(You can listen to this sermon here)
I think it’s safe to say that most of us, myself included, usually tend to think of the governing authorities over us here in America as kind of a drag. Regardless of what your political, ethical, or religious worldviews are, most of us would say, at one point or another, that we’ve had our fair share of disagreements with the collective group of people that run this country. And of course, we are the ones that are correct... right?
Now, before we go any further, let me say that I believe we truly live in one of the greatest countries in the world. Let’s be honest – there’s no perfect country, state, or city anywhere – so with that being said, we have it very good and we should be more thankful than we are.
Anyways, this topic of authority comes up a lot. Everybody is entitled to their opinion but at some point, somebody has to have the final say, right? Unfortunately, the last thing we want to hear is what Paul says in Romans 13:1-2 about submitting to the governing authorities because it is God who has established them and if we resist submitting ourselves to these earthly authorities we are actually resisting God and what He has established for our benefit! Not to mention that those that resist the will of God will incur judgment (v.2).
At the core of Romans 13 we see an interesting, and quite honestly, frustrating critique of our own personal and cultural independence. We think because we live in America and have many freedoms, that we can do, say and act however we want regardless of the ramifications on those around us. Unfortunately, that’s an extreme worldview called anarchy. As Christians, Paul lays out for us the truth that if you’ve been subjected to someone else’s authority, that person or collective group is actually acting as ministers for God’s purposes! (v.6) Therefore, paying taxes, obeying the laws of our city, and submitting to governing authorities is directly related to our level of obedience to God. For many, this will be a very uncomfortable concept to think about because we typically view such entities as merely an earthly set of rules to follow.
In 1 Timothy 2:1-4 Paul is writing to his young apprentice, Timothy, and giving him instructions on how the Christian community of his time were to live in the same godly and dignified way. The same truth applies to us today as well. Paul further explains that we should not only submit to and obey those in authority over us, but that we should be proactively praying for those in authority over us as well as all people! (v.1) Paul goes on to explain why this is so important: because it pleases God when we pray for our leaders and those in authority over us and because God desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-5) Now, it’s not our responsibility to know who will be saved and who won’t. Our responsibility is to pray for our all people - especially our earthly leaders – and to submit to their authority, obey the laws of the land, and to do all of this with a glad and sincere heart. We ought to do these things joyfully because we know that our obedience in these areas is what is expected and commanded of us from Scripture and it pleases God.
What does your obedience to the laws of the land say about your obedience to God? What do you think the root of that problem is?