Christians & Politics
Christians & Politics Romans 13:1-7
Maranatha Baptist Church. Sunday October 16, 2005. 10:00-11:00
(Powerpoint Slide One)
In the course of any given week we can hear of stories of corruption. It becomes most distressing when it is from elected officials, for we know that is was our money. From this past week:
(Second & third Powerpoint)
In Romans 13, the Apostle Paul, a Roman citizen by birth, is writing to a church located in the very capital of the Roman Empire, the heat and center of government. They were people very aware of the operations of government and the effect on the people. In terms of the audience, a considerable proportion, though probably not the majority-of the membership of the Roman church consisted of Jews. Many of the Jews of that day and age were looking for an opportunity to shake off the yoke of subjection to Rome, and were eager to become politically independent once more, with a king of their own.
Perhaps we can look at the government like many did in the first century and think that we are citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20) and we should not concern ourselves with them.
- Such is the position of many pacifist groups like the Jehovah’s witnesses, and the Mennonite.
However God states in Romans 13 the picture of Government, our responsibilities and obligations. We can see:
(Powerpoint Slide 4)
1) Government Appointed 2) Obliged 3) Warning 4) Enforced 5) Obeyed
Government Supported & Honored
1) Government Appointed
Rom 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
This text is the locus classicus, the key text in scripture to determine the role of Christians & Politics or Government.
We must understand who it is talking about before we try to apply it today.
Let is an injunction, a command.
Every person no exceptions.
Which calls us to be subject, which is different that blindly obeying. More of that to follow.
- In it’s broadest context: it applies to anyone who is in a position of authority over us. The authorities are in the plural form, it applies to the authority as a whole.
The specific reference in this text is to elected officials.
Scope: Prime minister, Premiers, Mayors, clerks
Subject: is a military term denoting soldiers arranged in order under the commander and subject to his commands. They are lined up
Please turn to 1 Pt 2
How this looks is the issue for us. The nature of the subjection is in question. Like I alluded to earlier, it is not blind obedience, but a specified duty.
- Just as a soldier who is subject to a commander is obligated to only obey lawful orders and obligated to prevent unlawful actions, so too we must look at our orders.
1Pe 2:13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 1Pe 2:14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 1Pe 2:15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 1Pe 2:16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1Pe 2:17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
- Notice how this text specified the action (be subject) and to whom (emperor, governors) It is not an exhaustive list but showing the layers of authority.
The same term for being subject is used in Eph 5:21 with our obligation to one another, wives to husbands and in Eph 6 with children to parents.
Without a detailed explanation of these other relationships, just consider what the impact of us not understanding our relationship to Government. What are we showing our families, our children.?
We are not to look at the individuals in themselves, but in the office that they hold.
God has the ability to accomplish His will in spite of and even through less than godly rulers.
Dan 2:20 Daniel answered and said: "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. Dan 2:21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;
Please turn to Romans 9
Some object and state:
Rom 6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Rom 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Rom 9:18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. Rom 9:19 You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" Rom 9:20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Rom 9:21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? Rom 9:22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, Rom 9:23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—
- God raises up rulers, that his power might be shown.
- When the ruler is an instrument of justice, he shows the nature of God.
- The word for power here is exousia, used also in Romans 13. Exousia is a delegated power, power that is given to a person or group of persons by another. Paul used it in Romans 13 because he wants to make explicit that the authority of the governing powers is from God.
Rom 13: 1 states that there is no:
authority except from God
Ordained of God - tetagmenai, a military word, signifying not only the ordination of magistrates, but the subordination of inferior magistrates to the supreme, as in an army; for among magistrates there is a diversity of gifts, and trusts, and services.
Civil government is a divine institution, and those that are entrusted with the administration of it have their commission from Christ; it is a branch of his kingly office that by him kings reign; from him to whom all judgment is committed their power is derived. They reign by him, and therefore ought to reign for him
Joh 19:10 So Pilate said to him (Christ) , "You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?" Joh 19:11 Jesus answered him, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin."
(Powerpoint Slide 5)
1) Government Appointed
2) Government Obliged
Rom 13:2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
The text in Romans 13 calls us to be subject, how does this look?
- The duty required is submission, which comprises loyalty and reverence to their persons, obedience to their just laws and commands, and subjection to legal penalties.
outward reverence and respect, both in speaking to them and in speaking of them - obedience to their commands in things lawful and honest, and in other things a patient subjection to the penalty without resistance –
- This standard applies to the authority itself: This is not to be understood, as if magistrates were above the laws, and had a lawless power to do as they will without opposition; for they are under the law, and liable to the penalty of it, in case of disobedience, as others; and when they make their own will a law, or exercise a lawless tyrannical power, in defiance of the laws of God,
(Powerpoint Slide 6)
There are lawful civic duties (Oath of citizenship)
v. 2…those who resist will incur judgment (not damnation) - This is not necessarily the meaning of the word which is used here κρίμα krima. It often simply denotes “punishment;”
- Look at the nature now of appointment and judgment. Since there is authority from God: Government, Elders, husbands, parents, when we defy legitimate authority we rebel against God.
