Romans 13: 1-7 ESV

Respect for Governing Authorities 


In case you do not know, we are in a presidential election year. Everyone is saying it’s going to be the most divisive election since the last one. It will certainly be one of the biggest events of the year. I m already getting invites to events for pastors advising how to shepherd your church through an incredibly challenging and divisive time. 

There will be a lot of false things said and there will be a lot of intensity on each topic. 

The state of the nation will be on each issues, and its not just what you think but what your friends think. It is the nature of the beast: 

“People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war, or before an election.” Otto von Bismarck

There will be statements, there will be lies, there will be confusion, and there will be a lot of weight put on each thing said. 

Article on Christians in the 18th 

The Elkhorn Association of baptist churches in KY. 

“It is with deep distress we view our society as convulsed and mutilated by intestine broils and contentions, which appears to us to be more the wrath of man than the righteousness of God. These things ought not to be. You have not so learned in the school of Christ.

Same article in another place quoted a pastor (At Second Baptist Church of Boston, Thomas Baldwin voted for Jefferson in 1800, but two years later he wasn’t as optimistic about the country’s direction.) 

“I am sure many well-informed persons have been seriously alarmed at the progress of party disaffection,... and have feared lest some untoward circumstance should provoke the mad attempt to divide our hitherto happy Republic. Should we once again begin the work of separation, God knows where it may end, and what the consequences may be.”

I'm not saying those statements are right or wrong, I m not saying they are appropriate or not, I'm not saying I know fully the background of why those people said those things. I’m just saying the concern, the rhetoric, intensity are all the same today as they were 200 years ago in our nation

There are many concerning things going on today just as in every election, and if our hope in this world is on our government, we are all going to live in despair. We have to think differently and biblically about elections and moreover government.

Well, we are in a passage of Scripture that provides one of the most extensive and explicit teachings on how a Christian should relate to government and rulers. 

If we are to find peace it will be by recognizing God’s intention and place for us and governing officials.

God has a purpose for government, he uses it. He has a purpose for those who are in power in government. Christians are to respect those in authority and support them in appropriate ways, but our ultimate allegiance, support and hope is not in an elected official but in a crucified Son of God, not in governing authorities but in a risen Savior. If we are going to live with peace and hope the only way will be by trusting in Christ. 

  • Respect for Governing Authority

[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. 

This is not popular to say but it needs to be said. We are to respect the authorities that God puts over us. Part of living together in a society is to recognize and respect those who govern. We may not like everything but we are to be subject to them. If we don't then there will be complete anarchy.

Society is bound together in a deeply entangled interdependence. 

Honor your mother and father. Exod 20. Honor elders and it is typically elders who have the accumulated wisdom and knowledge to rule. 

We live in a time where no one wants anyone to tell them what to do. That is not helpful. People reject any person or position over them that will tell them what to do. Don't hinder me from “me doing me” and don't tell me anything is wrong with what I'm doing or going. You should have someone in your life whose authority you respect and are desirous of their direction. 

We owe a responsibility to government. He says “let every soul be subject.” There are no super spiritual people who do not need to follow the laws. No super saints that don’t need to pay taxes. No super prophets we are above it. We all have a debt. 

Government is appointed by God. It meets a need to unite people, to regulate how things are done, to create cultures that work together. ONe of the key points of this passage is Government is to do good and restrain evil. 

God’s servant to do good. Does not bear the sword for nothing. Doing good and restrain evil are parts of God’s common grace. Saving grace is in Christ alone and it is found by people sharing the gospel. This grace is experienced by believers. But there is a grace of God we experience when people do the right thing. When a cook makes you a good meal you experience the grace of God. When an IT person configures your computers so they work. When government establishes programs to take care of needy, to build infrastructure, power plants, things no one could do on their own, we experience the grace of God. 

