By believing in Jesus Christ, Christians have heaven as their nationality and have received citizenship in heaven. However, on the other hand just like we are Japanese citizens, they have to live as citizens of the place they live at and they must fulfill their responsibilities there. Today let’s look at three aspects of how Christians should live within these two relationships.
I. Obey the authorities that are over you (vs. 1,2)
First let’s look at the fact that men should all obey the authorities that are over them. Please look at verses 1 and 2.
Here Paul says that all men should obey the authorities that are over them. That is because all authorities are established by God. When we live in this world, no matter by what means the authority came into existence, we must obey the authorities. That is because even the authorities stand by the permission of God. “Consequently whoever rebels against the authority” (2) is not rebelling against other men, but “is rebelling against what God has instituted,” (2) and so “will bring judgment on themselves.” (2) Of course, there is no government or no institution in this world that is absolute or has no mistakes. There are always some defects. However, no matter the greatness of the defects, it has “been established by God” (1) and without God’s permission it would not exist. Therefore, in this world to obey the authorities is to obey God. Therefore, if we obey the authorities in this world, we have peace. If not, confusion and conflict arise. That is because our God is not a God of confusion, but a God of order.
In the Old Testament when Korah rebelled against Moses and Aaron saying, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?” (Numbers 16:3) God became extremely angry and opened the land they were standing on and Korah and his family and everything they owned were swallowed up. This was because of their sin of opposing of Moses. God judges those who oppose the leaders that God has established.
David always obeyed the authorities that God established. No matter how bad the king was because he was the anointed of God David admitted that he was the authority that God had established. Therefore, when David had a chance to kill King Saul, he didn’t lift his hands against Saul at all. He left it to God’s judgment, and waited quietly for God’s judgment. Therefore, God blessed him.
The Bible tells Christians to obey all authorities. These authorities must be recovered. For example, from the time of creation God’s order for the family was established as one husband, one wife and also the relationship of the children. God made man, Adam and Eve. In other words, God made one man and one woman. And the two were to become one body, a couple, and through the couple, children were to be given. The parent child relation was from the beginning decided by God. The authority within the family was given by God so the children were to obey their parents. That is to obey God. Also for a child to rebel against the parents, is to also rebel against God. This is the order decided upon by God. Children must obey their parents.
Of course if the parents judge the children unfairly, abuse them, do bad things, then they will dirty their position as being a representative of God, and are sinning against the children. Then when the child looks at such a parent, they will have doubts about God, question Him, and rebel against God. If the parents don’t use their authority rightly, they will lead their children to be rebellious towards God. When parents have bad control, the children are led to be bad.
This means if there is bad control, the person that has the authority to control will have a bad influence on the person who is controlled.
It is the same in the church. The institutions of Pastor, Elders, and officers in the church are given by God. The members of the church must respect and obey the pastor, and elders. The Pastor and officers of the church will make mistakes. They will be distressed not knowing what to do. They may make the wrong decision. However, even so they should be obeyed because they are the authorities given by God in the order that God has established.
In the same way we should obey our country. We don’t obey the government because the government makes no mistakes and is a correct institution, but because God designated it as an authority of God. God made the institution of government. God prepared people to work in the government. The politicians and governmental officials are all servants of God. It would be great if they always recognized this and served. However, within the government there is no one who recognizes this so we can’t have expectations. Even so we must obey them because the government is also given to us by God as a part of God’s order. Paul encourages us to pray for such people.
I Timothy 2;1,2
The same can be said of every area of society. College students often gossip about their professors. However, Christian students shouldn’t copy this, but instead respect their teachers from their hearts and must honor these authorities. Adults, don’t gossip about your bosses or thoughtlessly disobey, but pray for your bosses and listen well and obey. That is the will of God and the order that God has established. This is so that “we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (I Timothy 2:1) In other words, it is for our blessing.
II. As a matter of conscience obey (vs.3-5)
Next let’s look at verses 3-5. Here a reason that we must obey the established authorities is given. That is for our conscience.
“For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.” (3) It is rare that a person is scolded for doing something good. Though there maybe a few exceptions, usually those who do good are praised. If you do something good whether you are a Christian or a non Christian, you are praised. On the contrary, if you do something bad, you will be scolded and punished. “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good… They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (4) Here the words, “God’s servant” appears 2 times. In other words, Paul is saying that those authorities which are above us are all given by God, and to obey such authorities is to obey God, Himself. He wants us to understand this as fearing God, Himself. To not obey authorities is not to obey God and is improper for Christians. This attitude given by God is the fitting attitude for Christians. It is to depend on God, fear God, be thankful to God, and obey the authorities that God established. If not, we feel our conscience condemning us. We will have feelings of guilt. We should always before God, walk with a conscious that does not condemn us. To do that we need to obey the authorities that God has established.
Even so Paul’s faith was huge. He believed that government and other rulers were all in the hand of God. He had a faith in the providence of God. Of course that does not mean to follow without criticizing profane authorities. There are situations like in the book of Daniel where the 3 youths, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego put their life on the line and refused to do the command of the King. However, even at times like this, everything is in God’s hands and we need to understand that all authorities are established by God. We, Christians, often regard this society as bad, and have a heart that works as an enemy towards the authorities of this society. Because of such a faith in the providence of God, we need to take the attitude of obeying the established authorities.
Christians resolve with righteous hearts to faithfully give their all to all things as if they were serving God. A person who when someone is looking pretends that he is enthusiastically working, but when no one is looking works half heartedly, maybe a clever person but, he is unfitting as a servant of God. The servant of God whether others are looking or not, from his heart serves the rulers of this world like he serves the Lord.
We are not to serve to win men’s favor or to be noticed, but “with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord…with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men” (Col. 3: 22, 23) which will lead to our blessing. This is because we have a working faith in the providence of God that behind the situation that we are in God is there and God is leading. Because of this faith “it is necessary to submit to the authorities… as a matter of conscience.” (5)
ＩＩＩ．Fulfill you obligations (vs. 6,7)
The third point is that we all must fulfill our obligations. Look at verses 7 and 8.
Here the words “taxes” and “revenue” appear. At that time these words referred to two different types of taxes. Today both of these would be considered a part of general taxes. In other words here it is teaching us that we have a obligation to pay taxes. Here it is commanding us, ”If you owe taxes, pay taxes.” (7)
The Jews at that time hated paying taxes because they thought that to pay taxes and revenue would be to serve other things than God They thought that those who collected taxes, the tax collectors, were the sinners of sinners. However, whether it is to the Roman Empire or to pagans, we have the obligation to pay our taxes. An obligation is a debt. Verse 8 says, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.” All of our obligations must be met like paying off debts. Paying revenue and taxes are an obligation. That is respecting those we need to respect and honoring those we must honor. This is putting into action our obedience to the authorities.
Here Jesus says that the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes not from their own sons, but from others. Peter and the rest of the disciples belonged to God’s royal household so they were exempt, “but so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” (Matt. 4:27)
This can also be said of Christian. It is a fact that when we believed in Christ we became a part of God’s kingdom. However, that does not mean that we don’t have to fulfill our responsibilities and obligations to this world. Everyone must fill their obligations. We have to live honestly. This is how Christians should be in this world. This is a testimony that we are obedient to God. This is the life that God desires for us.
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God”（１）as His order. While keeping our eyes focused on the heavenly kingdom, as one living in this world, let’s fulfill our responsibilities. This is so that we can live our lives in peace, for our blessing.