On Sunday, December 29, I preached on Romans 13. It was an odd choice for a holiday weekend, but I was trying to wrap up our study of Romans before the New Year and had encountered some weather hurdles right before Christmas. In Romans 13:1, Paul reminds his readers that they are “to be in subjection to governing authorities and there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God.” I used the subheading God “Chose” Hitler as the title of that paragraph in my outline. I put quote marks around the word chose because I don’t really know how to explain it, and really wanted to spend some time discussing God’s permissive will vs. His perfect will. However, that wasn’t the point of the passage and I do prefer to preach the author’s intent!
That said, in the after-service receiving line, more than one person was a little unsettled with the concept, and on Monday, another congregant took the time to message me this:
So Question… On Sunday you said God chose Hitler. My first thought is I do not agree, but that He allowed Hitler to be in charge. The reason being if God chose Hitler He was choosing someone who did evil things. Whereas allowing him to be in charge/rule was just our sinful world playing out in its sinful ways. Change my mind. 🙂
My short or “gut” answer is, I agree! I don’t know how to harmonize Romans 13:1 and James 1:13 any better than that. However, we can’t discount the fact that God wants us to know that He holds these kings and rulers in His hands. Nebuchadnezzar was probably responsible for killing more Jews than Hitler and yet God said, very specifically, of him: “And let a beast’s mind be given to him…in order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes, and sets over it the lowliest of men.” (Babylon was the world-spanning empire and Nebby was the Emperor to whom the Most High was speaking.)
So while God may indeed “allow” rather than “choose”, He is still sovereign and could just as easily “disallow” as He did when He ended the rule of Nebuchadnezzar’s heir, Belshazzar, in a single night! (Daniel 5:30). Perhaps we can think of it this way: God used Cyrus to take out Belshazzar and He used the Allies to take out Hitler. So a ruler can’t rule one minute longer than God allows and, therefore, they rule at His pleasure. With that understanding of God’s will we’ll have to content ourselves! (Job 38-40)