Paul carter: According to the Apostle Paul God commissions civil government to promote human flourishing and to restrain human wickedness. Human beings flourish in a context of order and cooperation. Roads and hospitals cannot be built by individuals – they require extensive collaboration. Human beings require peace and stability in order to build such societies and to prosper within them, therefore looting, stealing, intimidation and violence must be restrained. Government exists and has been given extraordinary powers by God to facilitate such an environment. It is, in that sense, a blessing to be received with thanksgiving. 

We can acknowledge this and give thanks. We see the place of government and the blessing it is. You can pay your taxes with joy! :-) 

[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,

Wish I could tell you that in the Greek the word for taxes means something that you give if you feel like it and if you don't feel like you don't do it, but that is not what it means. Its a tax or a tribute. Something given and required. We receive benefits from governing authorities and we pay for them as well. Nothing is free. If government ever tells you its free it will cost you. 

We can rest in God’s perfect purpose for imperfect leaders. 

We honor God by honoring those in authority. We ought to recognize the place of authorities. Scripture puts a heavy weight on this. David was the anointed future king of Israel but he would not lift a finger against Saul who was the current king. When the apostle paul was unjustly tried he still respected the authority of the leaders. Even Moses in his opposition to pharoah gave respect to him. 

“The grace of the gospel teaches us submission and quiet, where pride and the carnal mind only see causes for murmuring and discontent. ” Matthew Henry. 

Many people don’t want government at all, and that is not how God designed the world to work. We need to recognize God has a place for it. Its part of his design. And we receive many benefits from it. Dont have to be anxious and offended at paying taxes, going through life, or in voting. 

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 1 Tim 2:2-2

We are to rest in God’s design, and give respect to those in authority. We pray for them and follow them. Rest in God’s designs for authorities. Respect your elders, parents, government, and other forms of rule. 

We owe respect to auhtoritites, but governing authorities are also to respect others. 

  • Authorities should respect others. 

Robin. "Authority is like soap. The more you use it the less you have."

[4 For government is God's servant to you for good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God's servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. 5 Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath, but also because of your conscience. 

-They are to do good to others. They are accountable to God’s standard. They ought to restrain evil and seek the common good. They are not to seek their own interest and well being. Jesus taught that if you want to be great, then put others above yourself. Do to others as you would have them do to you. 

-Its sad we see so many official will to hurt others to preserve themselves, willing to hurt the nation for their political futures. We have many leaders failing us. They have two standards one for them and their party and another standard for the other and other party. 

If you are in a position of authority, you are there to serve God and do good to others. You are not there to pursue selfish interest. If you are a president, do good to others. Put them first. IF you are a parent seek to do good to your family. If you are in middle management. 

-They are also to respect God’s authority. This is the first call for every person, and leaders, presidents, kings are no different. 

God’s Servant. There is an irony here. They are God’s servants. He calls kings and presidents and emperors and dictators mere servants. Even though many of them do not acknowledge God, they are his servants.

Governors ought to recognize they will be accountable to God for good. They should not call evil good or good evil. They should not call right wrong. They should not call normative what is not normative. 

They are God’s servants. This is the word deacon. It means to serve. There were deacons in the bible. A position of honor. They have a role of serving other. This is different that when Paul said he was a servant of Christ. A slave. One who had surrendered in every way. 

God’s servant. Not God. We need to remember who we are electing. We are not electing God to office. We are not electing a Savior. We are not electing the chosen one.

There is one chosen one. He was born of a virgin, came in the line of a promise, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, overcame death and now sits on his throne in heaven at the right hand of God, and will return one day to judge the living and the dead, the rich and the poor, the leaders and the followers. Every knee will bow to him and him alone. The greatest men in the world are his servants and will have to give an account to him of every careless word they have uttered. No elected official is God’s chosen one. We respect him above all and all of these people will have their eternal legacy written based on their commitment to him. That’s the chosen one. 

You should have a conviction about how and who to vote for. I hope you can articulate why you think that person and that position is best for us now. We could all be blessed by such dialogue. But do not come and tell me that your candidate is the Savior, the chosen one, and don’t try to convince me of his devotion to the Lord. It’s ok to vote for a candidate without trying to baptize them and annoint them as Savior. We are in a post Christian society and many people running are not Christian. 

