Today I want us to go back and examine the same section of scripture we looked at last week because there is so much more there than can be addressed in one lesson. And I want you to understand that from Chapter 12 and onward we have entered into the application phase of Paul’s letter.
Now there are three phases of instruction in a sermon:
- Reading the Text.
- Explaining the Text.
- Applying the Text.
Paul has done the first two from chapters 1-11. He has laid out the case for sinful man and the grace that has been revealed to this lost and dying world. He has described human nature and the emptiness that comes from ‘following your heart.’ He has shown that sinful man is void of goodness in himself and is unable to change himself. And he has shown us that, what man could not do (he could not keep the law perfectly which is God’s standard), God did for God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. He has made us new creatures in Christ Jesus. He has given us a new heart and a new spirit and a new life!
And Paul calls upon everyone who names the Name of Christ to turn aside from evil and obey God from the new heart He has given us. We are commanded to walk in the Spirit so we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. And we are not left to guess what the will of God is for our lives for Paul lays it all out for us, line upon line; precept upon precept, showing us what the Christian life looks like and calling us to conform our lives to the dictates of Holy Scripture.
Here is life application. Because it isn’t enough to just read the bible. It isn’t enough to just go to church and listen to sermons. There must be a point in which we realize that God is speaking to us and telling us what He wants us to do. We must come to the place where we understand that “Oh, this is God’s will. I see it now, I understand it. This means me!” and having come to that place we are now responsible to obey. We have been given light and we must live up to the light that we have. The secret things belong to God but the things revealed belong to us…and we are to obey them.
Let me give you an example which will illustrate my point. You remember the account of the man who was born blind? Jesus had healed the man and because of this, he was taken to the Jewish Supreme Court and basically put on trial…and the charge was that he was healed. How nonsensical is that. Instead of rejoicing before God for divine healing, the religious leaders who should have been leading the praises, grilled the man to find out ‘who did it.” The Pharisees finally cast him out of the synagogue because they could not refute what he was saying to them.
Jesus then came to him and let’s listen in on the conversation which is found in John 9 and beginning with verse 35. “Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” 38 And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him. 39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Now listen carefully to this part. 40 Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
You see, the Pharisees claimed to see, to understand. And yet they did not obey. They searched the scriptures daily but it made no difference in their lives. They were still full of evil. Many people who would call themselves Christians are just like the Pharisees. They may look beautiful on the outside but inside, they too are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
So you see, it is not enough to say you are a Christian…you must demonstrate your faith by your deeds. And the subject matter before us today is obedience to the government. We may not like the leaders but as long as they aren’t commanding us to disobey God we are to obey the laws of the land. So let’s read our text once again.
1 “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. First note that by every person we must understand that all men are required to be in subjection to the governing authorities. Some would differentiate between Christians and sinners but didn’t Paul deal with that back in Chapter 1. He spoke of all men knowing the truth about God and yet suppressing that truth in unrighteousness which has led to ever ill that society has ever known. Throw off the laws of God and reap the consequences. So this is a universal command to all men.
Next we understand from this passage that all governments that have ever existed were raised up by the divine command and will of God…“that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men.” Of Pharaoh God said “And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.” Ex 9:16
In 1Sa 2:8, a section called “the Song of Hannah” we read this; “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and He hath set the world upon them.” God establishes governments and He does so for His glory. Pharaoh was an evil man but he had been raised up to do God’s will.
Hazael was another such king. Look with me at 1Ki 19:15 “The LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram;” that is Syria. God sent Elijah the Prophet to anoint this man to be king of Syria. And I want you to look with me at the kind of man he was. You will find it beginning in 2Ki 8:7-157 “Then Elisha came to Damascus. Now Ben-hadad king of Aram was sick, and it was told him, saying, “The man of God has come here.” 8 The king said to Hazael, “Take a gift in your hand and go to meet the man of God, and inquire of the LORD by him, saying, ‘Will I recover from this sickness?’” 9 So Hazael went to meet him and took a gift in his hand, even every kind of good thing of Damascus, forty camels’ loads; and he came and stood before him and said, “Your son Ben-hadad king of Aram has sent me to you, saying, ‘Will I recover from this sickness?’” 10 Then Elisha said to him, “Go, say to him, ‘You will surely recover,’ but the LORD has shown me that he will certainly die.” 11 He fixed his gaze steadily on him until he was ashamed, and the man of God wept. 12 Hazael said, “Why does my lord weep?” Then he answered, “Because I know the evil that you will do to the sons of Israel: their strongholds you will set on fire, and their young men you will kill with the sword, and their little ones you will dash in pieces, and their women with child you will rip up.” 13 Then Hazael said, “But what is your servant, a dog, (to call someone a dog was the worst thing you could do during Hazael’s day) that he should do this great (monstrous) thing?” And Elisha answered, “The LORD has shown me that you will be king over Aram.” 14 So he departed from Elisha and returned to his master, who said to him, “What did Elisha say to you?” And he answered, “He told me that you would surely recover.” 15 On the following day, he took the cover and dipped it in water and spread it on his face, so that he died. And Hazael became king in his place.