Do you think God is very concerned about authority? The family is the nursery of the Church, and society is the schoolyard. Institutions are established by God for order and voluntary submission. The proper functioning of them are to point to the harmony of the Godhead. Christ and the Spirit, of equal worth, voluntary submit their will to the father (Phil. 2). The pattern is intended to show us our function.
(Powerpoint Slide 7)
1) Government Appointed 2) Obliged
3) Government Warning
Rom 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,
Please turn to 1 Tim. 1
It is generally true that they who are virtuous have nothing to fear from the laws. It is “universally” true that the design of their appointment by God was, not to injure and oppress the good, but to detect and punish the evil.
1Ti 1:8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 1Ti 1:9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 1Ti 1:10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 1Ti 1:11 in accordance with the glorious gospel of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
(Powerpoint Slide 8: Order of Canada)
(Powerpoint Slide 9: Haake quote)
(Powerpoint Slide 10)
1) Government Appointed 2) Obliged 3) Warning
4) Government Enforced
Rom 13:4 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. Though they are lords to us, they are servants to God, have work to do for him, and an account to render to him.
How are they the servant of God or God’s Ministers?
In the administration of public justice, the determining of quarrels, the protecting of the innocent, the righting of the wronged, the punishing of offenders, and the preserving of national peace and order, that every man may not do what is right in his own eyes - in these things it is that magistrates act as God's ministers.
(Powerpoint Slide 11
The establishing of order is through Law:
The charter of Rights and freedoms
Utilizing the benefits of a citizenship is not resisting authority.
In Acts 22:24-29, Paul used his Roman citizenship to avoid physical punishment (i.e., flogging).
In Acts 23:12-31, Paul used his Roman citizenship to acquire Roman protection from a Jewish assassination plot.
In Acts 25:9-12, Paul used the rights of his Roman citizenship to avoid a trial before the Jews and to gain a judiciary hearing before Caesar himself.
(Powerpoint Slide 12)
Please turn to Gen. 9
How do they not bear the sword in Vain?
The “sword” represents the ability to enforce law and punish evil doers.
This touches on the principle of Capital Punishment. How is it justified?
Gen 9:5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Gen 9:6 "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.
- The sword is often connected with the idea of putting to death ( Lk. 21:24, Acts 12:2, 16:27, Rev. 13:10, Heb. 11:3)
What about War? The most severe use of the sword by the state.
Ecc 3:8 (there is) a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
Psa 144:1 Of David. Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; Psa 144:2 he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.
Pacifism is not a rational biblical option:
Jesus was not a pacifist. In fact, if you remember in Matt. 8 Jesus met a Roman centurion--an army officer who most likely achieved his rank because he was skilled at battle. After talking with this soldier for a few minutes, Jesus did not tell him to put down his sword, nor did he tell him to retire from the military. Instead, he praised the man’s faith, saying that he had more faith than anyone He had met (Matthew 8:5-13).
- when soldiers asked John the Baptist what they should do in keeping with repentance. He didn’t tell them to lay down their weapons.
Luk 3:14 Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages."
Please turn to Psalm 82
There are times when God ordained war as a way of punishing a people group.
- See 1 Samuel 15:18 and Deut 28:7. Deut 9:4-5 says that God used Israel to judge the nations who were in the promise land before them because of their sins.
Why might war ever be necessary: In a word, Justice
Justice is something that God is very concerned about and sometimes war is needed to maintain justice.
Psa 82:3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Psa 82:4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."
(Powerpoint Slide 13)
1) Government Appointed 2) Obliged 3) Warning 4) Enforced
5) Government Submission
Rom 13:5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
Please turn to Acts 5
It is significant that Paul uses the word "submit"/”subject” here instead of the word "obey"
- Submission/subjection is to recognize an authority over us, it’s acknowledging our subordinate place in a hierarchy of authority, like a soldier to his commanding officer.
- But the word submission doesn’t imply complete obedience in every situation.
They are times when it is your duty to disobey
Act 5:17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy Act 5:18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. Act 5:19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, Act 5:20 "Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life." Act 5:21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council and all the senate of Israel and sent to the prison to have them brought. Act 5:22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, Act 5:23 "We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside." Act 5:24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. Act 5:25 And someone came and told them, "Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people." Act 5:26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people. Act 5:27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, Act 5:28 saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us." Act 5:29 But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men.
(gave a summary of the gospel)
Act 5:41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. Act 5:42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
In each case the purpose was to demonstrate their submissiveness to God, not their defiance of government.” Although government is not always our friend, it is mostly our friend, because God is a God of order and not confusion, and without government, the world would be in a worse mess than what it is in….
