The Christian and Government

Parliament

What is a Christian’s responsibility to their governing authorities? In we will observe three realities regarding the Christian and the Government. When it comes to this relationship, the Christian has an obligation to display the behaviour of one who is being transformed by the renewing of their mind ().

This passage begins with a clear-cut command, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (13:1a). There is no qualification regarding the political persuasion, equity or even competence attached to this command. At the time of writing this, Paul’s governing authority was the Roman Empire. It is possible for a Christian to disobey when it comes to matters that go against the Word of God (cf. ). However, on such occasions this is to be done in such a manner that the attitude of submission is still evident (cf. 13:7). Let us now consider the three realities regarding the Christian and the Government.

The Source of the Government’s Authority (13:1b-2)
Why should we submit to the government? Because governing authorities are placed in the position of authority by God (13:1b-2). The fact that God has ordained and instituted governing authorities doesn’t mean that every authority is morally good or economically sensible. In His sovereign plan there will be varying reasons for their appointment – whether it be blessing or judgment. Regardless of the authority, the duty of the citizen remains the same. 

The Sphere of the Government’s Authority (13:3-4)
How far does the government’s authority extend and what is their duty granted by God? God has appointed government to reward good and restrain evil. The reward is seen in protection and the promotion of peace, whereas the restraining of evil is seen in the application of just punishment.

The Submission of the Government’s Subjects (13:5-7)
As citizen’s that are commanded by God, it is our duty to subject ourselves to the authorities. This is displayed by our attitude and actions. Paul provides the specific example of willingly paying taxes (13:6). Christian’s may not agree with the amount required in taxation nor may they agree with the government’s use of taxes. Nonetheless, the Christian is to “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” (13:7).

Government is an institution ordained by God and for this reason the Christian is to willingly submit. Such conduct is a reflection of an individual that is not conforming to this world but being transformed by the Word of God.

Here are some questions to carefully consider:

  1. Why should a Christian willingly obey the government? When should a Christian disobey the government? See ; ;
  1. If an occasion arises in which a Christian out of necessity must disobey the government (provide some examples), in what manner should this be done?
  1. What are some benefits of governing authorities?
  1. How can we pray effectively for our government? See also

13:1 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.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.

12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

2:1 First of all, then, 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.

Worldly Vision

Broken Vision

UPDATE: Just two days after the announcement, World Vision (US) have reversed their decision to hire same-sex couples. Praise be to our Lord. Important lessons can be learnt from this and the importance of maintaining strong Biblical convictions so that we are not moved by our culture.

Earlier this week, World Vision had announced that its American branch will allow same-sex couples who are legally married to be employed. World Vision has provided relief to countless people in need and is unparalleled in its size and practical aid. This organisation has been providing help to those in true need and for this we ought to be grateful.

Then why make this an issue? After all, Richard Stearns, the President of World Vision (US) states that this is a “very narrow policy change”. Stearns adds that “This is not compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of local churches and denominations on theological issues. We’re an operational arm of the global church, we’re not a theological arm of the church.” Interestingly, Stearns says that World Vision (US) “will continue to expect abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage for all staff.” Regardless of what he says, the moment you depart from the clear teaching of God’s Word you have become worldly. This organisation claims to be motived by their faith in Jesus Christ, so they must be accountable to the Word of Christ in what they say.

This sad announcement provides some important lessons for God’s people.

Firstly, regardless of what is going on around us, God’s Word must be our final authority. If the Word says it we believe it! People may say they are not capitulating, but when the world is contrary to Scripture and you go with the world, you have capitulated. The Word of God is our authority. It is our duty to live by it and declare it.

Secondly, Christians are to be a faithful witnesses of the gospel in the world. Yes, let us have world vision but not worldly vision. When it comes to the world, those who profess faith in Christ can fall into one of two extremes. There are those who become worldly and there are those who become isolated. Both are wrong. As Christians, it is our duty to be salt and light in this corrupt and dark world (). I agree with Russell Moore when he said, “World Vision is a good thing to have, unless the world is all you can see”.

Thirdly, let us not lose sight of the priority and power of the gospel. To go against what Scripture teaches on a kingdom and moral issue (cf. ) is to show a lack of true love towards those we minister to. John Piper insightfully states, “When World Vision embraces as an acceptable alternative behavior what God says will lead to eternal suffering (), it sets a trajectory of lovelessness.” Sadly, many have responded with hate speech and a harsh condemnation to homosexuals and others in sin. The believer in the Lord Jesus Christ ought to recognise that homosexuality is indeed sexual sin worthy of eternal punishment, but they must show the power of the gospel in providing hope for the homosexual and all sinners. Let us not lose sight of the priority and power of the gospel “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” ().

Recommended Reading:

Pointing to Disaster – The Flawed Moral Vision of World Vision 
by Albert Mohler

World Vision: Adultery No, Homosexual Practice Yes
by John Piper

The Worldliness in World Vision’s New Hiring Policy
by Kevin DeYoung

On World Vision and the Gospel
by Russell Moore

 

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Why is Doctrine Important?

Doctrine is important2

The word doctrine will create various responses from people. Some think controversy, legalism, or truth and for some they are just indifferent to the word!

What is doctrine? When it comes to defining doctrine I am talking about Christian doctrine, which is a body of belief or teaching that is drawn from Scripture. We can put this body of belief into categories like, the doctrine of Scripture, the doctrine of God, the doctrine of man, the doctrine of salvation, the doctrine of the church and the doctrine of last things.

