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Galatians 5:16-23 teaches that at any moment we are either walking by the Holy Spirit or according to the sin nature. Walking by the Spirit, enjoying fellowship with God, walking in the light are virtually synonymous. During these times, the Holy Spirit is working in us to illuminate our minds to the truth of Scripture and to challenge us to apply what we learn. But when we sin, we begin to live based on the sin nature. Our works do not count for eternity. The only way to recover is to confess (admit, acknowledge) our sin to God the Father and we are instantly forgiven, cleansed, and recover our spiritual walk (1 John 1:9). Please make sure you are walking by the Spirit before you begin your Bible study, so it will be spiritually profitable.

Romans 13:3-5 by Robert Dean
Have you ever wondered why God allowed evil rulers like Nero and Adolph Hitler to come to power? Listen to this lesson to understand God's role in raising up rulers and removing them. See how the purpose of all authority, whether in the home, at school, on the job, or in the government is to bring peace and order into our lives. Don't be surprised to learn that it's not okay to disobey an authority just because we think they're unjust or we don't agree with them. Find out two Biblical reasons why we should be obedient to those over us and how our submission does not make us a doormat but glorifies God for all eternity.
Series:Romans (2010)
Duration:59 mins 16 secs

The Intended Role of Government
Romans 13:3-5

We're in Romans 13 and tonight as we look at verses three through five we'll also look at comparisons in 1 Peter to see the intended role of government as well as deal with some issues of what happens when government oversteps its bounds. One of the things I want to impress on everyone is the importance of the Biblical command to be submissive to government. Submission applies to every sphere of authority. We talked about different spheres. A couple of weeks back we went through all the different passages where the mandate to submit occurs: wives being submissive to their husbands, slaves being submissive to their masters, citizens being submissive to government and all of us being submissive to God and all believers being submissive to one another. Whatever applies in one area applies in another.

One reason I said that is that if you're in a situation and you think about civil disobedience and civil issues such as we talked about the Cliven Bundy issue that's getting headlines, you need to be aware. But there are a lot of more important behind-the-scenes situations that we need to be aware of. Some of these are very subtle and they may affect you. Remember in Genesis 3 we're told that the serpent was the most subtle of all the creatures. So there's a subtlety to these that often you're almost entrapped in the situation before you realize that you got sucked into a trap. So we have to learn to think very clearly and we need to pray for a lot of discernment in different issues.

There are circumstances that affect high school kids. In fact, I think the younger you are, the more you come into some of these problems. If you're in school, for example, this last week something happened I'm going to reference. Just two days ago I heard on the news a local school district where a young girl in the second grade was told she couldn't read her Bible. It was a reading period. Pam immediately said, "That's just dead wrong. If it's a free reading period, a child can read whatever they want to as long as it's something they can read and something that may challenge them a little bit in terms of their reading skill." This child was told she could not read her Bible that she had brought to school to read during the reading period. Immediately someone alerted the Liberty Institute which is one of several conservative constitutional groups that are out there doing excellent work defending people's First Amendment rights. They immediately had a discussion with the administration in the Cy-Fair school district and they were very responsive to what the Liberty Institute lawyers were informing them about.

A lot of this happens, especially in Texas not because we have an anti-Christian culture but that a lot of teachers just aren't well informed as to what role religion can have in the classroom and in public schools. They err on the side of excessive caution and they just want to get everything out and not have anything about religion there. That is not what the law says. So you have to be educated and informed so you can take a stand for your constitutional rights. That situation was immediately corrected but that is one example of how we legitimately deal with assaults by authority. Unfortunately some of these situations don't get resolved but according to the e-mail I received from Liberty Institute nearly all of these situations do get resolved in favor of the person who's trying to get their rights.

For example, there have been valedictorians who wanted to reference the Bible in their valedictorian speech. A case that occurred over in Jasper or somewhere in East Texas where the high school had a Bible verse on a banner. The students had been using this. They got challenged by one of these antibody, antichurch, anti-religion organizations and that got resolved in their favor although part of it is still in court. So we have to understand what our rights are and what the avenues are that are available to us when we believe that we are becoming a victim in these areas.

