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.
Not only will corrupt, sinful governments ask people to do things God forbids but, sometimes, they’ll also ask God’s people to not do things God commands us to do. What do we do in these circumstances and situations? We look again to heroes of the faith from both the Old and New Testament.
In the book of Daniel, which is a great case study in living as a Christian in a godless government, a decree is made that no one will pray to God for 30 days. Does Daniel follow it? Absolutely not. He prays not once, not twice, but three times a day and, not in private, but next to an open window. He’s arrested, but he doesn’t even seem worried, because he worships the God who’s above all earthly law.
Then, they decide to throw Daniel in a lion’s den. But it’s no problem for him because he worships the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. And God spares his life, just like he spares the lives of his friends who were put into the fiery furnace.
In Acts 4-5, the Apostles are preaching about Jesus and Christianity is spreading. The government hears about it and realizes this “Christianity thing” is catching on, so they arrest them. The apostles, in Acts 5:29 say “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” Though they were arrested and flogged, later in the same chapter, once they were let go it says they “left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus.” (vs. 41). And they continued to preach without fear because they knew they had the approval of the God over all the political systems.
Finally, Paul, who wrote this incredible book of Romans that we’re studying for close to a year, writes books of the Bible in jail. He does some of his best work from jail, because it’s not like he has anything else to do, so he might as well write a few books of the Bible. It’s believed that he finally made it to Rome and, when he arrived there, he kept preaching and was arrested by the government and put to death. But the reward he received once he arrived in Heaven was, I imagine, remarkable, beyond words, and worth all the torture and hardship of this temporary physical life.
I ended the sermon in Romans 13 reading from Revelation and think it’s an appropriate way to finish this daily devotional.
Revelation 19:11-16 – Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.
For those of us who love Jesus, being a faithful Bible-believing, sin-repenting citizen of His kingdom and resident of our nation is going to bring varying degrees of difficulty to our lives. We want to see justice and, we need to pray, labor, vote, and petition for that. But ultimately, the Bible talks about the sword. Jesus will return with a sword, riding on a white horse, with eyes like flaming fire, with all authority, when he comes to establish His Kingdom for all eternity.
What has the government forbidden you to do that God commands?
To find the free Romans 12-16 digital study guide for individuals and small groups, hear Pastor Mark’s entire sermon series on Romans, or find a free mountain of Bible teaching visit realfaith.com or download the Real Faith app.