Today my dad began preaching at Fountain of Grace Church. Because of that, rather than only give my thoughts about the sermon (which you may have noted are often rather incomplete, as I tend to forget all but important, in my opinion, points):
First Scripture Reading: 1 It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 2 with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Daniel 6:1-4 (NIV)
Second Scripture Reading: 1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 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. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 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. Romans 13:1-7 (NIV)
We’ve come now to Romans chapter 13. And as a reminder, the first eleven chapters of Romans explain how we become saved—by being justified by God’s grace through faith. Romans 3 says it this way: “23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:22-24 We sin, He redeems, we are justified and saved.
This salvation affects every relationship in the believer’s life. First, is the effect on our relationship to God. In chapter 12 we are told, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1 God gave His Son as a sacrifice for us, now our response is to give our bodies as living sacrifices to Him. Next salvation effects our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ (12:3-16) and with non-Christians, including even our enemies (vv. 17-21).
As we come to chapter 13 Paul focuses on our relationship to human governments. And He gives us a command in verse 1: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1 (NIV)
Command: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities.” Sometimes it helps to look at each word to help focus it in our minds: “Everyone”—all people without exception, every human being. “Must”—is required to. “Submit himself”—place himself under. Military term meaning to “willingly arrange ourselves under a commanding officer,” in this case, the governing authorities, human governments. This is taught all through the Bible.
“Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient.” Titus 3:1 “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” 1 Peter 2:13
So we have the command, and now God is going to give us the causes or the reasons why we are to submit to government. Why should we submit to authority? He lists five causes, and we’re going to look at those today.
Causes: The first one is in verse 1: “there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
#1: All authority comes from God. This means that when we submit to our government, we are submitting to our God, and if we disobey the laws we are disobeying the Lord.
But this is even broader than just the government isn’t it. All authority is established by God. This means children are to obey their parents, wives submit to husbands, churches submit to our elders, employees submit to our bosses, society submits to local police officers and sheriffs and judges, and we as a country submit to the leadership of our president. Why? Because “the authorities that exist have been established by God.”
I’d like to conduct us just briefly through the Scriptures and see what they say about God establishing all authority.
Exodus 22:28: 28 “Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.”
Proverbs 8:15-16.“15 By me kings reign and rulers make laws that are just; 16 by me princes govern, and all nobles who rule on earth.”
1 Samuel 2:8 “8 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.”
Luke 1:52: “52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble”.
John 19:11: 11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”
Romans 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
Revelation 1:5 “5Jesus Christ…the ruler of the kings of the earth.”
Now let’s notice the second cause in verse 2: “2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
#2: Avoid Judgment. God judges people who rebel, and He does so through the agency of human government. Possibly we remember Ruby Ridge, or Waco Texas, where those who rebelled against the government brought judgment on themselves, on their families, and on all who were with them. The second motivation for obeying the government is to avoid judgment.
Next, listen to what somebody wrote in a freedom forum online: “The government, like at no other time in history, is entirely against the individual and today can entirely remove our freedoms. We have more to fear from the government than from any terrorist organization.” Really? Should we really fear the government? Look at verse 3:
“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.”
#3: Alleviate fear. Psychologists have a label for people who have excessive fear, they call it paranoia. But the Bible tells us that we can be free from paranoia through metanoia—the biblical word for repentance.
Now understand that Paul wrote these words during the reign of Nero, one of the most corrupt magistrates ever to live. And Paul says we only have to be afraid only if we do wrong. Third motivation for obedience is to alleviate fear.
Now here is a reason why we submit to the government. Notice what the government is called in vs. 4: “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.”
#4: Acknowledge the government as God’s servant. In other words God put the sword into the hands of the government, and when they punish wrongdoers they are serving God.
Now the fifth reason is mentioned in vs. 5: “5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.”
#5: Appease our conscience. Not much is said or taught about the conscience anymore; thousands of years ago Solomon said that the conscience is “the Lamp of the Lord, searching all the inmost parts” (Proverbs 20:27). The conscience is God’s light, showing all that we do and showing our guilt. Reminding us of sin.
Illustration: Herod. After Herod beheaded John the Baptist, Jesus came preaching and doing miracles. Some said He was the Great Prophet to come, others said He was Elijah, but Herod said, “He is John the Baptist, whom I beheaded, risen from the dead.”
We can try to silence our conscience, we can try to erase the memories, we can try to drink them away or drown out the sound of conscience through media (sports, Internet, movies), or by trying to work off our guilt by doing good deeds, but we discover that conscience has the last word, the final say.
