J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Church and State Part 1

Big Picture Question:  You think loving your enemy is hard?

Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Once again, I want to remind everyone that the context of these verses as well as the verse last week about loving your enemy fall into the overall command of offering your body as a living sacrifice in a spiritual act of worship.   Paul talks about living this life of sacrificial worship personally, in relationships within the church and then expanding out to the surrounding communities.   So, Paul commands the church to meet each other’s needs and then be sure to show hospitality.  Then he goes on to speak of the act of sacrificial worship that is loving and blessing your enemies.  In that spirit, this week, Paul issues an even more broad command.  He says, Let every person be subject to governing authorities.  Like I said, you think loving your enemy is hard, try being subject to the government.

So, what does it mean to be subject to the governing authorities?   Well the Greek word for the word “subject” there is a form of the word hupotasso which appears in some variation, 39 times in the NT.  It generally means “to subordinate; to obey, to be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.”  You get the point.

You’ll hear the word in such passages as:

  • Hebrews 2.7-8 – You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
    you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.”  So everything in creation is subject to Jesus.
  • James 4.7 – Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Submission to God causes the devil to flee from you.
  • Ephesians 5.19 – submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Each believer is to walk humbly submitting to one another.
  • Ephesians 5.22 – Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Wives are to submit to their husbands in the same manner that believers are to submit to Jesus.

So being subject to and submitting to something is a natural outworking of a relationship with Christ.  As all things are subject to Him, we are to reflect our humility in submission to other things that God has ordained worthy of submission.  Here God commands that you submit to the governing authorities.  To understand that let’s ask two questions:  why and how should we submit to governing authorities. First to the why?

Well there is no authority in this world that God has not granted.  No nation, no relationship…if there is authority in this world, God has granted it.  Since God has established these authorities, resisting them is resisting what God has appointed and resisting what God has appointed incurs judgment.

Take that in for a moment as we explore how we are to submit to the government.  In the same way that we are to submit to God, in the same way that a wife is to submit to her husband, that is the way you are to submit to the governmental authorities that have been established.  Immediately, a bunch of questions come to mind.  Does that mean that a Christian can’t have an opinion or disagree with their government?  Of course not.  In the same way that a wife submitting to her husband doesn’t make her a brain dead slave.  No wife should submit to her husband if he is telling her to willfully sin and if a government tells you to willfully sin, you shouldn’t do that either.  But the same air of respect should be between you and your government that is expected between wife and husband.  I want that truth to sink in and sink in deeply.

Sadly, that type of submission is in no way the case in our culture.  No matter what political party most Christians affiliate themselves with and no matter what candidate is favored, when it comes to the government, there is rarely anything but rudeness, sarcasm, and flat out hatred, especially right now with this administration.  When a candidate gets caught in a scandal, the general response is a joyous, “I told you so” and mockery.  So many Christians delight in the revealing of sin in the political arena.  Folks make jokes about everything from politicians’ sexuality to their family to outright wishing that the certain candidates would be publicly flogged or even die.  The majority of Christian interaction with politics these days is quite frankly disgusting and dishonoring to God.  Christians teach their children to hate their presidents (unless of course its the one they voted for) and don’t think twice about it.

If you want to gauge your own responses to the government and how well you submit to the governing authorities, ask yourself this question.  Men, would you be comfortable with your wife speaking about you the same way you speak about the president of the US? Wives, would you be comfortable speaking about your husband the same way you speak about a local senator or governor or the president?  I would imagine that very few of you would find the same type of language used about our government okay if it was directed towards you.

There is a valid place for public discussion about things that we disagree with our government, but it should look like a peaceful exchange between a husband and wife about any other decision they have to make.  Maybe the problem is that none of us know how to interact with folks with whom we disagree which is completely out of line with Paul’s command last week of not being wise in your own eyes.

The foundational problem with submission is that we love other kingdoms more than we do the Kingdom of God.  Folks love the Kingdom of America much more than the Kingdom of God so they spend all their time griping, complaining, and flat our dishonoring the name of Christ by the way they attack politicians.  Try to take our guns away from us and we are ready to shed blood.  Ask us to love our neighbors and our attention might rise above indifference.  Folks love the Kingdom of Self much more than the Kingdom of God which is why so many marriages can’t discuss where to go out to eat with getting into a fight.  Sadly, some children live in fear of one of their parents erupting into massive argument about the silliest things.

Our submission, especially our submission to governing authorities (which is commanded at least 3 times in the scriptures) is an act of living sacrificial worship.  Now, Paul doesn’t have to, but he goes on to explain why we should submit to the government in verse 3.

Part Two can be found here.

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February 8, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,

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