Romans Bible Study Lesson 55

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Governmental Authority

Romans 13:1—7

Romans 12 gives us our marching orders as far as how we need to treat each other both inside and outside of the church. Everything we do needs to be done in the context of love. We are not to only look after our own needs but also the needs of others. We never seem to have trouble looking after our own needs but when it comes to thinking about how we can show love to others we often fail.

Philippians 2:3—4 3Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Verse 1 gives us the chain of command that God ordained. We are to obey those who are in government and those in government need to obey God. There is conflict when this chain of command is not followed. If we do not follow governmental regulations and laws we put ourselves at odds with those who are in power because of God. When the governing authorities go against God they put themselves in a precarious position because they thumb their noses at God’s laws. If those in government stay within the laws God has ordained then we should have no problem at all in obeying our government. When they step outside of God’s ordinances and make laws that are contrary to His will, we are under obligation to follow God and not government.

Within our own government we are allowed to kill babies in the womb, however, this is not in line with God’s law and so we should not seek an abortion just because it is legal. Peter and John ran into a conflict with their government when they were commanded to keep quiet about Jesus Christ. Their response was that they needed to obey God rather than man (Acts 3:19—20; 5:29). God’s law always supersedes man’s law.

Verse 1

God put the governing of humans in man’s hands but God is the one who sets up and brings down world leaders. He is in control even when it looks like everything is falling apart.

We can pinpoint the time that God handed over the control for man to govern himself in Genesis after the flood. Previous to this God ruled over mankind taking direct action when necessary. For instance, after Cain killed Abel, God condemned Cain to a nomadic life (Genesis 4:12). God also did not allow mankind to step in and avenge Abel’s death (Genesis 4:15).

Genesis 9:5—6 5“Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man. 6“Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.

Genesis 4:12 “When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.”

Genesis 4:12 So the LORD said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold ” And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.

The flood is an example of God directly intervening with mankind to pour out His vengeance in response to their wickedness. God personally wiped out all who were found wicked in the world and rejected His open invitation for physical salvation by getting into the ark.

After the flood, God delegated the task of governing mankind to men whom He raised up. We can see this in the way He dealt with the godless nations surrounding Israel. If the nations became too wicked and refused to change their ways God used Israel to wipe them out. He did this to keep Israel a pure nation free from influences that would drag her away from God to serve heathen gods.

Deuteronomy 7:1—2 1“When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, 2and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.

God will once again personally wreak vengeance upon an evil world during the Tribulation as He purifies Israel and punishes wickedness.

Malachi 3:1—3 1“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts. 2“But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3“He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.

Jeremiah 25:31 ‘A clamor has come to the end of the earth, Because the LORD has a controversy with the nations He is entering into judgment with all flesh; As for the wicked, He has given them to the sword,’ declares the LORD.”

Joel 3:2 I will gather all the nations?And bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat Then I will enter into judgment with them there?On behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel,?Whom they have scattered among the nations;?And they have divided up My land.

Daniel gives us a behind-the-scenes look at how God deals with world leaders. God stripped evil king Nebuchadnezzar of his sanity for seven years. He was given this position by God but had abused his power. When God finally restored his sanity and his kingdom, Nebuchadnezzar realized that the God of Israel gave him his authority (Daniel 4:28—37).

Daniel, Peter and Jesus all emphasize the principle of putting ourselves under governing authorities because God has put these people in a position of power over us.

1 Peter 2:13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,

Daniel 2:21 It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.

John 19:11 Jesus answered,[to Pilate] “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

Jesus practiced His respect for authority by allowing the authorities to carry out their legal proceedings against Him. He never spoke against them even when falsely accused. Paul never spoke out against an evil and unjust government. He also apologized when he unknowingly spoke out against Ananias, the high priest.

Acts 23:1—5 1 Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” 2 At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!” 4 Those who were standing near Paul said, “How dare you insult God’s high priest!” 5 Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’”

With this in mind we can see that we need to concentrate on serving the Lord and not speaking out against the government. Does this mean we should allow the government to do anything they want with no restriction? Obviously not. We certainly can work in changing government for the good through legal means but we are probably doing the right thing by only getting involved in issues that affect our Christian walk and hindrances for us to freely worship and witness.

Verses 2—5

When you resist the authority of the government you go against the will of God. If you do oppose the governmental authority you will bring condemnation upon yourself. The only time you need to fear authority is if you break the law.

God set up government so that we can live in peace. Imagine a world where everyone did what is right in his or her own eyes. That is called anarchy. God knew mankind needed to have external controls in order for us to have a functioning society. The unsaved have the government while the saved have the Holy Spirit to keep them in check. If there were no governing authority then those without Christ would have no controls. When we obey those in authority we are obeying God and when we obey God we have nothing to fear.

Paul gives two reasons for us to put ourselves in subjection to authorities; to avoid their wrath and for our own conscience sake. If we break a law we must pay the price. We also keep our conscience clear knowing we are not guilty of anything. When you pass a police car while going the speed limit you should be able to do so without feeling guilty. However, if you pass him going over the speed limit you may panic and wonder if he is going to pull you over and give you a ticket.

Verses 6—7

Part of putting ourselves in subjection to our government is the paying of taxes. Christians who feel they are exempt from paying taxes need to read the clear instructions by Paul in this passage. His teaching is parallel to what Jesus taught in Matthew 22:21 “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”

Some may question the appropriateness of obeying a godless dictator. Scripture makes it clear that we obey them until they demand that we do something that goes against God. The world is still better off with a dictator controlling a country than having individuals deciding what is right in their own eyes. Paul lived under the dictator Nero and he lived under Nero’s rules until Nero exceeded his God-given authority at which point Paul obeyed God.

2 Corinthians 11:32—33 32In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, 33and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.