It's not about physical armed resistance. There's something about the conservative mindset that makes them immediately want to jump to 1776. I think there's a lot of frustrated Revolutionary soldiers around masquerading as conservatives today. But as I pointed out last time in terms of legal options we've got a long way to go between where we are where some people think we are. In some cases, like the Cliven Bundy situation I talked about last week, the big problem there was the overreaching power of the federal government. As I pointed out, Bundy is taking a very difficult legal position which I don't think is a cause that should be generating a response but the fact that the federal government came in with snipers and Special forces and all these other tactical units and everything was totally unacceptable and totally unprovoked response to this situation but legally the federal government probably may have the stronger case.

I may comment some more on that. That's a moving target. As I pointed out last time, when you're sitting on top of a historically developing situation it's very difficult to do good analysis because you're not always sure you have all the facts. That's definitely a moving target. There have been other things revealed since last week and so on but if you're going to go and make a case against unacceptable or illegal federal incursion on state power you need to make sure that the case you're dealing with is right and you've got legal strength on your side.

For example, you'll be reading about a situation with land on the Texas/Oklahoma border. This is a very different case than what's been going on in Nevada. Both Governor Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott are on top of the situation, giving us an example of what the Nevada state government and the county sheriff in Clark County, Nevada should have been doing in terms of protecting their citizens from an overreaching federal government.

So anyway, that's all I'm going to say about that this evening. We need to get into the Word and continue to understand what the Scriptures teach. One of the problems that we have in terms of where some evangelical teaching is today is to take passages, such as Romans 13:1-7 as if there are no exceptions. The passages in the Scripture that talk about submission, whether it's submission in the home or elsewhere have exceptions. The Scriptures, as we'll see, are filled with exceptions. One thing you should think about where you think the federal government is mandating something and you don't think it's right try to draw a parallel within the home. Try to draw a parallel between what's going on there in the home because the idea of children submitting to parents is there.

Sometimes parents are not always wise. See the Scripture says there are two kinds of ways to talk about wrong. I can be foolish or unwise and I can ask my children to do something that is foolish or unwise. That's not unbiblical, immoral, or illegal. Foolish is not necessarily sinful, unwise, or a violation of Scripture. It's foolish. It's not wise. There's a difference and it may not be the best thing to do but it's not telling them or expecting them to do something that violates what the Word of God says. We can think about drawing a parallel between times when we as a parent may not be making the best decision or the wisest course of action but we expect the family to obey and follow on. And the family should obey and follow along because that's not one of the times in the Scripture when we can disobey the authority. So as we look at how the Scripture talks about obedience in one arena of authority, try to draw a parallel to another arena of authority. Maybe that will help you with this issue of submission.

Okay, as we look at the passage the first two verses of Romans 13 lay out the point. In fact, Romans 13:5 comes back to repeat the principle of verse 1. The basic command is to "let every soul or person be subject to the governing authorities." This is picked up in verse 5 when it says, "Therefore you must be subject…" There's not an option there in terms of submission to authority. I find that the way you understand if you're submissive is if the person in authority, teacher, commanding officer, husband, or parent, is asking you to do something you really don't want to do but it's not illegal, immoral, or unbiblical but it's just something you think is stupid or you just don't want to do and you fight it, you're not submissive. That's when we learn if we're submissive when the person in authority is asking us to do something we don't want to do and we fight it. That's when we discover that we're not submissive.

It's real easy to be submissive when the people asking us to do something we don't mind doing. It's when they're asking us to do something that we really don't want to do or we really don't think it's in our best interests that we find out whether we're really submissive or not. So submission isn't obeying the authority because you think they're right or you agree with them or it's comfortable with them, or you like what they're asking you to do. Those qualifications aren't there. Why would someone tell you to be submissive when someone is telling you to do things you want to do? You don't need to hear that. That's an irrelevant command. Submission is only relevant if the authority is asking you to do something you really don't want to do like pay taxes. I thought I'd get a chuckle or two out of that.

