1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For 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. 4For he 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 God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
We talked last week about living together in peace and that it is our responsibility as Christians to do whatever we can to accomplish this, as long as it is within our control. We also talked about that there will be times when evil pushes us to a point were it is no longer within our control to be peaceful and at that point we must take a stand to defeat this evil.
Not doing whatever we can to defeat the evil, is allowing evil to overcome good. That is something that as Christians we can not allow.
Paul here in these verses is telling us that our sovereign God has put governing authorities in our lives and that we must obey them.
Now I would say that this doesn’t mean that we can’t change the people who are in authority or the laws that are on our books if needed, just that we must abide by it while it is in effect.
Now keep in mind also this, at this time in Roman history Christians had been put under tremendous persecution at times. Knowing this Paul still tells them that they must adhere to the authority because there is no one in authority that God has not put there.
These authorities we are talking about are legitimate authorities and include our government, law enforcement, school teachers, bosses etc.
So the question is, is it ever ok not to submit to these authorities? Yes. If the authorities are requiring us to do things that are not biblical?
There will be times when this may happen. This is when it is important for us as we are studying the bible to take it in its entirety and not just pull out a few verses and say, whatever the authorities tell us, we must do.
It is easy to misinterpret the Bible if we do not look at the Bible in its entirety. We need to understand that the Bible does not contradict itself. If we think it does that only means that we have not put enough time in to reading, studying and praying on it.
It is important to understand that there are many things such as in the Old Testament that do not even pertain to us today. There are also many things that do. So it can get confusing at times knowing what does and what doesn’t.
We know that whatever we read in the New Testament, when put in to the proper context with the rest of the New Testament, is for sure for us today. We are safe there. I would even say that the New Testament itself would be sufficient for us today if that was all that we had.
Now in 2 Timothy 3:16 we read “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” and this is a fact, but if we are to use the Old Testament properly then we must know what is historical and may not apply to us today and what is still applicable and expected to be used today. I think what you will find is anything that you find in the Old Testament that does still apply, you will find in some form or another in the New Testament as well.
Back to the Question - What do we do if the authorities are requiring us to do things that are not biblical?
Acts 4:18-19 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.