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The Christian And Government or The Saint and the State

Romans 13:1-7

Introduction

President George Bush died and went to heaven. When he entered, he was met by Saint
Peter, who asked the President of he had any requests. Well I believe I do, he said.
Ive studied the leadership of Moses and I would love to talk to Moses. And when
Saint Peter found Moses, he told him President Bush wanted to talk with him. Moses
said, No way. Last time I talked to a bush, I got forty years.

Nazi Germany 1935. You are a young pastor. For two years a man named Adolf Hitler
has been the Chancellor of the government. Hitler has become aware of your talents and
abilities and asks you to join his government. You have a serious problem. You are
aware of his hatred and racism against the Jews.
Roman Empire 32 C.E. You are a young Jewish rabbi.
Roman Empire circa 57 C.E. You are a missionary pastor in a church plant in Corinth.
How are Christians to relate to government?
Who takes precedence? The family? The Church? The State?

Paul doesnt pull any punches. What he says may shock some of you. Our relationship
to government authorities is as much a matter of divine determination as our relationships
in our family and our church. There are several passages that deal with a Christians
relationship to the government. Does the Christian have to obey the government in
every circumstance?

God expects the Christian to live as a testimony of righteousness (doing what is right)
while citizens of this earth. How can a Christian live as a testimony of righteousness and
survive in a corrupt government, or a godless government, or an oppressive government?

Christians Are Subject To Civil Authorities (v.1a)

Romans 13:1 (NKJV) Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities

Romans 13:1 (NLT)


1 Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. All governments have been placed in
power by God.

Government is appointed by God

What is the origin of government? It first appears in human history in Genesis 9:6.
Whoso sheddeth mans blood, by man his blood be shed. Bearing the sword launched
human government under God. The highest function of government is the judicial taking
of lifethe one thing emphasized in the divine decree. Like everything else entrusted to
human beings, it did not take long for human government under God to become human
government under fallen human tyranny. Government proved to be a heady wine for a
fallen race. The story of the tower of Babel shows how man used his new-found

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Romans 13:1-7

authority to plan organized rebellion against the very throne of God itself. Up until this
time rebellion had been on an individual basis, now it became federated. The worlds
first united nations with headquarters at Babylon symbolizes the last one. Genesis 11
and 12 forshadow Reverlation 13, 17-18(John Philips p.213).

The book of Daniel reminds us that God ordains the rise and fall of human governments
(Dan.4:17).

What if the government is bad, illegitimate, communist, repressive, corrupt, evil,


maniacal, totalitarian, extremely liberal, or conservative? What if the government seems
godless, Christless, hopeless, useless? Even abuse government is still a divine institution.

The Scriptures do not allow exceptions based on whether the government is appointed,
just, unjust, legitimate, or illegitimate. The government must be obeyed.

Like all Scriptureswe must read both the text and the context. We cannot rip these
words out of context and ignore the rest of Scripture.

Matthew 22:17-21 (NKJV)


17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?
19 Show Me the tax money. So they brought Him a denarius.
20 And He said to them, Whose image and inscription is this?
21 They said to Him, Caesars. And He said to them, Render therefore to Caesar the things
that are Caesars, and to God the things that are Gods.

Human government exists by authority of God. Paul tells us that governments are
appointed by God.

What do we do if the laws of civil government conflict with the explicit commandments
of God?

Acts 5:29 (NKJV)


29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: We ought to obey God rather than men.

When an earthly ruler claims the rights and allegiances owed only to God, we are to obey
God rather than men. Only God can be worshipped.

The Christian believer is to say yes to all civil laws that do not conflict with the clear,
biblical, commands of the Lord.

Government is appointed by God, approved by God.

Christians Consider The Source Of Government (vv.1b-2)

Romans 13:1-2 (NLT)

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1 Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. All governments have been placed in
power by God.
2 So those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will
follow.

Why obey the government? Paul argues God is the one who established human
government. This might come as a shock to you, but God allows the existence of
government. God allows authorities, positions, offices. It is Gods will that governments
exist and that people have the authority to rule within the state.

God has ordained that the family exist as the means by which family members relate to
one another and share with one another. God ordained that parents rule in their homes
not children. God ordained that the church exists, and the office of church leaders
exercise authority in the church. God ordains that governments exist as the means by
which citizens relate to one another, and the office of government officials exercise
authority within the state.

In family, in church, in government, there are excellent leaders and there are poor leaders.
There are leaders who exercise there roles with great care and there are those who
horribly abuse their positions of responsibility.

