Submission to the Authorities
Submission to the Authorities
What is written in today’s Bible verses, Romans chapter 13: 1-7, is about being obedient to rulers. When we read these verses, isn’t the first thing we probably think "Really?"
1 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.
The Bible is the only standard of our faith. So, for example, if we must literally follow everything that is written here, everyone in the church would have to obey everything the leader of the church, the pastor, says right?
And anyone who works in an organization, such as a company, would have to obey the boss's superior authority over themselves right? No matter how irrational or unreasonable it is?
Or, is it that we as citizens must obey anything that people with authority in the government say?
Once Peter and John started to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, Jewish authorities (law teachers and lawmakers) asked them to stop teaching and speaking in the name of Jesus. (Acts chapter 4)
But even so, Peter and John say, "Which is right in God's eyes: to listen to you, or to He (God)?" That is to say, we (believers) should obey God, not the power of this world" (Acts 4:19).
But in today's Bible verses, Paul, who wrote this letter to Romans, said “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities (the people in leadership positions with authority and authority in the state at the time).”
Is this not contradictory to our faith that we should obey God rather than people?
At the time this part was written, the Israeli-Jewish state was under the rule of the Roman Empire. And in fact, among Jews, and among Christians who believed in Jesus Christ, too, there were people whose faith and belief in God were so strong that they completely denied the political system itself, the "state" that dominated them.
It seems there were people who had extremely radical thoughts and practiced ways of life such as "Because we follow God only, we do not obey any authority or institution that the world has set" or "I will not engage in society, there is no need for society" and so on.
In today’s verses, it is thought that Paul speaks for those who make such extreme arguments. Paul says to those who say no state or government is necessary, that “that is not the case.” He wanted to say that as members of society, we live each day together, whether we are Christians or not.
But why was Paul able to say "for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." Why could he believe that?
I think that perhaps Paul believed in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that within the system of the country and society where the Roman emperor was at the top, the one and only God's defense and guidance was at work. Paul had trust and faith in God that "God is governing the world."
All political systems are not perfect because they are systems made by human beings. No matter how great and superior a king or leader may be, they are just a human being and can always make mistakes.
However, I think that it was shown to Paul that no matter what social system it is, God’s rule extends there. And even if they didn’t realize it, the king or other Roman authorities were also subject to God’s rule.
Nevertheless, it must be carefully examined whether or not the authority given to people really comes from God.
In the scene starting from John 19:10, Jesus was interrogated by Pilate before he was crucified. Pilate said to Jesus, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus said, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above (God).”
Pilate's mistake here is that he thought he had authority inside himself. True authority comes from outside of you. It is given from God, and is accepted by other people becoming true authority.
So, based on today's Bible verses, it is obviously a mistake for a person with authority to say themselves, "Follow everything that I say."
If your authority is the kind which you yourself need to strongly say like that, it is probably better for you to deeply consider (suspect) whether or not it is truly authority given by God.
As a pastor, if there is any authority given to me by God, the prayers and trust I receive from the people of the church, who set me up as a pastor, and the calling I received from God, must match up.
If there is no match between that relationship of prayer and trust, and God’s calling to me, or if I try to seize (brandish) "authority" myself, I can safely assume that it is not authority given to me by God.
We would like to pray so that wisdom will be given to us to discern through prayer and trust whether any authorities are truly given from God.
And we also would like to pray that those who are given authorities will be able to be humble always before God and people.
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.
Here this Bible verse advises us to do good without fearing authority. "Doing good" means more than just doing normal good things. It means that we believe in seeking the will of God and living by practicing faith in Jesus Christ, and living according to Jesus.
If we believe in Jesus Christ, and live our daily life while practicing faith in Jesus, the Bible says, that we will not be afraid of those who are said to be the authority and rulers of this world.
Jesus also said "Do not be afraid of people."
In Matthew chapter 10 from verse 26 it is written:
“So do not be afraid of them (men)…(omission)…. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
The words saying to fear the one who can destroy both our souls and bodies in hell sound harsh (fearful), but the thing that Jesus wants to say the most is that we do not need to be afraid of people. That is because we already know who we should really be afraid of.
We tend to be concerned about how other people look at us, about the power certain people have and how they can be a threat to us. We fear the influence people can have over us. But if we know God, who is the most awesome power, and we know that "I am loved and protected by God," we will no longer be afraid of people.
If we live according to Jesus and keep on walking, not being afraid of any person, we can practice the way of life that Jesus teaches: “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
There is no such love like that among ourselves, but we can receive Jesus' love instead. By the love that we receive from Jesus, the Bible teaches us that even unbelievable things like "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" are possible.
Let’s look at verses 6 through 7, the last two verses of today’s passage.
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.
Initially, I said that Paul's words from today’s verses were directed to believers who denied society, and even the existence of society and the state, saying "I believe only in God."
So as a conclusion, Paul lists, as an example of "fulfilling your duties as a member of society", “paying taxes” and "showing respect for those who have authority."
Paying taxes and respecting the people you should respect does not mean just fulfilling the duty of society as a superficial action, but instead it means doing it from the bottom of our hearts. I believe it means matching our faith with our actions.
In the chapter previous to today’s chapter, chapter 12 verse 10, it is written: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
If we do something for someone, we are asked to do it with love and respect, that is, to live by matching both our faith and action.
The goal of our church this year is "to respect each other." If we practice the goal of this faith in both action and mind, and if we can practice not only in the church but also in the field of society in which we are normally living, the faith of each one of us will surely grow. And I believe that the Gospel will also move forward.
Finally, I would like to finish today’s sermon by considering as a church a little about "we are a member of society."
We have been in this place called Beppu City Nakasuka-Higashimachi for more than 20 years (it has actually been even much longer if you include the time when we had gathered at another location). Our church has been working for salvation and evangelism in this area and will continue to serve here into the future.
And, in fact, not only do we serve others, but our church is also supported by the local people. For example, although our church continuously prays about it, we do not have enough parking space on Sundays.
However, the lumber shop near church has long been favorable and every Sunday they lend the church parking spaces to use. And we were blessed for the Christmas Eve service the other day, as a nearby elementary school let us use their parking lot.
Though it may seem like small things (small goodwill), our church is supported by the understanding and favor of the people in the area around us, so that we can live our lives of faith and protect our worship. We would like to give thanks for that.
As a church built in this place, we have roles and obligations that we must fulfill as members living together in this area. What are those roles and obligations? Since we are a church, it is the most important task for us to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to the community. There is no other role or mission for the church.
I hope that we will continue our contribution we need to make to, this area as much as possible while fulfilling the most important missionary work as a church.
As a matter of the conscience of our faith, being involved in the foundation of our faith, there are things on which we can never compromise with society. We must oppose the power of the world that threatens our keeping the faith in Jesus Christ.
However, no matter the situation, we can believe that the God of Jesus Christ still lives and works for our salvation. We can believe that the Lord rules the world, and the Lord is already winning over the world.
Let's hope that the gospel of Jesus Christ will continue to move forward in this area where we live. And let us honor others and pray that we will be willing to carry out the work for evangelization in our daily lives as we are sent out from here today.