Summary: Fearing and obeying God needs to come first in the Christian’s life
TO OBEY OR NOT TO OBEY
Today’s passage is probably the most difficult one in Romans. How should the strong commands of this Scripture be interpreted when Paul himself didn’t always practice what he preached? It would have been easy to skip over Romans 13 in our series of preaching through Romans but we believe our commission is to preach the whole council of God as Paul said in Acts 20:27: “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole council of God. Take heed to yourselves and to the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians to feed the church of the Lord which he obtained with his own blood.” That’s a tremendous responsibility. So with prayerful discernment I’m not shrinking from the challenge and I ask you to listen prayerfully so that God can help us discern what the truth is in his Word.
This passage posses the question, “To obey or not to obey?” The answer is both Yes and No or Yes, but… The song we just sang, “I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb” helps put our dilemma in perspective. This morning I want to approach the text from three angles: 1) Why we should obey Reason One 2) Why we should obey Reason Two, and 3) When we can’t obey.
Let’s go to the text, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed and those who resist will incur judgment.”
Why should we obey the governing authorities? Scripture says, “There is no authority except from God.” God ordained government and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Government is an institution ordained by God just as marriage and family was ordained by God. God is a God of Order. Genesis 1 reads, “In the beginning when the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep…” What did God do? He created the heavens and the earth and for six days he brought order out chaos to the point that he had a marvelous, stupendous universe, incomprehensible in the way he programmed his whole creation to operate in perfect harmony and orderliness. We can not begin to fathom the depth or the height of the harmonious way God’s marvelous creation supports itself.
God then became the Lawgiver. He was the Supreme, sole Monarch of heaven and earth and the first command he issued to humans to create an orderly society was that “a man is to leave his father and mother and cling to his wife.” They then become a family. Marriage was the Lawgiver’s command for an orderly, harmonious society. God ordained marriage from the very beginning of creation and this passage reminds us that God also ordained government. “There is no authority except from God.” Jesus spoke the same when he said to Ruler Pilate, “you would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above.” John 19:11.
God knows far better than we do what happens when what he institutes is thrown to the wind! The blatant disregard of his institution of marriage is increasingly creating chaos in our society. It’s not only that we have divorcing fathers and mothers and single parents who create a housing burden. We have mothers and children who need to go on welfare plus traumatized children who require emotional healing. Beyond that, the health problem AIDS is creating is one of the greatest plagues of humanity. What God has instituted is for our best welfare and is meant to be taken seriously. God hates chaos and disorder in his world.
In the same way that God instituted marriage for harmonious living on earth, he also instituted government; it is God’s institution. Therefore, Rom 13:1 says “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”
So not only should we obey government because it is ordained by God, we should obey the authorities of the land because according to God’s plan government is designed to help people live orderly lives. We read in I Timothy 2:1,2 “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” The function of government is to enable people “to live quiet and peaceable lives in godliness and dignity!” Our text reads, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrong doer.” (vvs 3,4). The laws of a government when it operate according to God’s design should make it possible for its citizens to live peaceable, godly lives with dignity!