God Instituted ALL Government
Good Morning! Please go ahead and grab your Bibles with me, and open up to Romans chapter 13. If you do not have a bible or do not own one, please grab one from the back table as our gift to you.
So, Romans 13. This is a tough section to teach and preach on, and frankly, it’s a tough section of scripture to read for me. This is because of my personal political views, and what I know about some of your guys political views.
To briefly recap, we are in a section of Pauls letter to the churches in Rome where he is talking about living out our Christian Faith. And our living right and acting right, living out our Christian faith is predicated on right doctrine, or accurately knowing what the Word of God says.
We can live right in front of God without knowing what he is telling us. It doesn’t come from our feelings. It doesn’t come from our opinions. It doesn’t come from what we want our think or feels good to us. It comes from what God says and this here, the bible, is his Word to Us.
You know, last week, Ron Sallee was here and he talked about the need for accurately knowing what Gods Word said. He read from Amos and showed us that there is a spiritual famine coming in the land. It comes from not knowing, not disciplining ourselves and nor wanting to know what the Bible says.
And so, we need to make sure that we are submitting our thoughts, views, actions and priorities underneath what the bible says.
To set the scene a little bit here for these 7 verse we will be looking at this morning, There was a lot, and I do mean, ALOT of governmental opposition to the spread of Christianity for the first 300 or years until Constantine, Emperor of Rome, converted to Christianity. We could debate back and forth about whether that was ultimately good or bad for Christianity or whether he really was or was not a Christian, but one thing we can historically see is that this stopped persecution of Christianity for a time.
Before then, well, lets just say it was rough. 11 of the 12 Apostles were violently martyred. The twelfth, John, the one whom Jesus loved, survived being boiled alive in oil and was sent to live in exile on an island.
The book of Acts covers much of the rough time the Apostles had and especially Paul as he simply went to share and preach and teach the Gospel. To really look at what Paul has to go through, check out what he writes in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33 showing just a bit about how much He went through, and especially persecuted against.
So we see government opposition in the Early church. We see it throughout the first couple of hundred years of Christianity. We see it through out the Middle Ages when the Roman Catholic church was persecuting any lay person with a Bible, those who were trying to translate the Bible and those who believed and taught that salvation was through grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as revealed in the scriptures alone and all to the Glory of God alone. We see it through out the world today, in places like China, where the church is very much illegal and pastors are being arrested. We see it in areas of the Middle East & Northern Africa where people are being imprisoned for claiming faith in Christ and for sharing it with others.
We don’t yet see that in out Country, not to anywhere close to those levels. We are starting to see some of the beginnings of it. We are starting to see the social outcasting of historical, biblical beliefs. We see the legislating of unbiblical and anti biblical ideas, behaviors and worldviews. But we are just beginning to see those in our country compared to around the world today.
So, remember what things were like for Paul, and for the apostles, for the early church, we remember the context of which this letter and this section especially was written. And it with those conditions of governmental persecution against the early church that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write these 7 verses.
So, lets read Romans 13:1-7. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version and please follow along in your Bibles as we read. Romans 13:1-7
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. 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.
I don’t know about you, but I know for me, that’s hard to hear and that’s hard to read, especially at specific times and with specific political dynamics.
Heres what we know. God created this world, he created all of his creation with order. He created us and his creation with a natural hierarchy. He created us to submit to the things that are in authority over us.
We know this because we are created in his image and the trinity shows submission. For example, Jesus, God the Son, completely equal in every way to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. And yet, he willingly submits himself to the will and authority of God the Father (Luke 22:42, Hebrews 10;7, 1 John 4:10)
So, being created in his image, we are made to submit to authority. And our highest authority is, of course, God. And we do see, an example of that in Acts chapter 5. Peter and John were arrested for a second time and brought before the high council. We read in Acts 5:27-32:
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 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.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
We must obey God rather than men. WE are going to come back to that shortly. But here we are still establishing the point that there is a hierarchy in the levels of authority. And we are all called to submit to all the authorities above us. Scripture shows us that wives are to submit to their husbands in Ephesians 5:22. Christians are to submit to their pastors in Hebrews 13:17 and citizens are to submit to their rulers in 1 Peter 2:12. This is but a very small list of a few of the ways that we are called to submit.
