Who Is In Charge Here?

Lesson 50: Romans 13:1-7

Who Is In Charge Here?

by Bob Burridge ©2012

Some people are just plain bossy. I remember kids like that in our neighborhood when I was growing up. On the playground, along the streets going to and from school, and when we got together after school the same kids always seemed to take control. When somebody had enough of the self-appointed bosses they’d ask, “Who put you in charge, anyway?” The answer was obvious — no body did. They were self-appointed.

There were exceptions though. Some had real authority given to them. The most trusted kids were picked by the teachers to be on the Safety Patrol. They were helpers to the crossing guard. They would stand at the street crossings, hold out their arms, and keep kids from crossing until the adult guard blew the whistle and waved for us to cross. The Safety Patrol got to wear a fancy white belt with a shoulder strap that bore a genuine shiny silver badge.

But there was more to it than that. They were enforcers of the law. If someone stepped off the curb too soon or pushed someone toward the street the Safety Patrol kid was expected to report them. So you learned to honor the Safety Patrol. They may have been just kids like all the rest of us, but unlike the self-made bosses of the neighborhood, these kids had authority behind them. They represented the school’s Principal, the highest power we knew in our lives back then. If you gave the badged students a hard time you would be called into the Principal’s office, and probably have your parents called in too. Nobody wanted that. So the Safety Patrol was obeyed and respected. To disobey the one delegated by the Principal, was like disobeying the Principal.

This is a principle that God built into his universe. All real human authority is delegated by God himself. To disobey those he puts in charge, is to disobey God himself.

The last part of Chapter 12 teaches that we should never take our own revenge. Vengeance belongs to the Lord. Now in Chapter 13 we see one way in which the Lord’s vengeance was to be carried out.

God delegates the exercise of his temporal vengeance
upon law breakers through rightful authorities.

Romans 13:1, “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.”

Paul begins with a general principle. God has ordained that there would be some who govern, and others who are governed. The existence of authority structures at every level reflects the relationship of God as King over all of his creation.

Here Paul uses a very general term, exousiais huperechousais (εξουσίαις ὑπερεχουσαις), which means “Governing authorities” or “higher powers”. This principle applies to all types of governments. At various times God has granted the power of rule to monarchies, empires, republics, social democracies, tribal systems, and dictatorships. Their hold on power was not an endorsement of their methods or standards. God uses all that comes to pass to advance his plan. God has empowered imperfect civil governments to limit dangerous social behaviors, and to ensure a common peace and safety for his people.

All authority is from God alone, and is established by him. This means that God alone defines the powers and limitations at each level of authority. Charles Hodge put it this way, “All human power is delegated and ministerial.”

Human authority does not come from the consent of the people, from social contracts, from traditions, or from the power of the military. It comes from God who sovereignly appoints every human to his place of power. Even the wicked King Jeroboam is said to have been appointed by God over the Ten Tribes.

The Bible speaks of four primary areas of human authority. Each is there to administer order in a specific way, and over specific people. Those who are under that authority are to respect the office of those in headship over them in that limited sense. It is their God-given responsibility.

In the home God holds husbands responsible for providing for their families, for protecting them, and for helping them grow spiritually. Both parents are to care for their children and oversee all that promotes their well-being. The wives are to help their husbands carry out their responsibilities and honor the covenant God established between them in marriage. Children are to honor their parents as those God has put over them for their good. It is a horrible perversion of authority for husbands to degrade their wives, make them serve their personal mandates, or to do harm to their wives in any way. Likewise Parents do not have authority to harm their children or to abuse them.

In the work place employers, business owners, and managers are to oversee the work of those they employ to make sure they both do the work they are paid to do, and to ensure that every worker is properly compensated for his time and talents. The workers are to honor what their masters at work expect of them. They should honestly do the work with such diligence that it will be pleasing to God.