Now as we look at the verses I want to focus on tonight, Romans 13:3-5 says, "For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake." Now these three verses or at least verses two and four are really a parentheses in the flow of Paul's thought.

The main idea is stated in verse one and repeated in verse five and in between you have some general principles expressing an ideal situation, but we'll get to that in a minute. So in the first command we're told to be subject to governing authorities three times for "there's no authority except from God and the authorities that exist are appointed by God." Now immediately what comes to a lot of people's mind is whether that means that an unjust ruler is appointed by God. Does that mean that Nero was appointed by God? Well, yes, Nero was ruling when Paul was writing. Was Adolph Hitler an authority appointed by God? Yes, he was. Was Stalin appointed by God? Yes, he was. There are no exceptions here. Now some people want to bring their rational philosophy into it but those are the people who don't accept the Scripture as their absolute authority.

I'm going to give you examples of Scripture where God appointed leaders who were not good and righteous and wonderful. As Romans 13:1 says that no one can rule except God allows it, even Pilate. I pointed that out from a passage in John 19 that when Jesus is talking to Pilate, Jesus pointed out that Pilate's authority came from God. The authority to violate the law and execute an innocent man is the authority and that came from God because there is no authority that exists apart from God.

Habakkuk in the Old Testament had this problem. We don't have to turn to it but the situation with Habakkuk is that he's a little bit self-righteous. He's a prophet. And he's really concerned about the fact that the Jews in the Southern Kingdom are really unrighteous. They're idolatrous. They're unfaithful to God. They're disobedient to the law. They're immoral, unethical, and self-centered. Habakkuk just wonders why God is not bringing a punishment on these people. He points out that they are breaking the Law every day and it seemed to him that God was just sitting in heaven and letting them get away with it, year after year after year. He pleaded, "God, bring a punishment. Judge these people."

In the first chapter God says, "Yes, I am going to judge them." In Habakkuk 1:6-11 He gives Habakkuk a little lesson on how God raises up rulers that aren't necessarily righteous and kind and good. In Habakkuk 1:6 we read God saying, "For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans." God raised up Nebuchadnezzar, a pagan king that was not righteous at all. A pagan king that was going to come in and slaughter hundreds of thousands of Jews and take many who survived back as captives to Babylon. And God told this to Habakkuk by telling him He was going to take care of the situation by raising up the Chaldeans. Basically Habakkuk's reaction is going to be, "God, how can you do that? They are worse than the Jews are. How in the world can a just God raise up such an unholy people and use an unholy people to accomplish His purposes?" And God tells Him it's because He's sovereign that He can do that.

So sometimes unjust rulers are put in place by God in order to bring discipline upon their subjects because of their unfaithfulness to God and their paganism, and because of their immorality. So God raises ungodly rulers and puts them in place for certain reasons. Look at the description we have of the Chaldeans in Habakkuk 1: 6-11, they're called a "bitter and hasty nation". They're angry. They don't have righteous motivation. They're terrible and dreadful. They're more fierce than the evening wolves. They all come for violence. He commits offenses and he ascribes the power to his own god. He's an idolater. He's terrible. Yet God raised up Nebuchadnezzar for this very purpose.

We see this same kind of purpose later on in the book of Daniel. In Daniel chapter 4 God is going to bring judgment upon Nebuchadnezzar who is ruling one of the greatest empires of the ancient world and has become excessively self-absorbed and arrogant. In the previous chapter he built an enormous idol and mandated that everybody in the kingdom worship him. That threatened the lives of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and we know the story of the fiery furnace. So in Daniel 4 God warns Nebuchadnezzar that He's going to judge him for his arrogance and teach him a lesson in humility.

