Recently, I visited a congregation here in our community as they held their Fall Gospel Meeting. The speaker spent some time talking about the state of our country, God’s power, and those who sit in the highest offices of our nations. It really got me thinking about some things I’d like to share with you today.
If we were to take a quick survey about the respect God deserves, how do you think that survey would go? Many of you might say God deserves all the respect we can give Him. You’d say He is the Alpha, the Omega, the Beginning, and the End, and He is rightfully due our praise, our gratitude, and our devotion. I believe most of you would say God is the Highest Authority known to man and worthy of our admiration and respect. If you’d say those things, I’d agree with you wholeheartedly. I might even give a hearty “Amen!” depending upon the circumstances.
God is worthy of our praise, that much seems clear to me, but what about the authorities God puts in a position to rule over us in this world? How should we treat them? Is there any Biblical reason to respect them, value their position, or understand their authority comes from God Himself? And if that’s the case, would we be sinning against God if we sin against those He put in positions of authority?
Unfortunately, it’s far more common to see someone attack a position of authority than support them in 2018. It seems to be a right of every able-bodied American to question, undermine, or attack those who sit in any office or any position of power. Personally, I have a problem with that, not just on principle, but also because Scripture does tell us God is the one who put them in that position, not the voters. See Romans 13:1-7 which says:
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
To those who attack the very positions of power across our nation and our world that verses should be frightening. However, I’m quite sure most who do the attacking in this world don’t mind attacking the One who made this world. The rejection of authority is a fundamental flaw in mankind. We see it manifest itself at an early age in our children and we see it go full-blown thermonuclear if it’s unchecked in the actions of adults who never learn respect.
God is our authority for things that are right, good, loving, and prudent. He is the source of “every good and perfect gift,” (see James 1:17) and “wisdom that is pure, peaceable, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy,” (see James 3:17). We need more of that wisdom in our world. We need more respect for God’s authority and the authority He grants to the leaders of this world. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 28:18:
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
He understood a thing or two about power and where it comes from. Look at this brief exchange with Pilate close to His death in John 19:10-11:
Pilate said, “Do You not know that I have the power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.”
The “above” in that statement is an illusion to God Himself. Pilate sat in that judgment seat only because God (i.e. Jesus) willed it. He sat there because his authority came from God, not Rome and not the emperor. He was a vessel of God’s Will to fulfill the plan put in place “before the foundation of the world,” (see Matthew 25:34). Jesus understood that fundamental truth even as He faced death and I believe Pilate understood it as he tried to free Jesus.
As we bring all of this to close, I ask you to read the words of a man more powerful than any of us. He was one of the most powerful men to ever grace this planet. God gave him the rule and dominion of Babylon during the fall of the Kingdom of Judah. He was a conqueror and a warrior. A leader of men who faced the wrath of God when he thought Babylon was all about him, his name was Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel 4:29-33 sets the stage. It says there:
As Nebuchadnezzar was walking about the royal palace of Babylon, he spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.” That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.
After waking (or stumbling) out of his sad state, Nebuchadnezzar responded to his lack of respect for God’s authority and the subsequent punishment in this way:
I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: “For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?'”
That man, an authority unto himself learned the value of genuine power. Who are we to admonish it today. God has put the leaders of this world into place for a purpose that’s beyond us. All we can do is respect His judgment, His plan, and the people He puts in power even if we don’t understand why they’re in those positions in the first place. it would do us all a bit of good to remember that truth before we jump out of our seats to criticize, belittle, or revolt against those who sit in places of authority.
As a side note in this discussion. It shouldn’t be lost on us that the rest of Romans 13, following the discussion on submission to government deals with love for our neighbors (13:8-10) which says:
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
And ends with a short discussion about what acceptable behavior as a Christian looks like in 13:11-14 which says:
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now, our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
Just something to think about before we go out and join the masses rejecting the authority God has to put our authorities in place.
Just in case any of you get the wrong idea – I want to make one thing clear as I close. I will never endorse the actions of those who openly mock God or His teachings. However, it seems clear to me that Scripture teaches we must respect their position, if not their politics.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.