In the church, God has called and ordained Elders to oversee their congregations spiritually. They are to guard the purity of worship and the administration of the Sacraments. The Elders are responsible for teaching and shepherding all those under their care. Discipline is to be carried out justly within the boundaries of authority God grants to the church. Those in the church are to honor the offices of leadership, and show respect for the Elders as long as what they do and teach is not in conflict with the instructions God has given us in his word.

Likewise in civil societies, leaders are held responsible for keeping peace and order within the boundaries of the territory God places under their authority. Our respect is to be directed to their office, not to their personal merit, or power to subjugate others.

When Paul wrote this epistle, pagan Rome ruled the civilized world. Some Emperors came to power by violence, some by the vote of the senate, some by the power of an army, and others were illegal successors to the throne. No Roman Caesar in that era honored Christ or viewed the Scriptures as God’s law. Yet Paul said that all existing governing authorities are established by God.

God establishes different governments to accomplish different purposes. The civil leaders may be a blessing or a curse. They may bring honor or dishonor, but always by God’s wise providence. Wicked governors are appointed by God as a just reward and to execute judgments. He raised up Babylon to judge Israel when that nation wandered from him. He raised up the Pharaoh of Egypt to reveal his power to deliver, and to show his justice toward those who defy him. God said about the Pharaoh in Exodus 9:16 “… indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”

Dr. Robert Haldane wisely said, “No tyrant ever seized power till God gave it him.” The Bible is filled with absolutely clear statements of that fact. For example, Psalm 75:7 says, “But God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another.”

Even the sufferings of societies justly show us God’s rule. Daniel wrote from captivity in Daniel 4:17, “This decision is by the decree of the watchers, And the sentence by the word of the holy ones, In order that the living may know That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will, And sets over it the lowest of men.”

The prophet Jeremiah records God’s words in Jeremiah 27:5, “I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are on the ground, by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and have given it to whom it seemed proper to Me.”

We should keep this in mind even while we pray for some who undergo persecutions. Sometimes even the church has defied rightful government and brought God’s wrath upon them. Haldane warns, “When the ignorance of God’s people is punished for any offense against the government of their country, their chastisement should be looked on as a chastisement from God”

There is only one biblical limit — we ought to obey God, rather than men (Acts 5:29). If governing authorities force us to defy God we are duty bound to disobey, but respectfully and humbly.

There is a grave danger that comes
from insubordination to governing authorities.

Romans 13:2, “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.”

Since God appoints every power, good or evil, to resist them is to resist God. It deserves to be condemned. It is very serious when we break a civil law. The danger is not just that we may get caught by police, fined, or put in jail. It is not that our reputation might be damaged, or our social status might be brought down. It is that breaking civil law is disobedience of this ordinance of God.

We easily get discouraged about government corruption when we lose sight of this. No matter who wins an election, or what disgraces are done by our leaders, or what turmoil and damage their rule might bring about, we need to remember the words of Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” We also should remember Psalm 9:20 “Put them in fear, O LORD, That the nations may know themselves to be but men.” Pagan King Nebuchadnezzar learned, “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will, And sets over it the lowest of men” (Daniel 4:17). This passage puts an awesome price upon this disobedience. It brings God’s condemnation.

As startling as it may seem, even evil governments serve God’s purpose. No human government is ever perfect. They all enforce some wrong laws. There is no greater abuse of authority imaginable, than the crucifying of Jesus Christ. The Roman authorities and the Jewish Elder/Priests put to death the one who appointed them. Hellenistic paganism was a state religion. The Roman Empire was oppressive to God’s people. The Jews, even the faithful ones, were restricted. The early church became its target, and after Nero many were tortured and put to death. Yet it was to this oppressive Empire of lustful, egocentric pagan rulers, that Paul called his readers to civil obedience. Even though they would jail him, and later execute him. This totalitarian state of Rome was to be honored and obeyed in the civil realm as God’s appointed servants.

