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. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 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, 4 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. (Romans 13:1-4)
In the past year, the United States has seen an unprecedented amount of arbitrary government tyranny and abuse, along with an unprecedented amount of capitulation from the evangelicals. We were all blindsided by the arbitrary orders from the government, which I do not at all care to repeat. But it revealed that our churches, by and large, were not prepared. We were shown to have not developed a thoroughly biblical view of jurisdictional authority and the order of God’s hierarchical world. Quite frankly, our lack in that area is one of the explanations as to how we got to this point in the first place: we have not had a sufficiently biblical world and life view with which to diligently disciple the nations, and our nation. Sadly, what passes for most of modern Christianity is simply a Christianity that addresses personal salvation and a few basic morals – but this is far short of the whole truth, and it has hurt us. Because when we can receive a humanist education from the public schools, and walk away thinking our personal Christian religion is a nice addition to our humanist education, we can be sure that we have a Christianity that will be largely impotent in society. But the historic Christian faith was one that literally built kingdoms and civilizations, and explicitly propelled men on to expedition and invention, and raised others to put the fear of God into tyrant kings and queens. We need to rediscover the historic faith of our forefathers – a Christian faith which understood that the Bible puts forth a comprehensive world and life view which cannot be relegated to our private lives behind closed doors, and which is not merely seasoning with which to sprinkle on top of any culture, but one which completely conquers cultures and societies and makes new ones – new ones in which the gospel of Jesus Christ is the foundation that is preached freely and hotly, one in which governments seek to restrain themselves by the Word of God, and where the people are enormously free to build and create and enterprise and work and take dominion; and one in which the people practice self-government under God – all things that are missing in our nation today.
But we are here today. And we are here today to look at God’s Word. We said that this would be a conference on Romans 13. And you guys showed up. That is something. Our intent is to look at this specific text of Scripture, explain it, and apply it to our current situation. We certainly do not get out of the mess we are in by sitting around swapping our opinions and ideas, or licking our finger and sticking it up in the air. The way out comes only in humble submission to the Word of God. So my objective this morning in Romans 13:1-4 is simple; it is to lay a foundation that makes it abundantly clear that all government belongs to Jesus Christ, and therefore must submit to Him, and is responsible to Him. So if you’re looking at verse 1-4 and you see that I am skipping over some things – I am not. I am simply laying this foundation, and those things will be covered by Brandon, or the panel discussion.
Derived Authority, v. 1(b)
You will notice in verse 1 we are told that “there is no authority except from God…” This is telling us something about the source of authority, where it comes from. As we are clearly told, there is no source of authority other than from God. And when we look throughout the Bible we find that in God’s creation and organizing of the world, He has set up hierarchies and different spheres of jurisdiction to which He imparts authority. And when God imparts authority to kings, parents, church elders, etc., He is imparting to them an authority that is to be used in certain specified ways. God does not give up His authority when He imparts authority upon a government, for it is the fact that God remains the transcendent source of authority that validates the derived authority. And that is what it is: a derived authority.
The only authority that a civil government or governor has is from God. Far from this granting some kind of divine right to a king to do whatever he pleases, as was argued in the past, it lays great responsibility on those in government to faithfully administer their God-ordained duties. You see the derived authority from God is not an authority to do whatever the government wants to do, it is the responsibility to do what God has instructed them to do. As a pastor in Christ’s church, I don’t have the authority to get up on the Lord’s Day and preach doctrines that are not in the Bible, or leave out ones that are, to suit my hearers or my own agenda. The authority that I have, is not the authority to preach whatever I want, or whatever someone else wants, it is the authority to preach the Word. Similarly the derived authority of the civil magistrate is not an unrestrained authority – it is an authority that is restrained by the Word of God.
So the fact that the civil government is ordained by God as a legitimate authority, does not absolutize their authority; rather it actually limits their authority to be under God and thus heightens their responsibility to obey God, since they will be judged and held responsible by God himself.
Simply put, government is not the ultimate authority, God is. In our society today we are faced with many idols and false gods, and one of the idols of our culture is the state. The false religion of statism pervades our land, and has crept into many of our churches, even. Statism is when the state becomes the god and the savior and the solution to all our problems. And people don’t have to even say that the state is their god, for them to show that it is by how they live and what they demand of the government. Here is something we need to understand about statism – looking to the government to provide a solution for everything: when we participate in that kind of statism, we are not being submissive to godly authorities, we are actually rebelling against God, and aiding and abetting tyrants; because the state’s authority only comes from God. In other words, when we look to the state to do something that God has not given it the biblical jurisdiction over, we are telling God that His design and purposes are not good enough. It’s really not much different than when a church looks for a woman to be their pastor when God’s Word clearly teaches that only qualified men are to be pastors. Looking for solutions outside of where God has told us to look for them, is rebellion against God Himself.