Knowing then that doctrine is a body of belief drawn from Scripture, why is it important? In this post I want to give three reasons, the source of doctrine, the supervision of doctrine, and the security of doctrine.

The Source of Doctrine
God – the Creator and Sovereign of the universe – is not silent. He has spoken and therefore what He has said is of utmost importance. His words are to be treasured because they alone are food for our soul and light for our path. God continues to speak to us today by means of the Holy Scriptures. It is by means of reading and studying them (with the Holy Spirit’s help) that we can know and learn about God. Every genuine believer of the Lord Jesus Christ ought to desire to learn about Him and in turn obey Him. Jesus said to His disciples, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (). These commandments He spoke of are contained within the Scriptures, therefore we must read and know the Scriptures in-order to obey what he has commanded. Now the Scriptures unlike any other document proceed from God and are inspired (). Because the Scriptures are inspired they are “profitable for teaching” (). The word for “teaching” can also be translated “doctrine” (KJV). It is from the Scriptures where biblical doctrine is drawn. Doctrine is important because it is a summary of what God has spoken. Since God has spoken, whatever He has said is of great importance and must be affirmed by the people of God.

The Supervision of Doctrine
Doctrine matters because it provides us God’s supervision and direction for the church. If you are invited to a particular venue, and the instructions you were given were incorrect, it is almost certain that you will arrive at the wrong destination. Even though you were convinced you were going the right way, the truth is, you weren’t. The wrong instructions led you to the wrong destination. It is the same when it comes to Christian belief and living. We know that we are to live lives of godliness, but how do we know what is godly? How do we live in such a way that according to the will of God? How do we adhere to biblical truth? How does a church practice godliness? The answer is, by holding to and living in accordance to what God requires. If we disbelieve or misinterpret what He has said in His Word, our actions will be contrary to what He desires. Our life will be one of sinfulness, even though we may be convinced that we are obeying God, the truth is we are not. Our wrong belief will lead to wrong behaviour.

It is essential that if we are going to adhere to God’s truth and live in accordance to it (as individual believers and as churches as whole), we need to first of all understand His instructions. Because the Scriptures contain what God has spoken, they are authoritative. All that we do as Christians must come as a result of obedience to what God requires of us. If we are convinced that the Scriptures are from God, and that they contain His truth, then they must be our foundation. The apostle Paul said to Timothy, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (). These are called “sound words” because they are without corruption. What are these “words“? This is a reference to the very words of God. Paul knew the importance of God’s words when it came to Christian living, and he commands Timothy to allow them to be a pillar that will hold him up when it comes to ministry.

If biblical doctrine is at our foundation, it will direct us down the path of righteousness. The Psalmist said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (). God’s Word lights up the path and guides the believer in a direction that is glorifying to God providing Divine supervision.

The Security of Doctrine
Finally, doctrine is important because it provides the believer with security. That is to say it protects us from error. There are many false doctrines in the world today, but this is nothing new. The Scriptures provide various names for false doctrines, “worthless doctrine” (), “every wind of doctrine” (), “doctrines of men” (), “different doctrine” (), “doctrines of demons” (), “strange doctrines” (), “doctrine of Balaam” () and “doctrine of the Nicolaitans” (). These names give us the understanding of the source and nature of false doctrine. False doctrine does not come from God and therefore is not helpful but only harmful.

How does sound biblical doctrine protect us from error? It will prevent us from affirming a belief that it unbiblical which in turn will lead to a practice that is unbiblical. Put simply, it will protect us from bad belief and behaviour. Departure from sound doctrine occurs when someone basis their belief and behaviour on something that is not biblical. Perhaps people and churches will form their belief on tradition, experience or simply on ignorance. Such practice is devastating because the actions they perform are driven by something that is unbiblical. This is one of the reasons why many churches will have bizarre and unbiblical ministries and practices – they have departed from sound doctrine. Liberalism is the fruit of departing from sound doctrine. Biblical doctrine is critical because it provides the believer with security and informs their behaviour and practice.

In contrast to those who embraced false teaching, Paul reminded Timothy “You, however, have followed my teaching (or “doctrine“)” (). Because of the emphasis of this “teaching” coming from Paul, it is best to view this as apostolic teaching. In other words, this refers to the divine truth of Scripture that Paul taught and wrote. If Timothy imitates Paul’s doctrine, this will lead to godliness, and in turn combat error. In addition following doctrine, Paul instructed Timothy, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it” (). While the false teachers advance in their error (cf. ), Timothy is to continue in the things he had learned. In other words, don’t move from the truth! Doctrine, drawn from the Scriptures is your weapon against error and it will protect you.

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.

They are both stupid and foolish;
the instruction of idols is but wood!

14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,

1 Timothy 6:3

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness,

4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,

Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.

14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.

15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness,

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it

13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

The Bible’s Authority

A few weeks ago it was my privilege to preach a sermon on the topic of the Bible’s authority. It was noted that throughout the centuries there has been a consistent attack on the Bible’s authority. When it comes to knowing God’s will, seeking guidance, providing teaching on matters concerning salvation and spiritual growth many are asserting that churches ought to look outside of Scripture. This can be seen by those who embrace and promote personal experience, extra-biblical revelation, mysticism, philosophy, seeker sensitive strategies, and even tradition for solutions to their spiritual problems or for answers to spiritual truths.

In this message two outcomes of the Bible’s Authority were observed. Firstly, we noted the Superiority of Scripture. Knowing that throughout the ages many great books have been written and that they have provided encouragement to people and insight into certain facts. What makes the word of God superior? Continue reading The Bible’s Authority