A Gospel Response to Government - Part 4

Tom Pennington • Romans 13:1-7

  • 2020-06-28 AM
  • Romans
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Romans 13, what Paul teaches us here in Romans 13 has always been revolutionary. It is certainly revolutionary today but what you need to understand is that it was revolutionary in the first century when Paul wrote it. I mean, start by thinking about the Jewish people who lived in Palestine. They struggle in the first century submitting to the Romans. If you doubt that you just need to read the gospel records. And again and again you see the struggle that they had submitting to the Romans. As a result of that there were constant Jewish groups who were engaging in uprisings against Rome throughout the first century and even beyond. Because they were inherently opposed to the rule of foreigners. Of course, the greatest of those uprisings came about 15 years after Paul wrote this letter to the Romans in about 70 AD. In response to that rebellion Titus marched on Jerusalem, he decimated the city, destroyed it, and crushed the rebellion. And so, this was a problem for those Jewish people who were not followers of Jesus Christ in the first century. But it was also a problem even for the few Jewish Christians in Rome to whom Paul wrote, they too struggled with submitting to the Roman government. Why was this so hard for the Jewish people, both for the unbelieving Jews as well as for those who had put their faith in their Messiah. Why is it hard? Well, because they questioned if Rome's authority over them was in fact legitimate authority. That's because of what was written in Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy 17:15 we read this, Moses wrote if you have a king, in the future when God gives you a king, "you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman." It was this text and its ramifications that really prompted the famous question that was posed to Jesus on Tuesday of the Passion Week. You remember in Matthew 22:17 they approached Jesus and said, "Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?" This was really a question of authority. Does the Roman occupying army really have authority over us as God's people? Or is that a violation of Deuteronomy 17:15.

"Jesus perceived their malice, [Matthew goes on to say] and said, "Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax." And they brought Him denarius, And he said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said to Him, "Caesar's." Then He said to them, "then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are Gods."

What Christ is saying there is He is affirming the rightful and legitimate authority of the Roman government over the people of Israel, that God had accomplished this and they were to submit to him. Obviously, they were not to submit to him when it came to the things that were Gods. That is, when what Rome asked of them violated what God asked and demanded of them. We'll look at that text in more detail in coming weeks. But that's what prompted the question. So, understand then that the Jewish people who didn't believe in their Messiah had a problem with Roman authority. The Jewish people who did believe in Jesus as their Messiah, they had a problem with Roman authority. But, are you ready for this, even the Gentile Roman citizens in the Roman churches had a problem with submitting to Rome's authority, for totally different reasons. One Roman author, Citonias, writes that, under Nero taxes became exorbitantly high. The Roman historian Tacitus mentions a growing resistance to paying what were called, indirect taxes about the time that Paul wrote this letter in the mid-50s AD. Tacitus adds that at the very same time there were increasing complaints of extortionary practices by the tax collectors. This growing resistance to taxation by the Roman government culminated in a tax revolt in the year 58 AD, just a couple years after this letter was written. And it is very possible that Paul had gotten wind of that resistance that was beginning and growing in the capital of the Roman Empire. If so, that explains why he insists down in verse 7. and we will see it together, that Roman Christians pay both their direct and their indirect taxes.

Why is this issue about Christian's response to government so important? Well, remember the context, Paul has here explained to the Roman Christians his gospel, the gospel he preached. He wants them to support him as he looks to Western Europe and begins a ministry there. And he essentially says this, because you have been justified, as I have described it in their earlier chapters of this letter, if you have believed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, if you have believed in that gospel you have been declared right with God, you have been changed by the Holy Spirit, then you will be characterized by a gospel response to government. And that is the message of chapter 13:1-7. Now we've read this text before but let's read it again together. You follow along as I read Roman's 13-1-7:

"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them; tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor."

That is a gospel response to government.

Now we have noted that this paragraph begins with a universal command to submit to government. The first sentence states the theme of this entire paragraph. "Every person [literally in Greek every soul, everyone without exception] is to be in subjection to the governing authorities." To be in subjection means to willingly submit to another, to recognize their rightful authority. It's a word that is often used in military context, of how a lower officer in rank responds to one who is higher than he or she is in rank. And so, that's the idea here. You are to remember that your rank is lower than that government official because God has made it so. Be in subjection to them.

