I heard a story of three men who were arguing about which profession was the oldest. One of them, a surgeon, said, "The Bible talks about God carving a rib out of Adam to make Eve, so my profession would be the oldest." The second man, an engineer, said, "Well, you know, the Bible also says that God created order out of chaos and made the world. That, my friend, is the job of an engineer." The third guy standing by was a politician. He smiled and said, "Ah! But who created the chaos?"
Politicians get their fair -- or unfair -- share of jokes, and many people today seem to have an avid dislike and distrust for human government. Many of us are fed up with those who run for office and make promises and then don't fulfill them -- or do fulfill the promises we wish they wouldn't. But God invented human government. We see its beginnings in Genesis 9, when He established for the very first time the authority for man to govern himself after the flood. Life started out simple, but rules had to be established early on so society could function smoothly.
God gave humankind the right, the mandate, the power, and the authority from heaven to oversee culture and society. It's that simple. So the point is that you should honor God, who gave that law, by honoring the law and the society that brings that law. Romans 13:1 says, "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."
When Paul wrote that, who was in charge? Rome. Who was in charge in Rome? Caesar Nero, a horrible dictator. And yet here was Paul saying, "God established human government; every authority that exists, exists from God." It's part of His sovereign plan. "Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works [that is, usually], but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good" (vv. 2-4). Isn't that interesting? Have you ever thought of government officials as being in the ministry? Well, they are. They're God's ministers to you for good.
"Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing" (vv. 5-6). Again, I have a hard time with that one. I don't like to think of the IRS as God's ministers. But it's there: "Render therefore to all their due" (v. 7).
Now, is there ever a time to violate a government's rule? Yes -- whenever a government commands us to do what God forbids, or forbids us to do what God commands. We ultimately obey a higher law, and that is God's law.
But even so, we as Christians have a responsibility -- and here's the hardest part of the message -- to respect, submit to, and pray for human government and authority. We are to be, out of all people, model citizens.
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