This in no way implies that God sanctioned their evil. God uses such imperfect states to restrict evil to the degree that it serves his purposes. This protects us against the outbreak of total chaos, mass murders, lootings, and against large scale brutality of the church to take its property, or to kill and defile its people. Even poor courts limit the flow of oppression, though they may be motivated in their judgments by power and greed.

Sometimes corrupt governors were used to show God’s people their own failures, and to provoke them to repentance and renewed obedience. In times of martyrdom the church often grew in strength even though its numbers were diminished. God used the pagan Roman Empire, Egypt, Babylon, Syria, Canaan, Philistia, and many more. God’s people under oppression were not directed to overthrow the governments, or to provoke dissent. They were to live responsible godly lives under that which was instituted by the authority of God.

Even in captivity under Babylon, the captured Jews were told to pray for the cities. Jeremiah 29:7, “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace.”

The duty of civil governments is stated in God’s word.

Romans 13:3-4, “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.”

Since civil leaders are ministers of God for good, there should be no fear in the hearts of those who obey rightful laws. However, for those who do evil, who defy the laws God gave governments the authority to enforce, they have reason for fear. Their fear should not be only the threat of jail or fines, but also and more so the wrath of God.

The word translated here as “minister” is diakonos (διακονος). This is the same word meaning “servant” which was used for the office of Deacon in the church. Government’s job is to administer good in our communities, to keep the civil order for all who obey the civil laws. Good governments are called upon to preserve and protect our creation rights of life, work (which implies earnings and ownership), marriage and family, and liberty of conscience to obey God. Civil leaders are not to control our lives, work, families, and conscience. They are to ensure that these rights are secured for their citizens.

These ministers of the civil order do not bear the sword in vain. That is, they do not bear the instruments of force for no purpose. Governments have a right to use physical force against criminals. “Bearing the sword” is most often connected with the execution of capital punishment. It is not murder when the state executes a properly convicted murderer. God’s word makes this a capital crime because of the absolute dignity of human life.

This is how God ordains to carry out his wrath in this world. Government, through its courts and under the limits of due process and the laws of evidence, are the only rightful avengers in society. No one may take the law into his own hands.

Even the Apostle Paul when under arrest agreed with that principle in his own case. He said in Acts 25:11, “For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

As Christian citizens we have an absolute moral duty.

Romans 13:5, “Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.”

Our subjection to civil rulers is mandated by God. Peter had learned a lot since that impetuous moment in Gethsemane when he drew his sword. Later in 1 Peter 2:13-17 he wrote, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men — as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”

Later Paul wrote to Titus in Titus 3:1, “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work,”

Government has specific areas of proper God-given authority. For example, to ensure public safety and to protect life and property our governments enact laws such as those against robbery, theft, assault, murder, rape, incest, and perjury. For our safety against irresponsible citizens they regulate traffic with speed laws, issue licenses to qualified drivers, and register motor vehicles. If we think some laws are unwise, we can work to change them. But like it or not, we must obey them as long as they do not require us to disobey God’s own laws.

To provide for the national defense governments may prosecute people for treason, aggression, terrorism, and espionage. They can use military force to protect us against evil aggression from other nations. Just as personal self-defense is justified, so is international self-defense.

However, government may not intrude upon the rightful authority God gives to others. It cannot do the work of Elders by controlling church membership, worship, or doctrine. It cannot do the work of parents by taking over the education and discipline of children. They cannot do the work of our masters in the workplace by assuming control over industry or businesses.

When government officials show disregard for other authority structures, they too will answer to God for their disregard of his order. The tendency of the fallen arrogant heart is to presume that others are not smart enough to carry out the duties God has given them. Corrupt governments believe they can do better than parents in raising and teaching children, better than medical professionals in determining what medical procedures are to be employed, and better than the owners of businesses to determine how budgets, materials, properties, and employees are to be managed.

Many in government are intent upon taking control of these areas of life. Civil leaders may sincerely see businesses not making good choices, or parents not raising their children in ways that seems most wise. However, just as Paul was respectful to Rome in areas of the Empire’s legitimate authority, so also governments should respect the authority God assigns to the home, the church, and the work place.