Know the difference between a servant and a Son. Rom 1:4 "concerning his son a descendant of david according to the flesh, but was declared tobe the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.”

This is what we want to be about as a church. This is what we want to spend time talking about. When you come to church, small group, etc this is what we want to focus on. 

I can get anxious about how this election will affect my pocket book, affect my community, affect the peace of the world, I need to put my trust in the God who is governing it all. I can respect authorities but my faith is in Jesus. **My faith is not in fallible servants but in a perfect Son of God.** I need to show my kids that. Yes, it's messy and one of these guy is probably going to make it worse (at least in some ways). This is why we worship Jesus. 

When you talk about the servant you are voting for, talk about why you like them, but also talk about their shortcomings. It makes clear the main objective is not getting someone to vote for a political candidate but to trust in an eternal king. 

God’s servant for good. This is where we can have a lot of debate. What is good for society right now. What is best for us? We don’t debate who the savior is. But we can debate the best way to do immigration, balance the budget, best way to have secure elections. Its ok to talk about these, and if our ultimate goal is to honor God we can be ok having some difference on these. 

Love. be slow to get offended. Don’t assume one ‘like,” one post shared, one vote, one candidate, one statement is the sum of your friends political views. Don’t assume he shares every value of the person supported. I will vote for someone that I have massive concerns about, because I have concerns for every person on the ballot. Just like the previous elections. 

Church that is not about politics. I’m not sure if I want to have that label or not. I think we need to talk politics. We need a theology of politics and governance. Its not the first and foremost thing we do but it is ok to do it.

**But we need to see our calling as a church is not to elect people to office but to enthrone Jesus in the hearts of all.**

*Our rallying cry is not four more years but all who believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life.*


  • Respect for the Individual Conscience.

“Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” 19th century British politician Lord Acton. 

Christians are not to be doormats. We do not submit to others unconditionally. We are responsible first and foremost to God. We will give an account to God of how we have lived. Don’t do things just cause others tell you or just cause your friends do it. Know God’s word and have the courage to stand on it. 

[5 Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath, but also because of your conscience. 

Well, it is interesting. As soon as conscience is a reason to submit to authority, it can also be a reason to not submit.

We have a higher authority that the laws of the land that we submit to. We know who is ultimately in control. We know who has our ultimate good in store for us and we know who ultimately weilds the sword. We seek to obey him and keep our conscience clear before him. 

We are to submit to authorities but when our earthly authorities require us to do what is contrary to God’s law and dirty our conscience we are compelled to honor God. 

You are going to feel this tension. You will feel it more and more in a post Christian society. More and more things that you are uncomfortable with. 

There is in this sentence a content and approach that is profound. Acknowledging the conscience of individuals is a threat to every totalitarian government that is out there. That is why the Bible is opposed. But if this had been written slightly different … innocent as doves shrewd as serpents. 

The Christian religion was designed to extend throughout the world. Yet it sought the rearing of a kingdom amid other kingdoms, an empire amid other empires. Christians professed supreme allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ; he was their Lawgiver, their Sovereign, their Judge. 

Much of what is going on in our nation is dechristianization. 

Paul was persecuted and martyred for his faith. All the disciples gave their lives. 

You can read about the communist take over of china in the mid 20th century. 

Jesus also was crucified by authorities he opposed, and what we find is there authority had no power over him, because not even death could hold him down. Earthly authorities have no ability to thwart the authority and plan of God. They may try, but they will fail. 

Bunyan named it, is the “City of Destruction.”

For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Hebrews 13:14. 

Heb 12:28 we are receiving an unshakable kingdom. 

cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” (Daniel 2:34–35 ESV)

Close. Our home is not here. OUr calling is to build a heavenly kingdom. 

We respect God and his authority. More over when we see what he has for us. When we see the good he has done in sending his Son to atone for our sin and reconcile us to him. We do not merely respect him, but we also love him. We are devoted to him with a devotion that superceded all we do.