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THE BELIEVER'S SECULAR DUTY
Intro: There are three institutions that have been ordained of God in this world. In each of them, there are levels of submission and authority. Those three institutions are:
1. The Family - The family is a small community of related people who have as their interest the mutual care of one another. There is fellowship and sharing. There is labor and provision. There is also submission and authority. God has designated the husband as the head of the family. The wife is to submit to her husband. The children are, in turn, to submit to the parents. This makes for a happy home. When things are out of place, there is confusion and turmoil in the family.
2. The Church - The church is a small community of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. They have as their interest the worship and service of God as well as the mutual care of one another. The head of the church is the Lord Jesus Christ. The whole church is to submit to His leadership. Under Him fall the Pastor, then the Deacons, and other members of the congregation. When God's order is maintained in the church there is blessing and harmony. When that order is violated, there will division and hurt.
3. The Government - The government is a larger community of people who are brought together under central leadership. They have as their interest the mutual good of all other citizens. The submission of the citizens to the authorities of the government will produce a tranquil society.
It is the last of these three institutions that is in view in these verses. Since we are part of a secular society, we have certain responsibilities to that society. In chapter 12, Paul spoke at length of our duties on a spiritual and social level. In this chapter, he turns the focus to secular matters. How we relate to those outside the church, especially those who have the rule over us in society, it a very important mater. Let's take a few minutes this evening to look at The Believer's Secular Duty.
I. V. 1-5 THE SUBMISSIVE ASPECT OF OUR DUTY
(III. No one likes the word "submission". After all, we all want to be in control. However, we need to realize this evening that often we are not in control. If there was ever a place where this is true, it is in the world around us, and especially in the government. These verses clearly tell us that we have a duty to submit to the authority of the government.)
A. V. 1 a The Command Of God - When you consider the political climate in Rome when Paul wrote these words, they are quite remarkable! Rome was being ruled by a man named Nero. He was one of the most wicked of the Roman Emperors, even having his own mother and wife executed. He is most notorious for blaming a tragic fire that decimated Rome on the Christians. This resulted in 10's of thousands of Christians dying via persecution. Yet, it is to this man and his government that Paul issues the command for allegiance.
Of course, Paul had no illusions about Nero. What Paul is commanding is not blind allegiance to wicked men, but willful obedience to the commands of God. This command has nothing to do with the ruler and everything to do with the spiritual condition of the believer. The command is simple and the command is clear: believers are to willfully submit to secular authorities!
(III. Many have a problem with this. Yet, it is still the clear command of the Lord to His people. However, there comes a time when civil disobedience is in order! When the state comes to the place of trying to govern the conscience of man, then God is to be obeyed over the state. Here is the truth that is in view here. When the laws of the state do not contradict the laws of God, then the state is to be obeyed without question. However, when obeying the law of the state forces you to violate the clear teachings of God, then God is to be obey, regardless of what the state says. This is what the disciples did when they were called before the local authorities, Acts 5:25-42.) (Note: 1 Pet. 2:13)
B. V. 1 b The Control Of God - The reason these things are said is that God is a God Who oversees the events of history. Regardless of who is in power, they are there because the Lord has allowed it to be so to fulfill His own purposes. You see, the Lord holds all power within Himself, Psa. 62:11. He gives that power to whosoever
He wills, and He does so for His own purposes! (Note: If there is any lesson that is clear in the, book of Daniel - Dan. 2:21, or in the history of Israel, it is the lesson that the Lord sets up and pulls down human governments at His discretion. God is in control!
C. V. 2-4 The Council Of God - With those truths in mind, we are left with the Lord's council for His people. There are two basic ordinances God has in mind for us.
1. V. 2-3 Obey Governmental Laws - Since rulers rule by the consent of the Lord, if we rebel against the rulers of the land, then we are really rebelling against the Lord. Of course, we need to remember that there is a difference between laws that are acceptable and those that must be ignored. I will repeat what I have already said: The clear principle in the Word of God is that you and I are to place God's word first in our list of priorities and man's law second. When man's law contradicts God's word, then God's word must be followed regardless of the consequences.