There are times when an invasive or oppressive government is perhaps God’s judgment upon citizens who have neglected their own responsibilities. If civil leaders are immoral or corrupt it may bring God’s judgment. On the other hand, these abuses of government may already be God’s chastisement upon a lazy or immoral society.

Paul next adds that we are to be in subjection for important reasons. Our respect for authority is not only to avoid judicial wrath when we do wrong, it is also to ensure a clear conscience before God, that we have not defied the authority structures he instituted.

Government must be provided for
so that it can do its work effectively.

Romans 13:6-7, “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.”

Government has a right to collect reasonable taxes. Funds are needed so that governments can carry out their duties of law enforcement and defense. Given our fallen nature, it is not surprising that taxation is often abused.

Under the economic system God set up for Ancient Israel during the Levitical Period, there was a single amount each household had to pay. The only percentage fee was the Tithe (one tenth of all income). However that was designated for the Priests and for the costs of worship, not for the costs of funding armies and keeping neighborhoods safe from criminals.

Often taxes are used for things which are in themselves evil, just as they were in ancient Rome. It is interesting that even with those abuses, Paul says we are to pay the taxes and fees anyway. Jesus said in Mark 12:17, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”

God charges the abuse of taxes against the corrupt governments. God does not hold the citizens guilty for what their leaders do with the tax money. We must not withhold taxes simply because we believe they are wrongly collected or improperly spent. We should work within the law to see that irresponsible tax laws are changed, but we do not have the authority to refuse to pay.

At times governments impose other fees to curtail unfair trade practices. When there are customs, the charges must also be paid. These are fees placed upon imports and exports, or taxes on items or services purchased or sold.

We are to render these payments with humble respect. They must be paid in fear of the awesome power God has entrusted to our leaders, and with the honor due to the office God has given them.

As we work to bring Christ’s lordship into every area of life committed and talented believers ought to get into government work. We need statesmen of integrity and principle rather than those who simply want fame, fortune, and power. This brings us to yet another duty which should be obeyed every day.

We are to pray for the civil authorities
God has placed over us.

Paul wrote to Timothy reminding him in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”

Just as the Safety Patrol kids represented the school’s Principal, so also the police, the sheriff’s deputies, the mayors, governors, congressmen, president, and all those in civil authority represent the kingship of God on earth. To disobey or to dishonor them is to defy God, and call down his judgment.

Our duty is to be responsible and godly citizens. We should elect leaders who will honor the boundaries and responsibilities God has placed upon civil authorities. We should pray for and encourage those who hold rightful offices, and we should honor their laws and leadership within the area of authority God has given to them.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Back to the Index of Studies In Paul’s Letter to the Romans

Follow the Leaders

Follow the Leaders

by Bob Burridge ©2011
(watch our video)
(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q 63-66:)

When we were kids we played the game, “follow the leader”. When you had your turn to be the leader, everybody had to follow you, and do what you do. The idea was to do things the others would have a hard time doing. If someone couldn’t do it, or wouldn’t do it, they were out of the game for that round.

The way we played it was not so much to get anybody to lose. It was to have fun leading the group in doing fun things like climbing trees, balancing as we walked across an old branch over a muddy puddle, or crawling through a tangle of bushes in an overgrown field.

If the leader wanted to do something dangerous the group would usually talk him out of it because nobody wanted any of his friends to get hurt, or to abuse his turn as leader.

The best reward was when we were all following, having a good time keeping up with each challenge, and laughing as we struggled along. Then, when the game was over, we would let the leader know he had done a good job. The only real losers were the moms who had to clean our clothes when laundry day came along.

In that little game we learned a lot about being a good leader, and about being good followers.

Leadership is something God built into his world. It teaches us that God is the Lord over everything. He is our leader in how we should live. To teach us about his loving oversight, and about his ways of doing things, our Creator determined to put people in charge, and to hold them responsible when they were leading others.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches about the Fifth Commandment in Questions 63-66.

