"God's Government"

Romans  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:01:29
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Responding to the Government

This is another significant area of Christian response. We’ve considered how Christians should respond to others (12:14-16), to evil (12:17-21), and now to the government.
This is in tune with discerning the good, acceptable, perfect will of God (12:2), and in tune with relating to others, which is the broader context since 12:2.
This was certainly a significant question for the Roman believers who lived in the capitol empire.
“It has been pointed out that the apostle is writing to people in Rome, the capital of the world, the seat of empire, and it would be suitable to say something to them about the role of the state.” [Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1988), 457–458.]
Christians may have felt justified in rejecting the government all together because they have a higher authority and citizenship.

Be subject to the governing authorities.

“Subject” - submission. To BE this is to have this attitude, which will result in certain actions
“Authorities” - control or command over; “governing” - above, over, higher than
They are also “rulers” (v. 3) who you pay taxes to (v. 6).
So this is the human government which we should in general submit to.
“Paul calls on believers to “submit” to governing authorities rather than to “obey” them; and Paul’s choice of words may be important to our interpretation and application of Paul’s exhortation. To submit is to recognize one’s subordinate place in a hierarchy, to acknowledge as a general rule that certain people or institutions have authority over us. In addition to governing authorities (see also Tit. 3:1), Paul urges Christians to submit to their spiritual leaders (1 Cor. 16:16) and to “one another” (Eph. 5:21); and he calls on Christian slaves to submit to their masters (Tit. 2:9), Christian prophets to submit to other prophets (1 Cor. 14:32), and Christian wives to submit to their husbands (1 Cor. 14:34 [?]; Eph. 5:24; Col. 3:18; Tit. 2:5). It is this general posture toward government that Paul demands here of Christians. And such a posture will usually demand that we obey what the governing authorities tell us to do. But perhaps our submission to government is compatible with disobedience to government in certain exceptional circumstances. For heading the hierarchy of relations in which Christians find themselves is God; and all subordinate “submissions” must always be measured in relationship to our all-embracing submission to him.” [Douglas J. Moo, The Letter to the Romans, ed. Ned B. Stonehouse et al., Second Edition., The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018), 814.]
Let’s consider 2 questions answered in the text...

Why? (vv. 1-2)

“Instituted” (v. 1) - arrange, appoint, determine. Neither the position or the person is left out of this. ALL authority and EACH authority.
Proverbs 8:15–16 “By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly.”
Daniel 2:21 “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;”
Daniel 4:17 “The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’”
Daniel 4:25 “that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”
Daniel 4:32 “and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.””
Daniel 5:21 “He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will.”
John 19:11 “Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.””
This does not mean that every decision or action is approved by God (and neither should we). This was certainly the case for the Roman Government, which was corrupt and anti-God, and anti-Christianity throughout it’s history. His reasons are beyond us, but His sovereignty should be acknowledged by us.
Notice WHO we are submitting to and WHO we are resisting (v. 2) - God. Don’t resist God by resisting the government…BUT DON’T RESIST GOD.
Since this is our reason for submission, this can be our perspective in submission.
It also give us a higher principle (as with a wife’s submission to her husband “as to the Lord” Ephesians 5:22).
If this general command is in conflict with another specific command - obey God. If the commands of the government are in conflict with the commands of God, then we must make a choose. WE CANNOT DO BOTH.
“Whenever laws are enacted which contradict God’s law, civil disobedience becomes a Christian duty. There are notable examples of it in Scripture. When Pharaoh ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill the newborn boys, they refused to obey. ‘The midwives … feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.’ When King Nebuchadnezzar issued an edict that all his subjects must fall down and worship his golden image, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to obey.21 When King Darius made a decree that for thirty days nobody should pray ‘to any god or man’ except himself, Daniel refused to obey. And when the Sanhedrin banned preaching in the name of Jesus, the apostles refused to obey.23 All these were heroic refusals, in spite of the threats which accompanied the edicts. In each case civil disobedience involved great personal risk, including possible loss of life. In each case its purpose was ‘to demonstrate their submissiveness to God, not their defiance of government.’” [John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 342.] (Exodus 1:17; Daniel 3; Daniel 6; Acts 4:18ff)
So this submission is in tune with submitting to God, but this submission is also informed by/guided by our submission to God.
What “judgment” (decision of guilt) will be “incurred” (received)? Next verse - “for” (v. 3).

How? (vv. 3-7)

Lawful behaviour (vv. 3-5)
It is right for human government to be a threat to criminal/unlawful behaviour (v. 3).
God has ordained human government for the punishment of the unlawful and the protection of the lawful (v. 4).
The “sword” represents an instrument of force used by the human government in that day.
The “servant” then is an instrument of God (“But people can also “serve” God, his purposes, and his people unconsciously.” [Douglas J. Moo, The Letter to the Romans, ed. Ned B. Stonehouse et al., Second Edition., The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018), 817.])
We should be personally guided by this, but we should also be concerned for this overall and for others. We should support the punishment of criminal and harmful behaviour. So I have a reason to report crime and involve authorities in criminal behaviour that I’m aware of.
This also gives us further qualification for submission, for if the government punishes what is good according to God, then we would have cause for disobedience to the government.
Christians can have a bigger picture than just mere avoidance of the consequences of crime (v. 5).
“Conscience” - moral awareness
There’s deeper meaning to this then just the visible government and consequences.
Paying taxes (vv. 6-7)
There’s some historical evidence of taxation resistance in that day that may have warranted this.
We have the same reason in general to financially support this system when required to (v. 6). “Attending” - devoting (NASB) - earnest towards, attached to
We can respect the system to this degree (v. 7).
“Owed” - dept or obligation; “taxes” - tribute or payment to the state; “revenue” - custom, tax for goods or services; “respect” and “honor” - underlying meaning
Mark 12:17 “Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.”
Christians have better things to do than to become consumed with questions of the ethics of civil disobedience.

Submit to God!

We are to submit to and support the system of governing authorities enforcing law and order in society because it is ordained by God.
So this is our practical submission to God.
Benediction: Romans 16:25–27 “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 2:13–25
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