Heavenly Ambassadors, Earthly Citizens
July 18, 2021 Series: Romans
Topic: Sunday Sermons Passage: Romans 13:1–7
 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,  for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.  Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.  For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.  Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. - Romans 13:1–7
Can we just declare this out-loud together, say it with me: Jesus is Lord!
This week, I’ve watched with many of you as two nations close to us work through much turmoil, due to different circumstances but there’s been much talk about the governments of Haiti & Cuba. My heart goes out to our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in these nations, that they would hold-fast to their faith and their witness would be sure and strong in these times.
This is all while we are all-too-aware of things happening domestically with our own government, which we may agree or disagree with. So, if you’re here today and you’re a follower of Jesus, what might our Heavenly King say about how it is that we’re to think -or- feel about our government? How should we engage, interact, obey or dismiss their authority in our lives?
Paul has something he wants to convey to us today as it relates to the posture of A renewed and transformed heart toward those who govern us
Context of this text with surrounding texts:
Previous weeks: Foundation of Mercy shown to us, filled with God’s divine love, we’re called to love others in very practical ways
Next week: posture of renewed mind and transformed heart toward the society we’re in (PG-13 warning)
What about the Historical context: the emperor NERO
Nero's reign brought dark days for Christians. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs describes the scene as follows:
In AD 67, Nero ordered the burning of Rome. The fire lasted for nine days and when the blame turned to Nero, Nero blamed the Christians. And Nero came at the Christians with a new vengeance. Nero contrived all manner of punishments for the Christians that the most infernal imagination could design.
You may think, why would Paul take on this subject? Is it just an illustration? A new subject? A continuation of what he was saying before? - Perhaps this specific question came up in the correspondence, it may be helpful to think about this as an illustration of what he’s been saying in previous verses about love. I do believe it’s best to see it as a continuation of the imperatives or commands that Paul has been building up to this point.
Common Grace (v.1-4)
We begin by realizing today that there is a real, very practical common grace - that is God’s providential kindness - poured out on the world today. Many may deny it but we actually see God’s common grace and experience the good of it in so many areas, including government.
V.1 God’s Established Authority
 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
Opening ILLUS: Good & Bad managers… first job at a shoe store - hired by a good Christian manager, watched an assistant manager who had done most of my training, whose voice I most listened to in my work bc of my position in the store, be walked out in handcuffs for skimming from the till.
- Children to Parents
- Students to Teachers
- Workers to Managers / Bosses
- Swimmers to Lifeguards
- Victims / Perpetrators to First Responders
- Citizens to Law Enforcement
- Criminals to Judges
Being subject, or submitted, to authority can be a touchy subject today, we certainly realize that there are abuses of authority… but, everybody submits to somebody.
Eph 6:5-10 reminds us to “...Obey and serve first as to the Lord.” Even Christ submitted himself to the Father!
V1 helps us understand: Any or All human authority is derived from God - that’s not to say that tyrants and their vile actions toward others have been personally appointed by God but governing authority has been established as a part of the Common Grace given to the world through God’s Created Order.
In a few short months we’ll begin a series on the book of Genesis, I’ve joked with the team and some friends that I feel like I could preach a very controversial message on the first 4 words of Genesis 1:1 alone - “In the beginning, God…” why would I say that’s controversial? Because it flies in the face of our individualistic, self-determinative, autonomous selves. There God stands, eternal, before all time, for all time, the source, the authority.
Perhaps you face the temptation that I can at times, one of two extreme responses to authority:
- Rebel against authority…
- Consider authority as a functional ‘savior’ to all of our problems…
I like what one professor at RTS said of this passage:
If a Christian cannot submit to human authorities, why should we think they would submit to a divine one? - Michael Kruger
You see; As heavenly ambassadors who are earthly citizens we have a civic duty to honor governing authorities as an expression of honoring God.
V.2-4 Sin’s Restraint
 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,  for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
ILLUS: [SWORD] - Some time ago, in our former home, Stephanie and I were sitting out in our living room. The way this room was postured, the hallway was connected sort-of in the middle of it along a wall. Our couch sat to the side of it and the other part of our living room opened into our kitchen. It was late one night, everyone else had been in bed for a while and we were beginning to shut things down for the evening… Then, a weird object started ‘floating’ out of the hallway into the living room… it was the tip of a sword! Next, Caleb emerged with it in hand. I asked (excitedly) “Caleb, what are you doing!” His response was, “I thought I heard something” Dumbfounded I asked him: “How often do you come out into the living room with a sword drawn?!” he replied, “anytime I hear a weird noise”. So, the lesson here is this, if you’re going to break into our house and Caleb is there… DON’T MAKE A WEIRD NOISE! (note: on approving this illustration Caleb did want me to mention that he was half-asleep when all of this went down but I can assure you - Stepahnie and I were fully awake!