Question 63. Which is the fifth commandment?
Answer. The fifth commandment is, “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

Question 64. What is required in the fifth commandment?
Answer. The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honor of, and performing the duties belonging to, every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.

Question 65. What is forbidden in the fifth commandment?
Answer. The fifth commandment forbiddeth the neglecting of; or doing any thing against, the honor and duty which belongeth to every one in their several places and relations.

Question 66. What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment?
Answer. The reason annexed to the fifth commandment is, a promise of long life and prosperity (as far as it shall serve for God’s glory, and their own good) to all such as keep this commandment.

At first glance, the 5th Commandment
seems to apply only to children.

Exodus 20:12 says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”

However, like the other 9 Commandments, it is a summary of a principle taught all through the Bible. God created his world to display his truth, grace, and glory. He organizes us under leaders who are to be good models of particular truths about God.

God set up the home to show his special relationship with his people. Parents are to be honored and obeyed because God gives them authority over their children. When the family structure does not fit the way God made it to be it, fails to fulfill its place in declaring God’s truth and glory.

God gives authority to leaders in three other areas of life too. In the church God teaches us about being his spiritual family. He authorizes Elders to represent him as shepherds and teachers of his people. In the workplace, business owners and managers have authority over those who work for them. They show how God is our master as we work in his world to produce our provisions. In the state, the leaders are given authority to govern nations and local communities. The state is there to represent God as our protector.

Each has authority directly from God to do a particular job in the way that honors the Creator. No one has to earn that authority. It is conferred upon them by God. When they abuse that authority, they answer directly to God for their rebellion.

There is more here than just children doing what parents say. The 5th Commandment is a summary that teaches two of life’s basic principles:
1. We should honor those God rightfully places in authority over us.
2. God promises to bless those who live according to his ways.

The first principle summarized in this commandment
is the need to honor those God puts in charge.

To teach us about his dominion as Lord over everything, God appointed humans to represent his authority here in his world. The principle of submission to human authority represents the ultimate authority of God. Since God distributes that authority to different areas of leadership, there are implied limits to each. No one in charge has authority beyond what God gives him.

To summarize this moral principle, the 5th commandment uses a relationship common to us all, the family.

We should respect the order God sets up for our homes.

Our first schooling about respect for rightful authority takes place when we as children learn to honor our parents. Long before we get involved in the work place, in civil politics, or in a church as active members we need to learn the principle of respect for authority in the home.

Ephesians 6:1-4 expands upon these duties of parents and children, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’ And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

Parents are to take responsible control of their homes as God’s representatives. God calls them to lead as good examples of how our Lord loves and cares for his people.

Their leadership needs to be taken seriously. They are not given this authority for their own peace, comfort, and glory. They represent God’s authority in the home as long as they are guided by Scripture. They need to lead with a love confidently anchored in what God says is right and important.

Parents should make God’s word the obvious standard in the home. They should make it an integral part of conversations and daily activities for the family. In Deuteronomy 6:6-7 God said, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

If the Bible, Prayer, Church attendance, and Godly Encouragement are missing from a home, the children are being deprived of the most important nutritions for their souls.

By the words and example of their parents, children learn either apathy about God’s ways, or a love for truth, kindness, and responsible living.

Respect for God and for others is not accomplished by yelling at them, or by forcing them to do things that are not explained to them. In Colossians 3:21 the Bible warns parents about how to treat their children. It says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” That is how we should teach this important lesson of authority to our children.

As loving leaders, parents need to listen to their children, teach them to understand biblical values, and guide them to become responsible adults. Where sinful or harmful issues are involved, parents need be very clear and consistent.

These lessons are best taught patiently by personal example, and by helping the children understand God’s principles behind the rules in their home.

