Summary: If the Christian is going to be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God Paul calls us to submit to the governing civil authorities. This sermon looks at what that looks like for the Christian.
Submission To The Authorities
Read Text: Romans 13:1-7
INTRO: How many of us like to submit? Doesn’t even the thought of submitting or of submission almost repulse us?
I know that we have a lot of competitive people in this body of believers. We have business men and women who seek continually to be competitive with their competition, you want to win at all cost and submitting doesn’t even cross your mind.
We have those who are involved in athletics, whether it be youth sports all the way from the little tykes through high school sports, Brazilian Jujitsu, body building, or adult sports like golf, softball, and basketball. To submit and to admit defeat, that is just not in us and there is no coach that I’ve ever heard who told their players, “it ok to just give up.”
Hunting and fishing for us guys is no different, in my experience there is the place where I’ve had to submit. When I’ve been deer hunting all day and I haven’t seen anything, and I’m cold and tired, I have to submit and leave the woods with my head hung low.
I’ve seen the discussed look on the faces of women as well when they’ve been shopping all that, but just can’t find that top that goes with their pants. You don’t want to stop shopping, you really want that top, but you go home with your head held low because you just had to submit and admit failure.
Submitting is not always failure. Submitting when God’s says to submit is being successful.
In Romans 12:1 Paul urges Christians to be living sacrifices of God, but when he gets to the issue of civil authority as we are talking about today Paul no longer just urges Christians, he says, we “must submit”. And that is hard for us to hear. Not only is it hard for us to hear, it is hard for us to understand. And as hard as it is for us to understand, it must have been just as hard for the First Century Christians in Rome to understand as well.
Consider what was going on in Rome at the time and who the ultimate governing authority. It was none other than Nero. Let’s find out a little bit about Nero. Nero became emperor at age 15, and at age 22 he had his mother murdered, followed three year later by the divorce (and later murder) or his wife. It is thought by many historians that the great fire that swept Rome in AD 64 was instigated by Nero, who blamed it on the Christians. He had Christians tortured and burned publicly, ultimately taken the lives of both the apostles Peter and Paul. Nero committed suicided under the pressure against his policies in AD 68. This is the man to which Paul is saying to submit to.
Not only this, but these Christians knew some history as well. They would remember the ruthless Herod the Great who had all the male children two years old and younger killed in Bethlehem and it’s vicinity. They would remember Herod Anitpas who at the beseeching of his wife had John the Baptist beheaded.
But Paul says we must submit to the governing authorities because they have been established by God and we have questions. How is it possible that murderous rulers are in place by God’s will? And why would God want us to submit to them?
Perhaps, it would have been more understandable if Paul would have just said, “we are in a holding pattern - these governing authorities are not permanent. We are destined to inherit something far more permanent and better than this. In light of that, submit to the authorities, love one another, and walk in the light.”
We must not forget what Paul has just told the Christian in Rome and to us. Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”
And in light of that Paul gives us some guidelines of how we are to treat our civil governing authorities.
Firstly, if we are going to be living sacrifices, pleasing to God, we must…
Not Rebel Against Civil Authorities vs. 1 -2
Romans 13:1-2, Everyone 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. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
In Daniel 2:21 Daniel says that God, “sets up kings and deposes them” and in talking to king Nebuchadnezzar he said, “After you, another kingdom will rise… Next, a third kingdom… will rule… Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom.” Daniel 2:39-40