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Romans 13

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Romans 13:1-7 NLT

ME OBEY THEM? (What about Government…)

1 Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. All governments have been placed in power by God. 2 So those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow.

The apostle gives us what we might call “the divine right of the state” as he says in the last half of verse 1, “All governments have been placed in power by God..” Richard Halverson, Chaplain of the United States Senate, wrote:

To be sure, men will abuse and misuse the institution of the State just as man because of sin has abused and misused every other institution in history including the Church of Jesus Christ, but this does not mean that the institution is bad or that it should be forsaken. It simply means that men are sinners and rebels in God’s world, and this is the way they behave with good institutions. As a matter of fact, it is because of this very sin that there must be human government to maintain order in history until the final and ultimate rule of Jesus Christ is established. Human government is better than anarchy, and the Christian must recognize the “divine right” of the State.

Despite the fact that almost every time we pick up a newspaper we read of corruption in government, we must still recognize the state as an essentially divine and moral institution. The Scriptures testify that it is God who sets up governments—even the bad ones—and he takes them down as well. When Daniel gave the prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar’s fall, he began by saying:

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them.” (Daniel 2:20, 21)

o   Seeing that human government is created by God and that he takes an active interest in it, many Christians do not take it seriously enough. Christians too often ignore government or participate as little as possible in governmental affairs.

o   Perhaps this tendency comes from the mistaken belief that when we become members of the Kingdom of Heaven we cease to be members of the secular community. This should not be! God is the originator of government, and to ignore it is to dishonor him. Christians ought to be the best citizens.

o   The other major teaching of the first two verses is that believers are called to a profound obedience to secular government. In the opening command, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities” (v. 1), “Everyone” is emphatic: every believer. So strong is the thought that verse 2 concludes, “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.” Resisting governmental authority is resisting God! Taken by itself, without any other Scriptural illumination, this statement can be wrongly interpreted to teach blind devotion to the state regardless of what it commands. Sometimes, this is how some Christians interpreted it in Nazi Germany despite Germany’s treatment of the Jews. However, as we consider Christ’s statement and parallel Scriptures, we see that the Christian’s obedience to the state is always conditional, and sometimes disobedience is a duty.

o   There are at least three areas in which a Christian should resist authority.

1.       First, if he is asked to violate a command of God. The classic example of this is found in Acts 4, 5 when the authorities arrested the disciples for preaching and summoned them before the Sanhedrin, ordering them not to teach the name of Jesus (Acts 4:17–20). Of course, the disciples went right back to their preaching. Brought before the high priest, they were told, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name.… Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the other apostles then told them, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:28, 29). The command of God always takes precedence over the command of government. There are no exceptions.

2.       Secondly, Christians must resist when asked to do an immoral act. This extends to ethical areas in which many are constantly asked to compromise—for example, falsifying records for “security reasons,” perjury for the sake of the department, covering for subordinates by means of falsehoods. Christians must never think it is okay to commit immoral or unethical acts simply because the state has requested it.

3.       Thirdly, believers must never go against their conscience in order to obey the government.

·         Colonel Al Shine, who served as professor of military science at Wheaton College, writes of Romans 13: “These verses are not in good repute in some circles today, through no fault of their own, but because some have taken them out of the context of the whole of Scripture to argue that disobedience to any government, under any circumstances, is unbiblical. But it is nonetheless clear that these verses, supported and amplified by other portions of the Word, and contradicted by none, teach the legitimacy of human government. Bearing the sword, in order to execute justice, is a proper duty of human governments.. The soldier does not, of course, have a blanket license to hate or kill. As an individual sinner, prone to avenge and resist personal abuse, he must, like all other believers, restrain himself. He should, I believe, examine himself. He should, I believe, examine the cause for which his nation fights, and if he concludes that it is evil and unjust he should refuse to participate. Even when he finds the cause acceptable, he may at times feel led to disobey certain orders that he feels abuse the proper use of force.”

·         Again, such a man must obey his Christian conscience.

Our conclusion is this: a Christian must disobey his government when it asks him to:

1)      Violate a commandment of God,

2)      Commit an immoral or unethical act, or

3)      Go against his Christian conscience (a conscience which is informed by Scripture and is in submission to the Spirit of God).

Verses 1 and 2 are a call to obedience. A profound subjection to the state is rooted in the realization of its “divine right.” With right understanding and attitude, believers should be the best citizens. This requires an even more profound submission to God, which may involve obedience or disobedience to the state.

The committed Christian will continually experience tension in this matter.

THE DREAM MACHINE! (What Government should be…)

Verses 3, 4 begin a new section concerning the basic role of government:

Romans 13:3-4 NIV

3 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 he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

o   The basic role of government is the designation it is twice given in verse 4: “God’s servant.” This is the same word for “servant” that elsewhere is translated as “deacon.” Government is the deacon of God, and as with any deacon, its job is to humbly serve.

o   The teaching here, then, is that government either knowingly or unknowingly serves God.

·         Think how it would be if political leaders understood and believed this.

·         Notice that the servant function of government is to do good—“God’s servant to do you good” (v. 4a)—and that is what government does, even the worst government.

·         Even a Communist dictatorship is better than no state at all. The darkest days in Israel’s history were those days described in Judges 17:6 when “everyone did as he saw fit.” Just a few days (a few hours!) without law in today’s world and all would be chaos, just as in the book of Judges.


Keys to Peace (The dynamics of obedience…)

5 So you must obey the government for two reasons: to keep from being punished and to keep a clear conscience.

6 Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid so they can keep on doing the work God intended them to do. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and import duties, and give respect and honor to all to whom it is due.

o   While government serves the people; the believer is to fulfill his governmental obligations with a good attitude.

·         Verse 7 “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

·         As Christians we may despise the politics of a particular person in office. We may be shocked by his conduct. But that does not disallow us from respecting the office. The person is just a human, but the office exists at the discretion of God. Even in our despisement we must always be Christian gentlemen and gentlewomen.

o   In conclusion, it is the Christian’s duty to obey those in political authority because:

1.       Government is divinely appointed,

2.       It is a deacon to meet our needs, and

3.       When we see it for what it is. The question is, “Is it possible to obey in this way?”

The Apostle Peter wrote some relevant verses from Rome on the eve of Nero’s fiery persecution:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:13–17)

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