The Government and You
Romans 13:1-7 (Pt. 1)
February 14, 2021
A number of years ago, U.S. Rep. Jack Metcalf (WA), revealed that the US Forestry Service and a Washington State agency planned to spend $18,000 to dye rocks gray and brown along a scenic highway in the Cascade mountains, because the rocks in question didn’t look “natural enough” for tourists. Apparently some rocks were exposed during construction projects and just didn’t achieve a weathered look quickly enough, so the government was going to help nature. (The project was postponed a month later.)
Meanwhile, in North Carolina, some city folk complained a few years ago about some of the “earthy” smells in the country. So the North Carolina government allocated $170,000 to determine why pig farms smell bad. Apparently the natural sense of country that Washingtonians wanted wasn’t appreciated in NC.
The federal government has also had its share of miscues: the Consumer Safety Commission debated for five years what to do about 5-gallon buckets and the danger they were for toddlers, who might fall into them and drown if they are left filled with water. Originally, the agency decided to have manufacturers re-design the buckets. Eventually, they decided simply to require manufacturers to put drowning warning labels on the buckets.
That makes me appreciate the story of the man who went to speak at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and got caught in a loop of traffic that kept taking him across the Potomac River. Finally, in exasperation, he spotted a jogger and asked the man, “which side is the Pentagon on?” Without breaking stride, the man replied, “I think they’re on our side.”
Sometimes you have to wonder, “on whose side is the government?” That question seems especially appropriate today — and especially so for believers. What is the role of the government and how should believers think about and relate to the government? Those are the questions we will be addressing in the next two weeks from Romans 13.
What should we expect from our leaders? What does God expect from our leaders? Here is the theme of the message this morning from Romans 13:1-7 —
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 might seem like this section is really disjointed from the rest of the book. In chapters 1-11, Paul highlighted the glorious truths of our salvation; then in chapter 12 he revealed the implications of that salvation in relationships in the church. And in the middle of this chapter he will return to the theme of relationships and love and then move to issues of liberty and conscience in chapter 14. It just seems that this is an unusual place for this discussion on government.
Think of it this way: everything Paul wrote in chapter 12 was related to the theme of the transformed life that flowed from our salvation (12:1-2). 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 — that certainly was true of Christians in Rome. So how should we think about government, and how should we relate to the kind of government that might be against us and persecute us as enemies?
Today’s question is: What is the government’s role and what does God expect of government and its leaders?
Download the rest of this sermon on Romans 13:1-7.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website by tomorrow.