Introduction- The Cultural Context for Authority and Submission.
Nero was the Roman Emperor from AD 54-68. Nero came into power when his mom murdered his adopted dad Claudius. Five years into his reign, Nero murdered his mother for having too much say in his affairs as Emperor. Nero’s reign was known for tyranny and excess. He was in power when most of the New Testament was written. There are two key facts about Nero that inform us about New Testament Christianity.
The great fire of Rome in AD 64. Nero was the primary suspect, so he blamed the Christians to take suspicion off himself. He burned them alive at the stake. He began Christian persecution. Nero’s wife was pro-Jewish, so she made a distinction between Jews and Christians. That is how there became a distinction between Jews and Christians in the secular world.
The emperor as a god. Nero originated the worship of the emperor as a god. Before Nero, the Emperor was seen as a great man. Nero planted the seeds of the emperor as one of the gods. Domitian took this concept later and required all people to bow before the emperor and worship him which led to 150 years of Christian persecution.
The Christian Response to Government Authority
All authority lies with Jesus- Matthew 28:18.
“All authority on heaven and earth has been given to Me.”
Jesus has all authority. He grants authority to whom He desires for the purpose of His will and glory.
Jesus’ authority is positional. All authority He grants to others is functional. Most people walk in a functional authority over someone, and most people must submit to authority from someone. Take a moment and think of the roles in your life where you have authority over others. Now, remember who has authority over you?
One of those authorities in our lives is governmental authority-
Romans 13:1-7; (NIV)
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 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 you will be commended. 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. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Paul states in 13:1 that we are to willingly submit ourselves to our governing authorities. This is a command from God with no exceptions other than the obvious implied exception of freedom to live out our faith as believers. Lack of respect is not a valid reason to disobey this command. The reason for this command is so that Christians may live quiet and peaceful lives, and so that God can use our submission to authority as a tool to bring lost people to Him (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Paul gives several reasons why submission to governmental authority is necessary:
- Government is by divine decree- 13:1. There is no civil authority except from God, and the civil authority that exists is established by God. Think about how this truth affects us as men of God.
- Therefore, resistance to governmental authority is rebellion against God- 13:2.
- Those believers who resist government authority will bring judgment upon themselves- 13:3. God’s Word shares they will be punished for refusing to submit to government authority.
- Why is this the case? Because God sets up government to restrain evil- 13:3. God knows that law must be in place to punish evil. If not, society will collapse. History has proven this to be true. If our government loses its authority to restrain evil, what do you believe would happen to our culture?
- Government serves to promote good within culture- 13:3-4. We have nothing to fear from governmental authority if we walk in obedience and submission. They restrain evil and promote good within culture. List a few ways you see government promote good within a culture.
- Government is empowered by God to punish those who are disobedient to the laws set up by society- 13:4. God has given them that responsibility to keep society safe and functioning. Otherwise, culture sinks into turmoil and chaos.
- As believers, we are to submit to authority for the sake of our conscience as well- 13:5. 1 Peter 2:13-17 says that by obeying God in this matter we will silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. How does my submission to government authority help to silence ignorant talk of foolish men? What ignorant talk might Peter be addressing?
Based on these scriptures, I trust you have learned more about submission to government authority. This fall, our EMIC Wednesday series is “Faith and Prayer for our nation.”
Heavenly Father, I faithfully exercise my rights on earth as you have already established in Heaven, by using both my spiritual authority and my voice of authority as a voting citizen. I pray for those in offices of authority over me, as I exercise my authority in Christ through my faith-filled confession. I operate according to God’s law of love as I speak words in agreement with the will of God and the establishment of righteousness in this land for God’s will to continue to be done in me, through me, and in this land.
In Jesus’ name, Amen
EMIC Groups Pastor