(Note: Paul tells us that rulers are not against those who do good. The idea here is not that they will respect our ways or our works. The spiritual end of our behavior is not what we are discussing. The idea is that when we follow the law of the land, we will be found in favor with our leaders. But, when we break the laws of men, we will receive judgment. There is a price to pay for breaking man's law. (III. Paul felt this personally. He obeyed God's law and preached the Gospel, even when man's law executed him for his efforts, 2 Tim. 4:6-8. Notice there is no condemnation of the state from Paul for what he is about to suffer.)
2. V. 4 Observe Governmental Leaders - The Bible makes it clear that the government is the arm of the Lord to maintain order in society. To walk in step with the laws of men is to enjoy peace. To rebel is to feel that wrath of men. This is the idea we have already considered. God had handed judgment to men and we are under an obligation to obey them as they rule our countries, even when we disagree with how they lead.
I. The Submissive Aspect Of Our Duty
II. V. 6-7 THE SUPPORTIVE ASPECT OF OUR DUTY
A. V. 6-7a Our Duty To Render Monetary Support -These verses have to do with the matter of paying taxes. Now, there is not a person in this room who likes to pay their taxes. In truth, of the taxes we pay are unnecessary, unethical and illegal. However, we are obligated to pay them nonetheless. Of course, most folks look for any way they can to get out of paying their taxes. In fact, the IRS says that the gap between what people owe in taxes and what they actually pay is around 93 million dollars per year. However, the Lord would have us to pay the taxes we owe to the government. We may not like it, but it honors the Lord.
B. V. 7b Our Duty To Render Moral Support - Then, we are commanded to fear and honor those who have the rule over us. Even if we cannot respect, the person for their positions, their beliefs, or their actions, we still owe them a debt of respect because of the position they occupy. Remember, they would not be serving there unless they had been allowed to by God! Therefore, respect given to those in authority, is, in effect, respect given to God.
I. The Submissive Aspect Of Our Duty
II. The Supportive Aspect Of our Duty
III. V. 8-10 THE SPIRITUAL ASPECT OF OUR DUTY
A. V. 8a We Are To Be A Liberated People - This verse tells us that we are to be in debt no man. Of course, we can become so inundated financially that we are burdened beyond all hope of deliverance. We must be careful in that regard. However, the idea here, is that we are to render honor to those who are due honor, and fear to those who are due fear, custom to those who are due custom, and taxes to those who are due taxes. Paul is telling the Roman Christians that they are to meet every social obligations without failing. The command for us in our day is no different. We are under the same obligation to obey the rulers of our country and render them the honor they are due. Whether we agree with them or not. Therefore, let us determine in our hearts that regardless of what men do, we will honor God by the way we live our lives
B. V. 8b-10 We Are To Be A Loving People - If there is to be a debt we, let it be the debt of love. When we love God as we should, we will always love others as we should. When this is true in our lives, we will have no problem obeying the laws of the land and honoring the rights, positions and possessions of others. This was the truth Jesus attempted to convey in Matthew 22:37-39. When we learn to love like God, we will naturally live like God. After all, Jesus said that the world would know that we were his disciples when we properly displayed the characteristic of love, John 13:35. He also said that genuine the love always manifests itself in obedience John 14:15.
Conc: As we look at the world around us, there is much reason to be concerned and discouraged. Yet, we need to understand that the powers that be are there because they have been ordained by God. Therefore, let us respect their position, honor them as individuals, and obey the ate. For when we do so, we'll actually be performing a service of worship to the glory of God and demonstrating to the rest of the world how godly people live their lives. When we do this, God is honored, Jesus Christ is exalted, and the saints prove the reality of their testimony.