Christian Citizenship

(Rom. 13:1-7)

Todayís lesson falls in the overall outline of Romans in the following way:

Theme: The Faithfulness and Righteousness of God (1:16-17)

I. The Need for God's Righteousness (1:18-3:20)

    II. Godís Gracious Provision of Righteousness (3:21-8:39
      III. Israelís Temporary Rejection of Godís Righteousness in Jesus Christ (9:1-11:36)
        IV. Practical Applications of Godís Righteousness in Life (12:1-15:13)

             Complete Surrender to God (12:1-2)
             Proper Exercise of Spiritual Gifts (12:3-8)
             Love for the Church (12:9-13)
             Love for Persecutors (12:14-21)
             Christian Citizenship (13:1-7)
             Primacy of Love (13:8-10)
             The Nearness of the Day of the Lord Motivates Us to Live Righteously (13:11-14)
             Care for the Weaker Christian (14:1-15:13)

        So much of the Bible seems to deal with "other worldly" issues. We speak of the salvation of men's souls, relationships among Christians, etc. When Rom. 12:14-21 speaks of persecution though, we realize that we are part of a world that is not necessarily Christian. This same thought is reinforced in the present passage as we see Paul discussing the way Christians should relate to a secular government.

        (1) Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. (2) Therefore, he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God, and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. (3) For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same. (4) For it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid for it does not bear the sword for nothing. For it is a minister of God, an avenger bringing wrath upon the one who practices evil. (5) Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. (6) For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. (7) Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

        According to v. 1 why does Paul command us to submit ourselves to governing authorities?

        According to Paul (v. 2) whenever a person resists authority, what has he ultimately opposed? What will happen to that person who resists authority?

        What is the purpose of government? God loves what He has created. We know that He loves His creation not only because He created it but also because one day He will raise it from the "dead" just like He is going to raise us from the dead (Rom. 8:18-25). God has established governments in order to maintain order in His creation. Anarchy directly opposes God's designs for His created order.

        According to Paul are governing authorities a cause of fear for good behavior or for bad behavior (v. 3)? What is Paul's solution for you not to fear governing authorities?

        Think about you are traveling down I-45 going right at the speed limit and you see some flashing lights behind you. Do those lights cause you to fear? Think about traveling down the same road at 15 mph over the speed limit. Do those same lights instill more fear in you? What's the difference in the 2 situations that causes you to fear in the second situation?

        According to v. 4 the government does not "bear the _______________ for nothing." What do you think Paul means by this?

        The sword was used by the Romans for 2 reasons: (1) to defend the Roman empire against foreign armies and (2) to execute criminals for capital offenses (murder, treason, etc.). Notice that Paul affirms the right of the government to wield the sword. Whereas he might argue that capital punishment should not be exercised in every case it was used, he nevertheless affirmed the right of the government to wield the sword.

        Many of those who argue against capital punishment and against war appeal to the 6th command of the 10 Commandments: "Thou shalt not kill." What is the problem with these people appealing to the 6th commandment to justify their views?

        The Church has stated that capital punishment is not wrong; however, it claims it should be used when no other option is available. Life imprisonment would be an option. If that option is available, then, according to the Church, capital punishment should not be implemented.

        According to v. 5 Christians should submit to the government not only because of wrath but also "for _____________ sake." What does Paul mean by that?

        Because we submit to the government, because it is the right thing to do, because this is what God wants from us, what should our attitude be towards taxes (v. 6)?

        Now it would be easy to argue that we should resist the government over taxation; however, look at v. 7. Paul seems to imply that taxes should not be a reason to resist government because in addition to taxes, what else should we pay?

        It would be easy to leave this passage here with the idea that Christians should always obey the government. That though is not true. According to Jesus we should render to Caesar the things that are _______________ and to God the things that are ___________________. In other words, we should submit to Caesar (government) when he is operating within the sphere God has ordained for him. Christians should always be the best citizens in the community.

        Baptists have come up with the practical solution for the relationship of the church to stateóseparation of church and state. Under the influence of Baptists in Virginia leading statesmen like Jefferson and Monroe worked to frame the first amendment to our constitution saying that the government will not enact a law establishing religion. This does not mean that Christian men should not vote their conscience determined by their faith whenever they are enacting laws. This is not separation of faith and state. It means that governments should not set up state religions, tax us to promote certain religious institutions/faiths, etc.