In Daniel 4:17 as Daniel is giving the interpretation of the dream he says the decision is by the decree of the watchers. That's a reference to angels who are assigned to different empires and different territories. "This sentence is by the decree of the {angelic} watchers and the decision is a command of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men." God rules over the affairs of mankind. He raises up rulers and He destroys rulers. You may not like the rulers that he's raising up over you at any given point in time but then we're not privy to all the reasons why. So God is in control of who rulers.

So back to Romans 13. We're to submit to the governing authorities because he is God's ministers. One of the points I keep reiterating because there's a tendency in some of the analysis of the passage here to try to make the authorities relate to an abstract authority like the Constitution. But it's not just talking about abstract authorities. It's talking about the people who are holding the various authority offices. So in Romans 13:4 it says that the one in the office is God's minister. I'm just going to say, "Fill in the blank and realize that you can put whatever politician you want in that sentence. Put the presidents or the vice-president's name in there. He is God's minister over you." Don't squirm. That's what Paul is saying, and this is the inerrant Word of God so we have to understand what Paul is talking about. God has a reason.

It said in verse 2 that when we resist authority, we're resisting the ordinance of God. This is one of the problems. When we resist the authority that God has established in any way, we are resisting God. But remember when I say "in any way" I don't mean that in an exclusive sense because there are legitimate reasons we'll look at for genuine civil disobedience—disobedience to any authority. We're going to look at some of the Biblical examples of that later. The emphasis of Scripture is on submission. It's not on the exceptions. But there are exceptions.

What we learn from this is that God has established government. Now I have heard some people make some unguarded statements like "Government is evil." In the sense "government is evil" government is an abstract entity. But all government is not evil. God governs the universe. That government is not evil. So government in principle cannot be evil. First of all, in terms of divine government. Secondly, because God instituted government in human history as part of what we refer to as the divine institutions.

Now the Divine institutions are important to understand because God established these as universal principles or social laws within the framework of His creation. They were designed for the purpose of the preservation and protection and stability of the human race. Three of these were instituted before there was ever sin. So the first three are not related to controlling evil. They are related to producing prosperity and happiness and stability. We've gone through these many times before. The first is individual responsibility. The second is marriage. And the third is family. All of these were instituted even though there was no family. That doesn't mean it wasn't instituted prior to the first conception and birth. It's instituted in the command to "be fruitful and multiply" that God stated back in Genesis 1:26-28 and the design for God's plan was for the human race to perpetuate itself before the fall.

Now this is one of the reasons I don't believe that a lot of time went by before the fall occurred. I don't think a lot of time occurred before Satan fell. The only reason a lot of people want to insert a lot of time is that they bought into some sort of evolutionary lie to begin with that there had to be long periods of time at the beginning. So you have individual responsibility, marriage, and family. Besides the hermeneutical blunder that you have to accept if you think that when God told Adam and Eve to "be fruitful and multiply" that it really didn't mean, "you can't do this until after you sin". God says the same thing to the animals. No one puts an asterisk there. You have to treat them as the same thing. When God said to be fruitful it meant to get started. That's the impact of the grammar. It doesn't mean, "well, you can't really do it." Now it may not have been in God's permissive will to allow it to fructify but that doesn't mean the command wasn't to go into effect immediately.

There are a lot of us that would like to do a lot of things God commanded. We would like to give a lot of money to support certain ministries. But God has not given us permission by giving us the wealth needed in order to do that. But that doesn't mean the command is irrelevant or isn't to be applied if necessary. Just a lesson in total irrational logic to think that Adam and Eve were told to do something that God really meant they weren't supposed to do it when He said to do it but to wait until after you sin.

So then you have two more Divine institutions that are set up after the fall. The first three are designed to promote productivity and advance civilization and the last two are designed to restrain evil. Now the fourth one is the one we're talking about: government. It's the establishment of judicial authority. Someone once asked me how you could have government if you didn't have nations. Easy. You have city government, county government, and state government. There are all sorts of small social entities that have some form of government. So that doesn't necessitate nations or nationalism.

