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. 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 13:3-4
A question was raised to me recently; “Should Christians depend on the laws of our country to deal with crime that has been committed by people or a person in the church, rather than allow the church to handle it?”
My response was based on the above text which clearly indicates that law is “for our good” that is, for our safety and protection. Of course we know the above text is speaking of laws that are in place for our general wellbeing rather than laws that go against God’s Holy Law. Godless laws that refute gospel truth must be apposed and even broken by believers when necessary. Peter did this by preaching, after being ordered not to. (Acts 5:28-29) “We must obey God rather than men.”
But when there is blatant wrongdoing that is morally, ethically and relationally against the laws of the land - when there is no heed to counsel and warnings from Scripture of the folly of such sinful actions, against God and the state (and usually other people), then it can well be time to allow the authorities to “bear the sword” as God’s servant.
In other words - the authorities are God’s servants to protect us and hold evil at bay, where the church has little power to do so as it is not above the law itself.
So, is there a place for the law to deal with those who commit sin against God. others and the state? Yes - God in His grace appoints those in authority to deal with unjustness and evil perpetrators that flaunt the law where the church is limited to do so. I like the graphic description written on this by Martin Luther: No one need to think that the world can be ruled without blood. The civil sword shall and must be red and bloody.