There are people who are faithful and do an excellent job, and unfaithful who do a
reprehensible job, that fact does not negate the fact God established, the family,
government and church. The fact to remember is that government is ordained by God,
and rulers are answerable to Him, fathers and mothers and church leaders and
government officials will answer to God. Let every soul be subject unto the higher
powers. For there is no power (authority) except from God.

Romans 13:2 (NKJV)


2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will
bring judgment on themselves.

Pauls point couldnt be more clear. Disobedience to governmental authority is disobedience to


God and will be judged.

It is easy to get side-tracked on issues of good and evil rulers, and good and evil
government. However, the thrust of this passage is about Christians and their responsible
relationship to government. Christians in many cultures and societies have little say in
the mechanisms of government. We are an exception. We have the wonderful
opportunity to have a voice in political processes.

Paul argues resisting authority is resisting God, since God established the authority. The
expression and those who resist will bring judgment (damnation) on themselves. The
Greek word is krima. The believer who disobeys the just law receives a just punishment.

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If the believer is caught, breaking the law of the state, that believer must be punished. If
the Civil authorities never catch the person, make no mistake, God will punish.

1 Peter 2:13-14 (NKJV)


13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lords sake, whether to the
king as supreme,
14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the
praise of those who do good.

Christianity must not be confused with a government, or ideology, or political party, or


even political movement. No, Jesus is not a Republican.

Christians are not to be identified with murder, with terror, with insurrection, with
rebellion or civil disobedience.

There is one exception to resisting the government allowed by God to the believer. When
governments or rulers exercise personal and immoral mastery over human life, when the
ruler or the government orders you to disobey the Lord, to disobey Gods commands in
the scripture, you are free to resist. The believer is always free to obey God rather than
man. The believer is always to pursue righteousness, biblical morality and justice. He
has shown you, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you. But to do justly,
and to love mercy, and to walk humbly, with thy God.

You must make sure that the moral issue, or the Biblical command, is in fact what the
Bible saysand not some man made issue.
One example is found in Acts 4-5. The authorities arrested some of the disciples for
teaching and preaching Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. The disciples called on
people to repent of the sins and believe the gospel. The religious authorities ordered the
disciples to stop preaching. We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name. . .yet
you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this
mans blood. Peter and the other apostles told them, We must obey God rather than
men!(Acts 5:28).

Yesthe commands of God take precedencesupercedeoverride the commands of


men. Those who have followed in the apostles footsteps have often paid a terrible price
for obedience to Jesus Christ. Governments have tortured and tormented saints,
imprisoned saints, burned our brothers, stoned our sisters, cut them up, torn them to
pieces.

Christians must resist when asked to perform immoral acts. Christians must not falsify
documents for security reasons, commit perjury or lie to coverup the crimes of superiors
or subordinates. Christians must never think it is Okay to commit immoral, illegal or
unethical acts simply because the state has requested it.

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Christianit is rarely a good idea to violate your conscious in order to obey the
government. This could mean anything from working in a government capacity to
perform abortions, or perhaps even making and deploying nuclear weapons. Believers
must never sin against their own consciences.

I am not a pacifist. But I respect the rights of individual Christians who are convinced
that God has not given them the right to kill anyone, at anytime for any reason.

Christians are called to obey their government. We are to be obedient citizens. We are
called to a profound obedience. We are called to a profound obedience to God. This
obedience should make us the best citizens. Our profound obedience to God leads us to
obey the governmentor disobey the governmentwhen the government demands we
disobey God. When can a Christian disobey government? When the government asks us
to violate a commandment of God. When the government asks us to commit an illegal,
immoral, unethical act. When the government insist we violate our own conscience
when our conscience is informed by Scripture and is in submission to the Spirit of God.

Christians Submit To The Purposes Of Government (vv.3-7)

Romans 13:3-7 (NLT)


3 For the authorities do not frighten people who are doing right, but they frighten those who do
wrong. So do what they say, and you will get along well.
4 The authorities are sent by God to help you. But if you are doing something wrong, of course
you should be afraid, for you will be punished. The authorities are established by God for that
very purpose, to punish those who do wrong.
5 So you must obey the government for two reasons: to keep from being punished and to keep a
clear conscience.
6 Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid so they
can keep on doing the work God intended them to do.
7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and import duties, and give respect and
honor to all to whom it is due.

The government is given by God to promote good and restrain evil.

Rulers are not ordained by God to promote evil and restrain good! Here Paul gives us the
nuts and bolts of governments job! The government is called Gods servant or Gods
minister. I know that creeps some of you out. Remember the meaning of the word
ministerit is diakonos or deacon. Imagine a word-dipped in humilty and you
understand the true meaning of minister. Ministryabsent humiltyis not true Biblical
ministry. Pauls point is evidentgovernment either wittingly or unwittingly serves the
purposes of God.

