Romans 13:1-7 “Our Obligation to Government”

Posted on November 4, 2008. Filed under: A Theology of Patriotism, Political Issues, The Christian Survivalist |

Romans 13:1-7 “Our Obligation to Government”

Sunday 8-22-04 PM

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Outline:

Intro. Thesis: The Christian has a God-given responsibility to obey the government and to participate in government with a biblical worldview when allowed and called.

I. We Must Submit To the Government

II. Until the Government Encroaches Into God’s Domain

III. When God’s People Are The Governing Authorities

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Introduction: We are studying the topic Christians and the Political Process; how we as Christians relate to the government. We are starting off with the big ideas and slowly working our way down to the specifics, and so far we have examined the idea that we believers live in 2 kingdoms, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. We last looked at what the Bible says about the role of government as established by God, what the government’s obligation to us as citizens is. We saw that God is sovereign over government and that we need government because of sin. Then we saw that government is to commend what is right and restrain what is evil.

            Tonight we remain in Rom.13 as our primary text, but we will examine a lot of other passages, and we will see that we as Christians also have some obligations to government. The Christian has a God-given responsibility to obey and respect the government and to participate in government with a biblical worldview when allowed and called by God.

 

I. We Must Submit To the Government

            1. In Rom.13:1-7 we see a very plain and straightforward command “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities”. The reason Paul gives for that we discussed last week, “there is no authority except that which God has established.” The word “must submit” is hupotasso, a military term for those low in rank who must obey their superior officers. It is a passive imperative, meaning it is a command to passively submit. It is not an option, it is a universal command.

            Look at Titus 3:1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

In 1Peter2:13-17 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

            From these verses we come to the first obligation of the Christian in relation to the state: OBEY THE LAWS OF THE GOVERNMENT. Christians should not be known as flouting the law, as being law breakers.

            The early church, in the first 300 yrs, was known for being generally social outcasts, they did not participate in government or the military much, they stuck to themselves. This actually is said to be the source of some of the persecution they received. John Macarthur writes, Rom.vol. 2, p.214, “the third-century Christian writer Tertullian commented that, under the pagan Roman Empire, Christians were not executed for inflammatory teaching or behavior but for presumed antisocial tendencies.” Christians were the oddball group who got blamed for everything, and then persecuted. But they were generally good citizens.

            If a Christian is known to be always driving badly and getting lots of tickets, that is a bad witness. If a Christian businessman cuts corners and flouts the laws regarding his business, that is a bad testimony. If a Christian employee goes along with an employer in defrauding the government or customers…A Church should follow the same building codes, fire codes, zoning ordinances etc as everybody else.

            2. A second obligation we have is to live our lives with excellence in regards to the state so that the state positively benefits from the Christians being citizens. Here we go to an OT text, Jer.29.1-7. The call of the Lord on these people who had been forcibly deported from Jerusalem to Babylon was to be model citizens and seek to be a blessing to Babylon. Look at Eph.6:5-9 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

 

    EPH 6:9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

            Slavery was a legal institution and the slaves were commanded to serve wholeheartedly! That is a radical call to obedience in Christ, a radical work ethic. You can even apply 1Cor.10:31-33 to our duties as citizens, even though it was written about a social eating problem. So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God– 33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

            3. Back to Rom.13.6 we see that paying taxes or revenue is singled out as an obligation we have to our government. He uses an example that is real close to the reason he gives for ministers of the gospel drawing pay, the governing authorities are Gods servants, giving their full time to governing.

            Of course Jesus had to deal with the issue of paying taxes back in Matt.22.15-22 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

 

    MT 22:18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

 

    MT 22:21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

    Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

 

    MT 22:22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Obviously a lot of times we may disagree with how much the taxes are, but the bottom line is that we are commanded to pay our taxes. Some Christians cheat the IRS and then brag about it, which is a horrible testimony before the lost world.

            4. Respect and honor are to be given to those to whom it is due. This means that we are to genuinely respect those who govern over us, even though we disagree with their morals, ethics, behaviour, and even the laws they pass. We can disagree but must be respectful about it and always treat them honorably. Here is where Pastor Walker struggles! But this also where our society is currently losing it, we have lost the ability to disagree agreeably. Certainly we should refrain from the strident protest kind of thing that really does nobody any good.

            Look at Paul in Acts 16:35-40.

            5. 1Tim2.1-3 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone– 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Pray for our government.

            Read John Mac p.240.

 

II. Until the Government Encroaches Into God’s Domain

            This 2d point I want to touch on but briefly because I will want to do a separate sermon on this topic as a whole. There is a Lot of material on this subject in the Bible! If we are called to obey our government and even seek to make it prosper, we have to ask if there is a time when we can or should disobey the government. Yes!

            Look at Acts5.17-42*

Here are the principles:

1) If the government commands you to not do what Christ commands you to do, you can disobey the government.

2) If you obey Christ rather than the government be prepared to pay the price.

            Now look at Exodus 1.15-20. The government was ordering the midwives to do that which is evil.

3) If the government orders you to do evil, don’t!

            The problem is that we frequently want to overreact against the government and claim that our rights are being violated. There is a local issue in many communities about churches and zoning laws. House churches are affected, some churches are forbidden to alter their building or add on because it is considered a historical landmark. One local church that I know of has some severe growth issues with its neighborhood association. I have to tell you that I think I side with the neighborhood on that one. There are other options, more costly, than just building bigger buildings and buying up all the houses in a neighborhood. The church in America has accepted the big business model and that is not good. And this is a church that I recommend to people.

 

III. When God’s People Are the Governing Authorities

            In this third point I again only want to touch on it because I want to do a separate sermon on this subject as there is again a Lot of material in the Bible on this topic. Let it be said that Rom 13 verses that deal with the government and our submitting to the government have a unique role to play here in America. In America we have such a unique form of government that we have to look at Rom13 and 1Tim2 in another light. In America, who is the authority? The preamble to our Constitution reads We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Declaration reads: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

In light of Rom 13 and our founding documents what we discover is that Rom 13 can rightly be applied to the average American voting citizen, for we the people are the rulers, we choose those to rule us for a time, then we choose others.

            At the very least what this passage calls for is to honor our constitution by voting regularly and voting intelligently. Voting is not just a privilege but is a moral obligation that our constitution places on us. There is no law that orders us to vote, but we are expected to vote and allowed to vote. It is both a privilege and a responsibility. The Christian should be first in line to vote because we live in a land that allows us to vote our conscience and we should vote with a biblical worldview, voting for men and women who represent our worldview and who will enact just laws, restrain evil and promote righteousness and defend us.

 

Conclusion: we are called of God to obey our government and laws, pay our taxes, treat government with respect and honor, pray for government; live with excellence for the benefit of our government and states or cities; don’t disobey God though, government has its limits, be willing to pay the price, honor our Declaration and Constitution by being an informed and regular voter who votes with a biblical worldview.

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    This blog exists to study the bi-vocational ministry, explore the Bible & Theology, and look at current events, history and other world religions through scripture, and have fun doing it!

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