Now beginning with the second sentence in verse 1 and running all the way down through verse 6, Paul supplements that universal command with the reasons that we are to submit to government. And we've learned two of them, let me just remind you of them.

First of all, we are to submit to government because God established the principle and structures of all human authority. Whether it's in the family or whether it's in the government, as he is teaching here. It's God who is behind that, notice the second sentence in verse 1, "For there is no authority except from God," God is the one who has established both the principles and structures of all human authority.

Secondly, a second reason we noted is at end of verse 1 it said God has appointed all who currently occupy positions of authority within government. "Those which exist [the ones being, literally in Greek] are established by God." And "the ones being" he doesn't mean the positions he means rather the individuals as he comes back to in verse 3 talking about individual rulers, those who occupy those positions.

Now today, we add a third reason that we are to submit to government and it is this, if you refuse to submit to a government official, notice the singular, and I'll explain why I've used it that way, if you refuse to submit to a government official without biblical grounds, you are opposing God's ordinance. Let's look at it together, verse 2 "Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God."

Now what I want you to notice first of all, and this is true throughout this paragraph, that Paul doesn't qualify his statement depending on the form of government under which you live. There are 6 basic forms of government, there are really 3 but those 3 can have two different expressions. Let me explain what I mean. It was the Greek philosophers, Aristotle being the chief one, who tried to summarize human government. Encyclopedia Britannica cites Aristotle as teaching that government must be in the hands of one, or a few, or the many. That's it those are the only options. In the hands of one, a few, or the many. Now in addition to those 3 forms of government, government can be for the benefit of the people or it can be for the benefit of those who rule. So, you have to sort of overlay those two on to those three. And when you do here's what you get.

Government by a single person for the general good is called a monarchy. Government by a single person for the ruler's benefit is called tyranny. Government by a minority is aristocracy if it's aiming at the state's best interest and the people's best interest, it's called oligarchy if it benefits the ruling minority, it's really all about those who are in power and empowering them. Popular government, Aristotle said, that's in the common interest, he calls it polity, not a word we would use in that way. Interestingly enough Aristotle reserves the word democracy for mob rule by anarchy. Of course, he's using it differently than we use it but sadly it can sometimes degenerate into that.

The point I want you to get is this, there are those 6 basic forms of government, whether they are used for the public benefit or for the benefit of the rulers, but the form of government under which you live doesn't change the commands of Romans 13 at all, has no effect on it. Listen to John Calvin, "Divine providence has wisely arranged that various countries should be ruled by various kinds of government. [Did you hear that? Divine providence has decided that different countries would have different kinds of government] If it had seemed good to Him to set kings over kingdoms, senates or municipal officers over free cities, it is our duty to show ourselves compliant and obedient to whomever he sets over the places where we live." That's really what we are learning in Romans 13.

What about Israel? What kind of government did God establish among his people Israel in the Old Testament? Well, when God established the government of Israel, He created it as a monarchy but with some popularly chosen representatives who were also part of the leadership. We call them the elders of Israel, the elders of the nation. So, there was a king, there were popularly, I don't want to say elected, that's probably an overstatement, but popularly chosen representatives who were part of the leadership as well. In addition, in Old Testament Israel God added the prophet. His own representative, who spoke to the leaders of the on His behalf, confronting their sin or affirming their decisions. So, there was a balance of power.

In addition to that I would say this, when God established the government Israel under human rulers, it was never supposed to be an absolute monarchy. Its kings were to be under the law never above the law. Let me show you this. Turn back to the Book of Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 17. Earlier I quoted for you verse 15 of chapter 17 which says that no foreigner was to be a king it had to be a citizen of Israel. Now notice as Moses unfolds further here the rules for when kings sit on the thrones, notice what he says in verse 18, Deuteronomy 17:18, "Now is shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. [that scroll, his own copy of the law] It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life," By the way this is a powerful argument, I think, for the responsibility each one of us has to be in God's law and His word every day. A king with all the responsibilities that fell on him was responsible to be in the Scripture every day. Why? Notice verse 19, "…that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, [and notice verse 20] that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen. [in other words that he not begin to thing too highly of his power, he is a man under the law like everybody else that he rules.] ...and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel." So, when God established government in Israel He did so not as an absolute monarchy like His own, but rather as a carefully regulated controlled monarchy where there was a balance of power and all of the rulers of the nations sat under the law of God and not above the law.