One of the problems is that this goes against the very core of who we are as Americans. We became a nation by rejecting the authority of our sovereign rulers. The individualism we see around us today, the “all about me,” attitude that is becoming more and more prevalent, everyone who is more worried about their rights than their responsibilities, the very thing Paul was teaching against in ch 12, all have grown out of the founding fathers fighting against and rejecting the authority that was governing over them at the time.
Dont get me wrong here, it made us into a great nation. Maybe the greatest nation the world has seen. But as this attitude and mindset grew and morphed, it may well have cost us our soul. See, this is our fleshly natural desire. This is what started with Adam and Eve in the Garden, to throw off the authority over them, to be their own authority. And we have been doing it ever since. Rebelling against the authority over us and trying to be our own authority.
But God says that we are to submit to authority. And verse 1 right here, all authority has been instituted and ordained by God. This is specifically referring to governing authorities, to governments. One of the things that this means is that, in America, whoever is voted in as president, is your president whether you like him or not. That means that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were your presidents. It also means that George W Bush was and Donald trump is your president, whatever you think of them, of their policies, of their religion or of their private lives. What this doesn’t mean is that all governments or leaders follow God and do what is right all the time.
But God puts rulers and governments in place, he puts rules and laws in place for our benefit. We look to the Old Testament and we see the laws that God handed down, the 10 commandments and we see that God did not hand them down, did not institute them to restrict us or to punish us, but he gave them over because he knows whats best for us.
He is not interested in our happiness, but in our holiness. Thats what us submitting to his authority will bring us. Romans 8:29, Paul writes that he brings us through things so that we may be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, as in made Holy and righteous.
But we rebel against that. We rebel against God and his graces by sinning and going against his commandments and his laws. But we also rebel against God by going against Gods ordained and instituted governments. RC Sproul says it this way, “Rebellion against the authority implies rebellion against Gods ordinance.”
Because what Paul says here, as we see that the purpose of the laws that God is for our benefit, so too the purpose of government is for societies benefit. Governments and rulers are put in place to protect & reward the good and to punish and restrain the evil. They are to be a terror to be bad conduct.
This is the case with all governments. This is especially the case, of course, if the rulers and the governments know God and are following him. But this is true and accurate for non christian governments as well. The only difference being what their view of right and wrong is. But often, when the government is instituting and enforcing laws, the general outcome is that if you act good and follow the rules, it will be good for you, if you do evil and/or rebel against the authority it will be bad for you.
Another part to this is that God is showing that the government has the right to enact capital punishment. This can be a controversial topic, but Paul writes in verse 4 that 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.
Now, there are some very clear and important limits on capital punishment in the scriptures. I don’t know if you noticed, but we actually looked at some of them the last few weeks. Romans 12:19, Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. This is showing that it is not for us as individuals to take vengeance into our own hands. So called vigilante justice, despite, I’ll be honest, sounding really good sometimes, goes against what Gods Word says.
We also saw that Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapter 5 addressed the Old Testament teaching of An Eye for an Eye and a Tooth for a Tooth. Remember Jesus pointed out that this was, again, not for us as individuals to take part of, but it was used in the Old Testament in a legal setting. Not only that, but another one of Jesus big points in this was that we need to be careful that the punishment fits the crime.
Governments are not just given free rein, with no restrictions, no rules. God gives limits to their responsibilities and their powers. Capital punishment is not an across the board thing. It is not for any and all crime. It is not for without due process and it is not for whatever the Government decides to make it for.
Thats part of the thing we need to remember if we want to have a conversation about capital punishment. Yes, the concept is biblical. But we need to make sure that the application and the practice are as well. That is not being done in this country unfortunately. Too many states have too many different parameters and studies show that across the board, different verdicts can get handed down for the same crime.
