Submission to Government
13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Paul has been emphasizing the importance of Jesus followers managing their relationships well. Forgiveness, humility, service and love are at the forefront. In the first century, Jews saw themselves as the people of God and thought meanly of others. They expected that God would bless them as His people and make them the head over all other people.
Jesus came and turned that idea on its head. The greatest among you must be your servant. If you want to be first, be last because the last will be first. The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give Himself as a ransom for many. Etc.
One on one these verses have great impact, but what about our relationship to broader institutions? How are we to see our relationship to governments that are pagan, corrupt and murderous?
Rome was a challenge for first century Christians. There are other Jewish sects and I imagine, Christians were identified as such. And the Jews made trouble for Rome. Some more than others. Josephus writes to get the Jewish people to see Rome as their benefactor! He is trying to make peace. It does not work.
Well, if Rome is persecuting you, perhaps you should plot to overthrow your Roman authorities! And here we are, Paul is addressing the relationship of Christians to Rome. There is a fundamental difference between Judaism which is both a religious as well as an ethnic and political movement and Christianity which abolishes the ethnic and political walls of division.
Jesus said at His trial: John 18:36 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
So, how should these first century Christ followers respond to their pagan government? Nero is Caesar when Romans is written.
- Let Everyone Submit to Governing Authorities Verses 1&2
- Yield to another
James 3: Godly wisdom is submissive. Worldly wisdom is full of bitter jealousy and selfish ambition.
Why would we not want to submit to governments? Beasts! When are they ever going to be beyond reproach?
But it’s broader than that really. We struggle submitting to all authority. We like to question the decisions of others, we never have all of the information and this is a part of being human. This is why Paul starts this section with the statement about humility and different gifts.
- Authority comes from God
Matthew 28:18 Jesus said: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me!
Is there ever a time to rebel? Surely. But when you do, count the cost! Bonhoeffer!!
And negative reactions to government always begin with an appeal!
- Submit to God first
See your relationship to the government as first a relationship to God. Is God sovereign? At what point do we call ourselves to rebellion?
- Rebellion Against Rome Verses 3-5
- A key biblical and historical topic
What does God want for His people? What does He want for the Jews? They are promised the land. They are promised freedom of worship. They are promised independent rule so that they can live our the law as their covenant relationship with God. They did not do this, therefore they went into exile. They returned to the land under Darius the Mede, but they do not have self rule. Their temple is built inferior to the great temple of Solomon. And the pagans keep interfering!
The issue of exile. The Romans are pagans. The Romans are brutal. The Romans do not respect God. The Romans are not the people of God. The Romans deserve the wrath of god. Caesar claims to be both man and god. Caesar demands worship. There is a real conflict between Caesar and God. Both demand ultimate authority.
Matthew 24: Jesus warns about rebellion against Rome. The temple is the house of god, it is where God will come and act and defeat His enemies. The temple is destroyed not fifteen years after this book is written. In a terrible and disastrous defeat of the Jewish people. They have not sacrificed since then. Should they have not paid attention to what Jesus said?
Also, Peter and Paul are martyred by Nero not ten years after this book is written, but the larger destructive weight of Rome is not laid on early Christians.
- Rome Nero and the Beast
Romans was written in the late 50’s AD. Let’s say 58AD
Nero is the emperor. The emperor cult is in full swing. Caesar is both man and a god after he dies. He must be worshipped as such. And therefore, Christians and Jews will be in trouble as monotheists.
I John 2:18 18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.
Context of exile, like Daniel.
Dealing with pagan rulers, like Daniel.
God gives a vision in apocalyptic style to Daniel.
Daniel demonstrates faithfulness to God without seeking to overthrow his governing authorities! And God shows Daniel visions demonstrating that He is sovereign. Daniel 2 the dream of the giant statue with four different parts.
Daniel 7 four great beasts come up out of the sea.
The sea is a chaotic force. The beasts are kingdoms or governments if you will. Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. Rome is the greatest of these beasts.
8 “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.
9 “As I looked, “thrones were set in place,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
and its wheels were all ablaze.
10 A river of fire was flowing,
coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
and the books were opened.
11 “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. 12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Beast = Political authorities. Political authorities will be judged by God. The last terrible beast will be thrown into the lake of fire. (Vengeance is mine, I will repay!)
And the Son of Man is given all authority, glory and sovereign power. All nations worship Him and He has an everlasting dominion, a kingdom that will not be destroyed.
13 The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. 4 People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?”
5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.
9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.
10 “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go.
If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed.”
This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.
Where is the revolution in Revelation? When God chooses to act against political movements and leaders, they are quickly destroyed. This is true of Babylon in Daniel and is true of the beast at the end. And it was true of Nero as well.
- Submit or Rebel?
What does God promise relative to the Beasts? And what is the exhortation for the people of God?
Who are the beasts in our world? Do these things apply to us?
Wrestle with flesh and blood?!
III. Governments as God’s Servants?
- Governments have roles that individuals do not
- They are meant to serve the good. But we live in a sinful and fallen world. They do not stop being in authority because they are sinful.
- They have the right to punish disobedience. They are agents of God’s wrath. We submit our differences to courts. The court system is not perfect, but it is better than individuals making their own justice!
- Appeals may be made in submission
- Exceptions are very rare. Nazis etc.
- Pay your taxes
Sales tax. Income taxes. Property tax. Social Security/Medicare tax.
- Give appropriate respect
Pray for those in authority over you!
I Tim 2: 2 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.