J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Church and State Part 2

Part 1 of this post can be found here.

3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

The rulers that God ordains are not placed in power to terrorize your good conduct but they are there to terrorize your bad conduct.  So you may have a valid point of disagreement with our government or a particular candidate but you make yourself subject to terror if you go about it in a dishonorably submissive manner.  It is no wonder very few things change in the political realm.  Too many Christians sin in their submission to the government and therefore their conduct is terrorized.

Paul asks, “Do you not fear the authorities that God has established?”  If you express the same fear for the authorities that God commands for Himself, then live obedient lives (which includes governmental submission) and see the government blessing.  But if you are do what is wrong, if you willfully sin against the government that God has established, the you should be afraid for the sword is God’s arm of judgment.

Now let’s stop here for a moment.  The general prevailing attitude presently in Christendom is that our government is a low point in our history because of the sins of abortion, homosexuality, and the like being not only permitted but at times endorsed and encouraged.  I would say that yes biblically that can be the case.  The idea is that Christians are oppressed because of their views for those things and I would say that Biblically that is also a reason why things are as they are.  But Paul offers another reason here for the present state of our country and it is the interaction between Christians and their government.  Paul would say, “Hey believers, you so wantonly sin against the governing authorities that God has established that God is bringing judgment against you and is using the very government you disrespect as the instrument of judgment.  God will not suffer your interaction with your government if it is not respectfully submissive.  If it is arrogant, brash, mean-spirited and sinful, then discipline will come.

Now you may say, “Gordon, you think God wants us to submit to this government?  To this president?  To these crazy liberals?  There is no way.”  Well, if you think our government is bad, consider the one that Paul was commanding the believers in Rome to submit to.  The first documented case of imperially-supervised persecution of the Christians in the Roman Empire begins with Nero.  In 64 A.D., a great fire broke out in Rome, destroying portions of the city and economically devastating the Roman population. Nero was suspected as the arsonist so to remove any suspicion on himself, Nero accused the Christians and systematically tortured them.  Nero lit Christians on fire and impaled them on sticks using them to light to the roadways in Rome.

Paul says, “Submit to the rulers over you as they are the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.  Folks, I’m not advocating and neither is Paul commanding a passive, silent Christianity in a pagan world.  Paul is however, commanding a respect of government that is on par with the respect that wives are to give their husbands.  Quite simply, speak respectfully and in truthful love and remove the spit and venom. Now.  If we violate these commands, we will live under the avengers of God’s wrath.

Now, submission for submission’s sake never sounds fun and just doing or not doing something so you don’t get thumped is not exactly a spiritual act of worship.  Knowing that, hear verse 5.

5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

We don’t live lives of submission just to avoid getting the beatdown from God.  The Christian conscience is designed in such a way that if you actively and willfully violate scripture, you are going to be miserable.  The Holy Spirit’s indwelling of you and the transformation that happens when your heart of sin becomes a heart of love for God is so complete that the desire for obedience does not rise from a heart of fear but a desire to be like your Savior.  Look at the areas of your life presently and ask yourself, “Who is in authority over me?”  “Am I interacting with them in a way that is pleasing to God?”  “Do I hold my political opinions fervently and passionately but also respectfully as God would have me?”

Practically, there are several ways in which we can live out this respectful, worshipful sacrifice of submission.  First, Paul says, pay your taxes.  I really don’t know how to make it any more simple.  However, making this command more practical, don’t spend the next 3 months disrespectfully complaining about your taxes.  Pay them as the governing authorities are ministers of God.  If you feel like your taxes are too high, respectfully pay them and speak with politicians who can change and influence the tax laws.  But do it submission, peacefully, and respectfully.  Secondly, if you owe someone an amount of money, any amount of money, pay your bill respectfully and on time. Thirdly, if you are presently being disrespectful or dishonoring to someone with whom you should be respectful and honoring, whether you are doing in your speech, your actions, your blog or your thoughts, God would have you repent.

