Summary: God has drawn a moral standard, a line. “That’s my boundary. That’s my spiritual fault line. You better move your life to get in line with it.” And too many Americans are saying, “No, I want to move God’s line and change God’s standard to fit my life.”
Open your Bibles to Romans 13. I think sometimes our families are sent by God to keep us humble. I remember when I was pastoring a church in Alabama, and Jenni was a little girl. She saw me get up to preach and she said, “Daddy, what are you doing before you get up to preach?” I said, “Sweetheart, I’m over there and I’m praying and I’m asking God to help me.” She said, “Well, why doesn’t He do it?”
I told you about the Sunday I left church thinking I’d preached a pretty good sermon. I said to Cindy, “How many really great preachers do you think there are in this state?” She said, “One less than you think.”
Well, I’ve been preaching through the book of Romans now for over a year and a half. I’ve been trying to remind you the first 11 chapters of Romans is all about what we believe and who we are in Christ. Beginning in chapter 12 through the end of the book, it’s not about what we believe, it’s how we are to behave, not what we are in Christ, but how we are to act now we are in Christ.
Paul has been addressing relationships, and relationships are what life is all about. First of all, he talks about our relationship with God: Offer yourself as a living sacrifice. Then he talks about our relationship with ourselves. He says, “Don’t consider yourself more highly than you ought.” Then he expands the circle and talks about our relationship within the church. That’s why we have spiritual gifts. Then he discusses the relationships among friends: Show love to one another and hospitality. Last Sunday we talked about our relationships with enemies. I talked about how to deal with mean people. Today we’re going to expand the circle a little wider and talk about how we relate to our government. And maybe you never thought the Bible speaks about God and the government. But Romans 13 is the classic passage in all the Bible about how we are to relate to our local, state and federal government.
Let’s read about it here, beginning in chapter 13:1. “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except which God has established.” This is important. “The authorities exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority, meaning government authority, is rebelling against what God has instituted. Those who do so will bring judgment, condemnation on themselves, for rulers hold no terror for those who do right but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right, and he will commend you.”
Verse 4 is an important verse. “For he [is government] is God’s servant to do you good, but if you do wrong, be afraid. For he does not bear the sword for nothing. He [is government] is God’s servant and agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary [this is the third time he says it] to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because [and here’s another reason, underline the word] conscience.” Here’s the result. “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants who give their full-time to governing, give everyone what you owe him. If you owe taxes, pay taxes. If revenue, [means like import/export custom] then revenue. If respect, [it’s actually the word phobos, from which we get our word “phobia.” It means respect or holy fear.] If respect, then respect. If honor, then honor.