If you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
In Romans 13, Paul described a good government–a government that is fulfilling God’s purpose. He said that good government instills fear in evildoers and serves as an instrument of God’s wrath.
In verse 4, Paul said that government “does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” That word “avenger” in Greek is “ekdikos.” It means “an agent of punishment.” That is what government is–an agent of punishment. The purpose of government is not only to prevent evil, but also to bring wrath upon those who do engage in evil. God has given government the power of the sword to execute those who do evil. In Romans 12:19, Paul talked about how we are to treat our enemies. He said, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” God was saying, “Never try to settle the score yourself. Let Me do it.” If somebody has wronged you, do not try to get even. Let God settle the score. Paul was not saying that those who wrong you should not be treated with justice and executed with justice. He was just saying, “Don’t you be the one to do it. Let God do that.”
One way God settles the score is through government. He executes justice for murderers through the power of the sword. That is why I am a strong believer in capital punishment. I believe it is God’s preferred method for dealing with killers. The fact is, when you execute somebody who takes another life, you are extolling the value of life. God said life is so sacred that anyone who takes a human life should have his life taken as well. From the very beginning, God said, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed” (Genesis 9:6). I personally believe that capital punishment helps victims’ families heal more quickly. If they can know with absolute certainty that God through government is going to render justice, then they can let go of bitterness, and they can let go of a desire to settle the score, knowing that God is going to take care of it. And that is why the Bible says one of government’s purposes is to instill fear in evildoers. Government ought to instill a fear that would keep people from wanting to commit atrocities. That is the role of good government.
Good government also serves and seeks the good of the people. In Romans 13:4, Paul said, “It is a minister of God to you for good.” When government fulfills its divinely ordained purpose, it serves the people. But when government ever strays beyond its boundaries into areas it has no business getting in, then it is serving itself. These are the principles of good government.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “To Obey Or Not To Obey” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.