So the fourth Divine institution was established by the covenant with Noah where judicial authority to take the life of a human being who had committed murder was delegated to the human race. It's the principle that if the most significant or serious responsibility is delegated then all other lesser judicial responsibilities are also delegated. And that God is the One who oversees and is the authority to whom these national leaders are responsible. This is seen in Psalm 82. "God stands in the congregation of the mighty. He judges among the gods." Now the word there translated "gods" is the word Elohim which as a term was often used to apply to rulers as it is in this passage. Obviously God is not talking about other gods because there's only one God. The term is used again down in Psalm 82:6, "I said, 'You are gods'…"

He is addressing these rulers. Why? Because He is delegating this judicial responsibility that was previously His alone. He's delegating that to human magistrates or human leaders. So in this passage we see that God is the One who holds the political leaders accountable. In Romans 13:1 He judges among these rulers. We see the criteria listed in verses Romans 13:2-5, talking about how they are accused of judging unjustly so a judge should judge justly. He should not show partiality to the wicked. He should defend the poor and the fatherless and He should do justice to the afflicted and the needy.  He should not allow people to take advantage because of their power and wealth of those who don't. Justice should be purely objective and should apply equally to those who have wealth and those who do not, those who are in need as well as those who have great possessions.

In Romans 13:3 we're told, "For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil." Here Paul is explaining the principle or what is the intended role of the ruler. The ruler is to not be a "terror to good works" [NKJV] but is to be a terror to evil. He is to bring order into society so that those who seek to do evil will not go unpunished. Then Paul asks the question, "Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good…" How many times have we all [maybe there's someone here who's so perfect] gone down the highway doing 80 in a 65 or 60 or doing 90 in a 70 MPH speed zone. What are we doing? We are watching everywhere to make sure there's not a speed trap somewhere where we're going to get caught. But if we were going the speed limit, or in Texas what we call the "Texas ten", as long as we're not going more than ten miles over the speed limit we're given a little grace so that if we're going reasonably close to the speed limit we just don't think about it. You're not worried about it. But if you're going somewhere in a hurry and you know you're going through an area where there might be a speed trap you're going to be more alert. If you're doing the right thing then you don't have to be afraid. If you have a good record, you will have praise from the same.

A couple of years ago, true confession time, I was driving up to Abilene. I usually go up about this time of year. I'll be going up in a couple of weeks to go fishing and hang out with an old buddy of mine from college, ROTC from college, and we usually hunt or fish or shoot or whatever. We just have a good time for a couple of days. I take off after church on Sunday and I drive up there. But this time I got pulled over for doing, I don't know, 80 something in a 75 zone. I wasn't watching it. So this highway patrol pulled me over. He came up on the right side of the car.

This was back when if you had a CHL you still had to inform the officer if you had a weapon in the car. It's almost like that joke that comes up. I put my hands on the steering wheel and he said, "Where are you going?" I answered, "Well I want to let you know that I have a CHL and I have a weapon in the car. He said, "What do you have?" I said, "Well I've got a 9 mm in the glove compartment." He said, "Okay, anything else?" I said, "Yeah, I've got a 40SMW in the console." He kept asking "You got anything else?" I said, "Yeah I've got an AR in the trunk." "Anything else?" he asked. I answered, "Yeah, there's a 45 in the backseat."

So after that he said, "Well I figured that. You've got an NRA cap on and you've got your bumper stickers indicating that. So that's no problem." He asked for my driver's license. He went to check and when he came back he asked, "What do you do?" "I'm a pastor." I learned that a long time ago, to play the pastor card. I told him this was my weekend to go visit a friend from ROTC in college and we're just going to hunt and fish." Well," he said, "You've got a clean record. I don't want to mess it up. Just slow down and have a great time." See, if you have a clean record then you will have praise from the authority. So, that worked out very well and I breathed a sigh of relief and drove on just a little bit slower.

So Romans 13:4 says, "For it [authority] is a minister of God to you for good." It is the authority, whether local gendarme, local police or sheriff's department, or whether it is the federal government, it's purpose is to keep order and peace so we can go about our business so we can have success and prosperity and we can do well in life's endeavor. This is one of the reasons Paul says we're to pray for our government and rulers is to we can have peace to go about the proclamation of the gospel and teaching God's word without government interference. It's telling us that the authority, whatever sphere it's in, is God's minister to you for good. That is their purpose.

