Summary: Being citizens of heaven doesn’t minimize our responsibilities on earth for the Christian citizen is called upon to be the best citizen. The Christian will have a high view of authority & will be submissive to it as a matter of conscience.
ROMANS 13: 1-7
YOU AND YOUR GOVERNMENT
An Idaho SHEEP RANCHER was approached one day by a stranger in a suit. He said, "If I can guess how many sheep you’ve got, may I have one?" Thinking this to be near impossible the rancher agreed. The stranger then stated, "You have 1,795 sheep." Stunned by the correct answer the rancher told him to choose his sheep. The man selected an animal and slung it over his shoulder and started to walk away. The rancher called after him, "Hey if I can tell you who you work for can I have that animal back?" "OK." "You work for the government." The government worker asked, "How did you figure that out?" "Well," the rancher said, "put my dog down and I’ll tell you."[Lowell Streiker. Encyclopedia of Humor. Hendrickson Publ. Peabody, Mass. 1998. p. 293]
A presidential aide said, "Mr. President, I was wondering, sir if it might be possible for MY SON TO WORK somewhere in the White House." Of course," answered the president. "What does he do?" The aide threw up his hands and said, "Nothing."
Excellent, noted the president. "We won’t even have to train him." [Ibid. p. 287]
There’s not much respect for government in America today, especially with all the election/political talk going around. That’s unfortunate at best and diabolical at worst for the Christian is commanded to be subject to his government.
Our text moves from stressing what our individuals responsibilities are to others to spotlighting how we are to respond to the government. What ought to be the attitude of Christians toward governing authorities? We have been called out of this world system but still live in it. Being citizens of heaven does not minimize our responsibilities here on earth for the Christian citizen is called upon to be the best citizen. The Christian, Scripture insists, will have a high view of authority and will be submissive to it as a matter of Christian conscience (CIT).
I. THE PRINCIPLES OF AUTHORITY, 13:1-2.
II. THE PURPOSE OF AUTHORITY, 13:3-4.
III. THE PROCESSES OF AUTHORITY, 13:5-7.
These words beginning in verse 1 are as important as any that have ever been written on political thought and duties. "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities." What a strong statement about the right of governments to rule and our responsibility to support them. WHY? The next part of verse 1 answers why. ... "For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God."
Human government is ordained or established by God. Weirsbe said, "God has established three institutions: home (Gen. 2:18-25), church (Acts 2), and government (Gen. 9:1-17)" [Weirsbe, Warren. The Bible Exposition Com. Victor Books. Wheaton, IL. 1989. p. 556]. Ordained means it originated from God, or it is His idea. Government is instituted under divine authority. Human authority is derived from God’s authority. It is authority delegated in certain spheres of life. Therefore we should say as Jesus did to Pilate in John 19:11, "You would have no authority [exousía] over Me, unless it had been given you from above." Pilate misused his authority to condemn Jesus, but it was delegated to him by God [Stott, John. Romans. IVP. Dover Grove, IL.1994. p.340].
Those to whom submission (not the stronger word obey) is due are called governing authorities [exousía]. [Governing authorities is literally "powers that be."] It is a sweeping command. It is more than just Presidents or Congress but all who are in positions of authority. It would include respect for the local policeman and teacher. They have authority granted to them in certain spheres of life.
Paul then adds that because God has established these governing authorities and delegated His authority over a sphere of activity to them, those governed by them must submit to these authorities in their domain of responsibility. Therefore whoever resists God’s delegated authorities operating within their legitimate orb of responsibility has opposed the ordinance of God. In fact, failure to submit is seen as resistance to God’s principles and merits divine judgment (13:2).
Are there times when Christians should not submit to these governing authorities? Yes. When governing authorities extend their authority beyond their delegated domain or sphere. For example when the governing authorities told the disciples not to share the gospel, the disciples responded that they must obey God’s rather than man (Acts 5:29). Governing authorities had over stepped the area of authority God had allotted to them. [That is why they are called governing authorities, not the highest or supreme authorities.] The disciples must obey God, the greatest authority who authorizes, legitimize, and limits other authority spheres. Let it be noted that these earthly authorities did not recognize God’s authority or their invading of it. They beat, tortured, and executed believers for following God’s authority instead of theirs.