But when you look at the world as it is, as it was in the Old Testament era, as it was in the New Testament era, and is it is today, you discover that there are various forms of government. And as Calvin said, God has made that providential decision, He's the one, Acts 17, who has established nations, there are boundaries, we would add, the form of government under which they would exist. When you examine the Scripture, you discover that commands to submit and obey are given to believers living under all of those different government. In fact, I like what Charles Hodge writes in his commentary on Romans 13, he says "This passage is applicable to men living under every form of government. Those who are in authority are to be obeyed within their sphere no matter by how or by whom appointed. It is the powers that be, the de facto government, that is to be regarded as, for the time being, ordained of God. It was to Paul a matter of little importance whether the Roman Emperor was appointed by the senate, the army, or the people. Whether the assumption of the imperial authority by Caesar was just or unjust or whether his successors had a legitimate claim to the throne or not, magistrates are to be obeyed."

Calvin says exactly the same thing, he says "Princes do never so far abuse their power by harassing the good and innocent that they do not retain in their tyranny some kind of just government. There can be then no tyranny which does not in some respects assist in consolidating the society of men." In other words, in making the society of men more controlled, establishing order which is God's purpose in government.

So, folks here's what the point is, believers are to submit to the government, regardless of what form their government takes. And even if their government is led by pagan degenerate rulers, as was true in Rome in the first century and sadly is increasingly true in our own country.

Look at verse 2 again, let's take it apart, "Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God" Therefore is "so that" or "as a consequence". In other words, the reason that he is giving here in verse 2 is the logical conclusion of what he said in verse 1. Because God established the principles and structures of human authority, because God has created nations and ordained governments and because God has appointed either directly or indirectly, as we learned last time, all who currently hold positions of authority within government, "Therefore [verse 2] whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God."

Now there is in the Greek text a major word play that's going on in verses 1 and 2. Let me point it out to you because it will help your understanding of what Paul is saying here. Paul uses 3 Greek words in these 2 verses that are all based on the same Greek root. The root word is tassó, translated in the English it's t – a – s – s – long o. That root form of the word occurs in verse 1, there it's translated "established". If you look at Romans 13:1, it says those individuals who are in positions of power are established, there's our word tassó. They are put into place. The word means to bring about an order of things by putting something or someone in place.

The second occurrence of this root word is also in verse 1. There it's translated in our text "be in subjection to". There the word is not tassó but hupotassó, hupo means under, so "under tassó". It means to put yourself under the authority. So, God has tassó, "the authorities that exist" we are to put ourselves under, hupotassó, "the authorities that exist."

The third occurrence of this root word is in verse 2, there it's translated "resist". In Greek instead of tassó or hupotassó, it's antitassó, against tassó, it's opposed to putting yourself in place under the authority. It means to "oppose" or to "resist", it's the opposite of being in subjecting to. It's refusing to put yourself under the governing authorities.

Now notice he says "whoever resists authority" is how our English texts says it. But in Greek it literally says, "the one resisting the authority." What's "the authority?" Well at the end of verse 1 Paul is referring to individuals who occupy positions of authority. And here likely at the start of verse 2 he's referring rather than the entire group of individuals who are in authority, he's referring to "the" authority, to one person who occupies a position of authority in government.

So, let me put it together for you. Here's what he is saying, if instead of being in subjection to the governing authorities, a Christian resists or opposes any specific government official without biblical grounds for doing so, he or she verse 2, "has opposed the ordinance of God." Now the word opposed is formed from 2 Greek words, again, we have an-tï, as we say in English, an-të, is the Greek word means against, and histméi which means "to set", to set yourself against, that's what this word means. So, if you refuse to submit yourself to any government official, unless you are being commanded to do something contrary to God's word, you have "set yourself against the ordinance of God." That's what he's saying. The ordinance of God simply means what God has directed; what God has commanded.

So, let's apply it. When you, without biblical grounds, refuse to submit to any government official, you are "setting yourself against" what God has directed and commanded. Ultimately what he is saying is it's an act of disobedience to God. James Montgomery Boyce, who is now with the Lord, wrote this in his commentary on this passage, "It is the duty of Christians to obey those who exercise such authority and that includes all authorities, not just kings and presidents, but also policemen, judges and other governing authorities." You see by God's command he established government authority, by His command he appointed directly or indirectly that official that you are actually dealing with.

