Summary: Believers are responsible for obeying the governing authorities as long as doing so doesn’t conflict with obedience to God.
A. Have there ever been laws you didn’t agree with and were therefore tempted to disobey?
B. Have you ever disagreed with decisions our government made?
C. I think mainly of the political upheaval of the sixties and seventies in our country.
D. An enormous number of Americans were opposed to our involvement in Vietnam. Many soldiers who came home received no hero’s welcome as they had done in previous wars.
E. Draft dodgers were prevalent, many going to Canada to escape the draft.
F. Disgust with and disobedience to the government was rife.
G. We can see this currently happening in other countries (2011) such as Libya.
H. Which brings us to some questions for reflection:
1. Is it ever permissible to disobey government authorities?
2. Is it permissible to protest what we feel is wrong?
3. Should we carry signs in front of abortion clinics?
4. Should we kill abortion doctors?
5. Should we protest at GI funerals because we don’t believe in our involvement in a particular war?
6. Do the means always justify the ends?
I. In this chapter-which is not the only place in Scripture that deals with this, Paul gives some instructions on our obligation and responsibility to government authorities.
J. We may not like what he says but he does so under the guidance of God’s Spirit, so this makes us responsible for listening and obeying.
I. Grace And Obeying The Government (vv. 1-7)
A. The Command-Obey the government.
1. While Paul does not deal with any exceptions here, there are other examples we can appeal to that remind us our obedience to God must take precedence over our obedience to the government when the two conflict.
2. When Peter and the apostles were arrested for preaching about Jesus and commanded not to do so again, they replied; We must obey God rather than human authority. (Acts 5:29)
B. Three popular interpretations of how we obey the command.
1. Government is so corrupt that Christians should have as little to do with it as possible. This doesn’t mean we should not be good citizens but working for the government, voting and serving in the military should be avoided.
2. God has given government authority in certain areas and the church authority in certain areas and they should not be confused. This may apply to our philosophy and law regarding separation of church and state. Our responsibility is to be obedient to both. Church and government do not work together but rather complement each other. In considering this position, it would do us well to investigate the background of the separation of church and state idea. Regardless of what some reinterpreters of history might maintain, most of the founders of our country were religious individuals-though some of their beliefs were certainly different from ours. It was never in their mind that government should have no involvement in religion or be opposed to it. Yet this is the point we have currently reached. The background was set against the church in England or anywhere else who taxed citizens to support that church whether they were associated with it or not. Our founders wanted freedom of religion not freedom from religion. We have confused this. At the same time, freedom of religion involves the right to be free from religious coercion. It remains to be seen what all the ramifications of this will lead to in our country.
3. Believers should work to make the government better. Instead of a hands off policy with government, we need to be very involved in it. We can run for office or stump for those who represent Christian beliefs. We can also take Jesus’ words to heart and apply them in this area where he tells us to be salt and light.
4. It is important to note that none of these views advocate rebellion against government authorities unless laws require us to disobey God’s laws.
C. The reason for our obedience.
1. God is the one who established government.
2. Does this mean God established governments like that of Adolph Hitler?
3. If we believe God is in total control, we would at least have to say that he could have prevented Hitler’s rise to power if he chose to.
4. The why of why he allowed that is no different than the age old question of why God doesn’t prevent sin and its evils if he could. And there is really no adequate answer in all respects. We have to say that in some way-that we certainly don’t understand, it serves the overall purpose of God.
5. I think rather than saying God establishes particular governments-because many are and have been very corrupt, we can say he establishes government-the institution.
6. This relieves God of actually authoring governments that kill, maim and reflect standards opposite of his.