A. Have there ever been laws you didn’t agree with and were therefore tempted to disobey?
B. Have you ever disagreed with decisions our government made?
C. I think mainly of the political upheaval of the sixties and seventies in our country.
D. An enormous number of Americans were opposed to our involvement in Vietnam. Many soldiers who came home received no hero’s welcome as they had done in previous wars.
E. Draft dodgers were prevalent, many going to Canada to escape the draft.
F. Disgust with and disobedience to the government was rife.
G. We can see this currently happening in other countries.
H. Which brings us to some questions for reflection:
1. Is it ever permissible to disobey government authorities?
2. Is it permissible to protest what we feel is wrong?
3. Should we carry signs in front of abortion clinics?
4. Should we kill abortion doctors?
5. Should we protest at GI funerals because we don’t agree with our involvement in a particular war?
6. Do the means always justify the ends?
I. In this chapter-which is not the only place in Scripture that addresses this, Paul gives some instructions on our obligation and responsibility to government authorities.
J. We may not like what he says but he does so under the guidance of God’s Spirit, so this makes us responsible for listening and obeying.
I. Grace And Obeying The Government (vv. 1-7)
A. The Command-Obey the government.
1. While Paul does not deal with any exceptions here, there are other examples we can appeal to that remind us our obedience to God must take precedence over our obedience to the government when the two conflict.
2. When Peter and the apostles were arrested for preaching about Jesus and commanded not to do so again, they replied; We must obey God rather than human authority. (Acts 5:29)
B. Three popular interpretations of how we obey the command.
1. Government is so corrupt that Christians should have as little to do with it as possible. This doesn’t mean we should not be good citizens but working for the government, voting and serving in the military should be avoided.
2. God has given government authority in certain areas and the church authority in certain areas and they should not be confused. This may apply to our philosophy and law regarding separation of church and state. Our responsibility is to be obedient to both. Church and government do not work together but rather complement each other. In considering this position, it would do us well to investigate the background of the separation of church and state idea. Regardless of what some reinterpreters of history might maintain, most of the founders of our country were religious individuals-though some of their beliefs were certainly different from ours. It was never in their mind that government should have no involvement in religion or be opposed to it. Yet this is the point we have currently reached. The background was set against the church in England or anywhere else who taxed citizens to support that church whether they were associated with it or not. Our founders wanted freedom of religion not freedom from religion. We have confused this. At the same time, freedom of religion involves the right to be free from religious coercion. It remains to be seen what all the ramifications of this will lead to in our country.
3. Believers should work to make the government better. Instead of a hands off policy with government, we need to be very involved in it. We can run for office or stump for those who represent Christian beliefs. We can also take Jesus’ words to heart and apply them in this area where he tells us to be salt and light.
4. It is important to note that none of these views advocate rebellion against government authorities unless laws require us to disobey God’s laws.
C. The reason for our obedience.
1. God is the one who established government.
2. Does this mean God established governments like that of Adolph Hitler?
3. If we believe God is in total control, we would at least have to say that he could have prevented Hitler’s rise to power had he chosen to.
4. The why of why he allowed it is no different than the age old question of why God doesn’t prevent sin and its evils if he could. And there is really no adequate answer in all respects. We have to say that in some way-that we certainly don’t understand, it serves the overall purpose of God.
5. I think rather than saying God establishes particular governments-because many are and have been very corrupt, we can say he establishes government-the institution.
6. This relieves God of actually authoring governments that kill, maim and reflect standards opposite of his.
7. That he could prevent them if he desired, however, keeps us in line with God’s control over all matters. As Paul says, All governments have been placed in power by God.
8. So to disobey the government is to disobey God-unless of course the laws conflict with his.
D. The purpose of government.
1. In a nutshell, government is designed by God to reward those who do good and punish those who do evil.
2. Of course, it is his plan as well that the laws made will reflect his standards.
3. This is why we have reason to disobey when they don’t. He is our highest authority and the one we are ultimately responsible to.
4. It is certainly our responsibility to be involved to some degree in government. Voting is our responsibility and a major means by which we can be involved in having officials elected who represent God’s ideals.
5. Government also comforts us. When governments reflect God’s purpose, they protect those who are obeying and punish those who are disobeying.
6. Instead of chaos, we have law enforcement to uphold laws of the government which protects us in the process.
7. Courts pass sentence on those who disregard the laws of the land. Fines are paid as a deterrent as well as jail time served.
8. When government upholds just standards, it places fear in people about disobeying. Having laws doesn’t prevent crime but it does prevent it from being as bad as it would be if there were no laws.
9. It is similar to the fear instilled in children when they know mom and dad have house rules that if disobeyed will result in punishment. The rules serve as a deterrent.
10. Letting people do whatever they want leads to anarchy and chaos.
11. We have already studied the reason for this by studying the doctrine of sin.
12. It is the sinful nature of humanity that leads them to steal, lie, cheat, murder, lust, covet, etc.
13. Even if everyone in the world was a Christian, we would still need government because none of us is perfect in our attitudes, thoughts or actions.
14. Perfect government will only be found in heaven.
15. Peaceful coexistence comes when people obey government authorities who have based their laws on the standards of God.
E. Verse 5 gives us two reasons to obey the government: to avoid punishment and to keep a clear conscience.
1. Punishment we’ve already mentioned. How does obedience lead to a clear conscience?
2. We have the satisfaction of knowing we are obeying God.
3. Then Paul approaches the part we don’t like when he says Pay your taxes.
4. We would probably be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks taxes are fair. There are too many of them and they are too high.
5. Why do we have to pay taxes and how do they relate to our responsibility to obey the government.
6. Very simply, it is through the taxes that government can continue to function. It takes money to run government services.
7. We may complain about the taxes but we do enjoy and benefit from government services. Think about such things as: fire department, rescue services, law enforcement, court services, road services, schools, and the list goes on.
8. If we owe for services rendered, we are responsible for paying.
9. Jesus taught the same when he said to give to Caesar what belongs to him and to God what belongs to him. (Matthew 17:24-27)
10. We are also to honor and respect government officials because they are representing something God has established.
II. Grace And Paying The Debt Of Love (vv. 8-10)
A. All debts must be paid except our debt of love.
1. We can never satisfy the debt of love we owe others.
2. This is based on the fact we can never repay God for his love toward us.
3. Since we serve Christ by serving others, loving others becomes a continual debt we work toward paying off but realize we never will.
4. God never stops loving us, and we must never stop loving others.
5. Paul maintains every commandment of God can be obeyed when we obey the command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
6. When we think about it, we can see the truth of this statement.
7. Loving our neighbors takes the focus from us and puts it on others. When others become our concern we won’t do the things God forbids.
8. Paul gives examples. We would not murder, lie, steal, covet or commit adultery against someone we truly loved. The two are mutually exclusive.
9. But there is also another important point in the command. We love others as we love ourselves. Self love is not wrong. It must simply be conceived correctly.
10. We can love ourselves because God loves us and has created us in his image. But it is not a selfish love. We love ourselves and God so we can adequately know how to love others.
11. Even the person with low self esteem will usually eat, clothe themselves, exercise, and ensure they have a place to stay, avoid being cheated on or lied to and avoid injury.
12. When we love others, we will work to see they have the same needs met and we will avoid harming them in any way.
13. Love always goes the extra mile.
A. Believers are responsible for obeying the governing authorities as long as doing so doesn’t conflict with obedience to God.
B. We should continually love others as God loves us never trying to pay off that debt of love.
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