Children need to know how to be guided by God’s word in every part of their lives. They should be learning to read the Bible daily, to study it, and to talk about it. They should be regularly engaged in confident prayer, both privately and together as a family. Children should see parents care about others in their friendships and social lives. They need to learn compassion, and to have a self-giving attitude. They need to learn wisdom in choosing those who will influence them as friends. We all tend to become like those we spend our time with. Children need to learn to apply christian moral principles in choosing their entertainment. Some movies, games, tv-shows, websites, and literature are not appropriate for God’s people.

Parents need to responsibly monitor all their children’s choices. They ought to teach them to consider how each option measures up against God’s moral standards. If our children are not trained well in the home, they will pay a horrible price as they get older. Society will also pay when the next generation has leaders who never learned to lead in a godly way.

The commandment is mainly directed to us as followers of our leaders. Children should honor and obey those who are their patents. That is how we learn to respect all the offices God set up for leadership. We honor and respect our bosses at work, our church leaders, and elected officials.

We do not respect them as leaders because we agree with all their ideas, policies, or personal lives. We honor the authority God gives them, even though some handle their responsibility poorly. It is the divinely appointed office that deserves respect.

Unless those in charge command you to disobey God, or if they exceed their authority, you should obey, and show respect as those God put in charge. If those in rightful authority tell you to disobey God, you should respectfully disobey them, but only in that one area.

As a child you may not like your bed time, your chores around the house, or other home rules. But you need to show respect when you talk about these things with your parents. It is OK to explain politely why you disagree. As long as it does not go against what God says, you need to respectfully obey, without any anger inside.

The children’s place in the home is in itself an important lesson about God’s truth. They shows us all how our Creator should be honored. His word might tell us to do things we do not understand. However, as obedient children we need to respect and love doing all our Lord tells us to do.

We should show respect for all rightful authority by how we speak about and treat those in charge at work, in church, and in the government.

To keep order in his church God calls
and appoints Elders and Deacons.

Christ is the head of the church, but his leadership is represented by ordained officers. It is their job to oversee the spiritual lives of the flock as shepherds and ministers. They are to carefully and comprehensively teach God’s word, and apply it in the care and operation of the local congregation.

The Elders should oversee the worship and administer the Sacraments. They pray, and exercise spiritual discipline to preserve the purity of the church. They give counsel and biblical advice to those in the congregation who come to them for help. As good stewards of God’s material blessings, the Deacons are given authority to manage the tithes and offerings in support of Christ’s Kingdom

The abuse of these responsibilities has caused many to have an unhealthy view of the church. The church is limited in its authority too. It may advise but not interfere with parenting, businesses, or the state.

It is the duty of every believer to respect the authority God grants to his church. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

This is what Church Membership means. Members come under the shepherding care of specific officers, therefore they should honor the office to which God has called those who lead.

In the work place God gives authority
to those who are the masters over the workers.

The managers, owners, and bosses are responsible for providing products or services so they can exchange them for the means to provide for themselves and for their families. Those who work for them need to respect that responsibility and do their work faithfully.

Ephesians 6:5-7 tells us to, “… be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men,”

Then in verse 9 God’s word warns those in charge of the work place “… do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven …”

The boss’s authority ends in the work place. Earthly managers also have a Master, the God who defines their authority. So they have no right to ask employees to violate the Sabbath, or to be deceitful in business. They have no right to dictate how we vote, where we worship, spend our money, or what goes on in our own homes and private lives.

To keep civil order God raises some up
to govern communities and nations.

In Romans 13:1-4 Paul summarizes the principle of civil authority.

“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.”

Civil leaders are to work on behalf of God who is alone the Supreme Lord over all men. Their job is to enforce civil justice and protect our national security. They should ensure that civil crimes like theft, fraud, violence, and murder are punished.

However, they need to stick to the duties God gave them. They can never require citizens to go against God’s law. They are not permitted to intrude into the work God gives to his church. Government has no authority to unduly restrict commerce, other than enforcing laws against fraud and exploitation. They aren’t to interfere with the parent’s work in raising and educating their children, as long as parents do not violate civil law by actually harming their children.

