slave of the devil or a slave of Christ and God?

    Are you under a tyrant like King George, but right with God?; Then you are blessed. Have you freed yourself from King George but not from the tyranny of sin and the devil?

    Then you have done yourself no good by freeing yourself from the tyrant and you both serve the same master.

    More blessed is he who is a child of God, though he be a slave than any man who ever lived no matter how great if his soul will spend eternity in hell.

    Is it better in this world to live in peace and to have a benevolent government? By all means but no matter who is in charge, according to Hebrews. live a quiet, obedient life of a Christian, endure hardship and spend eternity in heaven because all of this will pass away in a short while…..

  3. shiv says:

    I found an interesting video on youtube. Administrator i would like you to see this:
    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=eURZtG_uCtU&feature=related
    I have no idea if it is fake or not.

  4. grammy says:

    This video was addressed to “Professor Sogub”: looks like a backward spelling of BOGUS.

  5. Administrator says:

    Shiv,

    I did not see your link until I saw “Grammy’s” post but she is right about the name. The worst part is the bad acting.

  6. jarhead says:

    This iw hy people like me trying to keep telling people like you that WE DO NOT LIVE IN A CHRISTIAN NATION.

    If you go back to the legal theory used in the deistic language used in the founding documents, you figure out very quickly what these men were trying to accomplish. Church and state intermingling always results in a corrupted church becoming an oppressive tool of an out of control government. They wanted neither of these things.

    Then you arrive at the most important realization… all human laws are fiction. Yep, I said it, it’s all made up to give the illusion of structure for them that need it. You see if all men may go boldly before the throne of heaven, then all men are created equal, period, the end. Therefore no man has any more authority than what the rest of us grant him by our silence.

    This is in sharp contrast to the laws of God, which are absolute whatever we have to say about them because the Creator is and always will be greater than the creation.

    1 Samuel 8:7: “And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me for being king over them.” Go back and read 1 Samuel chapter 8, and ask yourself if this debate doesn’t sound familiar. The Hebrews demanded an earthly king to replace their loose system of tribal government, and Samuel though it a horrible idea.

    The people would be heavily taxed, their sons conscripted into the military, their daughters and lesser sons turned into civil servants, and all to glorify a human that would steal the spotlight from the Almighty every chance that he got. They told Samuel that’s what they would take, and so God granted their request.

    Human authority always morphs into the worship of the power of the state. It becomes the ultimate idol. The phrase “cradle to grave” comes to mind. Our Lord had no intention of installing a false earthly king over the Hebrews, but the people cried out for a symbol of earthly power and authority. That slot in our lives is supposed to be reserved for our Lord.

    Being the crafty men that our founders were, they figured out how to avoid making Christianity the official church but still invoke the power of the Creator. You see, by making the claim that we have inalienable rights granted from our Creator, they literally gave each man in the states the same legal status as the king in Britain, effectively turning each man into an earthly sovereign without any subjects. By not naming any specific creator then it wouldn’t matter what or who the people prayed to, because these principles would always be attributed to that power and life and liberty would go on. The church would stay uncorrupted and the people would not have to live with the weight of a king that the Lord didn’t even want them to have.

    We are all free men, the earthly equal to any earthly king, and as freemen we are the Lord’s slaves. You’ll note that the United States of America has had a greater missionary presence in history than all other nations combined, and that’s the reason.

    If Romans 13 and this verse in Hebrews still bothers you so much, remember our military personnel do not take an oath to obey orders; they first swear to “protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic.” At least that was the oath I was administered.

    I submit to you, that in these United States, Caesar is in actuality those words that form our government, the ideas and writings that can be used to strike down any new law passed by any current man supposedly running things. The writings of our founders are our binding authority, so ask yourself are you rendering unto Caesar that which has been asked of you? Have you read the Federalist Papers? Are you familiar with your Constitution and it’s Amendments? Have you read the history of men like Adams, Washington, Jefferson, et cetera?

    If “tyranny” can be defined as “unconstitutional”, then YES resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.

  7. Administrator says:

    Jarhead,

    I think that your comments are addressed to Marty but as I understand what you’ve said, I basically agree. This country is certainly not a Christian nation in that way that many Christians in the U.S. believe it is; and that is God’s chosen nation in th same way Israel was.

