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Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
January 12, 2005
As a part of a believer's call to live in such a way as to "prove what is
that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom. 12:2), he or she is
to be subject to governing authorities. This is certainly contrary to the
inclination of many (which is, of course, a part of what it means to "not be
conformed to this world"). But it is nevertheless commanded of us in many
places in scripture (Titus 3:1-3; 1 Peter 3:13-17; 2 Tim. 2:1-3).
Paul calls us to be "subject" to the governing authorities. The word for
"subject" (hupotass˘) means "to cause to be in a submissive relationship";
and here, in its passive form, it means, "to become subject to" or
"subordinated to". It involves a recognition of an ordered structure, and a
willing respect of that structure, and a submission of one's self in the
proper place in that structure.
I. THE COMMAND: BE IN SUBJECTION TO GOVERNING AUTHORITIES (v. 1a).
A. There is no exemption from this: "every soul" is to do this.
B. There is no qualification as to "the governing authorities": even, as in
this case, the rule of an evil emperor of Rome.
C. This should be seen as an aspect of our salvation. It is just one
more of the consequences of our having been justified in Christ (see Rom.
II. THE REASON: BECAUSE OF WRATH AND BECAUSE OF CONSCIENCE (vv. 1b-5).
A. Because of conscience before God (vv. 1-2).
1. God has established the authorities that exist (v. 1b) - even if the one
who exercises it does not recognize it as from God (John 19:11). They were,
in fact, "appointed" by God; the perfect tense of the verb (tass˘, "to draw
up an order, to arrange in place; to assign or appoint) suggesting a
once-for-all fact. God's sovereign decree is the determining factor in
those authorities either existing or being removed.
2. To resist authority is to oppose God (v. 2a). The command of God in the
Old Testament is shockingly clear: "You shall not revile God, nor curse a
ruler of your people" (Ex. 22:28). In the same verse, cursing a ruler is
equated with cursing God. Paul submitted to this in a very difficult
situation (Acts 23:3-5).
3. To oppose God by opposing the authority He has appointed is to invite
punishment (v. 2b).
B. Because of wrath against evil (vv. 3-4).
1. Rulers are ordained by God to restrain evil through fear (v. 3). This
is a legitimate role in government. For this reason, government is not a
fear to those who do good (law-abiders) but to those who do evil
(law-breakers). Therefore, be a law-abider, and you have no reason to fear.
One of the God-appointed functions of governing rulers is that of being a
cause of fear to law-breakers.
2. Rulers are ministers (diakonos) of God for the praise of good behavior
(v. 4a). They not only cause fear to law-breakers, but also to promote good
in society. They are actually God's "ministers" in their appointed sphere.
(True, they don't always do it right; but then, neither do God's appointed
ministers in the church!) Paul didn't hesitate to call upon the ministry of
the civil government when it was appropriate to do so (Acts 25:11).
3. Rulers are ministers (diakonos) of God for the punishment of evil (v.
4b). As Paul says, in a very ominous tone, ", , , he does not bear the
sword in vain . . ." It is not our proper sphere to execute the wrath of
God as private citizens; but it is the proper sphere of the governing
authorities. As our former police chief exhorted local ministers, "We all
war, not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces. As the
church, you deal with spiritual forces; and as the police, we'll handle the
C. Paul summarizes these two reasons for subjection in verse 5: ". . . not
only because of wrath (because of its role of punishing evil) but also for
conscience sake" (because of its appointment by God).
III. THE PRACTICE: GIVE GOVERNMENT WHAT IT IS DUE (vv. 6-7).
A. Paul places this in a very practical frame: that because the government
is God's "ministers" (here a different word, leitourgoi; which refers to a
minister in a service of worship), continually attending to their ministry,
we ought to pay taxes (Luke 20:25).
B. This gives Paul opportunity to express a general principle - to render to
all what they are due.