So, in refusing to submit, except in the case of the one ground that God has given us as individuals, we're commanded to do something contrary to God's word, refusing to submit in any other case you are opposing God's command. Therefore, you are opposing God Himself, that's what Paul is saying.

Now I think there is a key point here that sort of lies behind this verse. And that is, that God has not made you and me the authority. We have a hard time thinking like that in America because we are by nature the person who likes to have authority, who likes to be the authority. But this is not the reality, God has not made us the authority, He has not made you or me the final arbiter of what ought to happen in Tarrant County or in the State of Texas or in the United States of America. It's interesting in his Institutes of The Christian Religion John Calvin anticipated this and he writes this, "Under this obedience to government, [that is not disobedience, "this" obedience to government, what's commanded here] I include the restraint which private citizens ought to bid themselves keep, that they may not deliberately intrude in public affairs or pointlessly invade the magistrates office, or undertake anything at all politically." He means outside of what is allowed by the laws of the land. We just don't think like that.

Let me add, by the way, that the US Constitution hasn't made us the authority either. A lot of Christians misunderstand this, they talk like we are the authority. I can't tell you how many times I've heard somebody say, "Look, they work for me, I'm their boss." That is a serious overstatement. Our Constitution allows us to choose the representatives who will make the laws, execute the laws, and adjudicate the laws, laws that we must then in turn submit to. But once they are elected, constitutionally and biblically they are our legitimate authority and we must obey their laws until they command us to do something contrary to God's law. We're not free to pick and choose, we are not the authority. I don't have the right to say, "That's not constitutional." I mean could say that, but that doesn't give me the right to disobey because I think it's not constitutional. Even our own constitution says, the Supreme Court decides whether or not it's constitutional and everybody has to get in line with that or you get arrested. Morris writes, "Submission to dually constituted authority is a divinely instituted good. Not an evil to be endured. With as good as grace as can be mustered."

Now, let's just apply this. And let me just pick a really painful topic. Facemasks. Folks, you don't have to like them, nor do you even have to be convinced that they are necessary. But now that they have been legally required of us you have to submit to your government and wear them when they are required. And, here's the really hard part, you have to maintain a Godly attitude towards those who have required you to wear them.

And let me add, we have to follow the directives of government officials without always assuming the absolute worst of every action of every person who's in the opposing party. I'm really going to get in trouble here but I'm going to say it anyway. There are way too many Christians buying into every conspiracy theory on the internet. But I'm not talking about being naive, I get it, not every person in government, many people in government aren't out for our interests. I understand that. But listen carefully, a reasonable Christian response, is somewhere between mindlessly naive and hopelessly cynical.

Verse 2 says, "Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed [has set himself or herself against] the ordinance of God; [it goes on to say] and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves." The person who refuses to submit to an individual with government authority, think about this, has opposed that persons rightful authority, the position they hold, has also opposed the government they represent and Paul adds, and ultimately they are opposing God. "And those who have opposed [he says] will receive condemnation." Now we know this word. We've already met it in Romans. You remember the last time we met it was in Romans 8:1, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." What does this word mean? It means, a sentence of guilty and the appropriate punishment that comes with it.

So, what does he mean here, "they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves." There are three ways to understand this condemnation. And if you read the commentaries you will find all three of these represented. First of all, there are those who say this is God's eternal condemnation. And here's how they would describe it. They would say the one who consistently rebels against government is not a genuine Christian and is marked by their rebellion against government in that way. And they will receive God's eternal condemnation. Is that true? Yes, that's true. I don't think that's what Paul is teaching here, and I'll show you why in a moment. But that is absolutely true. In fact I would say to you this morning, if you are here and you find it consistently impossible for you to submit to the authorities God has placed in your life, you need to examine whether or not you are really in the faith. Because a person who has come to submit to God is willing to submit to the rightful human authorities that God has put in place. So that's true I'm just not sure that is what Paul is saying here. And if you are in that position by the way, let me just plead with you to respond to the gospel. I read a great quote this week by one of the great early expositors of the church, John Chrysostom, he said, "If you want to understand the graciousness of our God, think about the story of the publican, the tax collector, and the Pharisee who went up to the temple to pray. Jesus said here's a tax collector who has accumulated tens of thousands of sins. And when he truly humbles himself before God and cries out 'God be merciful to me the sinner', Jesus says, 'he walks away justified.'" And the same can be true for you today if you are willing to humble yourself before God like that. So, some say the condemnation here is God's eternal condemnation. I don't agree with that, I think that their point is true, I just don't think it's what Paul is teaching here.