The real way to find freedom from a nagging conscience is to come to the cross, where we see Jesus taking our punishment on Himself, being condemned in our place, and shedding His blood to cover over our sins and make an atonement with God for us. The punishment that brings us peace was upon Him. And in the shedding of His blood we find forgiveness and the cleansing of our conscience. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” Hebrews 9:14 (NIV)
Be still my soul and know this peace
The merits of your great high priest
Have bought your liberty
Rely then on His precious blood
Don’t fear your banishment from God
Since Jesus sets you free
But after we come to the cross we must learn how to live differently, by obeying God, by submitting to the authorities, striving to keep our conscience clear. Paul said, “16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” Acts 24:16
Conscience is also why we pay taxes. Look at verse 6: “6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.” Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesars.” Christians are to pay taxes and according to vs. 7 we are to give to everyone what we owe. And we’ll talk about this next week.
So let’s review the 5 reasons why we submit to all authority.
- All Authority comes from God.
- Avoid judgment
- Alleviate fear
- Acknowledge government is God’s servant
- Appease conscience
But about now is when all kinds of questions start coming: what if the government is corrupt? Didn’t Peter and the apostles say in Acts 5:29, “we must obey God rather than man”? And some people today use that verse as a reason not to pay taxes. So how does this all fit together? It’s really pretty simple; if the government’s commands go against God’s commands then we must obey God rather than man. Worship and witness are the two reasons why we might not submit to the government.
#1 Jon Kitna: the Quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals (2001-2006) was fined $5,000 for wearing a baseball cap with a cross on it during a news conference. NFL rules prohibit players from wearing non-NFL apparel at news conferences. Kitna was a Christian and he paid the fine without protest. He said, “That’s what happens when you don’t follow the rules. I won’t wear it anymore. The Bible says submit to the authorities placed over you. The authorities say that’s the rule.”
#2 Israelites: Jeremiah chapter 29. You know one of the most evil governments of all was Babylon, modern day Iraq. They were just plain wicked, and they carried off the Israelites and took them captive to Babylon. But notice what God said to Jeremiah:
“7 Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” They were not to rebel and overthrow this wicked government, they were to submit to it, and seek peace for it, and pray for its prosperity. Yes, Christians are to submit to a corrupt government as long as they do not require us to break God’s law to follow theirs.
#3 Jesus Christ. Jesus submitted Himself fully to the eternal covenant made in the godhead. But He also submitted to a corrupt government, and to criminal soldiers, and finally to the cross of Calvary. As we read through Matthew 27 remember something. Everything we read about, Jesus is willingly submitting to. He had previously knocked over 500 soldiers with 3 words: “I am He”, He could do it again. He who could walk on water could trample His enemies.
“27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.” Matthew 27:27-31 (NIV)
Jesus submitted to this travesty of justice, though He had done nothing wrong. And why? Love! Love for His Father and His glory! Love for us and our souls. So He took on our sin, purchased our forgiveness, removed God’s wrath from all the elect, made us right with the Father, and secured our eternal life. He submitted to all the governing authorities.
And in closing, I want to leave us with one thought to consider.
Contrast of Conversion. See before conversion we were our own authority; we may have submitted to the government, but we did not submit to God, to Jesus as Lord. We did our own thing, lived by our own rules. “I did it my way.” “We all like sheep have gone astray, each one of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). And we don’t like to think about submitting to God, being a subject of His kingdom, and having to obey His law. Why that would be bondage. Before conversion we say what the people in Jesus’ parable said, “We do not want this man to reign over us.” Luke 19:14 We like to live free and do what we want to do when we want to do it.
But what we don’t realize is that we’re already under authority. We are submitting to the evil one, in the kingdom of darkness, under the laws of sin and death. And it’s conversion that takes us out of that authority and puts into God’s kingdom. How does that happen?
We hear the gospel, that the God Who made us gave His Son to redeem us, and that we who have been rebelling can be forgiven, and justified and made right with God, and escape His wrath, and receive His grace, and find acceptance with Him. All it takes is for us to humble ourselves and turn from our wicked ways and put our faith in Jesus. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)
Then we come in to His kingdom through the forgiveness of our sins and we discover something: that before we had freedom to sin, now we have freedom from sin. The authority we have come under has pardoned us and set us free, and adopted us into His family, and sent His Spirit to live in us, and given us an inheritance.
What a contrast of conversion. Paul was sent to the Gentiles…
“18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance” (Acts 26:18).
13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14 (NIV)
You are Loved!