- God is still in control, take heart
- Stop slumbering, time is now - the governments should move us to act
This morning I am going to do a magic trick. Yip, let’s call it the charismatic in me. With two word’s I will likely cause a stir of emotion and take you on an emotional roller coaster ride. Are you ready? Here goes. That two words are ‘our government’.
Or perhaps these single words, Guptas, Eskom, Zuma, Land, Tax, Zondo, Unemployment, Phala Phala and I can go on.
I don’t know about you but there’s a-lot I can say there and largely if you had to get me going on the wrong day things could get pretty heated and sometimes down right discouraging. How does one organization of humans continue to loot and squander not hundreds, not thousands but millions to billions of rand, while millions starve and go without job or opportunities. In fact I was reading a statistic this week that unemployment for the youth has shot up to above 60% in the first quarter of this year. 60%! Over the past 5 years I have lost 4 good friends to emigration, all because of their frustration and lack of hope in our government. In fact, I had one friend call me up this week to tell me he has just begun a process to the Netherlands.
Prices are soaring, taxes are higher, electricity is a mess and crime is ever-increasing - largely due to one entity, ‘our government’. I think of the helpless kids who come into this world, deprived of opportunity - a life chosen for them of challenge, poverty and perhaps even violence. And this makes me angry! I turn to the Lord and with every gust in me, I cry out to God and lament, asking that God would reign down His wrath on the wicked, corrupt and evil who are within government. My inner man wants to rebel, wants to turn against ‘our governments’ - as an eye for eye, and a tooth for a tooth. To rebel against the system and tear it all down.
Perhaps you don’t share my level of frustration, but perhaps, just perhaps some. It is with these thoughts, these emotions we come to this portion of scripture, Romans 13, not for our own views, our own perspectives, criticisms and wisdom, but rather to hear God speak, to hear Him tell us what our thoughts should be.
Pray for the government in general
As we consider God’s view on governments this morning and not my own, we will look at the three main thoughts in this portion of scripture, 3 B’s, (1) Be Subject (2) Be Obedient and (3) Be vigilant.
I. Be Subject (vs. 1-4)
1. God’s warning (vs. 1-2)
1.1 A starting command
- Paul immediately starts this portion of scripture with a strong and sobering command. ‘Let every soul be subject unto higher powers’.
- We are to be subject to our government. The word subject there means:
One that owes allegiance to a sovereign and is governed by his law.
- These words are strong and sobering because they fly in the face of an unworthy government. But Paul at the time of this writing was faced with similar challenges. The Roman government at the time was headed up Emperor Nero. He ruled from 54AD to 68AD. He started of as Emperor at a young age, and initially showed promise but his reign ultimately descended into a tyrannical and morally corrupt period. He was infamous for his lavish spending, extravagant lifestyle and self-indulgence. Yet Paul with less comforts and security we have today, facing a similar or worse government, calls us and the church at Rome to be subject to the government.
1.2 A harsh consequence
- But not only is there a command, but like a law, this command comes with punishment or consequence.
- Paul reminds us, that whoever resists the power, the word resist meaning:
To strive against; to endeavor to counteract, defeat or frustrate.
- Here Paul reminds us, that God ordained and put in place the government, and when we choose to strive against the government we are actually striving against the what had has ordained. That is, we resist that which God decreed, established and put in place. Not only are we pushing against what God has decided as if we know better or could run all of time better, Paul warns us that to it, we will receive damnation. The word damnation is a harsh one there, drawing a picture of hell and eternal torment.
- We best align our ways with God’s ways.
b) God’s reasoning (vs. 3-4)
- In verse 3-4 we see the kindness of God, in these verses Paul takes the time to highlight God’s reasoning. Governments are instituted to the affect of God. For all their corruption and inconsistencies, within them are good people. Sadly, also within them are device people faced with power and large sums of money who are morally corrupt, unsaved and self-serving.
- But generally the government functions across the world to fight evil and create order. We may not necessarily agree with the rights views or the lefts views or we may be in the middle. But whatever our leaning, governments are generally protectors of their people through through the application of law and it’s enforcement.
- Without governments, we are left with lawlessness. From a central body of laws, and in absence of government would leave us with individuals or clusters of people with their own laws.
- God goes as far to say that they are the minister of God, to thee for God. Think about the comparison Paul is making here. He is a minister of the gospel to the church of Rome, and he is using that very same comparison to say that the government is a minister too, like he is, unto God, but for your own good.
II. Be Obedient (vs. 5-10)
1. Obedient unto government (vs. 5-8)
- As we move from the re-framing of how we think about government, Paul then calls us to also act in like manner in accordance with that subjection. This leads to our second Be, Be Obedient.
