“Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another. But if ye enquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.” (Acts 19:38–39, AV)
In our country there are various levels of governing authorities placed over us. We have laws and courts to adjudicate these laws. These governing authorities and laws are in place for a reason. Primarily they are to maintain order and appropriate behavior among the constituents.
Recently, we have seen a breakdown in certain municipalities, stores in San Francisco have been victimized by mass theft as gangs of people did what is called smash-and-grab. There are many factors that combined to lead up to this rampant lawlessness. One of those is the reduction of the police force. San Francisco is short about 400 officers. Another problem is that the governing authorities in California moved to soften penalties on certain crimes such as making shoplifting a misdemeanor.
The real problem here, besides the moral slide of our culture, is a failure of governance. When we look at the Bible, we see something very important. It is that God instituted civil governments. We see this in In Genesis after the flood, where God covenanted with Noah. This included the conference of the sword of justice to man, human governance.
“And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” (Genesis 9:5–6, AV)
In Romans we read the following in reference to the “higher powers,” referring to the governing authorities.
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” (Romans 13:1–2, AV)
Looking at the riot started by Demetrius and the craftsmen in Ephesus, we see the town clerk, a governing official, rightfully executing the duty of government by quelling the riot. He indicated that matters of disputes between people were issues of law and there were “deputies” anthupatoi¸ also translated as “procounsuls,” who ruled and were to preside over his council as a court of appeals.
Moreover, the clerk mentions that there were no grounds to justify the commotion and that they were in danger of being charged with rioting. He pointed out to the crowd that they were in violation of the Roman law as the province of Asia was under Roman rule. When the clerk brought all this to the attention of the mob, they settled down.
God has instituted human governments for a purpose. In this country, we elect our governing officials. We should seriously consider our privilege of voting, the positions of the candidates, and the purposes of God’s will when we cast our ballots. A failure to have leaders who will govern in ways that align with the will of God can easily lead to a breakdown in government. Moreover, we must pray for our governing officials that they govern in such a way “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 2:2, AV).