“Essential Reminders About the Role of Government”
September 11, 2016
Robert Wilson, in his book Character Above All seeks to answer one fundamental question: “What is the relationship between the President’s character and presidential leadership?” He asks the question because it is his observation that as a group, the American people “‘started out such good people. What happened to us?’…Our political process does reflect us, as do our politicians. If we pay only superficial, limited attention to that process, why should we expect any more than we have, to be better off than we are?” So begins his examinations of the ten presidents from FDR through George H. W. Bush.
It is the tenet of Wilson that the worth of these ten influential men was not so much what they accomplished through their political agenda, but what their activities in the highest office in the land revealed about their character. While the book is not even nominally Christian, its thesis is essentially biblical. When the early church went to choose its first group of servant leaders (called deacons), the qualifications were for men who were “of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom…” (Acts 6:3). Do you ever wonder if someone is worthy of being followed? That’s the test. It’s a test that is fitting for spiritual leaders and it’s a test for those who will lead us secularly — and in particular, in government.
I am not prone to preaching “political” sermons. Apart from my regular expositional preaching that has occasionally addressed the topic of the government, I could only find two sermons I’ve preached about government and politics. But it seems good to me as we head to the conclusion of a very unusual election cycle to think about government and faith and in particular how we need to be thinking about the election this year. So over the next few weeks, I want to address a number of essential truths about the election:
- Essential Reminders About the Role of Government (Romans 13:1-7)
- Essential Reminders About Responding to Government (Romans 13:1-7)
- Essential Attitudes Prior to the Election (Selected Scriptures)
- The Essential Issue in the Election (Daniel 4)
- Essential Actions After the Election (Selected Scriptures)
We will begin this week by looking at the responsibility of the government and the kind of character that is necessary for a governmental official to lead well. What should we expect from our leaders? What does God expect from our leaders? Here is the theme of the message this morning:
Every government is established by God to carry out His purposes.
In these verses, Paul affirms three realities about the position and role of government and leaders:
- All Government is God’s Government (vv. 1, 4)
- God has established every government (v. 1)
- Every government is God’s servant (v. 4)
- What Governments are to Do (vv. 3-6)
- Government Restrains Evil (v. 3a)
- Government Promotes Good (v. 3b)
- Government is God’s Temporal Avenger of Evil (v. 4)
- Government taxes for the benefit of the people (v. 6)
- What Governmental Leaders are to Be
- Leaders Should Not be Evil (v. 3a)
- Leaders Should be Good (v. 3b)
- Leaders Should be Servants (v. 4)
As we move into this section, it’s also significant to note that Romans 13 is in a different major section of the book of Romans from what we’ve been studying. In its broadest categories, Romans can be divided into two sections — theology, particularly of salvation (chs. 1-11), and application of the theology (chs. 12-16). And 12:1-2 serves as something of a thesis statement for the application section. And this section on government follows that declaration — when Paul talks about a transformed life, he is not talking about generalities, but he is talking about very real circumstances in which we live day-by-day. And our relationship to the government is one of those realities. And if we look closer at the end of chapter 12, we see that sometimes believers suffer unjustly from enemies; and isn’t it interesting that the next thing Paul addresses is the government? Sometimes our unjust suffering comes from the hands of the government. How should we think about that government, and how should we relate to that government? Let’s look at the first of those two questions today: What is the government’s role and what does God expect of government and its leaders?
Download the rest of this sermon from Romans 13:1-7.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website later today.