By David Bragg
When it came to civil government, Paul's priority was to seek the best possible environment for sharing the gospel. He refused to allow the ill-will of officials to sidetrack his desire to preach Jesus.
Paul's eyes focused on seeking the lost where ever and whenever he could. To make that easier he commanded Christians to submit to governing leaders and ordinances that did not violate their higher obligation to obey God (cf. Acts 4:19-20). They were also instructed to pay taxes (Rom. 13:6-7) and to pray for their often hostile leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-4). Then Paul encouraged them to be busy spreading the good news of Jesus with the world.
As a Roman citizen Paul was not to be bound and publicly beaten. He asserted that right in Acts 22:24-29, which he used as an opening to address a Jewish audience. But he did not always use that privilege (cf. 2 Cor. 11:24-25). He chose not to demand his rights in Philippi, perhaps because to do so would require abandoning Silas (Acts 16:22-23).
He also had the right to escape prejudices of local officials by appealing directly to Caesar's court. However, Paul did not assert that right very often. It was only when he found himself in a situation that could have easily brought his evangelistic efforts to a premature end that he asserted this privilege (Acts 25:11-12). God used this situation to fulfill His promise at Paul’s conversion, "to bear My name before ... kings" (Acts 9:15).
Today we live in an untested political environment. But we are still ruled by the same goals that motivated Paul. Twenty-first century Christians must ask which political candidate and party will create a better, more tolerant atmosphere for carrying out the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
- David Bragg serves as one of the ministers at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC and is co-editor of BulletinGold. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.