God indeed is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men. Hazael was appointed by God himself to rule in Syria. He was put in place to accomplish the will of God! We may not like Barack Obama but we must understand that he too has been appointed by God to serve God’s purposes and we are commanded to be in subjection to him as the God ordained governing authority in our land today. We are to give him the respect that his office deserves and as long as he doesn’t demand that we blaspheme God we are to respect him for the offices sake.
Having established the fact that God sets up all governments and does so for His purposes, and having established the fact that we are to be in subjection to the governing authorities that God has established what are we to think of those who resist the governing authorities, who disobey, who shake their fists at the laws enacted by the God ordained governing authorities?
I mean all you have to do is turn on the television or listen to the radio and you can find examples of anarchy in the streets. Lawlessness abounds. Rebellion is in the air as men and women everywhere shake their fists at God and His Law! In the recent scandal involving Anthony Weiner one MSNBC host blamed Christians for all of his troubles. ‘Somehow those pesky Christians have fabricated this whole thing, never mind the nude photos and the sleazy messages…it’s those Christians and their backward thinking that’s at fault here. Weiner did nothing wrong!’
Doesn’t this take you back to Psalm 2? I mean, the whole thing is laid out in that chapter. 1 “Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. The scriptures are plain you see. Men want to be lawless. They really do want to be Charles Manson and Hitler and Joseph Stalin and Jim Jones. They want to do evil. They love evil. It is in our very nature to do evil for we are born separated from God and under the dominion of the devil. Sinful man is demon possessed and it is only the restraining hand of God that holds sinful men back from being as wicked as they can be. It is only the common grace of God that keeps wicked men from achieving their destructive dreams.
Thirdly we see that God has set up order in society. In 1Co 14:33 Paul, teaching us about the nature of the Church declares that all things are to be done decently and in order. “For, he says, God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” This carries over into society. When God created the world, He created an orderly world. When He created man and placed him in the garden, it was organized.
The devil is the author of confusion and every perversion and when he tempted Eve it was at the very order God had created. God had laid down the law. The devil put a question of that law before Eve and she responded in lawlessness. And it has been that way ever since.
Any rebellion against authority, from the fall of the devil, the sin of Eve, the rebellion of Nimrod all the way to the riots in Greece today; all these are examples of rebellion against God, the ultimate Authority. Which is exactly what we read in verse 2 of our text. “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God… John spells this out for us in his epistle. 1Jo 3:4-8 “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.”
Turn to the epistle of James and let’s look at chapter 4 beginning with verse 1 “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. Note the pattern of rebellion.
Sinful man is not satisfied with the grace lavished upon him…he wants more; indeed he wants what someone else has and so he covets. Covetousness is idolatry which means he literally worships that which he wants. There is a lust for things that burns within him to the point that he is willing to murder so he can have what he things he needs. But this does not satisfy because once that thing is possessed it loses its lustre.
It doesn’t satisfy. Let me give you a biblical example of how sin does not satisfy. There was a man named Amnon. He was one of the sons of David. He had a sister whom he ‘loved’ and he wanted her so badly that he actually stopped eating. The burning lust in his heart was making him sick. But he had a friend who cooked up a scheme whereby he could get here where he wanted her. And he raped her, which illustrates the truth of the passage in James. After he had gotten what he wanted, he threw her out in the street because his evil nature had not been satisfied. The rebellious evil that dwells within man rages to get out, but once it does it always ends in devastation.
