Politics, Christians, and Romans 13, Part 2

June 7, 2016 at 7:18 AM 1 comment

Paul was a Roman citizen and as such had certain rights and privileges, which he used to advance the gospel, not his own agenda.

Paul was a Roman citizen and as such had certain rights and privileges, which he used to advance the gospel, not his own agenda.

Last time, in our first article in this series, we highlighted aspects of some of the political chicanery that’s going on today. It will only heat up and get worse as the time approaches the next presidential election this November. We can be sure of that and if I wanted to, I could write about some political hot button every day. Fortunately, I don’t want to, but I do want to get into the first few verses of Romans 13 because it is there that Paul discusses how the Christian’s approach should be toward the political system in our world.

Look, we know from the Bible, that one day, Jesus will return and right all wrongs. He will deal very swiftly and justly with all things that need to be dealt with, vanquishing this foe and that enemy and creating a Kingdom over which He will rule for 1,000 years. Following that stint, as ruler of the world, He will destroy this earth and the heavens and create new ones. We will effectively be starting over completely from what it should have looked like during the time of Adam and Eve.

In the meantime, in this world, we will have tribulation. Of course, when Jesus used that term, He was speaking in generalities. He was not speaking of the coming seven-year period known as the Tribulation. Jesus was simply saying that Christians will experience difficulties in this world because of the fact that Satan and his minions (I don’t like using that word to describe them ever since the movie with the “Minions” has come out!), work through people sold out to them to accomplish his goals. Many of these people are completely blind to what they are being used for, while others knowingly submit themselves to this prince of darkness.

Because of the evil that exists in this world, Christians will not be free of troubles, tribulations, and problems in this life. However, Jesus will guide us through all of them if we will but lean on Him for His strength, wisdom, and discernment.

In light of this, today’s growing political stress has created difficulties for Christians in general. The world is moving in one direction – away from God – while Christians ostensibly are moving in another – toward God. This alone will cause issues from time to time. Added to this are the laws and pressure from society to change the way things are done and to change the how we view people and things. All of this can make for a dark and dangerously perilous path for Christians. But again, we have Jesus within us through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. He will provide what we need when we need it if we will submit ourselves to Him.

Because of the way things have changed and the added pressures that Christians now face in society that did not exist even some twenty years ago, the tendency is to want to fight back and change society, especially if, as a Christian, you live here in America. If you are a citizen of America, you have certain rights and privileges that people who are not citizens do not share, or should not share. That’s one of the perks of being a citizen in the first place.

It was the same way in the old Roman Empire. People so desperately wanted to be Roman citizens that they were willing to pay very high prices in some cases for that paperwork. The apostle Paul was born into his Roman citizenship and the only time he actually ever drew attention to it was during the time he was being illegally beaten and asked to have his case tried by Caesar (Acts 22:25), his right as a Roman citizen. An interesting conversation then occurred where the jailer learns that he was in a heap of trouble for what happened to Paul! However, Paul did not use his Roman citizenship as a means to try to change society for Christ. He wasn’t trying to make the Roman Empire more “moral” or responsible, or to his liking. It was what it was and Paul knew that.

I think because Paul had such a grasp of the Great Commission (Matthew 28), clearly living it out in his life as few others have done during the first century at least, his words in Romans 13 should certainly speak to us now. They should guide us in understanding that, as Christians, our first and foremost role in society is to seek to change men’s hearts. Now, technically, we cannot do this, but we can provide the truth that will become the catalyst for such a change, if God is willing to open their eyes.

During my pastor’s sermon this past Sunday when he preached on Romans 13, he made a statement that I posted on my social network page.

Politics have become the darling distraction of the church. Our job is not cultural or moral reformation. It is spiritual transformation.

It is 100% true! Too many Christians have become embroiled in politics, political discussions, and political purpose, as I myself have in the past. It has blinded us to the reality of what we are here to accomplish. This is certainly not to say that Christians, as citizens of America, cannot vote, should not try to make things better, should not do what can be done to right wrongs. However, these things should never push the Great Commission off to the side, but they do.

Politics and political ideals have become the “darling distraction” of the church! It’s what many Christians live for because that fight seems real. It’s certainly palpable, isn’t it? It’s something a person can sink their teeth into, but in doing so, we Christians often forget that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens,” (Ephesians 6:12; emphasis added). Isn’t it ironic how often we forget this sublime truth? Everything that Paul said is referencing spiritual forces who work diligently in the spiritual realms to bring their master’s (Satan) goals and passions to fruition here on planet earth.

We are not struggling spiritually against other people (flesh and blood)! We struggle against spiritual beings and we do so through prayer, not physical contact. The key to remember is that our struggle is not against other human beings, though it may appear to be the case. It is not.

Let’s get into the text in Romans 13:1-7 to see just what Paul is talking about. We’ll introduce it this time and digging in next time.

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.

Can you imagine a Dominionist, Christian Reconstructionist, Theonomist, or Kingdom Now person reading that text and wondering what to do with it? If they don’t ignore it altogether, the only other choice is to twist Paul’s meaning into something else.

Verse 1 is where Paul tells Christians what our attitudes should be when it comes to those who govern. Paul assures us that no one gets into office unless God establishes that person in that office. Really? You mean President Obama is president because God established it, not because of voter fraud or any other reason? According to Paul, the absolute reason why Barack Obama became president the first time and was re-elected the second time is because God established it. This does not mean that God wanted President Obama in office because somehow He considered Obama to be the best choice. God allowed Obama in because ultimately, he serves God’s purposes, many of which are hidden from us, though outcomes are not.

It is extremely easy for Christians to forget that God’s purposes will always succeed, with or without our help. His will always comes to fruition, even when it might appear that things are not happening the way we think they should. We forget that very often, God’s ways are absolutely not man’s ways (Isaiah 55:8). More often than not, we cannot even fully comprehend His ways, though we think we can. Such hubris has no place in the life of the Christian.

Not only does Paul tell us that “no authority except that which God has established” is fact, but he essentially repeats it at the end of verse 1 when he says “The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Oh come on, someone might rebut, does that really mean that President Obama, this politician here or that one over there is there by God’s leave? They are corrupt and anti-God. They are terrible leaders. That may well be but what does that have to do with them being there due to God’s purposes?

I’m going to leave this here and let that truth sink in a bit. God establishes leaders and rulers. Does God have to explain anything to you or me? Do His ways even have to make sense to us? How can they if we cannot see all things as He so clearly does?

Is it possible that Satan went before God and said, “I need that guy there, whom I will be able to work through, to help bring my goals to fruition. I need him to become president of the United States.” Could that have happened? If so, could God have said, “Okay, you can make him president and you can do everything through him except such and such.” Is that possible? Certainly, it is clear that Satan must report to God (Job 1) from time to time and it is also clear from that behind-the curtain look given to us by God Himself that Satan is always kept on a leash; sometimes shorter and sometimes a bit longer. Do we always know what goes on in the heavenly realms?

Did God simply “know” that Nebuchadnezzar, then Darius, then Alexander the Great, and then the rulers of what became the Roman Empire (Daniel 2) would occur, or did God actually pick and choose these individuals? If God picked them does that mean they are not responsible for their vicious crimes and evil ways? Think back to Pharaoh and how God dealt with him during the life of Moses (Exodus).

Paul wants us to be subject to the authorities because God has established them. This is a command. It is not a suggestion. We’ll get deeper into this passage next time.

Entry filed under: Religious - Christian - Prophecy. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Politics, Christians, and Romans 13, Part 1 Politics, Christians, and Romans 13, Part 3

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