Our Relationship With Our Government-2
Our Responsibility To The Government
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
Sermon Delivered 11/26/00
Text: Romans 13:1-7
General Outline Overview
God established human government when Noah came out of the ark for the order human society and the punishment of evildoers (Genesis 9:1-17). In our study so far we have also noted that…
As we begin today’s message, I remind you that the purpose of public office holders is to uphold good and punish evil. The Christian citizen is to obey the government, as long as the government does not require the citizen to violate the Word of God. When required to violate God’s Word the injunction of Acts 5:29 comes into play – "Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men." Dr. Kenneth Wuest says in his Word Studies of The New Testament "If it (the government) commands us to disobey the common laws of humanity, or the sacred institutions of our country, our obedience is do the higher and more general law, rather than the lower and particular law."
I want to draw your attention to two other passages that relate to what we are studying in Romans 13. First, look at 1 Peter 2:13-15 "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:"
Peter’s emphasis is very similar to that of Paul in Romans 13. We see that Peter says that those who govern are sent by God to punish evildoers and praise those who do right.
Next, we come to a brief statement by the Apostle Paul in Titus 3:1 "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work."
Now, let’s move on to an explanation of the passage at hand.
William Tyndale did a good job of translating Romans 13:1 in his revised edition of 1534 Tyndale. It reads -- "Let every soul submit himself unto the authority of the higher power. For there is no power but of God. The powers that be, are ordained of God." In fact, the word "submit" in Tyndale’s translation and the word "subject" in the King James Bible is a translation of the Greek word upotassw hupotasso (hoop-ot-as'-so; 5293) which is a military word speaking of soldiers lining up in order under a general. A soldier is subject to the general’s orders. Likewise, "every soul" or every person is under divine obligation to obey governmental authorities.
But why is that? "Verse 1 says, "For there is no power but of God…" That means God is the fountain of all power and authority. The power that man has over all the creatures, the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, the fishes of the sea, etc. is originally of God, and by a grant from him, we, the lesser powers, exercise dominion over them. Likewise, the power the husband has over the wife, or that parents have over their children originates with God and has been delegated to them. So it is with governments and leaders of governments. The power of civil governments is derived from God. God it the one who has ordained civil governments and their power is derived from Him.
Let go one step further. The last phrase in Romans 13:1 says, "the powers that be are ordained of God." The phrase "powers that be" is not a reference to individual office holders but the power of rule or authority of government. The word ordained is a translation of the Greek word tassw tasso (tas'-so; 5021) which means to assign a place. Tasso – ordained is in the perfect tense, indicating that human government is a permanent institution brought into being by God for the regulating of human affairs. Simply stated, we are to obey governmental authorities, because God designed it that way!
Verse 2 says, "Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation."
The key to comprehending this verse lies in understanding what damnation refers to. What the verse is NOT a reference to eternal judgment, saying that someone who disobeys government authorities will be eternally damned to Hell, but rather that earthly judgment will be imposed by a magistrate or court of law. When someone resists the human authorities that God has established, God has delegated to governments the power to punish offenders!
Romans 13:3-4 supports the interpretation that the damnation is not eternal damnation, but earthly judgment when it says, "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."
As we saw in our last message, governments have the job of promoting good, punishing evil and praising right. Right and wrong are determined by the municipality, state or country, and, as long as the government does not demand that its citizens violate the Law of God, then we must obey.
That brings me to the sword in verse 4. Without a doubt the sword symbolizes the governments authority to punish evildoers including the administration of capital punishment. Yet, there is another aspect of the sword that my Nelson Study Bible points out in a note on verse 4 -- "The sword is a symbol representing the authority of the government to protect its citizens by punishing those who do what it has determined is wrong. It is important for Christians to be actively involved in government so that the government’s values are consistent with the Word of God."
Far too many Christians have abdicated being involved in government, claiming that Christianity and politics are don’t mix. That is completely contrary to what we see recorded in the Bible! You need only study the lives of Daniel, Joseph and Esther to shoot that down. Not to mention Paul’s testimony to Felix and his wife Drusilla (Acts 24:23-25) as well as to Festus, Agrippa and his wife Bernice (Acts 26:1-29). In truth, a careful study of documents from our nations early history would prove that Christianity, Christians and Christian doctrines were an integral part of this nation.
If you doubt that, I urge you to get a copy of the original constitution of North Carolina. Article XXXII says ; "That no person who shall deny the being of God, or the truth of Protestant religion, or the divine authority of the Old or New Testaments…shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this state."
In 1864 the Constitution of the State of Maryland required all State officers to make: "A declaration of belief in the Christian religion, or of the existence of God, and in a future state of rewards and punishments."
In Massachusetts, all persons elected to State office or to the Legislature had to ascribe to the following declaration – "I _______, do declare, that I believe the Christian religion, and have firm persuasion of its truth."
These are just a few examples of how Christians, in the early days of our country perpetuated biblical values within our culture. But, after the Civil War preachers began to tell their congregations that "religion and politics didn’t mix." One of the reasons we are where we are today is because Christians believed that lie. It’s time for Christians reenter the political arena at all levels if they will take their biblical values with them.
"Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour." Romans 13:5-7
Verses 5 points out that there are two reasons for obeying governmental authorities. The first is an external one that is a restatement of the one we just looked at in the previous verse: "for wrath." Or as the 1568 Bishops Bible stated it – "for fear of punishment."
The second reason to obey is an internal reason: for conscience sake.
God does not allow us to "do that which is right in our own eyes." Anarchy is NOT his
plan. The Christian’s conscience recognizes the divine right and function of government as
being ordained by God and therefore freely submits to it. An indication of this submission is
paying taxes, sales taxes, tariffs, tolls and assessments as well as show honor, deference and
respect to those who hold office public office. This is our duty as Christian citizens.