For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:4)
There are only two truly God-ordained professions in Scripture — the pastorate and related roles (pastor, minister, elder, deacon), and law enforcement/government (including Godly servant-leadership in government). In fact, our signature passage of Scripture for this ministry — Romans 13:1-4 — deals directly with our God-ordained calling. Our paraphrase of this passage is also incorporated on our website, gear, social media pages and more.
Unfortunately, law enforcement is also a true mission field. Despite our biblical roots and calling, only a very small percentage of officers have a genuine, saving faith in Christ (a “Christian” as God alone gets to define it). Tragically, a great many instead falsely believe that our service in law enforcement earns us a “get out of jail” (ultimately a very real place called hell) card while also “earning” us a place in heaven (a lie from the very pit of hell). In fact, they will take passages of Scripture out of context to “prove” their beliefs that God is mandated to let into heaven (also “dead” wrong).
Accordingly, my purpose here is to dispel these myths while also getting you on the path our Lord would have for us. Are you ready? Let’s dig in.
First, Romans 13:1-4 is in fact about us in law enforcement and civil government in general. Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (the Bible is “God-breathed” on the authors — 2 Timothy 3:16), wrote this passage when the Roman empire was ruled by one of history’s most evil despots in Caesar Nero. Let’s break down the passage verse-by-verse (the short version via the New Living Translation):
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. (Romans 13:1)
God Himself as established all governing authorities, including those of us who serve in law enforcement. Ours is in fact a calling, but this calling comes with a command for us to govern and enforce the law justly. Tragically, both in our own country and so often throughout history, this has rarely been the case when it comes to the highest offices of government (evil, sin).
Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. (Romans 13:2)
Essentially, this refers primarily to the criminal element/law breakers/evildoers (much more can be said on this but I’m staying focused here)
For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. (Romans 13:3)
God has in fact called the police and our justice system to be a righteous “terror” against evil/evildoers while being ministers (the word is simply translated, “servant”) for the law abiding public. Wickedly, we are now seeing Isaiah 5:20 being played out before our very eyes — “woke” <sigh> government officials now calling what God says is evil to be “good” and what He says is “good” is now evil.
For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:4)
Again, our governing authorities are no longer allowing those of us in law enforcement to “bear the sword” (including the death penalty, tough penalties, etc.) and be what God has called us to be. And we’re seeing the results of “revolving door justice” in which criminals are essentially encouraged to go out and victimize others with impunity.
Finally, it is vital that you understand that even though ours is a God-ordained profession, our service can’t save us! On the contrary, God is 100% clear in His Word (Ephesians 2:8-10) that we are saved by faith in Christ alone and not by works (our service in law enforcement, for example). At the same time, once we come to a saving faith, God has in fact then called us to do good works but for His glory and in alignment with His will. God has in fact called the police and our justice system to be a righteous terror against evildoers while being ministers for the law abiding public. Click To Tweet
Another verse many officers falsely cling to is Matthew 5:9 — “Blessed are the peacemakers…”. Folks, as I’ve shared so often, our Savior was and is not speaking about cops in this verse. On the contrary, this passage is about those believers (Christians as God defines it) who share the peace found only in a right relationship with Christ. For more, see my article on this that I wrote for Law Officer Magazine some years ago: “Blessed are the Peacekeepers??” (FYI — “peacekeepers” is not in the Bible at all).
Ok, what about John 15:13 — “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Isn’t this about us in law enforcement? Nope! Folks, here Jesus is speaking about those who lovingly sacrifice their lives while sharing the hope found only in Him. In fact, Jesus was referring to his own impending death for us on the cross while also prophesying how most of His apostles would go on to give their own lives for the sake of the Gospel. The short answer here is that this verse is about sacrificial love–even to the point of death–for the sake of the Gospel (and not about dying in the line of duty as cops). Again the sacrifices we make for others as police officers only “count’ if we do them out of sacrificial love for others as born again believers. For more on this, see What Does “No Greater Love” Mean?.
I could go on and on, but here’s the point: God clearly says that our service as police officers can’t save us! On the contrary, God is clear in His Word, the Bible, that it is only by being born again in Christ alone (John 3:1-21, 14:6) that we can be saved. Does that describe you? Are you sure?
Folks, let’s get real. I know a lot of truly great cops while on duty or by the “world’s” standard, but we have a generally terrible reputation off duty (divorce rates as high as 85 percent — with infidelity being a major player; alcohol abuse, sex outside of marriage, suicide and more). These things are not excused by our service as police officers. Jesus Himself called the lost to “repent and believe“ (Mark 1:15) so that our sins can be wiped clean through a right relationship in Him alone (no “other” way).
Finally, many continue to argue that they are “good” persons and “good cops” and that their so-called “goodness” mandates God to let them into heaven. Folks, it just ain’t so (take the “Good Person Test” for yourself in the Know God? section below). On the contrary, Jesus tells us that outside of a right relationship with Him as Lord and Savior, none of us are good or good enough for heaven or to escape a just, eternal sentence in hell!
Yes, our sacrificial service as cops can count as part of our rewards in heaven, but only if they occur after we come to a genuine, life-saving/life-changing faith in Christ alone. And without that, we won’t be spending eternity in heaven (nor in a fictional place like Valhalla).
So where are you today? Are you a “cop for Christ”? My “mission” and this ministry is all about sharing the following in love: only those who are born again in Christ can be “for” Him. Only saved officers are “Cops for Christ.” And if you are not for/with Him as a born again believer, you are against Him (Matthew 12:30).
Accordingly, I beg you — if you’ve never placed your trust in Christ alone for your salvation, make TODAY the day of your salvation. Understand this: when we are in fact “Cops for Christ” and obediently living and serving accordingly, God can and will do great things for His glory through our service (be it as cops, parents, spouses, and more). If you’ve yet to surrender in faith and say “yes” in repentance and faith to Christ as Lord and Savior, I implore you to make today “the day of your salvation” (and know I’m here to help).
Det. M.C. Williams (Ret.)
March 28, 2023 at 11:20 am
Thanks again to Jim Wallace for taking my Centurion Law Enforcement Ministry Bible studies and placing them in article format. And I mentioned this in the message: Know God? — https://thecenturionlawenforcementministry.org/know-god.html
April 29, 2023 at 7:53 pm
Great article, as true, many Officers dont even know they are ministers (servants) of God, and even most people dont know this! Romans 13 is an amazing scripture! Thank you for your service!