Rev. & Mrs. Kenneth Fellenbaum

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Milford, Connecticut, United States

Bible Verse of the Day

Friday, June 26, 2009

God and the Authorities

As we approach the fourth of July, we will use the occasion for a message about God and Country. In Apostle Paul's letter to the Christians at Rome, he writes: "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. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 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. 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. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor" (Romans 13:1-7)

Paul begins by stating that "everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities." He allowed for no exceptions. Perhaps some Christians were advocating the position that they should only answer to God. Paul gives three reasons why people are to be in submission to the authorities. Reason number one is that "no authority exists except that which God has established." He adds, "the authorities that exist have been established by God." So the theological reason for submitting is that everyone who is in a position of authority is permitted or allowed to be there because of God's will. This may be difficult to understand since some terrible dictators have existed in this century and in history. The prophet Habakkuk wrestled with how God could use a ruthless people to punish the Hebrews until the Lord explained that he would use the Babylonians for his purposes and then use others to punish them.

The second reason Paul gives for people to obey authority is so they need not fear punishment. He reminds them that the authorities are "God's servants who act as agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoers." That is the reason that they "bear the sword" or carry a gun. Can you imagine living in a society where there was no one to keep the criminals and terrorists in check? If you do not do anything wrong, and you show respect then you have nothing to fear. If an officer stops you for some reason, try and be cooperative and help them do their job. If you do this you will have a clear conscience.

The third reason for submitting to authorities is that those individuals who hold those positions do so as their full-time jobs. They need to be remunerated for their work. About eighty percent of every government budget I have ever seen involves salaries and benefits. Someone has to pay the soldiers, the police, the firemen, the teachers, etc. That is why Paul says that we "owe them our taxes, revenue, respect, and honor."

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