What a year 2016 was in our nation and 2018 is sure to not disappoint for those who love politics. Have you ever wondered what our role is as Christians as citizens? The relationship between church and state has been a source of conflict from the beginning.
1 “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. 2 For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use. 3 Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye. 6 Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.
When the church is dominated and controlled by the state, the church suffers. The state suffers, on the other hand, when it comes under the control of the church.
On paper our country has devised the best approach. In our approach to church and state, we have left the church free from the control of the state, and the state free from the control of the church. Our system allows a man to be a citizen of a state and a member of the church without conflict to him/herself.
Biblically speaking, we are citizens of two countries. We are by natural birth citizens of the United States of America, at least most of us are. By spiritual birth, we are citizens of Heaven.
Being a citizen of God’s Kingdom should make us better citizens of the US. It does not forbid us from entering into the life of the earthly state, but rather places upon us some specific responsibilities as they relate to the earthly state. You cannot be a good Christian without being a good citizen.
We need this Word from the Lord. The last 8 years, some of you had a hard time with our leadership. But hear me, if we as professing Christians will take seriously this Word in concerning our Christian duty of citizenship, it could help heal the fractures in our nation. We will never have a better nation until we have better citizens. They only way people will turn around is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not the Constitution.
This passage this morning is directly related to our relationship to God.
Because this week contains our July 4th Independence Day, I skipped this week. We will go back next week, but what you need to remember is that based on all that Paul wrote from to 11:32, now applies to our life in this way.
This is the ethical portion, the practical portion of Romans. These practical guidelines are for the man or woman who’ve been justified by faith in Christ alone.
They are ours because we are the people of God.
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. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 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, 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.
Verse 1 - “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”
Regardless of who you are, this word is for you.
That governing authority for us as Americans related from DC all the way to our local level. From the Gonzales PD, to the Sheriff’s Dept, to the Texas Troopers and Rangers. Every man and woman is included in this and every expression of government is included.
The KEY WORD here is “be subject.” The word calls for voluntary subjection of yourself to this authority.
The other important thing to note here is that it is a command.
BECAUSE IN PRINCIPLE, TO SUBMIT TO THE GOVERNMENT IS TO SUBMIT TO GOD.
The subjection is continuous. It simply means to place oneself under authority.
It’s the same word Paul uses of the wife in .
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
Of a servant being subjected to his master, a soldier to his commanding officer
Even of Jesus the Son to God the Father.
It is an outward expression of an inner recognition of the authority of God that has been delegated to the authority in question.
The REASON for this is also found in verse 1, “For there is no authority except from God.”
God has delegated some of His authority to the state for the purpose of assuring the good of the citizens, and the purposes of restraining the growth of evil in society.
If God has appointed every civil ruler, every governing authority, then why should any Christian fear submitting to that which God has appointed?
Easy to say in our context, not so easy to say when looking around the world.
Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that “God sets up kings and deposes them.” He then goes on to tell Nebby that “The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory…He has made you ruler ().
Daniel’s point is clear, from King Nebuchadnezzar until God’s final kingdom, God is in control. God sets up and takes down in order to accomplish His perfect will.
6 For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, 7 but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.
Even after the he/she is in office there is always
1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
Jesus, in tells Pilate -
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.”
You see, in Paul’s day they dealt with leaders such as Claudius, and Nero. Men who claimed to be gods. They were not necessarily Christian friendly. Especially Nero.
Claudius ordered all the Jews out of Rome as mentioned in Acts 18:2-3.
Nero accused the Christians of causing the great fire of Rome in AD 64 which led to intense persecution of Xns.
Verse 2 - Resistance - Good or bad?
Well according to what Paul says here, bad. Bad because those who resist, resist what God has established for our good, and to encourage us to do good. Verses 3&4 tell us that God has established this system for our good. But resistance, willfully disobeying the law, will bring judgment.
BUT It is a great question…how far does this submission extend? Is the Christian to always be submissive to the will of the state?
Is there ever a time when it is proper for the Christian to resist the authority of the state?
There are times when we are painfully aware of the fist we raise against God in some areas of life, but it can hard to see it here.
We can rest in the sovereignty of God if an earthquake destroys our town, or a flood, but when a 20 something whipper-snapper pulls us over and gives us a ticket…now then it might be a little harder. Paul says to rebel against that ticket is to rebel against what God has instituted.
The fact that human authorities are just that, human and sinful just like us makes it a little more difficult.
How far are we to go in submission? Even in the last 8 years, I’d especially point out the Supreme Court decision in 2015 legalizing gay marriage. How far?
It is a question of CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE...
There are times when governing authorities are to be “resisted” through disobedience to their injunctions.
There are times for resistance and non-submission.