The second way to understand condemnation is this is solely the government's condemnation. In other words, if you disobey a government official you are going to receive the government's guilty verdict and you are going to receive the punishment that the crime deserves. Is that true? Yes, that's true too. Is that what Paul is teaching here? I don't think so. And I'll show you why in a moment.

The third option is that when we talk about this condemnation, it is God's temporal chastening of a believer through the government's condemnation. Let me say that again, it's God's temporal chastening of the believer through the government's condemnation. Here's how it works. If a Christian breaks the law, he will receive the government's condemnation, he will receive a guilty verdict and a punishment that fits the crime. And the government will be an instrument in God's hand to chasten that believer for his or her sinful defiance of the authority that God Himself has established. This is what Paul goes on to teach. Look at verse 4 "…if you do what is evil be afraid; for it [government] does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." In other words, be a lawbreaker and government is going to punish you. And if that's not because you are obeying God rather than man but rather you are just not obeying government then God will be in the punishment you receive and government will be a minister of God in carrying that punishment out on you. This is what fits here. So, he says, "…those who opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves."

There's a fourth reason for submitting to government and that is that God has assigned government the crucial role of maintaining order by punishing wrong and praising good. God has assigned government the role of maintaining order by punishing wrong and praising good. This is the message of verse 3, look at it with me, "For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil." Now notice the first word is "for", that connects back probably not to verse 2 but most commentators, and I would agree, connect it back to verse 1 and to the command. Here is yet another reason to be in subjection to the government. Now notice what he says in verse 3 "rulers" the ones who are currently ruling and are in a position of authority, are not, literally it says, are not of fear. And the idea is as translated here not a cause or source of fear. Fear of what? Fear of punishment. Rulers are not a cause of fear of punishment, for literally the Greek text says, the good work, the good work, this is used in a general sense. Like in verse 3 goes on to say, doing what is good. That's why the New American Standard translates it "good behavior". And the ESV translates it "good conduct." Government is not a cause of fear for punishment for those who persistently do what is good.

Now again, let me back up and make sure you understand what Paul is not saying. Paul is not saying here that government officials never go rogue from the divine plan. That they never begin to punish what is good and to reward what is evil. Of course, that happens. Nor is he saying that authorities never abuse their authority, clearly, they do. In fact, look back at Luke 3. You remember John the Baptist shows up and he is preaching about the kingdom that Jesus is going to inaugurate, the spiritual kingdom. And how to get into that kingdom. And you get in by repentance. And he is preaching a message of repentance. And he's baptizing in keeping with that. To show that demonstration of you need to, it's like, you need to become a proselyte and enter Judaism even though you are Jewish, you are so far from the kingdom. And so, he baptizes but he also calls for repentance. Luke 3:8, "Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance," if you're going to come to be baptized, saying that you are repentant, then bear fruits in keeping with that repentance. What does that look like? Verse 12, "And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" Jesus said to them, "Stop being involved in tax collecting." No that's not what he says, he says "Collect no more than what you have been ordered to." In other words, be an honest tax collector. Just collect what you are supposed to collect, that's repentance. What is he saying? He's saying, it was easy for tax collectors to abuse their authority.

Go down to verse 14, "Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, "And what about us, what shall we do?" [What's fruit of repentance for us?] And he said to them, "Do not take money from anyone by force, [again the temptation to abuse your authority] or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages." These are all temptations that come with authority.

