Romans Chapter 13
KLMX May 2010
1st Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Here we are again on day 3 of my run on this weekís Ministerial Alliance program. Iím in Romans Chapter 13 and weíve been looking civil obedience and disobedience, according to the Bible. Itís a great chapter to study and one that doesnít seem to come up very often in sermons. I mean, if someone pulled out chapter 13 and started preaching on it, Iíd wonder if they had an agenda to push or what? Thatís one great thing about going thru a book start to finish- thereís no agenda other than the Bibleís own agenda. And so, here we are, discussing the Christianís role in obeying the government. Before we dig into todayís passage, I need to ask God to bless this message and to let it reflect His glory as shown in the truth of Jesus Christ. Amen!
This is a short chapter of just 14 verses and youíd think we could just rip right through them, but Iíve actually covered just 2 verses this week. To review, they are:
Romans 13:1-2 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. (2) Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
Yesterday, I discussed situations that might be justified in disobeying government authorities. We looked at the examples of Daniel just before he was thrown to the lions and Paul and John just before they were thrown in jail a couple of times. In both cases, they were asked to violate a clear command of God and refused. Note however, that they did not violate commands of God themselves in their disobedience. They did not worship other God, commit adultery, commit murder, lie, steal, or do anything else directly forbidden by God. In disobedience to the governing authorities they did not speed, double park, or let their vehicle registration expire. They did not use foul language, threaten, or get angry at any one. There is no license for those acts.
Todayís passage makes it clear how Christians are to behave.
Romans 13:3-5 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. (4) For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. (5) Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake.
Here we learn that rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil works. Our command, then, is to do what is good. Breaking the law to suit ourselves is not a good work but is, in fact, an evil work. I said this before, but I canít tell you how many times Iím driving to church on Sunday, going the speed limit and ZOOM!!!!!... a herd of white buses towing trailers with "Such and Such Church" painted on the side passes me going 10-20 mph over the speed limit. Folks, thatís not a reasonable violation of the law and it gives Christians a bad testimony. Too be fair, Iíve been passed by a number of government vehicles, too. I mean, whatís it say when government officials donít even follow their own laws, especially when those laws are allegedly in place for our safety and welfare? Paul himself says that rulers are there as "an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil." Remember that the next time you get stopped for speeding. Better yet, donít break the law and speed in the first place.
However, our obedience to authorities is not just because of fear of punishment. Paul says "therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscienceís sake." He puts the burden square on you. Letís say youíre tooling along on a deserted road, say the road that runs from Branson thru Kim on up to La Junta. Thereís no one in sight, certainly not any police officers. Whatís to stop you from clicking the cruise control in to 10-15 mph over the limit? Youíre not gonna get caught, right?! What stops you is the knowledge that God knows. What stops you is the knowledge that you know the law, you know that God knows that you know, you know that He knows that you know this passage from Romans. What stops you, then, should be your conscience.
Conscience is a funny thing. Itís a funny word! If you say it enough times, it starts to even sound funny. But it sure appears a lot of times in the Bible. It appears 29 times in the New Testament and if we look it up, we find out that people are convicted by it, Paul was able to face his brothers and say "I have a clear conscienceÖ", the law of God is written in it, and it can be seared by violations. Most of all, God knows it. You might be able to suppress your conscience, but it protests mightily and continues to protest, and all the time God is listening to it. Granted, no one has a perfect conscience, but a Christianís desire should be to do what is right. The person who habitually suppresses their conscience needs to examine themselves to see if repentance is in order.
Paul knows all this and heís laying the responsibility for obedience square on your heart. Morality cannot be legislated. Laws do not make for people of strong character. What makes people of strong character is attention to oneís conscience. As already noted, the law of God is written there- we covered this way back in Romans 2, but letís read that passage again:
Romans 2:14-16 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, (15) who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) (16) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
A manís conscience bears witness. Unfortunately for man, his heart is, according to Jeremiah 17:9 "Ödeceitful above all things, And desperately wicked". Thus even though his conscience screams out, manís inclination is to suppress it and carry on. This is why man desperately needs the new life given by Jesus Christ. We know from Romans 8:29 that Christians are being conformed to the image of Christ. In this process they learn to quit suppressing the conscience and listen to it. Unfortunately, many who claim to be Christians do not listen to the Holy Spirit speaking thru their conscience but carry on like they did in their former life. This is a grave mistake. Jesus warns against this in:
Matthew 7:21-27 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (22) Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' (23) And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' (24) "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: (25) and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. (26) "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: (27) and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
He says plainly that whoever hears these sayings and does not do them is like a foolish man who builds his house on the sand. The winds blow, the house falls, and great is the fall. Please donít be that man. Listen to the words of the Bible and strive to obey them. Apply them in your life.
So far weíve looked at civil obedience, speed limits, obeying the conscience, and the establishment of rulers. Itís now time to look at everyoneís favorite subject- taxes!
Romans 13:6-7 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. (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.
Paul is referring back to the authorities that exist when he says "because of this you pay taxes, for they are Godís minsterísÖ" Few people like to pay taxes, but thereís no denying that our roads, hospitals, schools, military, and all of that are paid for via taxes. Taxes are important. What we donít like about them, I think, is the waste and misuse of the money. That takes us right back to the abuse of power by people whoíve forgotten that God is their ultimate authority. Imagine what it might be like if everyone held themselves accountable to God for their actions. I would hope there would be less graft, less embezzlement, less theft, and far fewer wasteful projects. But the reality is that we live in a fallen world where imperfection is the norm. Even so, weíre instructed to pay our taxes and again, God provides. God shut the mouths of the lions when Daniel was thrown to them and God sent an angel to free the disciples from jail. God can provide for your needs, and He will, IF your heart is right and your conscience good.
I think weíll stop here for today. Tomorrow Iíll cover debt and then weíll look at the Paulís use of the second greatest commandment. Join us again at 9:45 am here on KLMX radio.
Romans 13, Part 2
Romans 13, Part 4