HERE’S THE ANSWER - WHEN THE STATE SEEKS TO REPLACE GOD IN THE LIFE OF THE PEOPLE, THE STATE MUST BE RESISTED. Only when obeying the Government would mean disobeying God.
Resistance began all the way back in - In fact, If they had not resisted, we wouldn’t have seen Moses rise up.
15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.
16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to bow before the idol set up by the state.
Now, their resistance brought them the fiery furnace, but God confirmed the rightness of their actions by delivering them from the flames.
So it was with Daniel when he continued his prayer time when prayer became unlawful.
In that case, it was the state seeking to replace the living God in the life of Daniel.
Peter and John was a similar situation. , and .
29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.
17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
Some of the first readers of this letter would later be put to death because they continued to acknowledge Jesus alone as Lord in Rome, when the sate began to say that Caesar alone was Lord.
But here is something needs to be seen - They resisted though still in respect of government. Their resistance didn’t lead to an attempt to over throw the government.
They resisted with a willingness to bear the wrath of the state without complaint. IF they were jailed, like Peter and Paul, they weren’t filing appeals, they were praying to the God of heaven.
They were willing to pay the price for resistance.
Fortunately, we live under a government where we have avenues of change open to us.
A small part of your offering each month goes to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, and the Christian Life Commission. Both of which try to help guide policy in DC and Austin.
Verses 3 & 4 - Two Reasons why
5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 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.
Our responsibility does not end with subjection. Submissiveness is extended to giving practical support to the state. A primary form of that support is through taxes. (YOU THINK ITS HARD TO PREACH ON TITHING…YOU SHOULD SEE YOUR FACES WHEN I MENTION TAXES!)
Well, the statement is clear, it is mandatory for the Christian to be faithful and honest in the payment of taxes.
The reason? for the sake of a good conscience.
21 My son, fear the Lord and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise,
For a person to say he or she fears God while failing to show proper respect toward governing authorities is a contradiction with cannot stand in the face of conscience.
Now, the conscience is not an infallible guide, but it is a place to start. Paul said in , “my conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.”
Look at Verse 6 - You pay taxes because these guys and gals are ministers of God.
They minister in government. Not in the same manner that you and I are ministers, the word there is “diakonos”, but rather they represent another. But they are servants of God in government.
IDEALLY - we pay taxes to go for the good of society as a whole. Some of them at least do...
they build schools and pay teachers.
we have a police force, hospitals and train doctors.
Universities, roads, fire protection, they provide for our national defense
build airports and regulate airlines.
They hire folks to make sure our food is safe.
Ideally, all these are for our good.
IN addition to taxes, we are to give honor and respect to those who are in authority.
As a Christian, I should be aware of the authority invested in a certain position, and should acknowledge it by rendering proper respect for the person in that position.
Re-read the book of Acts some time and you will discover how Paul was able to maintain proper respect to those in authority, even when some of them were not worthy of respect personally.
For the last 30 years, it seems to have intensified in our own nation that we bad mouth our leaders, even when we are at church. The media is out of control now bad mouthing our president and it does not help when he fires back and engages in the stupidity of name calling.
I know, our leaders are far from perfect, but regardless of party, they are placed there by God, and we ought to honor them and pray for them. We need this word from the Lord today. We need to pray for those in our national media outlets that they too will put aside the antics of tearing our leadership down. It’s evil, no matter who or what party is in office.
Jude and Peter warn in their letters that a mark of the last days will be the despising of government and authority, the speaking of evil, hard words against those in authority.
It seems we are living that kind of day if we take our nation as the norm.
WHAT IS OUR NEEDED RESPONSE?
Should we be flag waving patriotic Americans? While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, it is not the point and response the passage calls for.
First, we give God the first place in our lives, NOT the STATE, and then because God is first, we are to express HIS LORDSHIP in our lives by being good citizens.
We become good citizens not because the state is supreme, but out of obedience to God who is SUPREME.
Second - PRAY FOR YOUR GOVERNMENT, no matter who is in office. They need to understand why they are there and who has put them there. We must pray for God to “so rule the heart of His chosen servant, that He/She may above all things seek God’s honor and glory.”
Third - Pay your taxes, revenue, respect, and honor to whom it is owed. But remember, there is an authority higher than the emperor, by which you are judged.
Fourth - If the state commands what God forbids, if the state forbids what God commands, then civil disobedience is in order.
Finally, remember this…Jesus will ONE DAY rule it all.
1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
One Day, the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night! As Peter says, “According to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
Friend, IF YOU HAVE NOT ACKNOWLEDGED GOD AS BEING FIRST/SUPREME IN YOUR LIFE, THEN JESUS IS THE PLACE TO BEGIN.