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Role of Government
Last time we saw that, in light of God’s incredible mercies toward us, it is only
reasonable to offer to Him our bodies as “a living sacrifice.” It is only then that
we are enabled to live out the truths of Chapters 6-8.
Now this time we‘re going to discuss the divinely sanctioned role of government,
and the believers responsibility to those in power.
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no
authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist
have been established by God.
Human government derives its authority from God. Paul shows that governments
are appointed by God. Human government was inaugurated by God after the flood
when He placed into Noah’s hand the sword of the magistrate. “Whoever sheds
man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed” (Gen. 9:6). Those words launched
man on the road to self-government under God.
But like everything else entrusted to man, human government soon failed. The
story of the tower of Babel shows how man used his new-found authority to plan
organized rebellion against the very throne of God itself. Up to this time rebellion
against God had been an individual matter. But not it became federal.
Despite the abuses of governmental power, human government is still a divine
institution. “The powers that be are ordained of God.” The word “powers” means
“delegated authorities” and the word “ordained” means “appointed.”
Evil men may be elected to power or may seize power. They may have no thought
of God at all, but the very fact that He permits them to seize the reigns of
government means that He has a purpose to fulfill even through their misrule.
It is a saying well worth considering that “people get the kind of government
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Governments may be weak or strong, just or oppressive, benevolent or cruel, wise
or foolish, but in each case God has His way and moves His own plans forward.
Democracies and dictatorships alike are under His control.
Nations come and go, kingdoms rise and fall, empires wax and wane, but behind
them all is God, overruling in the affairs of men. Wars and rumors of war, famines
and pestilences, depressions and disasters—all are woven into the fabric of history.
But the tapestry He is weaving is perfect, and all the pressures of satanic force
and human sin are gloriously overruled by a God who is both omnipotent and
One of the great lessons of the book of Daniel is that God keeps a firm hand on
At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and
my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified
him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom
endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back
his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”
Paul goes on to show that governments are approved by God.
Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God
has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
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Role of GoveRnment
Because of the fallen nature of man, society without government is impossible.
Anarchy and pandemonium would result. The authority of the state is grounded
in the will of God. To resist rulers is to resist what God has appointed and to
EXCEPTION: The exception to this principle would be that time when the state
requires an action that runs directly against the written word of God, or the
Christian conscience that is grounded in His revealed will.
For instance, when the Children of Israel languished in Egyptian slavery, the
Hebrew midwives were ordered by Pharaoh to kill every male child:
Exodus 1:15-17; 21
The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives…’When you help the Hebrew
women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill
him; but if it is a girl, let her live.’ The midwives, however, feared God and did
not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live…And
because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.
Because they refused to obey this wicked command, Moses, their future deliverer,
Likewise in the book of Acts, the disciples were commanded not to preach in the
name of Jesus, a direct violation of Christ’s command to them.
We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said…Peter and the other
apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!’
So, when a choice must be made to obey God by disobeying men, or disobey
God in order to obey men, the answer is “We must obey God rather than men.”
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But for the most part, government is God’s way of maintaining the public good
and directing the affairs of the state.
For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do
you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and
he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do
wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant,
an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is
necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment
but also because of conscience.
When functioning as God intended, the military, the police force, and other law
enforcement agencies are God’s servants in restraining evil.
Interestingly, the word for “servants” comes from the word from which we get
“liturgy”. It is used in Hebrews 1:14 to describe the duties of the angels. So God
is telling us that law enforcement discharge a God-ordained duty. Not all rulers,
admittedly, serve God in their private lives. But regardless of whether they do or
not, they discharge functions which are God ordained.
As to government, Paul is saying that:
• Government is responsible for national safety. “He is God’s servant, an
agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
This means they must protect the community. They are to resist criminal elements
in the community. Hence, “rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for
those who do wrong.” The only people who should live in fear of law enforcement
are law breakers.
The Bible warns that the last days will be marked by increasing lawlessness. Jesus
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said that in the last days “Iniquity (lawlessness) shall abound.”—Matt. 24:12
There are 4 important words in the Greek New Testament which are used to
describe outbursts of lawlessness. A brief scan of them will help us understand
why it is so crucial that nations have strong governments dedicated to protecting
the community from the free expression of criminal passions.
The first word is ko-mos, which is used to describe “a troop of intoxicated revelers
who at the close of an orgy, with garlands on their heads and torches in their
hands, with shouts and songs, wander through the streets with insult and wanton
outrage for everyone they meet.” Sound familiar?
E C H -T H R A
The second word for lawlessness is ech-thra, which is translated “hatred” or,
“enmity.” In the ancient world there were three kinds of “enmity.” There was
enmity between class and class, the haves and the have-nots. In other words,
There was enmity between the Greeks and the barbarians; that is, enmity between
And there was enmity between man and man. These enmities are flourishing
today in the so called “enlightened” 21st century.
A- S O -T I A
The third word for lawlessness in the N.T. is a-so-tia, meaning “abandon.” It is used
in Luke 15 to describe the prodigal son who, we are told, wasted his substance
with “riotous” or “abandoned” living. He simply threw everything away. He had
no restraint and no regard for decency and no thought for the future.
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The fourth word is a-no-mia, meaning “lawless” or, “having contempt for the law.”
It is this word that is closest to the theme of Romans 13. It is this word Jesus uses
in Matt 24:12 to describe the increasing lawlessness of the last days.
Government and law enforcement are there to restrain these different
manifestations of lawlessness.
Have you noticed? In virtually every walk of life there now seems to be a breakdown
of morals and a decline in respect for the law. A generation which has abandoned
the Bible is now paying for its folly in a rising tide of crime. Everywhere we look
there is abandonment to lust and depravity.
The bottom line is, if it’s this bad with governmental authority, what would it be
without it but utter chaos!
Next, we come to the whole issue of taxes.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give
their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes,
pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
The authorities in government and law enforcement need to be paid. This is one
of the reasons for taxes. Paul does not enter into the rights, wrongs and abuses
of the taxation system. He simply tells Christians that a nation’s leaders have a
right to monetary support.
So far, Paul has addressed the God-invested authority of the state, submission to
rulers, the payment of taxes, and respect for the public office as ordained by God.
Next, he describes the Christian’s obligation to all people—the obligation to love.
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Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another,
for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do
not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and
whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore
love is the fulfillment of the law.
All the commandments are summed up in the one sentence, “Love your neighbor
The need to love is supremely important in view of the hate-filled and godless
generation in which we live. Since love does no wrong to a neighbor, it is the
fulfilling of the Law.
Finally, Paul peers into the end of the age.
And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake
up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first
believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside
the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently,
as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and
debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with
the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the
The world lives as though human history is destined to go on forever. Peter
predicted this attitude in the society existing before the return of Christ:
2 Peter 3: 3-4 “First off, you need to know that in the last days, mockers are going
to have a heyday….They’ll mock, saying, “So what’s happened to the promise of his
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Coming? Our ancestors are dead and buried, and everything’s going on just as it
has from the first day of creation. Nothing’s changed.”
But the Christian knows that God is in control of people and nations and is
directing history to a predetermined end. Since the end is near, we are to rouse
ourselves from sleep. Every day brings us closer to that final day when all we
have anticipated in Christ will become a reality.
Because the night is nearly over and the day is about to dawn, it is critical that
believers rid themselves of the works of darkness. It is time to clothe ourselves
with the weapons of light. Our conduct is to be decent and honorable.
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