The Book of Romans
The Christians Relationship to Civil Government
God has established three institutions that give direction and protection to the individual and society. According to the Bible, these three institutions are the home, government, and the church. Contrary to the social reform preachers who teach riot and rebellion against the authorities, Romans chapter thirteen gives four reasons why the Christian must be in subjection to the laws of the government. The believer in Christ has citizenship in heaven, but he also is a citizen in the world he lives in. The believer has a responsibility to submit to the authority of human government for wrath’s sake, for conscience’s sake, for love’s sake, and for Jesus’ sake. The believer ought to be the very best kind of citizen, for real Christianity makes for good citizenship.
I. For Wrath’s Sake, Vs, 1-4
- V 1, Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. There is a great conflict between the prevailing social discussion and interpretation of law by the United States Supreme Court and what the Bible affirms to be God’s law. It is becoming more difficult, if not impossible, for a Christian to be loyal to the government. However, the Christian must remember that God ordains governments, and He gave them certain authority.
- V 2, Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. At the beginning of human government God gave these instructions for the protection of human life. Genesis 9:6, Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. Contemporary society makes the criminal the hero and the honest man the villain. We live in a day when evil is good and good is evil. But God has a regard for human life; it is precious in His sight. You have no right to take another human life. If you do you are to forfeit your own life.
- V 3, For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: Government has the authority to afflict punishment and even take a life. God established human government because mankind is sinful and must have some kind of authority over it. Capital punishment was ordained by God and has not been abolished.
- V 4, For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. The government is to maintain law and order. When it does not do that, the government has failed its citizens. The Christian should be opposed to the breakdown of law and order. The Christian should set the standard by respecting government officials who are enforcing the law. If we break the law we should expect punishment.
II. For Conscience’s Sake, Vs. 5-7
- V 5, Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. Believers must obey government not only because it is their civic duty, but also because it is their spiritual duty before God.
- Vs 6-7, For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Since the civil government is ordained by God and gives it citizen certain benefits, the believer is to submit to it. We are to pay taxes to support it, honor and respect it. Early Christians refused to worship the emperor or state, but they showed respect by praying for those in authority. I Timothy 2:1-4, I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. Pray for the salvation of our government officials.
III. For Love’s Sake, Vs. 8-10
- V 8, Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. Paul enlarged the circle of responsibility by including other people besides government officials. “Love one another” is the basic principle of the Christian life. John 13:34, A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. As believers we do not live under the law; we live under grace. Our motive for obeying God and helping others is the love of Christ in our hearts.
- Vs, 8-9, Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The Christian is to pay all his obligations, but there is one debt he can never repay. This is the debt of love. Some have misinterpreted this verse as prohibiting all monetary debt, including having a mortgage on a house or buying a car on an installment plan. It is wise never to go into monetary debt but this verse has little to do with modern methods of finance. This verse speaks of fulfilling obligations of all kinds. But, the believer can never stop loving as long as he lives. Love fulfills the law because if we love our neighbor we will do him no harm. The believer fulfills the first four commandments by loving the Lord and the rest of the law by obeying the prohibitions, as we love our neighbor.
IV. For Jesus’ Sake, Vs. 11-14
- Vs. 11-14, And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. The emphasis is on the imminent return of Christ. Because of the Lord’s imminent return the Christian needs to “wake up” and “clean up.” The Christian is to wear the armor of light, not the deeds of darkness. The Christian has no need to get involved in the sinful pleasures of the world.
- As a believer in Christ we need to “grow up.” We need to become more like Christ, to receive by faith all that He is for our daily lives. We grow on the basis of the food we eat. This is why God warns us not to make provisions for the flesh. If we feed the flesh, we will fail, but if we feed the inner being with nourishing things of the spirit, we will succeed.
Doctrinal Statement of the Churches of the Baptist Missionary Association of America.
XI. CIVIL AUTHORITY
Human government was instituted by God to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. It is separate from the church, though both church and state exercise complementary ministries for the benefit of society (Matt. 22:21).
Christians should submit to the authority of the government under which they live, obeying all laws which do not contradict the laws of God, respecting officers of government, paying taxes, rendering military service, and praying for the welfare of the nation and its leaders (Rom. 13:1-7; I Peter 2:13, 17; I Tim. 2:1, 2). They should vote, hold office, and exercise influence to direct the nation after the principles of Holy Scripture.
Civil authority is not to interfere in matters of conscience or disturb the institutions of religion (Acts 4:18-20), but it should preserve for every citizen the free exercise of his religious convictions.
Churches should receive no subsidy from the government, but they should be exempt from taxation on property and money used for the common good through worship, education, or benevolence.
Created and Researched by Pastor Dennis Baker
Zion Baptist Church
3485 New Baumgartner Rd. - St. Louis, MO 63129 - Phone: 314-846-1867