So, to reiterate: a civil government, or any specific civil magistrate does not have any inherent authority in and of themselves. Rather, their authority is imparted by God to carry out certain duties.
One of things this means is that the government does not have the authority to decide right and wrong. Nor do they have the authority to decide what the scope or jurisdiction of their authority will be. It means they must get their marching orders from God, lest they face His judgment. They don’t have the authority to do whatever they want. They don’t have authority to be tyrants. This also means that we don’t have the authority to obey them in everything without exception.
The civil magistrate is obligated to do what God says, just as any other individual is.
This means they have to seek counsel from God’s Word, and the laws they make are to reflect the law of God.
God’s servants, not their own, not the people’s, not another god’s…
Note that verse 4 tells us that the one in authority is God’s servant. This idea that I have just spoken of – that the government should look to the Bible for how it should function – is a very despised idea in our modern day. But here’s the deal: it doesn’t matter how despised that idea is, if that’s what God has required of us. Even for many Christians who don’t despise that idea, still blush at the thought of saying that the government should look to the Bible and God’s laws to determine their own. They’re embarrassed of that! Well look where that embarrassment has got us. It doesn’t matter if it’s embarrassing if it is what God has required. You see, Romans 13 is not God simply telling Christians to zip it and submit to all government – God is laying an unflinching claim on the governing authorities – and any discussion of this passage without this recognition falls short. You see, we can’t understand what our submission is to look like, if we don’t even know what God requires of those we are to submit to.
Note again, the governing authorities are “God’s servants.” Because they are God’s servants, that means they are not their own. Far too many civil magistrates are self-serving, doing whatever they need to do to remain elected and comfortable – lying, compromising, etc. Such is rebellion against God. Because they are God’s servants, this also means that they are not the people’s servants. We like the fact the fact that they are not their own servants, but they also aren’t the people’s servants. The government is God’s servants, for your good. Now there are certainly a lot of Americans who think the job of the government is to do the will of the people. But that is not biblical. Certainly the government is here for the people’s good, as Romans 13 says; but the civil magistrate is not the servant of the people to do the people’s will. Now when the civil magistrate does God’s will, it is a service to the people; but we must reject any notion that the will of the people is what is right. You see on the one hand we have the god of statism flourishing in our society, and on the other hand we have the god of democracy. On the one hand, a central state is looked to to solve all our problems, on the other hand, the majority vote of the people is looked to to solve all our problems and determine right and wrong. Neither of these are Biblical. Because it does not matter if 51% or 100% of the people want to legalize so called gay-marriage, it is still sin and ought not to be promoted and legalized by the civil magistrate. And even though they have already done that, does not make it the new standard of morality which we must accept. Every person on this planet could shake their fist at God and wish to throw off His standard of morality – it does not matter – what is right and wrong remains right wrong, no matter how many people say otherwise. God and God alone defines right and wrong, and when He decides it, it’s final. So not only does a centralized state, not have the authority to decide what is right and wrong, but neither do the people.
There seems to be an implicit standard of morality in our political society, that justifies sin by hiding behind the “will of the people.” People say, “well the voters have spoken,” “the people have made their voice heard.” But what about the fact that God has spoken? This idea of democracy has become a false humanistic religion that has replaced the transcendent God. I think of the incident that took place at the Capitol building in Washington D. C. recently, and in the aftermath of that you had Chuck Schumer, and many others, Democrats and Republicans alike, who came out and called what happened the “desecration of the temple of our democracy.” Folks, that is religious language. The capitol building is a temple? Really? A temple to who? The Lord Jesus most certainly did not instruct us to build a temple like that for Him. It’s a temple to democracy, by their own words. In other words, it’s a temple to man. It’s a humanistic temple. And let me be clear, we should not go and destroy the capitol building. But we should pray for God to give us leaders who we can send to the capitol building who will legislate and act like actual Christians, and pay no homage to the humanistic gods and pinch no incense to the will of the people, but seek only to advocate the law of God.
So the government is to be God’s servant, not their own, not man’s, and certainly not any other gods. The God of the Bible is a jealous God. His commandment is that you shall have no other gods before me. He will not allow idols. I’m sure many of you saw the news surrounding the opening prayer to the recent U. S. Congress, where a representative from our own state of Missouri ended his prayer with “amen and awoman.” But the most blasphemous part about his prayer, was the god to whom he prayed. After asking for peace in this land he prayed, “Now and evermore, we ask it in the name of the monotheistic god brahma and god known by many names by many different faiths.” Folks, that’s where the insurrection happened. It is an insurrection to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. If you think this nation is going to continue to be safe from foreign enemies and will continue to enjoy prosperity now that our governmental representatives are praying to a false hindu god named brahma and many other gods, you are greatly mistaken. That prayer was an official national security threat. In the Old Testament when Israel went after other gods and turned away from Yahweh, one of the ways God judged them was by sending foreign enemies to defeat them. What do you think is going to happen to this nation? Is God now suddenly okay with nations praying to other gods and having other gods before Him? Most certainly not. We owe Him our undivided allegiance.
