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The Powers that Be

Romans 13:1-7



In chapter 13, we look at our relationship with government and all ordained authority over us. 


'the powers that be' in v. 1 is a direct reference to all authority God has allowed us to be placed under.


When Jesus was approached by scribes and Pharisees w/ a trick question, "Is it lawful to pay taxes,"  [I wish He had said no!] He knew if he said yes or no, He would be condemned either way.  But you don't back God into a corner.  Jesus pointed to a coin, and Caesar on it, and said to render to him what is his and to God what is His.  This ingenious answer leaves both Caesar and God on their respective thrones.  We do have an obligation to both our heavenly and earthly citizenships.


Do you believe in separation of church and state [not in our constitution]?  We've been hoodwinked, because our founder's intentions have been turned inside out.  The government is to stay out of the church, but not the other way around.  God used to be an invited guest of our government, and a foundational part of who we are. 


These principles we now look at apply to our relationship to government, such as our nation's leaders, but also to the likes of our police officers.  It applies to your boss, whether he's good or bad, your parents, your pastors, or anyone under whose authority God has placed you.  To not be under authority is rebellion, which is as the sin of witchcraft.


1.     The ordination of government.

v. 1          "Ordained" = divinely created by God for a purpose.  This happened after the flood, in Genesis 9:1-17.  God's first institution was the home/marriage [Gen. 2], then the government, and then the church in Acts 2.  So, government is 1 of the only 3 institutions which are God ordained.  That doesn't mean government is always right, or that we like the person in office.  Government is often evil, and corrupt, but it couldn't even exist w/out God allowing it to stand, which He does, for His own purposes.


We may not always respect the person in office, but we should respect the office...for God is ultimately still in charge, and He holds the king's heart in His hand.

Daniel 4:17
... to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.

And the God who puts them in is the One who brings them down!


Daniel 2:21
And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings...

Psalm 75:7
But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.


How should I feel about my authority over the church?  I should quake in my boots, for God doesn’t need me, and can remove me at any time.

“I wonder if God wants to remove you, pastor.  Perhaps he wants me to volunteer to help Him get you out!”


King Nebuchadnezzar flourished w/ God's blessing upon him, yet when he was lifted up in pride, God was able to abase him like an animal.


King Uzziah was Godly, and when he died, Isaiah went into the temple, depressed and distraught, thinking it would all fall apart.  Then God gave him the vision of Himself, high and lifted up.  The message?  Your king may die, but the King of kings is alive and well!


It doesn't matter who wins the presidency next November, God is still in charge!


Now, what does this ordination of government mean to us today?


  • Voluntary obedience is commanded.  "be subject" = submit


God in His wisdom established the principle of authority in every area of our lives.  We distance ourselves from those who teach riot and rebellion in the name of God.  You see it on TV.  Almost any national rebellion you see around the world is justified by its participants as being what God would want.  These verses reject that.


v. 2          In the 60s it looked like our nation was going to fall apart.  They burnt flags, draft cards, and other unmentionables.  Those seeds of rebellion which were sown then have reaped the harvest of the nation we live in today, w/ no recognized authority, no absolutes, and no respect to our heritage.  They are rewriting our history and trying to change our future.


Look at how children rebel today against their parents and teachers.  And when parents take their kid's side vs. the teacher, they are just teaching that child to not recognize even their own authority as parent!


ill.--there's been times when we knew the teacher was wrong, but we didn't want to undermine their authority so we dealt privately w/ them, and focused our child on what THEY should do differently to help the situation.


It used to be when you got a spanking at school you got one at home.  We've come a long way!


Concerning authority, the same truths about government is true in churches nowadays.  As the leader here I have to make decisions and judgments at times.  "Who does he think he is?  God?"  They come for counseling, but don't submit to it or obey it...if they don’t like what the Bible says.  Or quite often it’s another scenario:  they were looking for me to support them in what they have already decided to do, and just needed 'permission'.


I'm not talking about a dictator in spiritual authority, but a God ordained leader.  1 Timothy says not to ‘lord over.’  Rather, it says to have the oversight.  And the answer to their question, who do you think you are, is another question:  "Who do YOU think I am?"  Because I don't just think...I know who I am, I am the pastor and God ordained me as such, and if I don't lead as He tells me I have to deal w/ His wrath, and though I'd like to please everyone, if you put me in the situation I'll choose pleasing Him over pleasing you!


What is true in the home and in the church is true in government. 

  • Voluntary obedience is commanded.
  • Violent opposition is forbidden.


We disagree w/ some laws, but a responsible Christian doesn't flaunt the law.  Change it?  Yes, we should try to, but taking the law into our own hands, bombing abortion clinics, no!


The only exception is when the laws of man contradict the laws of God.

Acts 5:29
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

God had just told them to evangelize, and here the authorities say, no, you can't.  God's law is a higher law.  Stand for it, non violently, and prepare to pay consequences.

Acts 5:40-41
40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.


In the OT, Daniel was commanded not to pray, but He did anyway, and was prepared to die for it.  [3 Hebrew children / John the Baptist lost his head over it]



2.     The obligation of government.

To protect the good.

vv. 3        If you are good, you need not fear authority. 

ill.--how many tense up and slow down when you see a policeman?  Why?  Because you have a guilty conscience.  If you had a clean conscience, your first impulse would be relief!


The first obligation of government is to protect the good.  The second is to punish the bad.

v. 4          sword = glock!  This is actually a clear reference to capital punishment [death penalty].  It is a deterrent?  Yes!  But not when the average death row stay is 10 years...and not when less than 5% of murderers even go to death row.


Our crime problem today would be largely erased if we returned to punishment that is swift and severe!  The Bible teaches this whether you and I agree or not.

Genesis 9:6
Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

This was ordained even before the Mosaic law, and has never been revoked...eye for an eye!  This is personal responsibility.  You can't blame your upbringing or society or insanity.  You did it!


3.     The operation of government.

vv. 5-7     Each of these 3 verses give a principle that will help government operate effectively.


v. 5          Conscience of citizens.  Instead of fear motivation, we should have a conscience...a sense of what is right and wrong.  This helps our society, because you can't always find a policeman close by.  


v. 6          Conscientiousness of public officials.  This is the 3rd time in these verses that public servants are called 'ministers' of God.  Just as I am ordained as a church leader, they are ordained to lead our cities, states, and country. 


And so, I say how dare we elect public officials that are rascals when they are to fulfill the job of a minister?  They should have the character to protect the innocent.  So if they don't protect the unborn, can they be trusted to protect me when I walk down a dark alley in innocence?  If they can't keep their vows to their spouse, can we trust them to put their hand on the Bible and take the oath of office?


v. 7          Contribution of the finances.  This means we are to pay our taxes and our tithes. 


Irony:  Taxes are often unfair, but tithes are not.  Imagine if we did tithes the way we do taxes.  We would charge the wealthy more than 10% to cover the poor and we wouldn't ask them to do their fair share.


America today punishes those who achieve, and rewards those who do not.  This is good news if you do well, for even though you pay taxes for yourself and many others who pay none, at least you have been blessed to the point that you can.  And your tithe is no more than anyone else's...a fair 10%.


And if you don't owe taxes, good for you [will you tithe on your tax refund?], and as for tithe, your 10% isn't very much, and so you CAN afford it, and if you don't, get used to never having to pay taxes, because you pronounce a curse upon your finances in the future.


It's one thing to criticize our government, and it's another to pray for them.  We all stay sharp when we do both.  The powers that be are ordained of God!

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