Then he goes on to say, " But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." This means if you break the law, if you're doing that which is illegal you should be afraid. "He does not bear the sword for nothing" is a very important phrase that Paul uses here because bearing the sword in vain indicates the power of life and death. It indicates the government has the right to take life under certain circumstances. This is a veiled reference to the right of capital punishment that every government should have and should utilize. So once again not only does the Old Testament teach about capital punishment but it is alluded to positively in the New Testament.

The word for avenger is the same word we saw back in Romans 12:19 and it has to do with executing justice. It's not talking about personal vindictiveness. It is to bring about a righteous judgment and enact the sentence. So the authority is an avenger to execute wrath. Now wrath, as I keep pointing out, doesn't have an emotive context. It has a judicial context. Wrath is a term, a use of a hyperbole, in order to express the seriousness or the extremity of the judgment.

Now as we look at this back in verse three we were asked if we wanted to be unafraid of the authority. It's a singular noun. That means it's no longer talking about authorities in an abstract sense. It's talking about the individuals who hold that office. That's affirmed in verse 4 when it uses the word minister, the individual in that office: that he has been appointed to that individually by God.

Now the Scriptures mention various authorities using that same word to describe their authority. It's used of Israel's high priest in Acts 23:5 in relation to Paul's arrest in Jerusalem. It's used about those in charge of the synagogue in Matthew 9:18 and 23 and Luke 8:41. It's used to describe the members of the Sanhedrin. Remember these were people who brought unjust charges against Jesus Christ so He would be executed. It's used of a judge in Luke 12:58. It's used of pagan officials in Acts 16:19 so even those who are not Christian still have delegated authority from God. Also it's a term used of demons in terms of their hierarchy of authority in several gospel passages like Matthew 9:34, Matthew 12:24, Mark 3:22, and Luke 11:15.

Now in a parallel passage, echoing the same language and the same thoughts that is here in Romans 13:3-4 we have the passage in 1 Peter 2:13-16. It uses the same word HUPOTASSO Peter says, "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority." Where Paul calls the authority the ordinance of God Peter refers to it as the ordinance of man, every human institution. Why do we submit to the ordinance of man? We do it for the Lord's sake. It may not feel good for us. It may not be the right thing to do in our opinion, but we submit for the Lord's sake.

That's the same rationale that Paul expresses when he talks about wives submitting to their own husbands as unto the Lord. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. He always brings in this relationship to God as a fundamental reason for why we are to relate to others the way we do. And Peter goes on, "Or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men."

I'm introducing some words we'll come back to. The higher magistrate is the king and the lower magistrate are the lesser authorities and those who are sent by him are delegated by the governor. That would be not only the state government but county and city government. Their divinely authorized purpose is to restrain evil and to praise those who are doing good. Doing good here is being subordinate to the authorities over you, not being rabble-rousers or troublemakers.

There's a place and a way to disagree. Remember, a right thing done in a wrong way is wrong and unfortunately, too often, you get people who come up with the wrong way to accomplish their goal. I think I've mentioned that when I was in Kiev I was somewhat skeptical of what was happening down in Independence Square when I first got there but as I learned more I realized that some of the leaders of those who were demonstrating were really trying to do right, not create property damage even though some took place. The most outstanding example I saw was when the police were forced to evacuate a cultural building, when the demonstrators went in, they took pictures of how the police had just trashed the place and the demonstrators made a contract with the owners of the building to pay rent and utilities while they occupied the building. They were showing they were trying to be law-abiding citizens and they weren't just being a rebellious trouble-makers for their own ends. I've learned that the acting president of Ukraine is an evangelical Christian. I don't know anything more than that. That's a broad term but that is certainly an interesting fact to be aware of. So he's trying to do the right thing and he has some Biblical background at least.