There were other men, like Deitrich Bonhoffer, a clergyman, stood up to the government and even planned an assassination of Hitler. He was caught by the Germans and was hanged. Many others risked their lives to save Jewish refugees going against the governing authorities. Corrie Ten Boone’s book, The Hiding Place, tells about one family’s experience of trying to save Jewish fugitives from this persecution.
What about the issue of conscience?
The external motivation that promotes submission is the fear of punishment—at least primarily. The motivation Paul calls for here is internal—that of a desire to maintain a pure and undefiled conscience. The standard which the law sets is the minimal standard for all men. The standard set by our own conscience is personal, individual, and hopefully higher than the minimum set by human government.
What does our conscience have to do with submission to human government? Mere outward compliance with the requirements of government is simply not enough. This we can expect from unbelievers, if for no other reason than the fear of punishment. But God desires a fuller, deeper, obedience from the heart. This requires conscientious subjection—submitting done out of obedience to God. Such an attitude of submission enables us to retain the right attitude and actions toward government even when we must disobey specific laws in order to obey God.
(Powerpoint Slide 14)
1) Government Appointed 2) Obliged 3) Warning 4) Enforced 5) Obeyed
6) Government Supported & Honored
Rom 13:6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Rom 13:7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
Support and Honor facilitate the ministry of public officials. Both honor and money are necessary for public officials to carry out their tasks
The principle we take from this verse is that the issue of paying taxes to Caesar revolves NOT around what Caesar will do with them, BUT around what God requires.
Please turn to 1 Tim. 2
Some argue (Amish, JW’s) that since they are Christians, the earthy state does not matter. They cite:
Phi 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
But the text of Rom 13 give very active requirements
How then are we to show respect and honor?
1Ti 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 1Ti 2:2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 1Ti 2:3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 1Ti 2:4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
- Prayers for the averting of evil, prayers for the obtaining of good, intercessions for others, and thanksgivings for mercies already received.
- Pray for kings; though the kings at this time were heathens, enemies to Christianity, and persecutors of Christians, yet they must pray for them, because it is for the public good that there should be civil government, and proper persons entrusted with the administration of it,
- we must pray for them, and we must give thanks for them, pray for their welfare and for the welfare of their kingdoms, and therefore must not plot against them, that in the peace thereof we may have peace, and give thanks for them and for the benefit we have under their government
Many in Canada call for a separation of Church and state; that the state should embrace secularism
(Powerpoint Slide 15)
(Slide on Secularism)
One writer has said: “Secularism is a hard-nosed religion with its own absolutes and religious dogmas (i.e., gay and abortion rights doctrine), its own sacred scripture (the Charter), its own high priests (Supreme Court Justices), its own religious police (human rights commissioners). They punish "heretics" through human rights commissions. They have their own theological seminaries (secular universities).
According to secularists, a Christian who gets into political office must keep his religious beliefs to himself. What they fail to admit, is that they want is to impose secularist fundamentalist beliefs with impunity. What a double standard”
(Powerpoint Slide 16)
Bruce J. Clemenger, president, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Ottawa.
“The majority of Canadians want morality legislated; where the real debate lay is in what issues of morality governments should legislate. We need a substantive dialogue about the principles of fundamental justice the Charter mentions but does not identify or define, and the state's role in promoting freedom and equality and their proper limits. Otherwise the moral standards that are enshrined in law will reflect power politics and manipulation rather than the pursuit of justice and the common good”.
If you look at the history of civilizations, it has been Christians that have had the greatest impact in civil institutions for good. It has been Christians who fought for:
- The value of human life in the elderly, sick and infants
- Helping the poor
- Civil liberties
- Arts and music
There was an interesting phrase in 1 Pt 2:15 that I previously read that could be flushed out:
1Pe 2:15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 1Pe 2:16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1Pe 2:17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
(Powerpoint Slide 17)
In the second century theologian and church father, Justin Martyr wrote to the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius c.155 ce, in response to 3 charges:
(Slides) Charges: Sloth, Atheism, Cannibalism
“Everywhere we [Christians], more readily than all men, endeavor to pay to those appointed by you the taxes both ordinary and extraordinary, as we have been taught by [Jesus]... When to God alone we render worship, but in other things we gladly serve you, acknowledging you as kings and rulers of men, and praying that with your kingly power you be found to possess also sound judgment”.
When Paul wrote Romans 13, Nero was Emperor at this time.
Christians were were killed by dogs by having the hides of beasts attached to them, or they were nailed to crosses or set aflame, and, when the daylight passed away, they were used as nighttime lamps. Nero gave his own gardens for this spectacle and performed a Circus game, in the habit of a charioteer mixing with the plebs or driving about the race-course.”
To live as a servant of God is to be a witness, which comes from the Greek word, marteria, in which we get martyr. Those who are having the greatest impact for Christ in the lives around them are those who are willing to die to self and witness to the life changing work that a life surrendered to Christ achieves.
The consistent testimony is much more likely to compel the unsaved to be drawn to the power that make that lifestyle possible. (Mt. 5:16)