4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents 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 as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.
Most of us are law-abiding citizens. But there appears to be a shift in the mindset of some who believe the law of the land is relative. They willingly obey only the laws with which they agree and vilify anyone who doesn’t share their philosophical, ideological, and political views.
The Bible has much to say regarding our relationship to government. It should also be pointed out that the Biblical record comes from a time when laws and leaders were not nearly so lenient as they are today.
The first verse of our focus text gets to the root of why we should submit to the authorities who govern over us. “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.”
(1) Governing authorities are put in place by God for our good. At the beginning of Romans 13 we’re told, “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” When Jesus was interrogated by Pilate, He said, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.”
(2) The rule of law is to be respected. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. (v4)
(3) The punishment given to lawbreakers should cause fear. Not inhumane, but certainly enough to serve as a deterrent against criminal behavior. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (v4)
(4) We obey the law, not only due to fear of consequences, but because it’s the right thing to do, a matter of conscience. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. (v5)
(5) We are obligated to pay taxes to our ruling authorities for our protection. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. (v6) Remember what Jesus said about paying taxes? “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17)
I grew up in a time when respect for authority was taught and expected. There were very different distinctions between right and wrong and few gray areas.
Curiously, I was part of the Hippy generation, those rebels from the 60s who touted peace and love as our friends were dying in Vietnam. I tell you that because it’s important to recognize that disrespect for authority is not unique to today. The Millennials aren’t the first generation to rebel against the establishment. The Baby Boomers did it too, and thank the good Lord, we survived all that unrest and disrespect for the rule of law.
Isn’t it ironic that those who protested the establishment in the 60s, eventually became the establishment?
People have been rebelling against authority since the beginning of time. In regard to God’s law, that rebellion is called sin. That’s because we come into the world with a sin nature, naturally bent toward disobedience. We are born as law breakers and rebels against authority.
But God has given us a remedy for that condition through His Son, Jesus the Christ, who is the authority over all things.
Nowhere are we told that we can’t disagree or speak out against the laws of the land. But we should, seek to obey. Beyond that, the absolute best thing we can do for our governmental leaders is to pray for them.
I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 1 Timothy 2:1-2
For more on this topic, check out this article: No Longer Condemned and Off Death Row
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 2 (April – June) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.