    This is why many “Christians” thought it was ok to attack Iraq, even if they didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, even if innocent people were killed because you know what? Whatever the U.S. does is God’s work–so they believe.

    As great as this country is, when it does wrong Christians should say so–and when it does right–by God’s Word Christians should support that-and only that. God blesses the work and hands of whomever is His whereever they are. It would then benefit Americans to be Christians and to follow God in the way our currency suggests.

  8. Marty says:

    Jarhead,

    Sorry it took me so long to read your post. Life gets crazy around the holidays. Like Administrator, I tend to agree with what you said. It is obviously well thought out and very compelling.

    I’m still not sure how someone living in a place like North Korea, for example, is supposed to act on Hebrews 13:17. Should they obey Kim Jong Il. Should they obey him except when he violate’s God’s Law. Should they do as they please.

    I tend to lean towards the middle option. But, then again, I have a strong tendency to not feel compelled to follow laws that I feel violate my freedom even when they don’t necessarily violate God’s Law. I don’t know if this is justified or if this is simply me being rebellious against man’s law that God feels I should accept.

    I like your thought that we are only bound to the founding documents. But, I’m not sure how citizens of other countries would take that. Citizens in Europe, for example, have lost much more freedom than we have in the U.S. But, they don’t have our noble founding documents to fall back on. Are they just out of luck?

    How is a person supposed to be a citizen of any particular country, live the life of a free man, and not be in violation of this scripture? In fact, on the face of it (I have not checked into the validity of the translation from the Greek) it seems like our very Founders were grossly violating this scripture by leading a rebellion against England! Lord knows I am glad they did! But, how would they harmonize their actions with this scripture?

    Personally I tend to err on the side of personal freedom. But, this scripture has always nagged at me when it comes to some of those decisions.

  9. Yosemite1967 says:

    Administrator, jarhead, and Marty, notice that verse seven of that chapter in Hebrews says, “Remember them which have the rule over you, WHO HAVE SPOKEN UNTO YOU THE WORD OF GOD: WHOSE FAITH FOLLOW, considering the end of their conversation.” This seems to give verse seventeen a little more context.

    Also, by reading quickly through the whole book of Hebrews, you might notice that one of the main foci of the book is on the PRIESTHOOD, which is the authority that God gives to his ministers to speak in His name and to organize and rule in His church, perhaps giving the book of Hebrews a sort of “in-the-church” kind of context.

    So I would submit that “them which have the rule over you” might be referring to church/priesthood leaders and not political leaders. This might reconcile God’s word as written in the Bible with the Spirit that might be trying to write something in your hearts. :^)

  10. Administrator says:

    Yosemite1967 et al.

    People. I made a mistake here. The verse I intially quoted; Hebrews 13 IS referring to the Elders of the church. I’ve replaced the verse with the one I intended to use, Romans 13:

    1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

    So, the answer is, we need to submit to the authority in the church and authority in government–unless those authoritiesrequire you to violate the Word of God. These rulers holdthe sword and collect taxes so there is no question that we are speaking of the civil authorities.

    Also,

    1 Peter 2:13
    Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority,14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

  11. Administrator says:

    From: Brother Shane;

    It also says “I would rather obey God than man”.
    God’s Word nowhere ever puts man’s law above God’s Law.
    God tells a wife to obey her husband…as unto the Lord. But if her husband told her to be a prostitute should she obey him? No. Because that would be against God’s Law.

    Under the tyrannical rule of England, our Founding Fathers were told to obey whatever the King said. It was no different than the tyrannical rule of the Pope.

    But they wanted a nation that was devoted to obeying God and not man. Though they did not have the full understanding of His Word, they followed best they could.

    Pretty simple of you ask me.

  12. Rachel says:

    There’s an interesting article on WorldNetDaily by Joe Farah describing how praying for Obama’s policies to fail actually upholds the Romans scripture, by means of Jesus’ statement to the Pharasees (sp?) to give to Cesar what is Cesar’s, BUT give to God what is God’s. I.E. if your government is going to ask something of you that’s anti-Scriptural, we owe allegiance to God over country any time.

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