In chapter twelve of Romans, Paul switched from his discourse on the theology of the gospel, to the practical application of Christian faith. As a result of salvation, Christians are to offer their bodies as living sacrifices to the will of God, and to allow the word of God to transform their minds so that they are no longer of this world. In all humility we are to serve one another and use our natural abilities, and spiritual gifts, to the glory of God. Paul says to sincerely love one another, live godly lives, express the love of God to our enemies, and to overcome evil with good.
These are our instructions on how to relate to one another, especially as brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul also talks about how we as Christians are to relate to the civil authorities. He says some things that may be a little hard for us to accept, in light of current events, but since this is the word of God, we need to take a closer look at Romans 13:1-7.
I know that many, like me, are disgusted with the state of our Federal Government. Here is a news flash: our government is corrupt. I read a joke on line last week that said, a Communist, a Muslim, and an illegal alien went into a bar, and the bartender said, “Hello Mr. President.” Did I just say that out loud? Whether or not anything that joke implies is true, it suggests a basic distrust of the most powerful man in the free world and his administration.
From the perspective of people with a conservative approach to politics, when the liberals controlled all three branches of the government, they nearly ruined our nation. The outcry and hope was, with the last election, conservatives would control both houses of congress, and they would be able to turn things around. But have they? No. They still play with politics as if it were some game of chance where they gamble with the future of the people they are supposed to represent. They pass laws with no hope of ratification, rather than producing legislation that addresses our problems.
There seems to be very little difference between Republicans and Democrats other than the nature of their speech. Their combined actions move us toward the same unfortunate goal, the destruction of the principles of our constitution, and the weakening of our country. Patrick Henry said, “The constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government, lest it comes to dominate our lives and interests.” Today we see as reality of that which the Founding Fathers feared. So many of our laws are unjust. Government penalizes the most productive of our citizens, in order to reward those who contribute little or nothing. It is all done in the name of fairness, and political correctness, but everyone suffers and sacrifices, except for the leaders of our country.
It’s not fair. It’s not right, but this is the nature of the governing authorities over us. How are we to deal with so corrupt a government? Paul says in verse one that everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities. Like so much of what Paul said in the previous chapter, this goes against everything in my flesh. I get outraged over the incompetence of government, the irresponsible spending, and the flagrant disregard for our constitution. Still, the unmistakable principle of the bible is that I must submit myself to the governing authorities.
As bad as we may think our situation today, what’s happening in America cannot compare to the government of Paul’s day. As a Jew, Paul fell under the authority of the Jewish rulers of the Synagogues and the Temple. If anything, both Jewish governing bodies were anti-Christian. Persecution by the Roman government against Christians would rise to unspeakable heights. Paul faced persecution from every governing body, and yet, he says that everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities.
In the United States we do have one advantage over the people of Paul’s day. According to our Constitution, ours is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. We are in theory our own governors, through representation. We elect officials to represent our interests and beliefs. If we don’t like the way they govern, we have an opportunity to dismiss them, and elect someone else. This is our responsibility as self-governing people, and shame on us if we become so complacent that we do not vote. If we do not vote, we get what we deserve, whether we like it or not.
We have freedom of speech, so speak up, the right to bare arms so load up, and the freedom of assembly, so sign up. We will continue to have these freedoms so long as we do not surrender them in fear or apathy, but whether or not our laws are just, and whether or not our leaders are corrupt, we must submit to the governing authorities, so long as we are not forced to compromise on the clear principles of God’s word. We have to obey the law with integrity because it has a direct bearing on our witness.
Why must we submit to the governing authorities? Because, there is no authority except that which God has established. If God has established the authorities, then it is God’s will for those authorities to be in place. God’s got this. (sic). He is in control. Our hope is not in the world or in our government. Our hope is in Jesus Christ, and the eternal victory He won for us. He provides for our needs out of His riches. As Christians, we look to God and not to the government.
To give you a personal example of how this works, recently my wife, Debby, had to reduce her hours at work, and as a result we lost our health insurance. I knew that health insurance would be expensive, but we had to have insurance according to the Affordable Health Care Act. One option is to not have insurance, and pay a fine, but to me, that would be breaking the law. So we began looking at insurance on the exchange set up in Florida. According to Obamacare, Debby and I are among those rich Americans who can afford to help out the less fortunate. I explored a High Deductible Health Plan with a Health Savings Account, because that gave us smaller premiums. Our premium was slightly higher than the cheapest plan available, because we wanted to keep our current doctors. When you add up the premiums and the deductible, we would be paying out over $21,000 a year before the insurance kicked in, and this is before we made any contributions to a health savings account. That is as much as our house payment, property taxes, homeowners insurance, car payment, and car insurance combined. There is no way we could afford the Affordable Care Act. The irony is that many of Debby’s patients are praising Obamacare, because they get full medical coverage for very little or nothing at all.