And so, Paul is not saying in Romans 13 that people in authority aren't tempted to abuse that authority. Of course, they are. The greatest illustration of abuse of authority is how the perfectly innocent one our Lord Jesus Christ was railroaded through injustice to his own execution. So, what is Paul doing here? Charles Hodge says, "Paul is speaking of the legitimate design of government, not the abuse of power by some wicked men." In other words, he's saying this is how government is supposed to work and how it normally works but there of course, are exceptions. Paul is saying this, most governments and the officials in those governments, even bad ones, generally, mark that work generally, generally don't arrest and punish those who keep the laws of the land. Generally, they arrest and punish those who do evil not those who are law abiding citizens. And in doing so they maintain order in a society.

It's interesting, one of the reasons we are to submit to the government is for something that is built into the very nature of government. And that is to maintain order. He goes on in verse 3, "…Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;" He says, if you don't want to be afraid of being punished by authority, then keep the law. For example: if you are a responsible citizen and it comes time for taxes to be submitted and you honestly fill out your taxes and you don't take any shortcuts and you only take the deductions you are supposed to take. And you submit that tax return. You don't have to be afraid of the IRS. Or let me give another illustration, hypothetically speaking, you're driving home after church or you are driving somewhere this week and there is a speed trap. You know it's there to make sure that order is maintained because without that we've seen what happens the last few weeks, seen peoples driving after the stay at home orders. It's reckless, all over Dallas. And so there they are, there's a speed trap and what happens when you see that police car with a speed trap? Fear. Until what? Until you look down at your speedometer. And if you're speedometer says that you are near the speed limit then you breathe a sign of relief and the fear begins to dissipate. On the other hand, if you look at your speedometer and you are going well above the speed limit that fear not only stays it grows. Because it's like uh oh I am had. This is going to be a ticket right here.

Paul's point is this, if you obey the laws, laws that don't command you to violate Scripture, you generally won't need to live in fear of the government. Not only will you enjoy freedom from fear, but you may even receive praise. Now this word praise doesn't mean you're going to get a reward. No, you're not going to get pulled over and said, "Here's a reward for keeping the speed limit." No, it's approval, it simply means approval as opposed to condemnation. It's like okay, you can keep going, I'm not going to pull you over. Or, it may just mean approval, or it's possible that Paul's referring here to a practice of the first century. Where Roman authorities would publish on inscriptions the names of those who were benefactors of society. Much like we do today, you know, you go to an art venue and people have contributed to build that art venue and their names are there as the donors. That's Roman, that what they did even in Roman times. And so, if that's what Paul is meaning here, he's not merely encouraging us to keep the law but he's encouraging us to be good citizens who contribute to the benefit of society. Paul's point is if you are a Christian, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, be a law-abiding citizen and do so for your own sake so that you can live without fear of the government. But if you refuse to do so, then you will bring judgment on yourself. In other words what he is saying is, it's both right to submit to the government and it's wise, it's smart at the same time.

Now the fifth reason to submit to government is this, God established human government and appointed rulers for our good, human government and rulers for our good. Notice verse 4, "…for it is a minister of God to you for good." God had a number of incredibly beneficial purposes for establishing human government. And it is a theme that fits the July weekend perfectly, so Lord willing we'll examine this one together next Lord's day.

Let's pray together. Our Father thank You for the amazing practicality of Your word, for how it's speaks into the issues of everyday life. Thank You for this reminder from the Scripture of a gospel response to government. Lord we acknowledge that the best human government is terribly flawed. That the best human authorities are sinners. And Lord there are even those who abuse their authority. But Lord we thank You for the gift that government is to us. We thank You for the way You use it. Help us to respond like followers of Jesus Christ. Lord don't let us be swept along by the culture, don't let us be swept along by all the voices that are screaming at us today through the internet and the news media and so many other ways. Father I pray that You would help us instead, first and foremost, think like Christians. Thank You that here in this passage and in the rest of Scripture we have Your mind on how we ought to think and respond to the government You have placed over us. Lord give us the courage, that if the time comes when government demands that we do what is contrary to Your law, to Your word, that we will obey You rather than government and suffer the consequences of that. But Lord the rest of the time, most of our lives help us to embody these straightforward principles from Your word, remembering that ultimately You are the one who has accomplished all of these things. Thank You that we serve the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, the One that calls Himself in Revelation 1 the ruler of the kings of the earth. And we thank You that someday He will return, and He will right all wrongs and establish His own perfect government. And He will rule in righteousness. We look forward to that day and until then make us faithful citizens of both countries, our citizenship here and our citizenship in heaven. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.

Romans