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Ask God to orient or reorient you to Himself. Confess any known sin. Thank Him for His forgiveness. Be still and reflect on Jesus and His sacrifice for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to God’s Word. Pray for others in your life that they, too, would know and love God today.
“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.”
Last week, Paul talked about believers transforming their minds by offering their bodies to God as a living sacrifice. Through humble service to the body of believers, these acts of service are girded in and motivated out of a love for God. This week, it may seem strange that he now talks about submitting to governing authorities. How does that fit? Aren’t we as believers born into a new kingdom? After all, aren’t we part of a new humanity? Can’t we just discard the way in which ordinary life is lived so that we pay no heed to the government? Paul’s answer to these question would be “Definitely not!”
Why? Because giving oneself wholly to God and being transformed in one’s thinking are also expressed in how one relates to governing authorities. Doing anything different would be living a two-story life. Remember, we live in an “already, not yet” reality as Christ-followers. So, yes, we belong to a new humanity, but we live as born-again believers in the old humanity as we wait for the consummation of Christ’s kingdom. We live what we’ve been referring to as a “single-story life.” This is the kind of life where, for example, we see believers express their commitment to God in how they relate to rulers and the law of the state—it’s all brought under the rule of Christ.
How so? Believers recognize that God is Sovereign; He is the ultimate source of all power. No political power is attained apart from the sovereign will of God. God has ordained and appointed the ruling authorities. This is what Paul makes clear in his all-encompassing statement.
I understand that this can be hard for us to get our heads wrapped around because, if you’re like me, your mind goes to Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin and countless other evil governments.
To understand this, we must first remember that when Paul wrote this, he was living under the rule of the Roman Emperor Nero! My point in saying this is that Paul still recognized the Roman government’s rule over him. He did his best to be a good citizen and neighbor. And so, how can we do any less? You see, Paul was not living in a democracy like we now live in; there was lots of corruption. Governments are not perfect institutions; they are run by flawed human beings who make choices that are at times outside of God’s will.
So that brings us back to the Hitlers of our world…do we follow them blindly? No, we take the bible as a whole.
We only have to look to the Hebrew midwives, Rahab, and Daniel, just to mention a few. When told to do something that violated God’s authority, they refused. We even see it in the New Testament when Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin and told to stop preaching the gospel. Their response was to reply, “We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29)!” From this, it is clear that as long as the law of the land does not contradict the law of God, we are bound to obey the law of the land. Remember that Paul is not giving us a case-by-case answer; he’s giving us a principle. He’s been considering only a limited issue–the relationship of the believer subject to the civil authorities, he hasn’t given a full theory of the state.
What Paul was making abundantly clear is that we are to obey the government that has been placed over us. God created government to establish order, punish evil, and promote justice. Their authority is derived from God. You see, there is a higher power that they will be answerable to. We are to obey the government in everything: paying taxes, obeying rules and laws, and showing respect. If we do not, we are ultimately showing disrespect toward God, for He is the One who placed that government over us.
For our application today, we can start by looking at our attitude toward our own government. How does your attitude and thoughts about government line up with Paul’s? is there anything that needs to change?
Do you tend to have too high a view or too low a view of the authorities God has established over you?
Ask God to show you areas you need to change.
*From what you have just read and considered: What is a personal implication/application for your life today?
(Personalize this prayer today; make it specific to the circumstances that face you.)
Ask God to lead you through His Spirit as you go through your day. Ask Him to bring to mind the truth of the gospel and its implications for what you will encounter today. Tell Him “Yes” to His will and ask Him for His power and protection to live this “yes.” Ask God to create and reveal opportunities to proclaim the good news today. KEEP PRAYING THROUGHOUT YOUR DAY.
Inspiration and insight for the devotionals came from the following books: Reading Romans with John Stott; The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World (The Bible Speaks Today Series), Stott, John; Romans (The NIV Application Commentary Book 6) Moo, Douglas J.; Encountering the Book of Romans: A Theological Survey (Encountering Biblical Studies) Moo, Douglas J.; Believers Bible Commentary; The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, with the New International Version, Romans through Galatians; NIV Application Study Bible. The Cambridge Bible Commentary, Romans, Best, Ernest. Romans 8-16 For You: For reading, for feeding, for leading (God’s Word For You – Romans Series Book 2, Keller, Timothy.