It is important to remember that Paul wrote Romans 13 when pagan Rome ruled the civilized world. Honor and obedience to Rome’s laws and leaders was required by God as long as it was within the boundaries of God’s own laws.

Peter wrote about that same corrupt Roman Empire in 1 Peter 2:13-14 when he said, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.”

God obligates us all to respect and to be in subjection to the governing authorities. The Bible says they represent the Creator as ministers for good. We might not respect the immoral lives or policies of some who hold office. Criminals in public office answer to the same laws as the rest of us. Regardless of abuses by individual office holders, the office and its God-given authority should always be shown respect.

The second principle in this commandment
is that God promises to bless obedience.

“… that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”

God made his world to operate in such a way that obedience lengthens life. We are the safest, when things are done the way God says is best.

When there are good loving parents and respectful children in a home, there will be greater security from sin and fewer dangerous practices. Children will learn not to glorify or admire violence, drugs, sex and rebellion. They will not be as likely to develop angry self-serving attitudes and ungodly immoderation. They will become interested in safer, more healthy, and God-honoring things.

Those who obey the laws of the state will generally live longer. When traffic laws are obeyed, there are fewer dangerous accidents. When safety regulations are respected, lives will be preserved. When they don’t steal, or hurt others violently, they will be much more likely to avoid vengeful people and the force needed by the state to catch them as lawbreakers. Those who ridicule the police, elected leaders, teachers or their bosses at work are generally the ones who break the rules, get in trouble, harm their bodies, hurt their loved ones, lose their jobs, spend time in jail, or come to an early and tragic death. Those who become capital criminals are sometimes executed which definitely shortens life.

Generally keepers of the Commandments outlive those who do not keep them. It is always healthiest and safest to live within God’s moral boundaries. Part of that is respecting the authority God gives to those rightfully in charge.

God did not just promise a long life. He promised prolonged days in the land he would give. When this commandment was given, God had promised Israel the land of Canaan. It represented the blessing that comes from God’s deliverance. It symbolized God’s Kingdom in which his covenant people would one day live as followers of Christ.

Today we live in the gospel fulfillment of that promise. In Matthew 5:5 Jesus said “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” He was quoting from a familiar passage in Psalm 37. It contrasts the humble man with the evil man who tries to get things by force and greed. In contrast, those who respect others by being kind, humble, and patient will be the inheritors of the land. He obviously had far more in mind that a mere Jewish territory. He quoted the Psalm to show that what God gives as his blessing will not be given to corrupt opportunists and oppressive leaders. It will be the inheritance of humble believers, who live trusting in God and in his ways, who show evidence of a redeemed soul.

It takes a breed of courageous people
to show respect where mockery is expected in return.

We live in an age that thinks it is cool to ridicule and make fun of authority figures. It is easy to go along with the sarcastic crowd, but it is neither right nor smart. Those who refuse to give in to that way of the fallen soul will be blessed by God. Meanwhile the rebels of this world are unable to figure out why they cannot find real inner happiness.

To repair the moral problem of disrespect and disorder in our world we need to begin at home. We need to diligently learn the principles of responsible and loving leadership. We should be examples of godly respect for authority and leadership at every level of society. Our duty is to trust these principles, and to put them into practice. Pray seriously for God’s help in this crucial obedience.

When the order God set up is followed responsibly, and leaders lead responsibly, we have the best setting for living in peace and contentment in our homes and in God’s world. It is the best hope for turning things around for our homes, church, work, and nation. When proper authority is abused or refused, our lives become confused.

Disrespect leads to confusion and chaos which usually lets the powerful become even more oppressive. Order, respect, and clear direction in our society cannot be restored until the Biblical model for the home, the church, the work-place, and the state are re-established by the gospel as it changes fallen hearts. Respect for proper authority shows your respect for God as the Sovereign Lord over all things.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)