The wicked rebels rioting in the streets of Egypt and elsewhere; who are burning buildings and cars and raping men and women, these will not be satisfied by their lawless deeds for they are like the daughters of the leech whose names are “Give, Give!” their lust has no end. Like a bottomless pit, they can never fill the lustful desires that burn in their hearts.
And it never ends well for rebels. Ga 6:7 tells us; “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Ho 8:7 says, “For they sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; it yields no grain. Should it yield, strangers would swallow it up.”
There is no satisfaction in sin and those who pursue it feed on ashes. They think that gaining the whole world will bring fulfilment and contentment and happiness. Men think that if they just gain the power they seek they will be at peace. But Stalin, though he reigned over the entire Soviet Union feared for his life. He had someone taste his food and he slept in 17 different bedrooms so that no one would know where he was. Hitler sought the whole world yet in the end he committed suicide in an underground bunker. Jim Jones gained the power he wanted and then when that didn’t satisfy he convinced 918 of his followers to commit suicide and then killed himself.
Consider one more example of lawlessness; Bonnie and Clyde. Here were two miserable individuals whose lives could not have been more wicked if they had tried. They were celebrated by many as heroes but they were just thieves and robbers. Their lives ended in a hail of bullets when they were ambushed by federal agents. Here is where lawlessness ends. They sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind.
All these had resisted the authority either of God or of man or both and all died horribly. And the truth of scripture was validated when it says, “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
The consequence of rebellion is judgment. You cannot break the law without being punished. Government has the power to punish, it is given by God. You can go through the Old Testament, through the books of Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers, and see all of this.
The Law called eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, that is equal punishment for the crime and it was the responsibility of those in authority to execute justice. An eye for an eye is not a licence for vigilantism. The government bears the sword by the decree of God it alone is to deal with criminals.
And punishment had several purposes. Number one, it demonstrated the justice of God; it declared what was right and what was wrong. Two, it acted as a deterrent which is why punishment was to be swift and immediate. There were no long years of appeals. When the guilty party was discovered he was dealt with swiftly. Three, punishment was to hold a threat that restrained evil. Four, punishment was seen as a means of rehabilitation. And five, punishment by the government was to prevent private vengeance.
By the way, did you know that there were no prisons in Old Testament Judaism? Even in the New Testament, the Jews operated no prisons. The Gentiles had prisons, as we know. They were a part of the Roman social order and Paul was in a lot of them. But the Jews operated no prisons.
The Puritans in early America used the biblical model of physical punishment followed by restitution for the crime through labour for lesser offenses and banishment or execution for the more severe ones. They had some places that we would call jails but they were only for temporarily holding the offender until he could be punished for his crime and perform some form of labour to bring restitution which was a way he could gain back his dignity…or as I said, in severe cases, he was either banished or executed.
It was the Quakers who changed all of that. It was the Quakers who introduced prisons in Pennsylvania. And the first prison in America was the Walnut Street Jail, and by 1790 the law established imprisonment. They called them penitentiaries because they thought if you locked them up there, they would become penitent.
Today we’ve learned that imprisoning people for long periods of time doesn’t do anything except keep people off the streets long enough for them to plan their next crime. We have the most prisoners in the world and the highest crime rate. Prisons are effective in creating more crime, more immorality. As one writer says, “The American prison system is unbiblical, inhumane, ineffective, inefficient and idiotic. In the Old Testament form of justice established by God, a thief could work to give back what he had stolen. God ordained government to punish, but also to provide a path of restitution. And this brings glory to God!
The governing authorities have a duty and a right to punish lawlessness. When they punish violators of law, God approves of that punishment, and God Himself will also deal with a violator if he remains unrepentant. The instruments then of punishment are human authorities and the source of punishment is divine. Government is from God. Therefore to rebel against the divinely instituted authority is to resist God and rebellion which is as the sin of witchcraft, will bring punishment. Even if the governmental authorities shirk their duties and allow criminals to go free, God is no such person. He will deal with sin and will do so promptly. Sinners will not get away with their crimes no matter how ‘perfect’ they may seem.
Jack the Ripper may never have been caught by Scotland Yard but he did stand before the Heavenly court. Ga 6:7 “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Heb 10:28-31 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.