Romans Chapter 13
KLMX May 2010
1st Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Good morning and welcome to the Ministerial Alliance program here on KLMX. Iím Bryan Kimsey from 1st Baptist Church in Des Moines. For the past nearly 2 years, Iíve been working through Paulís letter to the church in Rome and this week we are in chapter 13. Chapter 13 is a fun section, with instructions on obeying the government which includes paying taxes and obeying speed limits. It also contains instructions on loving your neighbor and ends with an exhortation to wake up. It should be a fun chapter to examine. Weíll get started just as soon as I ask God to bless this message and use it for his glory and for the light that is Jesus Christ. In His name, amen!
Romans 13 starts off with this passage:
Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
Letís work backwards on this one. Paul says that "the authorities that exist are appointed by God." Now thatís interesting. Think of electionsÖ according to Paul, the winner of those elections are appointed by God. Itís not a random chance, itís not based on the legwork done by the candidateís followers, but the winner of the election is appointed, and appointed by God. Or letís take the police chief or judges in office or even schoolteachers. Are they "authorities"? Well, they seem to be- theyíre in a place where they make decisions and people follow orders. If youíre in public school and the teacher says "Please sit down!" youíd better sit down or else the teacher has the power to enforce that command. Websterís 1828 dictionary defines "authority" as "power, rule, sway. A right to command or to act." Thus, our police, city councils, and teachers have authority.
Now, this authority obviously has boundaries. A school teacher canít legally direct traffic or make arrests- thatís the policemanís job. A policeman canít sentence a criminal- thatís the judgeís area of authority. A judge canít veto or pass an act of Congress- thatís the Presidentís area of authority. At the same time, higher authorities have some jurisdiction over lower authorities. The Supreme Court, for instance, does have some say over what is and what is not taught in public schools. A policeman can ensure that laws are not broken in the schoolteacherís classroom. While authority has its boundaries, those boundaries can easily be abused if not recognized and enforced.
Here in the United States we have certain checks and balances designed to protect individual rights from abuses. The police, for instance, canít legally enter your house w/out either permission or a search warrant. Now, when, letís say, a policeman forgets his role and over-steps his authority, what happens? A higher authority corrects him. The Chief of Police may reprimand an officer or call for a hearing to determine if wrong-doing was done. Sometimes the accused party is cleared and sometimes theyíre found guilty, but in either case, they have a higher authority to answer to and when that fact is forgotten, justice is called for. The point is that authorities have limits, have a higher authority, and have a responsibility to use their authority in a certain way.
When Paul says "the authorities that exist are appointed by God", he is declaring God as the supreme authority since God has the power and the authority to appoint authorities under him. What happens then when under-authorities forget their superior authorities? Just like the over-stepping police officer called into the chiefís office, theyíll have to give account for their actions. From our point of view, this often doesnít happen fast enough, but remember- the universe works on Godís time, not ours. In a slightly different context, Peter says:
2 Peter 3:8-9 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (9) The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
The Lord is not slack concerning his promises and someday abusive authorities will be called into account. And we sometimes see that happening immediately as when church officials abuse their positions and the scandal is revealed. God reveals the scandal and higher authorities come into play.
The point of all this discussion on authority is to make sure that we see how things do indeed work before proceeding. After saying "Öthe authorities that exist are appointed by God", Paul then says "there is no authority except from God." Some people might argue that God only appoints some authorities, but Paul quickly nips that argument in the bud and says that "there is no authority except from God." This is a familiar point and Jesus himself said it when brought before Pilate.
John 19:8-12 Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, (9) and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, "Where are You from?" But Jesus gave him no answer. (10) Then Pilate said to Him, "Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?" (11) Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin." (12) From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, "If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar's friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar."
Here we see Pilate trying to use his power into forcing Jesus to talk to him. Jesus replies and says "You could have no power at all against me unless it had been given you from aboveÖ" This scares Pilate and "from then on Pilate sought to release Him". The problem now is that the Jews said "If you let this man go, you are not Caesarís friend!" Pilate does not have his priorities straight and places Caesar above God. And, boy, isnít that a familiar sounding thing? Could that be whatís happening in the United States? Have our authorities forgotten that "there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. " Have they forgotten who their higher authority is?
The cry that often comes up at this point is "separation of church and state!", and that is a very valid point. However, letís not misuse the point. The point of separation of church and state is that the state shall not dictate the church and the church shall not dictate the state. Thatís fine, but itís a different issue than "separation of God and state". The issue of God and state is that every individual in the state is personally responsible to God. Paul doesnít say that "every authority is appointed by the church". He says "the authorities that exist are appointed by God." They are different.
Well, so far weíve seen that the authorities that exist are appointed by God and that there is no authority except from God. Now letís look at the opening part of Paulís sentence- "Let every soul be subject to the governing authority." Whatís he saying here? Let every soul be subject to the governing authority? That means, weíre supposed to obey them? Well, that certainly seems to the case. Because if God appoints authorities and we donít obey them, then who are we actually disobeying? God! Iím not making this up. Paul says:
Romans 13:2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
This verse should bring up a lot of questions. Do we obey all authorities, all the time? Should we obey if weíre called to do immoral things? What about Hitler and Mussolini and Pol Pot and those authorities? What about our own war of independence that resulted in this country being founded? Lots and lots of questions. I think weíll examine these questions tomorrow when I have a full 15 minutes to address them but for now, remember this- the key is in the proper exercise of the given authority. Just as individuals who abuse their authority are called to account by a higher-up, so can established authorities abuse their position. At the same time, though, God definitely does use some authorities as chastising agents. He raised up the Chaldeans to punish the Israelites for their transgression against Him and He raised Pharaoh for the purpose of showing his power. Those passages are in Habakkuk 1 and Romans 9.
Habakkuk 1:6-10 For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation Which marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places that are not theirs. (7) They are terrible and dreadful; Their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves. (8) Their horses also are swifter than leopards, And more fierce than evening wolves. Their chargers charge ahead; Their cavalry comes from afar; They fly as the eagle that hastens to eat. (9) "They all come for violence; Their faces are set like the east wind. They gather captives like sand. (10) They scoff at kings, And princes are scorned by them. They deride every stronghold, For they heap up earthen mounds and seize it.
Romans 9:17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I HAVE RAISED YOU UP, THAT I MAY SHOW MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MAY BE DECLARED IN ALL THE EARTH."
Letís go ahead and stop here for today. Tomorrow, weíll resume by looking at our obedience toward authorities. Weíll look at cases in which we are justified in disobedience and why those examples are justified and others are not. Join us again here on KLMX at 9:45 am.
Romans 13, Part 2