Opinion

Christian Lawyer and Church Elder Says Christians Must “Surrender to Unbelievers at Every Level”

I saw an article posted on Facebook with the title “We Must Surrender.” It was written by Carlos Chung who serves as an elder at Grace Community Church in the Mainstream fellowship group and is a lawyer. The article is badly argued and dangerous. Here’s how it begins:

As soldiers of Christ, we are to surrender to unbelievers at every level.

We are to surrender in public and in private, at the macro level and on the micro level, on a national scale and on a private scale. We are to surrender to every secular authority that is placed over us.

As the world becomes more and more secularized, the government will become one of the primary, if not the dominant, aggressors against Christianity. The question becomes, how do we battle against the government when it declares war against Christians and Judeo-Christian values?

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Chung quotes 1 Peter 2:13-15 for support of his position:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as to one in authority, or to Governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God, that by doing right, you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.

Chung’s article is typical of Christians who claim that Christians should do whatever the civil magistrate tells them to do. Chung does point out that there are exceptions:

The only time we are free to disobey the institutional authorities is when they command us to disobey our Lord and Master, but short of that, we are to be exemplary citizens, submissive and reverential to the authorities over us. That’s because every authority has been placed there by God Himself. This is what Pastor MacArthur refers to as evangelistic citizenship.

Peter himself makes this point in two places in the book of Acts:

  • But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (4:19-20).
  • We must obey God rather than men (5:29).

Notice that Peter does not cite these exceptions in his call to “submit … to every human institution.” Did he change his mind? Not at all. Peter’s admonition tells us that we must evaluate our submission to authority (not surrender) in terms of the entire Bible (2 Pet. 3:16-17). Chung admits there are exceptions but does not explain why Peter does not mention them. Would Peter’s first readers have had access to the book of Acts?

The Hebrew midwives were commanded by “the king of Egypt” to put to death all the male children being born to the Hebrew women (Ex. 1:15‑16). The Hebrew midwives disobeyed the edict of the king: “But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live” (1:17).

The midwives had to make a choice. Did God’s law overrule the command of a king, even “the king of Egypt”? God shows His approval of their actions: “So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied and became very mighty. And it came about because the midwives feared God, that He established households for them” (1:20‑21). The midwives could have refused by saying that they were required to surrender to unbelievers at every level.

There’s a double whammy here. The Hebrew midwives were slaves. Notice what else Peter commands:

Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable (1 Pet. 2:18).

Pharaoh was unreasonable. God did not command the midwives to disobey Pharaoh. They “feared God,” Maybe more Christians should “fear God” and not remain passive as the enemies of God are dominating our culture.

Jochebed, Moses’ mother, disobeyed the edict of Pharaoh by hiding her child and later creating a way of escape for him so he would not be murdered by Pharaoh’s army: “But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile” (Ex. 2:3). Jochebed even deceived Pharaoh’s daughter into believing that she, Jochebed, was in no way related to the child (2:7‑9).

Should “righteous Gentiles” have acted against the State and hidden Jews during Nazis extermination policies? Was it OK for Christians to assist Jews to escape Germany by lying to government officials?

Rahab hid the spies of Israel and lied about their whereabouts. When a route for escape became available, she led them out another way from that of the pursuing soldiers. The king issued a command to Rahab: “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land” (Josh. 2:3). She disobeyed a direct command of the “king of Jericho.”

Some want to maintain that Rahab was right in “welcoming the spies in peace” (Heb. 11:31), but she was wrong in lying about the whereabouts of the spies. The following is a representative example of this line of thinking:

We see, therefore, that neither Scripture itself nor the theological inferences derived from Scripture provide us with any warrant for the vindication of Rahab’s untruth and this instance, consequently, does not support the position that under certain circumstances we may justifiably utter an untruth.1

“Welcoming them in peace” means that the spies would not fall into the hands of the king of Jericho which would have meant certain death if they had. Rahab had changed her allegiance from Jericho to Israel. Conditions of war were operating. If she had told the truth to the men seeking the two spies, then she would have been an accomplice in their deaths (cf. Psalm 50:18).

There is another point that is often missed in the story about Rahab’s lie. “Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim” (Josh. 2:1). The text continues by telling us that “they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab and lodged there.” Joshua says the operation was to be done “secretly,” that is, without revealing the truth of their mission. Are not “spies” in the business of lying?

Rahab is praised by two New Testament writers for her actions: “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace” (Heb. 11:31). Rahab is listed with Abraham as one whose faith was reflected in her works: “And in the same way [as Abraham] was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” (James 2:25). By sending the spies out by another way, she subverted the king’s desire to capture the spies.

Charles Ryrie, the author of the notes in the Ryrie Study Bible, argues that “Scripture teaches complete civil obedience on the part of Christians and does not indicate any exceptions to this principle.”2 Ryrie’s claim is not supported by Scripture.

Anyone familiar with what we call the “Old Testament” would have known that there were specific exceptions to Peter’s absolutist comments.

Did Peter, as a Roman citizen and a Christian, “surrender” to the Roman authorities? He and Silas were taken by force. Consider what happens when Paul and Silas were brought before the Roman “chief magistrates” (Acts 16:19-20).

The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks (16:22-24).

According to Chung, Paul and his associates should have “surrendered” and taken their punishment in peace. But that’s not what happened. There was an earthquake, the jailer was converted, and later the chief magistrates sent their policemen to release Paul and Silas.

Chung might say, “See, God used their persecution and surrender for good.” Yes, He did. Notice what Paul does next:

And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The chief magistrates have sent to release you. Therefore, come out now and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they sending us away secretly? No indeed! But let them come themselves and bring us out.”
The policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, and they came and appealed to them, and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city. They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed (16:36-40).

Were Christians wrong to sue the University of Colorado (Colorado Springs) when it illegally discriminated against the members of a Christian club? Should the Christians have “surrendered”?

Here’s the real problem with Carlos Chung’s article. He does not mention that Christians, especially here in the United States, have the right and freedom to change their government. There is no mention of this key fact in his article. Christians submit to the authorities when they vote to remove enemies of the gospel from office. Failure to account for this freedom makes people like Chung dangerous.

Chung seems to hold a position like that of John MacArthur that there is no place for cultural or political remedies for Christians. All Christians should be concerned about is leading people to Christ. Anything else is superfluous and a distraction.

I’ll discuss some of the other problems with Chung’s views on Wednesday.

  1. John Murray, Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics (London, England: The Tyndale Press, 1957), 139. []
  2. Quoted in Lynn Buzzard and Paula Campbell, Holy Disobedience: When Christians Must Resist the State (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1984), 157. []
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