1 Peter 2:1-5 tells us this is God's will that by doing good you can put to silence foolish men. Now in 1 Peter 2:18 we have a passage that talks about some of the extent of obedience that we need to apply to governing authorities. In 1 Peter 2:18 the issue is related to servants and master. "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable." Listen to this. It's not only because they're good and gentle or you like them or they're nice to you but also to the harsh. The word there for the harsh is the Greek word SKOLIOS where we get the medical term scoliosis for someone who has a medical condition where their spine is crooked or bent. So we could translate that also as "those who are crooked or bent, those who are harsh and dealing with you in an unjust manner." You think you're being mistreated, maltreated, and they're being hard on you. Peter is saying not to just be obedient to the ones who are nice. So this is important to understand that when submission is mandated by Scripture there's not a qualification, other than when it comes to those who are telling you to disobey Scripture.

There's a parallel in 1 Peter 3:1, "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any {of them} are disobedient to the Word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior." Notice they're not even believers. It's not telling you when you're to be disobedient to the Word. They just are disobedient. They're unbelievers. They're immoral, amoral, unethical, or whatever. Just because they are a loser doesn't give you justification to be disobedient to them. There are reasons, perhaps, to not follow their authority but that's not what's being covered here. Notice it doesn't say they will be won by the conduct of their wives. They might be won by the conduct of their wives. If their wife is a rebellious, cantankerous, resistant, whatever, I'll tell you what. You're not going to win them.

Submissive doesn't mean you're a doormat. If you're an American woman and you've heard doormat you've been brainwashed by the ERA, by the feminist movement in America. I've learned in thirty years of being a pastor that when women hear the word "obey" they think it means they're supposed to be a doormat. The only reason you think that in the post-World War II generation is because you had the feminist movement tell you that that's what that meant. But Biblically that doesn't mean that. The most submissive man in the Bible is Moses. Was Moses a doormat? Not at all. We started this section in Romans telling us not to be conformed to this world and if you think being submissive is being a doormat you have let the world dictate the meaning of that term to you. That is not what the Biblical concept talks about.

It doesn't mean to be a weak, wimpy milquetoast woman. It doesn't. Not at all. It doesn't mean to be a weak, wimpy, milquetoast man. It doesn't mean to let people run all over you. It's not so much what a lot of people are doing, it's how they're doing it. They don't know how to be assertive and stand up for themselves without being nasty, arrogant, angry and self-centered. They don't know how to do that. You have to learn how to do that and how to be firm and strong but submissive at the same time. Those are not contradictive terms.

Look at the Lord Jesus Christ. That's the perfect example. He's submissive to the unethical treatment He received before He went to the cross but He never reacts. There's no anger, no sense of personal retribution or bitterness that come out of His mouth. But He's certainly not a doormat. So we have to rethink how we understand these terms. In fact, I think that a very strong woman who understands biblically the concept can be an incredible testimony to her husband. She's not going to let the guy roll over her but then she's not going to be rebellious either.

Now Scripture talks about the fact that God uses and establishes unjust rulers a lot of the time. That's one of the objections you often hear when you teach about the fact God establishes the authority. People say, "Well, that guy's not good. He's unjust. He's a liberal. He's a Marxist. He's not really a constitutionalist." Was he duly elected? Yes. Was there fraud in the election? Yes, but it doesn't matter because no one called him on it. It's been legalized. "But I don't like it." So? This is the devil's world. There's a lot of things we don't like. You have to grow up and get over it.

God uses unjust rulers. God raised up Assyria and Isaiah called Assyria "the rod of God's anger." The Assyrians were arguably worse than the Nazis. They loved to torture their enemies. They got great pleasure in seeing how long they could torture an enemy before they would die. They tried to keep them alive as long as possible. They were comparable to the Comanche Indians on the High Plains. They loved that. Many of the Native Americans, the American Indians, were so influenced by the demonic that it's just unbelievable. I think that's one of the reasons God brought judgment. That's not politically correct but if you go back and you study the cultures they were immersed in demonism, in all kinds of occult and evil things.