        Now some would go even further and delete God completely from the political and social spheres, relegating Him completely to the church. Jefferson's statement about the "inviolable wall of separation of church and state" has been to promote this view. Deleting God though from the political realm completely will lead to what? When Jefferson wrote The Declaration of Independence, he based the rights of man upon what? Why is it important that our rights be based upon this and none other?

        Again, this is not separation of faith and state.

        The problem comes when Caesar decides to meddle in the things that belong to God. What does happen whenever Caesar begins to meddle in the affairs of God? At the time Paul was writing Romans, the Roman government was for the most part neutral towards religion. In fact Paul used the judicial system for his own benefit by appealing to Caesar (Acts 25:11). Forty years later though the Roman government turned hostile towards Christianity. The Book of Revelation to a large degree addresses this situation.

        I just recently had the privilege to travel to Rome. Although I had been there three times before, the sufferings the Roman Church experienced for about 250 years really weighed upon me. As we were in the catacombs, we saw the place where Pope Sixtus II was performing mass with several deacons whenever the Roman soldiers stormed in and dragged him and the deacons outside to execute them. We saw the statue of St. Cecilia with one hand stretched out pointing one finger with the other hand stretched out pointing three fingers. Even in dying, she professed her faith in the central truth of Christianity. All in all they have uncovered 500,000 graves in the St. Callixtus Catacombs alone.

        Even sadder was the grave of St. Peter. The Romans had just crucified him upside down. That was bad enough; however, they also issued orders to execute any Christian who buried another Christian (the Romans would just throw their dead bodies into the Tiber River). To prevent this from happening, some nameless but very brave Christians courageously chopped off his hands and feet so that they could remove him quickly from the cross and give him a Christian burial. Such love and devotionÖto bury just a corpse. This is muscular Christianity and not the soft soap we are peddling today.

        According to Revelation should the Christian always submit to governing authorities?

        According to Revelation what should Christians do whenever the governing authorities try to force us to deny Christ or to proclaim any other person Lord and God?

        Are Christians ever justified in taking up arms against their own government? What about Christians who "execute" doctors at abortion clinics? Are they justified in "executing" these doctors?

        A few years ago Alabama Supreme Justice Moore defied a federal court's order to remove the 10 Commandments from the Alabama State Supreme Courthouse. He refused to do it. Many, including Christians, claimed that he should have obeyed the order because it was handed down by a court. Do those same people mean to say that we ALWAYS have to obey the courts? I thought that was what the Nuremburg trials were all about. In matters of religion conscience ultimately should govern our behavior, not any other court or governing authority.

        There is a real danger whenever people wed the church to the state. It is probably by no means an accident that Christian Germany supported Hitler because Martin Luther had wedded the church to the state so that disobedience to the state resulted in God's wrath. Based not only upon Rom. 13:1-7 but also upon practical reasons, Luther wedded the church to the state. If the German princes in northern Germany had not supported Luther, Charles V, the Holy Roman emperor, would have had his head. The support of the state was critical for Lutheranism to survive. Luther Germany had wedded the church to the state for 400 years when Hitler came to power. He was able to tap into this principle for his support.

        [Lutheranism was not the only faith to wed the church with the In The Inferno the Catholic Dante places both Judas Iscariot and Brutus (Caesar's assassin) together in the lowest part of hell. For Dante rejection of the state was as bad as rejection of God.]

        Civil disobedience should be the Christian response to governments which cross the line and meddle in the affairs of government. Henry David Thoreau is credited with the concept of civil disobedience; however, civil disobedience has its origins in Christianity. In Revelation John never tells Christians to take up arms. Rather he commands them to refuse to obey Caesar's orders.

        Does civil disobedience work? Ask Great Britain. Gandhi brought down the British empire not by violence but by civil disobedience.

        Finally, be careful about undermining the government. According to Paul who should we first pray for whenever we begin our prayers (1 Tim. 2:2)? Why does he command us to pray for them first?

        We find it easy to gripe and complain about our government. I did for 8 years under a previous administration. If I and other Christians would have prayed for Clinton and his administration as much as we griped, those 8 years might have turned out a lot different. (The same applies to the present administration and to Democrats.) Paul lived under a much more oppressive government than you or I do, and yet you never see him calling for societal change. For example, did he free the slave Onesimus or did he send him back to Philemon so that he might continue to serve Philemon?

        Paul realized that the way to change society is not by laws but by changing men's hearts. If enough hearts are changed by the power of Christ, then society will change.