In Psalm 2, God warns the rulers of the earth, that they owe Jesus Christ their honor and allegiance; it says, “Now therefore, O Kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” Any and every nation that does not submit to and honor the Lord Jesus Christ will perish. This is why I like the term, “Christocracy” – because Christ rules and we are to explicitly and specifically honor Him and pledge our loyalty to Him – not a generic deity or some unspecified higher power. But to Christ the King. Did you know that in 2016 the Polish government officially declared Jesus Christ to be the King of Poland? Good move, Poland. You see, after Jesus came back from the dead and before He ascended into heaven, Jesus said, “All authority in Heaven, and on Earth, has been given to me.” Jesus is not just the king of heaven. He is not just the king of His Church ruling in the hearts of His people. He is the King of all of heaven, and all of earth, the King of King’s – the Ruler of the kings of the earth, in time and in history here and now – we are standing on purchased ground that belongs to Christ, no matter where we are standing, and one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.
Something unfortunate about many modern Christians is that many of them believe that the government shouldn’t be explicitly Christian and shouldn’t seek to uphold biblical standards. Now we can have all kinds of debates and disagreements on how exactly biblical standards and justice should be applied to our context, but it should be a commonly held belief among Christians that the government should explicitly seek the Bible for direction. And there’s even a lot of Calvinists who think the government shouldn’t seek to be a Christian institution, and that it ought to be secular. Now I’m a ride-or-die-full-blooded Calvinist, but that ain’t Calvinism. Fundamental to Calvinsim is the basic teaching of Scripture that God is a total all-sovereign God and He rules all creation, as Psalm 24:1 states, “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,” or as Psalm 115:3 states, “Our God is in the Heavens; He does all that He pleases,” as R. C. Sproul said, “there is not a single maverick molecule;” and as Abraham Kuyper famously put it, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, mine!” And yet we’ve got Calvinists who love the sovereignty of God and quote Sproul and Kuyper, but as soon as you seek to apply that to the civil government they say, “oh no, not there, that’s secular.” What? All authority in heaven and on earth means all of it!
Given to Jesus, Purchased by Jesus
Again in Psalm 2. We are given some insight into some things that the Father said to the Son, “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.’” As Greg Bahnsen used to say, “Do you think Jesus forgot to ask?” Matthew 28 is proof that He didn’t forget. He says all authority has been given to me, and then He tells His disciples to go therefore and make disciples of all the nations… Do you see what happened? The Father told the Son to ask for the nations and the ends of the earth. So at some point Jesus asks for it. Jesus comes to earth and accomplishes redemption and rises from the dead, and basically says, “The nations are now mine, go get ‘em! Tell ‘em all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me and that they’re mine.” The nations and the ends of the earth were given to Jesus, they belong to Him. We’re stealing if we try to take what is His. We owe Christ our allegiance, and there is not a single civil magistrate that is exempted from that demand.
Separation of Church and State
Now some people might be getting pretty scared at the way I’m talking. “What about the separation of Church and State?!?!” Of course, properly understood, the separation of Church and State is a Christian doctrine. Properly understood we advocate for a clear jurisdictional separation of church and state. Meaning God has given the state certain tasks that the church is not to do, such as administer the sword. And God has given the Church certain tasks that the state is not to do, such as the administration of the sacraments. The Church does not legislate or enforce law, the State does. The State does not legislate or enforce anything pertaining to the worship of the Church. But Christians, we cannot be spooked by the separation of church and state boogey-man: Separation of Church and State does not mean the separation of God and state. The Church is not the state and vice versa, but God is still over the state, for He is over all.
One thing you need to understand if you’re going to surrender the state over to the secular humanists, thinking that the state ought to remain neutral to God – there is no neutrality. Neutrality is a myth. And we need to understand that the leftist humanists don’t want separation of God and state. They just want separation from the one true God and the state. They have their own gods they want the state to serve. Remember, their temple to democracy was desecrated.
The idea that secularism is not religious is false. As men and women created in the image of God, we were created as religious beings. If we reject Christianity we do not cease to be religious, we just make up new gods. What you will find in a radical secularist society is that it will become either demonic or radically humanistic, where man and man’s will is god. So do not buy the lie of secular neutrality, or give in to the world’s demands that we stop trying to make the Bible the foundation for society. They aren’t giving up their religious presuppositions, and neither should we. And ultimately it should be that we seek to honor Jesus Christ, as is due to Him.