- We need to be subject, not just because of God’s requirement around it, but also for our own consciences.
- It goes on to cover in verse 6 (read verse 6), that we are to render or give government all their dues, their taxes, penalties, fines and bills.
- Verse 7 pushes further to remind us, to respect their customs, to do right in fear of their laws and to honor their titles and designations.
2. Scope of obedience (vs. 9-10)
2.1 What are the parameters?
- Now as we have been tracking through this portion of scripture, God has been very clear about His view.
- We are to be subject to the government, we are to be obedient, we are to honor them, but it then it raises the question, but God to what degree?
- A host of “what if” scenarios may flash to our minds? What if they put this or that law in place, or asked us to do this or that?
- What are the parameters for this level of obedience and subjection? Are they any?
- This is where we see the beauty of God and scripture. In verse 9, we are reminded of the Ten Commandments, in fact 5 of the commandments in relation to man. God moves away from man-made law, to remind that before governments of our day, God established Divine commandments. We see these divine commandments in each dispensation, from Adam and Eve in the garden, after the flood with the establishment of human government with Noah and then onto the Ten Commandments. The permutations are when government aligns with God. We are even reminded of this early on in the portion, with Paul’s words “For there is no power but of God”. Everything that emanates from God is true, and that which isn’t, just isn’t. There is a hierarchy, and God is at the top as the highest form of power, and governments fall within His parameters.
2.2 Sounds like a grey area
- But perhaps you thinking, well I can dictate what’s from God and what’s not. Well again there is three factors we have to circumnavigate or bypass:
- An un-seared conscience
- Scripture - God gives us commands in the N.T and also makes clear His will
- Love one another - we get an overarching principal at the end of verse 9, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”. Said differently, read verse 10.
- God is amazing is He not, to equip us to navigate this life!
III. Be Vigilant (vs. 11-14)
1. Stop sleeping - Don’t mirror (vs. 11-12)
- We come to our final section of our 3 B’s, and that’s Be Vigilant.
- It’s tremendously interesting how Paul introduces almost 2 contrasting or very varied thoughts in this one chapter. We get a slew of forces, causing us to renew our minds on how we think about governments particularly our own. But then moves on in verse 11 to call us out of slumber.
- And perhaps he does this to remind us, that despite our government, that does not negate our obedience, nor is it an excuse for us to mirror the government behavior or evil. In verse 11, Paul reminds us that from the day we believed, time has progressed us closer to the Lord’s return. Yes to the closer and the (salvation) eschatological events, but also to our judgement as believers (not to damnation). But to the extent of what in our lives, despite situation, despite circumstance, despite government, have we acted and conducted ourselves like believers unto the glory of His name.
- “It is high time to awake out of sleep” - now brother and sister, now this time, is your opportunity to rise out of slumber and honor him with your life and not be paralyzed about your government!
- “The night is far spent, day is at hand” - time has gone on, time is fleeting, the Lord is coming, are you ready?
2. Walk honestly (vs. 13-14)
2.1 Doing but cold
- On this theme of Being Vigilant, Paul’s calls us out again, in verse 13, to say “Walk honestly”. Isn’t this an amazing set of words place side by side. Because it’s easy to appear to walk the walk of a Christian, but how hard is it to be that Christian who walks honestly. Are you that Christian today friend? Do you have the form of Christian but not the function?
- Are you perhaps seated here today asleep? In slumber? Perhaps you here, week in, week out, dedicated in all manner of doing, of walking, but on the inside you have grown cold, cold to God, cold because of the injustices of life, cold because of the government and our situation in South Africa. Rather friends we should rise up, and seize the opportunity to share Christ!
2.2 Put on the Lord
- But while Paul whips us up soundly here, he then reminds us. Reminds us that despite our inadequacies, despite our sin, despite our walks - “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ”.
- Is that not beautiful? Not put on your armor. Not put on your smile. Not put on your christianity. No, put on Christ. Let Christ be like your finest attire. There’s a vast difference between a man who shows us in a suit for an interview, and a man in jeans and slops. The suit commands respect, it differentiates. Today, this morning, are you adorned with the Lord Jesus Christ? Can people see Him when they see you? What are you projecting to the world, is it Christ?
Paul has already set a president in Romans 12 and he warned us. He sets a higher stand for practical living. “Be not conformed to this world” (behave like they would, say the same things they would about the government, act the same about the government, cheat the government of taxes, complain endlessly about the government), but instead suggests to us “but be ye transformed, by the renewing of your mind”. Not only that Paul in 12:21 stated, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good”.
Your answer to evil in this world, is not more evil, but Christians adorning Christ for good. Will you this week? Will this be the theme of your life?