The Christian and the Governing Authorities (Romans 13:1-7)
“What [Paul] writes is specially remarkable when we recall that at that time there were no Christian authorities (global, regional, or local). On the contrary they were Roman and Jewish, and were therefore largely unfriendly and even hostile to the church. Yet Paul regarded them as having been established by God, who required Christians to submit to them and cooperate with them.” – John Stott, Romans
Most of us are tempted at times to let the values of the world influence us. We also can be tempted to run from the world, to withdraw or ignore this world. God has not called us to abandon the world, but to live his values while we live in this world. We might even find that we turn our backs on some good things that God intends for us. Government is one of those things! So one of the reasons that Paul brings up the need for Christians to submit to governing authorities is to squelch this anti-world extremism. Christians should recognize government as a means that God has used to right wrongs and to punish evil.
Paul makes it clear that we must submit to the governing authorities. This word, submit, is an unpopular word in in our worlds. Yet, he tells us we are to submit to these authorities. Keep in mind, he was not talking about some very ethical government, but the pagan Roman Empire! So we cannot refuse to obey our governing authorities because they may be corrupt and evil. This theme of submission is all throughout scripture…..submitting to God, children submitting to parents, wives to husbands (Eph. 5:24), members to church leaders, and yes, even slaves to masters (Titus 2:9).
What does submission to government mean? We as Christians must recognize that a hierarchy exists and we stand under rulers. We are to respect the government, which means our attitude, our hearts must be respectful.
What it doesn’t mean:
– Submission doesn’t mean you always agree with the government (think of John the Baptist)
– Submission doesn’t mean you cannot work to change the government (Christians made appeals to Rome in the first century for change)
– Submission doesn’t mean you must sin if that government asks you to (examples: Hebrew midwives and Daniel in a pagan land)
-Submission doesn’t mean there can never be a justifiable war against a government
There are reasons to submit to the governing authorities. (These reasons could also apply to other authorities). All authorities come from God. Since God is sovereign over all things, then “those [authorities] that exist have been instituted by God”. “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed” (v.2). To disobey government is to disobey God.
Government has a good purpose. It exists as an “avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (v.3,4). God has appointed rulers to carry out a definite purpose. They are to reward people who do good and punish people who do wrong (v. 3). The main God-given role of government is to punish evil and keep society civil and orderly for the protection of all.
God’s role in raising up human rulers and casting them down again is taught throughout Scripture (e.g., Dan. 4:17; 2 Sam. 12:8; Jer. 27:5–6; Prov. 8:15–16; Dan 2:21).
Rejection of government has negative consequences. God takes seriously the authorities appointed over us. Paul’s concern is to get us to recognize the place that governing authorities rightly have under God as those placed over us.
How does the Gospel call us to live differently in society? We cannot let the world give us its definition of love. We cannot claim to be walking in love while failing to keep God’s commandments. The Gospel calls us to live differently (Romans 13:13-14) See Ephesians 4:17-32.
John Stott: “The truth is that love cannot manage on its own without an objective moral standard. That is why Paul wrote not that ‘love is the end of the law’ but that ‘love is the fulfillment of the law’. For love and law need each other. Love needs law for its direction, while law needs love for its inspiration.”
How Do We Put on the Lord Jesus Christ?
Faith comes from hearing, so put on Christ by listening to the word of God about Christ. Hope comes from promises, so put on Christ by remembering the promises of Christ. Love comes by the loveliness of Christ, so put on Christ by calling to mind his beauty.1https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/put-on-the-lord-jesus-christ-part-2
Unity in the Midst of Dispute (Romans 14:1-12)
The judgement Paul is speaking of here is on “disputable matters”, not issues that are specifically addressed in scripture. Yes, we can and should on matters of behavior that has been expressly forbidden in scripture. When it comes to the that, Christians are called to take strong stands against such activities (Rom. 12:9)
Here, Paul refers to the “weak” as those believers who lack the maturity to realize their freedom in Christ. Jewish Christians were concerned by gentile Christians not following Jewish laws on food, and other behavior pertaining to the old ways under Jewish law.
Modern examples today of disputable matters could include where folks send their kids to school, how to dress at church, even what musical instruments are acceptable for worship services. We are not police others in these matters. The reason Paul opposes this is because we do not have the authority to do this: “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls” (v.4) You are not the master, they are not your servant.
How are we told to handle these types of disagreements?
(v.1a) Welcome those with whom you differ
(v.1b) Don’t condemn others over matters which God has not clearly forbidden
(vv.2-3) Because God has accepted you all
More from Romans 14 next week!