Summary: God wants only what's best for us as His children. Our lives will only be full and complete as we fulfill the will of God for our lives. Romans 13 is a continuation of Paul’s teaching on How Christians ought to behave. Remember in chapter 12, Paul teaches
Give Obedience to God’s Delegated Authority
God wants only what's best for us as His children. Our lives will only be full and complete as we fulfill the will of God for our lives. Romans 13 is a continuation of Paul’s teaching on How Christians ought to behave. Remember in chapter 12, Paul teaches us to: Give your body to God; Give your mind to God; Give Your Gift to God’s Church; and Give your love to all men. Here in chapter 13, Paul teaches us to give obedience to God’s delegated authority.
Christians generally understand this chapter in different ways. All seem to agree that we are to live at peace with the state as long as the state allows us to live by our religious convictions. There are generally three ideas adopted by Christian family. First there are some Christians who believe the government is so corrupt that Christians should have as little to do with the state as possible. So they chose not to work for the government, vote in elections nor serve in the military. Secondly, there are others who believe that the government is given by God for the benefit of all. They believe the government has authority in some areas, while the church has authority in other areas. The state is generally concerned with the physical world while the church is concern with the spiritual world. The authority of the state and the church complement each other but they do not work together. Finally there are other Christians who tend to believe that the Church has a responsibility to make the state better by electing moral, godly leaders or by serving as an elected official. They believe the church is call to work with the state for the betterment of all.
Neither of the three groups supports the idea of rebelling against God’s delegated authority or refusing to obey the laws of the land unless those laws clearly violate the laws of God. Wherever we find ourselves, we must be responsible citizens, as well as responsible Christians. If we love God, we will keep His commandments.
God does not want obedience out of compulsion, but out of a heart of gratitude. Responding to God out of gratitude is what the Bible calls Spiritual Worship. In chapter 12, it is referred to as “your reasonable service.” It translates “your spiritual worship.” Every child of God is called upon to give God spiritual worship because of what God has already done. There is a new teaching that calls on believers to worship God to get Him to do something new. The common expression is “when the praises go up, the blessing come down.” Paul calls spiritual worship the reasonable act of a grateful heart. Worship has at least two distinct aspects (1) adoration or praise and (2) obedience or service. Worship must include those times when we celebrate God with praise and adoration. We should lift our voices, clap our hand and humbly bow before our God. Our worship must also include obedience to God and service to others. To worship God is to "serve as a slave" (Hebrew 'abad), that is to do the work of a slave (Hebrew 'ebed). Such worship and service is done in reverential fear and adoring awe, not grudgingly in face of threatened punishment. Service to others grows out of our love and devotion to God. Worship includes both outward actions and inner devotion. Spiritual worship includes both obedience to God and service to God’s world. We are to be living sacrifices to God. One theologian cautions, “Living sacrifices have a tendency to keep slipping off the altar.”
I believe God uses delegated authority to guide our lives. Some believers struggle in the area of submission to authority. This is not a truth to struggle against it is a truth to be embraced by the body of Christ. The apostle Paul urged us to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God. In other words, we are to submit our whole selves to God’s control. Give God your body, give God your mind, give God’s Church your gift, give your love to all men and give your obedience to God’s delegated authority. What does obedience to God’s delegated authority look like? How can we be a good example for the world to see? How can we live peaceable with all men especially those in authority?
Paul devotes an entire chapter to the subject. Believers are faced with delegated authority in every arena of life. For an example, their job may require them to train the supervisor who will serve over them. In the church, they may have to serve under a leader who they feel are less qualified than them. There may be thousands of ways this is played out in life. It is always an area of great struggle for the believer. If we love God and trust his judgment, we must submit to the authority God has set over us. How can we submit to authority figures who have less experience, less education, and seniority than we have? How can we submit to authority figures that have apparent character faults and shortcoming? How can we submit to those with a questionable reputation? First, we must realize that authority is given by God. God alone appoints those in authority. It is not our choice or preference, it is God’s choice. The bishop may give the appointment, but God always give the assignment. We can submit to God’s delegated authority by remembering that authority is God given. Secondly, we must accept God’s choice. Finally, we should choose to live in obedience to God’s delegated authority for wrath’s sake, for conscience, for love sake, and for Jesus’ sake.