Folks, as always, consider Jesus Christ and His example.  The disciples thought the culmination of God’s work would be Jesus’ overthrowing the kingdoms that inhabited Jerusalem.  At that time, Jesus couldn’t care less about overthrowing those rulers (who btw were much more evil than anything we’ve ever seen).  When the disciples were convinced that Jesus wouldn’t want His disciples to pay the ridiculously high taxes to Caesar, Jesus responded with Mark 12:17 “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.  When faced with Pilate before His death, Jesus wasn’t worried about overthrowing or reforming him either.  “36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”  Yet Jesus also made it very clear that because of His divine nature, no government or governmental official could thwart His plan.  When the Pharisees encouraged Jesus to flee before His crucifixion, He said, Luke 13:32 “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’

In every interaction, Jesus understood a couple of things.  God ordained all earthly authority.  Respectful submission to that authority is the call of the life of faith.  No one needs to sin to be respectful of that authority.  But also, don’t sin in your interaction with authority.

Gang, your interaction and response to the government in which we are presently under speaks greatly to your faith in Jesus Christ.  If you interact respectfully submitting in a Christ-like fashion, you will speak well to faith in Jesus Christ.  If your disagreements with our government cause you to speak disrespectfully, lob personal attacks of character, and cause you to wish for harm on our governing authorities, then you are bringing disservice to name of Jesus Christ.  Folks, this passage does not advocate a passivity towards our government.  It advocates humility and a recognition that God has ordained who our leaders are.  As verse 4 says, our governing authorities are, “the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”  If we have oppressive leaders, then God is has ordained that.  We would do well to spend more time in personal repentance than barking to the wind about our leaders.

Our first and primary response is always personal repentance.  If you want better leaders or more Godly leaders, start by repenting of your brash, arrogant attitude toward to leaders that God has given you.  Our attitude should be the same as Phillipians 2:1-11

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

If you are a believer united with Christ and finding comfort in His love, then the church should be like minded.  We should have one spirit and purpose which is love.  That causes us to live as verse 3 commands.

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Our goal should not be for selfish ambition or vain conceit.  We should look around us and see a bunch of people that we consider better than ourselves.  We should demonstrate that by meeting the needs of others.

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

We are to emulate Jesus’ humility.  He was God yet was obedient unto death and God glorified Him for it.  The brash arrogant church of today so often feels far away from the example of our humble Savior.  As we emulate this Savior, we do it with the goal of not having a perfect democratic government or taking the next election.  Those things have their place but that place is far below the goal of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus so that ever tongue might confess and every knee might bow to Jesus Christ.

  • It is possible for Sovereign King Church to hold Biblical truths passionately.
  • It is possible for us to play a part in Godly change in our world.
  • And it is possible for us to do those things in all humility.
  • But those things are only possible as we emulate and imitate our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
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February 8, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

4 Comments »

  1. Very good Gordon. My favorite so far as this is a source of great frustration for me. I feel our country would be far better off if the political discussions were based in mutual respect with the common goal of making this a great country for all of it’s citizens. Sadly, I see the meaningless infighting, character attacks and deceptive propaganda as the MO of not only our politicians but the citizens of this country. Kudos to you for reminding folks that healthy rational discussion is not only right but the only way to make real change.

    Regards,
    Greg

    Comment by Greg Votaw | February 8, 2010 | Reply

  2. Love this timely and relevant message! We are also called to win over those in authority in gentle and quiet spirit. Our natural reaction is to love the church and judge the world, while we are told to love the world and judgement starts in the church. We have Luther as a great example in this.
    Above all, may the Lord grant us this grace, to endure as he did without reviling or compromise!

    Comment by Charl Chapman | February 8, 2010 | Reply

    • Charl, thanks so much for your comments.

      Comment by jgordonduncan | February 8, 2010 | Reply


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