We must submit to Jesus first
But you know, it’s very easy to get together and talk about how bad the government is and point out all of the problems with it – anybody can do that, conservatives are really good at doing that, and that’s the only thing libertarians ever do. Certainly problems need to be pointed out. But if that’s all we do here today, we have failed. If all we do is point out the problems we have submitted to defeat, embraced a loser mentality, and kicked the can down the road to our children to clean up the mess.
But friends, we need to hear this: the reason we have a government that doesn’t honor Jesus is because we have a people who don’t honor Jesus. As John Calvin said, “When God wants to judge a nation, He gives them wicked rulers.” This nation has long since rebelled against Jesus Christ. We have turned to the false gods of statism, pluralism, secularism, humanism, we have gone fast and quick into sexual immorality of all sorts of perversions, we have forsaken our children and homes by pawning off their education to the state and embracing radical ungodly feminism, the men have thrown off their responsibilities, and we murder Lord knows how may babies in the womb every day, and our churches have turned into clown shows. Folks, we deserve Biden and Harris. We deserve the judgment of God. And whatever we have coming our way, we ought to thank God for it, because it is right. The reason we have corrupt civil magistrates who don’t honor Christ, is because we are a corrupt people who do not honor Christ.
And that’s where it must begin. With ourselves. It begins by getting on our knees and confessing and repenting of all our rebellion against the rule of Jesus Christ in our lives. It begins by giving our lives entirely over to the authority of Christ and seeking to obey Him in every area. What part of your life are you living in disobedience to Him? What part of your life are you harboring secret sins? Folks there is only one way out of God’s judgment, but there is a way. It is only in Jesus Christ. The only way out is repentance and turning unto Christ. You see Jesus is the King who died to save His people. He is the King who died for His people. What king does that? Statism sacrifices the people for the King, but Jesus is the King who was sacrificed for His people. Tell me again why we don’t Jesus to be our King? Why again would we rather be ruled by kings who will sacrifice us first? Jesus laid down His own life and shed His own blood to save a rebellious people like us. But He isn’t only a sacrificial King; He is a conquering King, because when He went down into death, He came back out with the keys to it.
When we confess our sins, we are free. I want you all to be free, and you can’t be free apart from having your sins forgiven by Jesus.
That’s where it must begin. Confessing our sins, and receiving Jesus Christ, and submitting all of our lives, every area of our lives, to His rule. Then we are free, and then and only then can we look to disciple our government. You see we must understand that while each person will stand before God to give an account one day, God still deals with nations in time and in history on earth. He raises nations and puts them down. But you know what’s great news? Not only does God judge nations, He also saves them. That’s the whole point of what Jesus came to do. John 3:17, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” The mission of God in the Bible and the cry of God’s people is that the nations would come to Jesus Christ. Isaiah 2 says, “that the nations shall flow up the mountain of God,” Psalm 72, “He shall have dominion from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth,” Psalm 67, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” Psalm 22, “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.” Jesus’ parting command before his ascension wasn’t to go pluck a few out of the fire, it was to go and disciple the nations!
Folks, The old Christendom has passed away, and we may be in for a really tough time really soon. But God forbid we pack it up and act like God didn’t tell us to disciple the nations. God forbid we retreat and act like Jesus doesn’t have all authority in Heaven and on earth. The old Christendom has passed, but a new one will come. Jesus will have what is His. Our King rose from the dead. And He is alive to today, seated in Heaven at the right hand of God, where the Father has told Him to sit until all His enemies are made a footstool for His feet, Psalm 110. That means that Jesus will remain the enthroned King of all the earth until all of His enemies are conquered and submitted to Him. Revelation 11:15 is describing events that took place in the first century, and in the first century, after Jesus ascended into heaven, “there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.’”
Friends, whatever comes our way, we need not fret or fear. This world is Christ’s. He purchased it with His blood, and it was given to Him by His Father. So let us get to work to build the next Christendom. And in order to have a Christocracy, you have to have a culture of Christ. And that starts by opening our churches up wide and free. By worshipping God purely according to His Word. By making sure our own households are in order. Men, we must order our own homes before we can even begin to think about ordering the government. And we should have a lot of kids as God gives them, and raise and disciple them to believe the Bible and all of it, and submit to it and not be embarrassed of it. We must sing the Psalms loudly and from our guts, in our churches, in our homes, and in the streets! We should band together as churches and Christians and be ready to help one another in the coming days. And no matter what, we must always remember that the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. Onward, Christian soldiers, For Christendom!