“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. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 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. 4 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. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”
We live in a time when law and order seem subjective. We used to know right and wrong; everyone did. No matter what country or culture you went to, the basic rules of right and wrong were the same. But we have changed a lot. Today I was watching the news and our Prime Minister here in Canada is trying to get the opposition parties to vote to make conversion therapy illegal. This means that if Johnny comes home and declares that he is now a girl, the parents will not be legally allowed to put him in any kind of therapy to help him see the error of his ways. There is nothing that a man can do to become a woman and vice-versa. These choices are made by God, and they cannot be changed.
We see Romans 1:25 being played out right before our eyes. In times past there were no questions; God made you a man or a woman and the people lived out their roles as prescribed by God. But today, we worship the creation, man, more than we worship the Creator, God, so we now want to be godlike and determine what gender we are. People try to defy God, but that cannot be done. When you die and they bury you and dig you up as a skeleton, the coroner will determine from your bone structure that you were a man or a woman, the way God made you.
With this lack of honor for the Creator comes the lawlessness that we see around us. Paul was a Roman citizen and a Jew at the same time. When in Rome he observed the laws there, and in Jerusalem, he observed the laws there. Paul knew firsthand what it was like to live under a tyrannical government; Rome was the epitome of tyrannical. They controlled their empire by force; they used the military to subdue opposition and keep the peace. The upside of that was that people understood the rule of law and they obeyed. The Roman government did not tolerate dissension and disobedience to the Law.
As a Jew and a former Pharisee, Paul understood the law as it pertained to order and living with your fellow man. The OT law was not just about the perfection that God required. God understood that life needed boundaries, and these boundaries kept the peace. Don’t steal, lie about your neighbor, covet his stuff, steal his wife, and as a businessman doesn’t use two sets of weights, be fair and use integrity. Obey the rulers and follow the rules, and all will be well. According to Deuteronomy 1:17, there was to be no partiality in the observance of the law.
The rich and the poor lived by the same rules, and they were judged by the same rules. In Job 32:21, he asks that God will help him not to be partial. In Malachi 2:9, God humiliated the nation of Israel before all people because they showed partiality in matters of the law. Sadly, we see a lot of this in the world system around us; the rich have one standard of law and the poor another one. The rich are able to afford lawyers who are better educated and much better paid than poor people. The kinds of prison that one goes to as well can be determined by the amount of money one has.
In the passage above it is clear that the government of a nation is established by God. Sometimes the government one gets is one’s just deserts for defying God. Many nations have fallen under the thumb of socialism and communism because they defy God and they begin to put men in power who have no regard for God and do not fear Him. These men lead a nation to communism, and it takes years and maybe even decades to recover from this type of government. In the process of the recovery, millions of the citizens die; you see, a government that does not recognize God as the Sovereign has no regard for human life.
We are just animals; they, the higher animals on the farm, and we, the inconsequential peons. We are expendable, and they, necessary. If you ever get the chance to read Animal Farm, do so. I read that as a boy in High School in Barbados. You see, we were surrounded by communism in the West Indies; well, at least when I was a boy we were. Islands like Cuba, Grenada, Trinidad and even Guyana were beds of communism; Jamaica was more socialist than communist, and so we were taught about the dangers of communism; Animal Farm was one of the books we had to read.
God allows us to have governments. The pattern that most countries follow was set up by Moses in Exodus 18:25; he set up levels of rulers based on the competence of the men. Some ruled over 50 persons, some over 100 persons, and some over 1,000 persons or more. These then brought difficult issues to Moses to handle at the highest levels. Thus, if one could not find a solution to an issue with the help of these lower-ranked governors, one could see Moses. We see the same situation thousands of years later in the life of the Apostle Paul when he appealed to Caesar as a Roman citizen; he had that right to appeal to the highest ruler in the land. We have similar ranks still today; we have municipal leaders like a mayor, the regional leaders like a Governor in the US or a Premier here, and then the Federal Government.
Paul tells us that God wants us, His children, to be subject to the laws of the land. One can be subject and still object. A great example of that is Jesus paying the Temple tax; in Matthew 17:24-27, Jesus pays the Temple Tax for himself and Peter, but He should not have to since He is the Son of God. The entire Temple was about Him, but he paid the tax. In our current system with the COVID mess, I wear a mask. It is, in my understanding of reading a lot of material from various doctors in Europe and other places, not helping to slow the spread at all. But it is the law, so I wear the mask. Wearing a mask does not break a law of God, and as such, I should be subject to the government. If asked, I have the right to peacefully and lawfully protest and state my perspective, but I wear a mask.
Lately, there has been a loud cry to defund the police. Yes, there are bad police officers; these should be removed from their positions and prosecuted if necessary. However, by and large, the vast majority of officers are good and seek to serve and protect. God tells us in verses 3-4 of the passage above that one should do what is good, and you will not find yourself being arrested or killed by the police. By the way, God authorized the use of force to maintain law and order. He tells us that the government agency does not carry the sword in vain, in our day a gun, in vain. It is there to punish wrongdoing; if you break the law, you might die.
In verse 5, God encourages us to not be subject to the authority out of fear, but for a clear conscience. Obey the law. Now, when are we allowed not to obey the laws of man? When it conflicts with the laws of God. We find an example in Acts 5:29; some of the apostles had been commanded not to preach about Jesus, but they did, and when asked about their conduct, they replied “we must obey God rather than man.” Thus, if a law of the human government commands us to break a law of God, then we are not bound by God to be subject to that law.
Lastly, Paul covers taxation. From the time the people left Egypt, they paid a Temple Tax, or in the wilderness, a Tabernacle Tax (see Exodus 30:13). This tax helped in the upkeep of the Tabernacle and later the Temple. Taxation is not an evil plan of the government. Taxes allow the government to provide and upkeep the road and highway system here in Canada and in the US. In many countries, the taxes pay teachers, doctors, the police, firemen, ambulance drivers and their helpers, and on we can go. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with taxation. But there is also a point where a government overtaxes us and refuses to be financially responsible because they know that most people can’t just pick up and leave; so they tax us to death.
Here in Canada, we pay income tax, sales taxes, death taxes, land taxes and so many government fees to do the simplest things like fish. There seems to be a guy in the backroom of every government office inventing ways to tax us more. As we have moved through this COVID mess, our Federal Government here has borrowed over $340 Billion dollars to fund people not working. They are not getting taxes from jobs, from sales, from commerce, from gasoline consumption and all of the other ways they get money. Because of the reduced driving, they are not even getting money from speeding tickets and parking tickets, yet there is a ton of money being spent. They will have to tax us more.
Like I said earlier, all governments are set up by God. He allows people to have a government, and sometimes you get the government you really don’t want; but the decisions we make to defy God, to put Him aside and to forget His ways, lead us to make bad governmental choices. The Government is not to be your friend; it is to be an agent of God to quell and squash evil. Sadly, our government has become hotbeds of evil; there is corruption, lies, misuse of our taxes, abuse of power and a lot of nepotism. For the most part in the Western world and most of Europe, none of the governments make us do anything that defies God’s laws; at least not that I can think of. If they ever do, I pray that God will give me, give us, the strength to obey Him only.
In Proverbs 13:34, we see these words of wisdom. Sadly, I fear that the opposite is happening; many of our leaders and our citizens hate righteousness and love evil.
“Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.”
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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