Anyway, the Assyrians were like that but God raised up that evil power, that evil empire, in order to execute His righteous judgment on the Northern kingdom. Later on Isaiah called Cyrus, "His anointed." Now some people think that because of that Cyrus must have been a believer. I don't think so. The word "anointed" simply means "appointed to a task." God appointed Cyrus to a task. Cyrus when he became the emperor of the Persian Empire issued a decree to allow the Jews to return to their native homeland. That fit his policy. His policy was to send these people who had been resettled under the Babylonians to send them back to their native territories to rebuild the temples for their gods. This was not just in Jerusalem but many other peoples so their gods could pray to his god to be merciful to Cyrus. So he's not a believer but God appointed him to the task to be used by God to restore the Jewish people back to their land. He did this in A.D. 538 sending the first group back under Zerubbabel to reestablish their presence in the land God had given them. Jeremiah in Jeremiah 25:9 said that evil, wicked Nebuchadnezzar which had just astounded Habbakuk, was God's servant.

So now a couple of interesting quotes about how to handle magistrates. This is from Matthew Henry. I thought this was interesting because Matthew Henry is one generation removed from the Puritans and the Presbyterians that beheaded Charles I. He's in the generation, I believe, but he may have been a teenager when the Glorious Revolution took place after Cromwell's Protectorate ended. James II was installed as king, and then all of a sudden, all of the lords and earls recognized that "Oops, we put this Roman Catholic in and he's worse than we thought so let's figure out a way to get rid of him."

They had what was called the Glorious Revolution to bring in William of Orange. So a lot of thought went in to the relationship of the people to the king by Christian theologians and lawyers during the middle part of the 17th century, the1600s. Matthew Henry is a Presbyterian pastor and he writes in regard to Romans 13: "In the administration of public justice, the deterring of quarrels, the protection of the innocent, the righting of the wrong, the punishing of offenders, the preserving of national peace and order, that every man may not do what is right in his own eyes." That's the theme of Judges. You can't do what's right in your eyes. You have to submit to governing authorities.

"In these things it is that magistrates act as God's ministers." He certainly had experience with unjust magistrates. "As the killing of an inferior magistrate while he is doing his duty is counted treason against the prince." So the prince sends out some low level bureaucrat to take up the taxes and you don't like him so you kill him, that's considered an act of treason against the king. He uses that analogy. "So the resisting of any magistrate in the discharge of these duties is the resisting of an ordinance of God." A very clear statement that the magistrate is God's minister to you for good so we are to be in obedience to him.

Now the last verse I'm looking at is Romans 13:5, Therefore you must be subject not only because of wrath but because of conscience sake." I'm going to remember this because often I hear people arguing that the term wrath of God is a term that indicates that God has emotion. This is a great use of the term wrath in a judicial context in Romans where emotion is not present. You don't want an emotional judge. You want a judge who is going to execute the law and the term wrath is often used as a hyperbolic expression, which means an exaggeration to show the full extent of the law is being applied. The fullest extent of the penalty is being applied.

There are two motivations given here for why we want to be obedient. First of all because we don't want to feel the full effects of the courtroom. We don't want to feel the legal punishment brought against us but it's also for conscience sake. As believers we have a conscience based on Scripture that tells us what is right or wrong. We don't want to offend that conscience. James says that once you start offending your conscience then you set up a precedent where even if your conscience is wrong by violating your conscience you begin to train yourself and rationalize disobedience to your set of norms and standards. James 1 says that sets a precedent that when your conscience is right you've already set a habit pattern of rationalizing disobedience. So you don't want to violate your conscience. Your conscience tells you it's right to obey the Word and the authorities so for those two reasons we want to obey Scripture.

I'm going to stop here. I thought I would get to the point where we could talk about what happens when the government is wrong. What happens when the government is telling us to do things that are truly wrong, that violate Scripture and violates God's express will? We'll come back to look at that next time and we'll also bring in some other important features of that that have been applied down through church history.