October 22, 2023
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
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. 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. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
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.
Name the person on the face of the penny, nickel, dime and quarter. Our government established a system of currency and continues to maintain the mint, interest rates, etc. Governments serve the good of the people by establishing many systems and organizations. Governments establish lots of things for people, but God established government. God established government for us, and we are subject to it.
God has given government the right to collect a certain amount of coin from its citizens. These are called taxes. Even at the time of Jesus, taxes were collected and those who were against Jesus tried to use the subject of paying taxes to trap him in saying something illegal. In our Gospel reading from Matthew 22, Jesus was asked,
17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” 18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Jesus was not trapped by those who were against him. Instead, he honored God and his government. Jesus upheld the truth that we are subject to God and to the government, and in our New Testament reading from Romans 13, Paul expanded on what it meant for Christians to be subject to the government.
Paul’s description of government to the Christians in Rome was timeless. The temptation was there for Paul’s description to be negatively shaped by the government of his day. Paul lived during the time of the Roman Empire in the middle of the first century AD. He likely wrote this letter to the Romans during the reign of Emperor Nero often remembered for his brutality and immorality. Yet, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write the truth. Our New Testament reading from Romans 13 begins with these words, 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. These words apply to everyone. Paul wrote clearly phrasing his point in two different ways making the point that all governments that exist have been established by God whether good or evil. Again, everyone is subject to a government. Then, Paul went on to write, 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. This means that a person who rebels against the government, sins against God. Paul then spelled out God’s purpose for all government,
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. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
To summarize Paul’s description, we can say that God established the governing authorities to maintain justice by rewarding, protecting and promoting those who do good, and warning against, punishing and ending those who do evil. God established government for this good purpose. Now, there are governments that do not follow God’s good purpose. For them, as with all who do evil, God offers forgiveness for those who repent and promises punishment to those who continue in their evil ways.
We must repent for the times when our attitude toward the government has been one of rebellion rather than submission. When we want to check our hearts against God’s expectations, one of the best places to go in Scripture is Exodus 20 where we find God’s Ten Commandments. Many of the Ten Commandments are broken when we harbor rebellious thoughts, words and actions toward the government. In the fourth commandment, God expects us to honor those in authority over us. We dishonor the government by breaking laws. Now, if the government requires you do something against Scripture like not share the gospel, follow what Peter and the other apostles did in Acts 5, where we read, 29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” However, that passage does not apply to things like speeding tickets or paying taxes. You break the eighth commandment, which protects a person’s reputation, when you spread lies and gossip about the government or individuals in government. You break the fifth commandment, which warns against murder and hatred, with your hateful, violent thoughts, words, posts, texts and rants against government and individuals in government. You break the seventh commandment, which warns against stealing, when you cheat or withhold your taxes. And when you break any of the other commandments, you break the first commandment, which asks us to have one God and therefore submit to his authority, because you become God when you take matters into your own hands about how you get to feel toward government and do not obey what God asks you to do. When you do not repent of your rebellion you have the punishment of earthly governments to fear as well as the wrath of God.
Jesus subjected himself to the government. Our New Testament reading from Romans 13 continues, 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. Jesus submit himself to his government because submitting to the government is God’s will. Again, in our Gospel reading from Matthew 22, we heard Jesus upheld paying taxes, and certainly he paid his own taxes without lying or complaining. Jesus also followed his government when it was corrupt and evil. Pontius Pilate was the local government official to whom Jesus was subject. God allowed Pilate to exercise the power of the sword, which includes capital punishment. Pilate did not have to listen to the lies of the corrupt mob shouting for Jesus’ crucifixion nor did Pilate have to exercise the death penalty for Jesus or execute him with the excessive pain of the cross, but he did, and Jesus submitted to an unjust death on the cross. Jesus’ conscience was clear as he submitted to an unjust government. And Jesus was hung on the cross to that your conscience would be clear of all your rebellion and sin toward God and the government he established. As Jesus stood before Pilate, we hear in John 18, 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” This was not a license to live outside the law. Instead, Jesus submit himself to God and to the earthly government he established.
As a member of Jesus’ heavenly kingdom, submit yourself to the earthly government God established. We hear in our New Testament reading from Romans 13, 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Since you are a member of God’s heavenly kingdom, you not only obey the earthly government out of fear, but also as a matter of conscience. You submit to the government and pay your taxes because it shows honor and respect for those who carry out God’s desire for government, which again is to protect good and punish evil. In our Old Testament reading from Daniel 1, we hear that Daniel and three others from Judah served the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, because 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. 21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus. Nebuchadnezzar was the wicked king whom God used to destroy the southern kingdom of Judah for turning away from God. Daniel had plenty of reasons to rebel or at least reject serving in his kingdom, but instead he served seventy years in a foreign pagan government.
Our last verse from Romans 13 outlines what you owe to the earthly government to which you belong that God established. 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. Submit yourself to the government as did Daniel and Jesus and give those in government what you owe them. Some examples of this include, paying your federal and property taxes, attending a local city council or school board meeting, meeting local officials and reading up on the current ballot’s propositions. You do not have the right to complain about governing authorities, in other words it is not from a place of righteousness that you complain. Instead as those God has made righteous, when your governing authorities do what God has established them to do, give thanks to God for them and thank them. And when your governing authorities do not do what God has established them to do, pray that God would change their hearts, give them wisdom and reach out to them with respect and honor to show them how to better serve those God has entrusted to their care. And one final encouragement, early voting in Rockwall County starts tomorrow.
Our currency features the faces of those who have served in the government God established. God established governments to serve the good of the people. Governments hold no fear for those who do good, but for those who do evil. Jesus obeyed the government and even suffered death under a corrupt government, and in doing so carried out his plan to save all people from the rule of sin, death and the devil. Jesus governs all things including good and bad governments from heaven for our eternal good. So, 7 … If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor because God established government. Amen.