After much prayer, I was ready to bite the bullet and trust God that He would provide what we needed to live under the authority of the laws of government. Then we got a quote from Cobra Insurance, which was established under president Reagan. Before Obamacare, Cobra Insurance was considered to be too expensive for most people. But in praise to my Lord who answers our prayers, Cobra is a real bargain compared to Obamacare. We now have the same insurance we had before, at a doable price, and we are completely compliant with the law.
This sets my conscious at ease. Verse three says that rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but they do hold terror for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. I am not afraid of what the government might try to do to mess up my life, because I haven’t done anything wrong. To the best of my knowledge, I’m not breaking any laws, even the laws that are unjust. I don’t fear the IRS coming after me, because I have legal medical insurance and I pay my taxes. I seek to have integrity in all my dealings, and I am able to do that because the Lord supplies all of my needs, as I trust Him with every area of my life.
Now the question becomes, “If God establishes the governing authorities, why does it seem that the governing authorities are so godless?” Verse four says that the civil leaders are God’s servants to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath, who brings punishment on the wrongdoer.
According to our Founding Fathers, the primary function of the government is found in the Preamble to the Constitution. “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Those are noble goals for government, and are good for the people governed. Government enforces the laws to protect the innocent from the godless. That is good, but what about corruption in government? How do we reconcile a corrupt government with a government instituted by God?
The answer lies in the second half of verse four. The government leaders are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. This verse reaches beyond the concept of punishing the person who breaks the law. The idea extends to the understanding that sometimes God uses governments to punish people for their sins, with the hope that they will repent. The Old Testament is full of examples, and I ask you to consider for a moment that the corruption in our own government is, at least in part, God’s judgment for our sin.
Sin always carries consequences, so why would we think that we, as a nation, are not under God’s righteous judgment. The first formal schools in America used the Bible as their textbook. In the sixties, the bible was outlawed in public schools. The early schools taught that God is the creator; today God has been replaced with the doctrines of evolution. When I was growing up, morality was closely tied to sexual abstinence. Today our public schools encourage promiscuity by providing our children with contraception and abortion counseling, without parental knowledge or consent. Our constitution guarantees the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, but in today’s world we cast away the value of life, with all of its potential, in the doctrine disguised by the phrase, “It’s a woman’s right to choose.” Since its inception, Israel has had a friend and ally in the United States. Because we have stood by them, equipped them, and spoke out for them, we have been God’s instrument of protection for His chosen people. God is not pleased that we are becoming Israel’s enemy, and we should look for His judgment if we do not turn from our present course. Just a few years ago, everyone knew that a marriage was between a man and a woman, now it has become a godless perversion with even more godlessness ahead. Please do not forget, that in America, we choose the leaders we want to govern us, so if government is corrupt, it is because of our own godless choices.
The best way for the American people to turn government around is to first turn individual hearts back to God. As Christians, we must exercise our legal rights in speech, action, and by voting, so that we may influence our world and government towards righteousness. In the mean time, it is still necessary to submit to the authorities, so that we will have a clear conscious. That includes paying our taxes according to verse six. I believe with all of my heart you should take every legal deduction you can, but you can’t fudge. Pay what you owe, whether you think it is fair or not. Do what is right, stay out of trouble, so that you can maintain the freedom to worship, serve, and share the love of Christ in this lost world. Live with integrity in every area of your life.
Should it really surprise us to see godlessness and injustice in the world? As it was in the days of Noah, as it was in the days of Sodom and Gomorra, so shall it be in the last days. If we are in the last days, we can only expect that it will get worse. We have to live in this world of moral decay, but if you belong to Jesus, you are not of this world. You have been set apart for God and His purposes. You will have victory over this world, but you have an obligation to Christ until His return. When we start to get discouraged over the condition of the world, let us remember that our time is short. God is in control and there are a lot of lost souls who need to hear the gospel so that they at least have an opportunity to turn to Christ in faith. If you have not yet surrendered your life in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, even now, through the Word of God, He is calling you to come and receive His forgiveness. Trust Jesus and His sacrifice. Repent of your sins, ask for God’s forgiveness; receive Jesus into your heart as Savior and Lord, and may God bless the United States of America.