But again, one of the biggest takeaways is that God has ordained that governments are allowed to administer appropriate punishment for breaking the laws that said government instills.
As we saw earlier, we have the dual responsibility to submit to the laws and authority to the government that God put in authority over us. Paul says here in verse 5, Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
But we also have the dual responsibility to put Gods laws ahead of mans. Again, for the sake of conscience. So, if or when, depending on your viewpoint, the government decides to outlaw the Bible, or make it illegal to hold biblical viewpoints, if government persecution gets to the point where it is in China, in Iran, in parts of Northern Africa, if it gets to the point where it was in Paul’s day, then we have a duty, an obligation to follow Gods laws. We will and are obligated to continue to preach and teach the bible. We are to continue to read our bibles and hold on the truth that is within.
Here the thing we forget though. WE stand up for Gods laws ahead of mans and man has every right to administer appropriate punishment. We break the law, we go to jail. Thats the way society works. Yes, we stand up to unjust laws. Yes we do what the bible tells us to. But if we break the laws, whether just or unjust, we need to understand that we will face the consequences and we should not be surprised to spend time in jail for it. Again, I’m not telling you not to stand up against unjust laws, laws that go against God, I’m saying there are consequences for doing so.
Paul finishes up this section, again, sounding much like Jesus’ teachings. Verses 6 & 7 are not things most of us want to hear. 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.
It pains me to read this and to say this but God says that we are to pay the taxes that our Government tells us to pay. Stinks, huh? Especially here in California? Now, again, that doesn’t mean that we don’t speak out against what we see as excessive or unfair taxes. Speak out absolutely. Get involved in trying to change things that you think, from a biblical view, need to be changed. Do what you can to ge the leaders, our representatives to listen and put policies, procedures and all that into place that you think are right and fair.
But we pay taxes to whom they are owed. Luke 20:21-25, Jesus addresses this. Remember that Israel was occupied by Rome at that time. The Jews didn’t want to acknowledge roman authority and Rome wanted to take as much money as possible and to exert as much authority as possible. So the Jews wanted to know, would Jesus side with Rome or Israel?
they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality,[d] but truly teach the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius.[e] Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Now there is also a lot in that passage for a different day, but notice what Jesus says here. Romes authority is legitimate. The money they use is issued by Rome. So give it to them. You are issued by God. Give yourselves to Him.
Rome had authority over them, but it didn’t give them their authority, nor did it own them. If their identity was true, if their faith was real, nothing Rome did to them could take that away.
Who are you? Who has given you your identity? Is it the government? IS that who defines you and is that who you ut your trust in? Unfortunately, for too many today, that is the case. God put the government in place for the benefit of society, but it can not define us, it can not give us our identity and it will not and cannot save us.
Jesus Christ is the one who gives us our identity. The term Christian means Christ follower. We obey the government that he gave us, but He is who we follow. Before hand, it doesn’t make any sense, I know. I was there. I am an American. I dont need anybody to save me. I dont need to submit to any authority.
But once we submit ourselves to Gods authority, we surrender ourselves to him, we trust in Jesus Christ and the work he did, dying on the cross and raising from the dead. Then the Holy Spirit comes in and seals us, transforms our heart and opens our eyes. Now we have a new identity. Now we are no longer sinners. We are no longer who others tell us we are. We are no longer who we tell ourselves we are . We are no longer defined by our race, by our ethnicity, by our national citizenship, by our political leanings, by any of it.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t have any of those things anymore. We still are American. We still are white, black, hispanic, asian, Native American. We are still Republican or democrat or other, conservative, liberal or moderate. Those things play into making us who we are, and we can celebrate them, but they do not define us. They are not our identity.
We belong to Christ. Our citizenship is no longer of this world, but in the city which has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:10) We are citizens of the Kingdom of heaven, though we do not yet reside there. Jesus prayed that we would be in the world but not of it. (john 15:19) While we are in this world, we have a duty and a responsibility to care for it, to seek to do right and to preach, teach and live the Bible. Jeremiah 29:7 reads: But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.