Romans 1:16-17 Know the gospel. Paul is so impressed by the gospel of God – the good news that is the all God’s work to save us. We are saved by faith and credited the righteousness of Jesus. How incredible is that!
Romans 12:1-2 The gospel is life changing. So, the knowledge of God’s mercy and grace will affect our lives. You can’t embrace the gospel without seeing how transforming it is on us. God has shown us such great love and we are now devoted to him because of it.
Romans 12:9-21 The change is a reflection of who God is. Our lives will be defined by love – sincere, genuine, true blue love – the kind of love that comes from the Father.
Romans 12:19-21 Our knowledge of God allows us to love others and let God avenge evil. God is the ultimate authority in the whole universe. The logic behind loving our enemies is that God will bring justice when the time is right – leave it to him. With the ultimate almighty God on the side that we are now on, where does that leave us in relation to the authorities in this world – how should we relate to governments?
Also, if we are to live at peace with all and to love our enemies, how can God maintain justice in this age?
Verses 1-2 – notice how often the word ‘authority’ appears in these to verses. The authority in view here are the rulers of your culture and city and country etc. it refers to those who, mostly, are elected by the people to be in charge. But notice who is ultimately in authority over all of this process. God is always in charge and no matter who is in power at any time, they are in power because God has allowed it, he has ordained it and he has, to some degree, orchestrated it. These verses tell me that the people in authority are hands and legs for God. They are established by God and instituted by Him.
So living out of sync with the government is to live out of sync with God. You can’t rebel against the government without making the statement that you do not trust God.
It won’t surprise me if every Growth Group will have somebody ask something like: what if the government is evil or communist or unfair or money hungry or….? There’s no doubt that there will be examples that we can either invent or recount that would make this instruction difficult. What do the words say though? They tell us that it is God who has instituted and established these authorities. God does not make mistakes. The promise is not for godly governments but for God ordained authority. We diminish God’s sovereignty if we claim that some governments are in power that God would not have put there. So, governments serve God in bringing order and justice (with a little ‘j’ to this world).
The Christian is just as subject to the land’s authority as the next person but even more so when they learn here that doing so is to be obedient to God.
Verses 3-4 – The rulers of this age serve God to protect those who follow the law and to judge those who break it. Even though we Christians have direct access to speak with God and request his help in all things, we are also subject to the laws of the land. God is not the God of disorder but of order. He will use even an ungodly government to serve his purposes.
Verse 5 – here is the sum of it all. Two reasons for submitting to government: a) they have the power and right to punish us if we do not submit and b) God has put them there and rebelling against them is to rebel against God.
Verses 6-7 – the words here are straight forward. Notice though that we are told here that we owe the government! We pay taxes because we owe them for the work that they do. They are God’s servants but they are also ours. Without them, we have anarchy or strife or mayhem or…I don’t know. It is God’s plan that we operate under the authority of others.
Don’t bad mouth the government. Don’t skimp on taxes or whinge that we have them. But go beyond paying taxes by paying the government respect and honour. Even in our Australian culture of cutting down the tall poppies, we Christians have a call from God to pay respect and honour to those who govern us.
What we have here is an insight into how God governs from above. He orders the affairs of people to accomplish his will.
The bible has many examples of how this all works. Daniel was a man of God who worked in close relationship with the kings of Babylon. He respected the kings in everything that he did. He showed respect and honour and served the king more impressively than any of the other men in the king’s court. Only when a law was made that directly offended God did Daniel choose to obey God over the King. Daniel’s reputation was not of a man who rebelled against authority, but of a man who was always God’s man first.
Joseph has a similar story to Daniel. He always did his best to serve whoever he was a servant to. It didn’t matter that he came from the chosen people of God. He found himself, under God’s will, to be subject to Pharoah. And he obeyed.
Even Moses showed respect to Pharoah while following the commands of God to request that the people of Israel be set free.
It’s Isaiah 46:11 that captures the interaction between God’s plans and man’s plans. In that verse, a man of prey is summoned from the east to fulfill God’s purposes. This was an enemy of Israel that God called upon to conquer Israel for their rebellion. The army that defeated Israel would not feel like they were accomplishing God’s will – they just feel how powerful they are in their ignorance of the almighty. But God knows that they are doing exactly what God has designed for them to do. This is the sovereignty of God.
Finally, The Lord Jesus Christ stood before governor Pilate and submitted to the punishment that Pilate ordered to occur. Jesus respectfully informed Pilate that He was not jus ‘a’ king but the one with all authority. He said this calmly and Pilate concluded that there is no guilt in Jesus. Read John 19:11, 35-37 at least to see some interaction between Jesus and Pilate as the one in authority being questioned by the one who was placed in authority by Jesus.
We live in a world where people are n charge. The Christian faith celebrates this and recognises it as a gift from God.
Our governments are really great. We have plenty of avenues to question them, request change from them, disagree with them and vote against them. These can all be done in a perfectly legal way that doesn’t involve assassination or civil war. Praise God for the order that we have in this country.
Pray for our government that they will be fair, wise and just. That they will care for the vulnerable and only ask from their country what they need to ask.
Speak well of all the politicians. Agree or disagree but do it with great respect and honour.
Know that God has got everything under control. This really is the underlying point of the seven verses. Nothing is above God.
Prayer for the week
Sovereign Lord, we pray for your guidance over those who are in authority in this land. We thank you for the peace that we enjoy and ask that this will continue. Please help our governments to be wise and thoughtful in their decision making. Help us too, Father, to respect, honour and care for our governments by the words we use of them, the way we interact with them and the taxes that we owe to them. Amen.