Can you imagine if our elected officials truly, believed this? The force of the word is that
government officials should serve with a sense of dignity, and humility and solemnity
knowing they are Gods ministersto do good.

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For good. Even bad governments do some good. A communist government is better
than no government. The darkest days in the history of Israelwas during the time of
the judgeswhen every one did what was right in their own eyes. If government were
taken away from the earthin a matter of moments lawlessness and chaos would reign.

The state is given the responsibility to exercise justice, to administer punishment to


lawbreakers and criminals. The state is given the responsibility of judicial vengenance
not given to individual Christians. The state renders evil for evil (12:7), which the
individual must never do. Gods way of dealing with evil is not by personal vengenance,
but justice administered by the state. The state gives us a kind of preview of Gods
judicial wrath and punishmentby a sovereign lord. When the state is faithful to its
function it does good to us (4a). The state does not bear the sword for nothingeven
when the state bears the sword imperfectly.

(v.5) therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for
conscious sake. This describes the depth of obedience the Christian is called toto the
governmentboth for sake of punishment and for sake of conscience. We are not simply
afraid of getting caught if we disobeywe understand God allows government for good.
God instituted government and rulers are either wittingly or unwittingly Gods ministers.
The same could be said of parents and church leaders. Christians are to see the big
picture with informed consciencesliving in profound subjection.

How does all this work out practically?

(vv.6-7) For because of this you also pay taxes. Christians pay your tax. Pay what is
legally your responsibility to pay. Pay no more than you owepay no less than you owe.

What if taxes are outrageous? What if taxes are misspent? What if taxes are used to
outfit Roman armies and build Roman roads and forge Roman spears and swords used to
hack and cut Roman citizens to pieces?

Ray Stedman writes; You have a right, of course, as does everyone, to protest injustice
and to correct abuse, but dont forever be grumbling about the taxes that you have to pay.
I have had to learn some lessons on this myself. The first time I had to pay an income tax
was a few years ago. My income had been so low for a long time that I didnt have to
pay any taxes. But gradually it caught up and I finally had to pay. I remember how I
resented it. In fact, when I sent my tax form I addressed it to The Infernal Revenue
Service. They never answered, although they did accept the money. The next year I had
improved by attitude a bit. I addressed it to The eternal revenue service. But I have
repented from all those sins, and now hope to pay my taxes cheerfully.

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(v.7) render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to
whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

Tribute refers to land, property and income taxes, custom to export and import duties,
fear to reverence for authority, and honor to respect for those in positions of authority, or
to those of whatever rank.

The Roman government had a heavy tax system. But it might surprise you how much
taxes people in the first century paid. There was income taxone percent of a mans
income. There was a ground tax (property tax) a man had to pay one-tenth or one-fifth of
the crops produced by his ground. He could make payment in money or in actual crops
harvested. There was a poll tax: paid by everyone between the ages of twelve or
fourteen and sixty-five. It amounted to about a days wage (a denarius). There were also
local taxes that had to be paid. There were import and export taxes, and there were
custom duties including taxes for using main roads, crossing bridges, entering markets
and harbors, transferring animals, and driving carts or wagons.

Conclusion
The governments job is to make sure you live in safety and to insure the financial
stability of the country. This means safety in your community. This means resist the
criminals in your neighborhood, and reward the conscientious citizens. Paul tells the
Romans the only ones who need fear the laware the lawbreakers! The Bible warns that
as the end times approach we will see increased lawlessness (Mat.24:12).

R.Kent Hughes;

Through Jesus Christ we can live out our duty to obey as described in the Word of God.
We can also fulfill our duty to disobey when it is the will of God to do so.
When it became clear that the Nazis were pursuing their terrible racist policies,
Pastor Martin Niemoller continued to preach the truth and as a result was thrown into
prison. The prison chaplain upon visiting Niemoller asked somewhat foolishly, What
brings you here? Why are you in prison? To which Niemoller replied angrily, And,
brother, why are you not in prison?

Give to Caesar what is Caesars and give to God what is Gods.

The problem isn't how to keep religion out of politics but how to subject political
life to spiritual criticism without losing sight of the tension between the political and
spiritual realms because politics unavoidably rests on some measure of coercion. It
can never become a perfect realm of love and justice, but neither can it be dismissed
as the work of the Devil.

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-- Christopher Lasch in TIKKUN. Christianity Today, Vol. 32, no. 12.