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  • Writer's pictureClay Burgess

Purpose and Power (Sermon)

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

Romans 13:1-7

We are in a series, “Sacrifice.” It is certainly not an easy topic when you consider the words usually associated with sacrifice. “Pain,” “Discomfort,” and maybe even “Death.” The concept of “sacrifice” runs throughout the Bible. To “sacrifice” means to give up something that is valuable in order to help someone else. It just doesn’t sound compelling. We are a people who always wrestle with the payout or the what’s in it for me? If I sacrifice, what is the benefit?

But think about it for a minute, what is the benefit of sacrifice? Well it depends, if you sacrifice cake and ice cream you might lose some weight. If you sacrifice some tv time for some exercise, you might get in shape. If you sacrifice some sleep in the morning and turn it into prayer or Bible reading time, you might grow spiritually. All of those are personal sacrifices with personal benefits. It is more taxing when our sacrifice is for the benefit of others.

What about the idea of giving or yielding yourself over to power or authority of another? Just the thought of being controlled or under the thumb of another raises resistance in our heads and hearts. It doesn’t give us warm and fuzzy feelings. We have this desire to be a free agent where we are not accountable to anyone or anything. We want our will and our way to prevail. We think everybody’s will and way should align with ours, even God’s! To submit is to sacrifice. Paul, who wrote a lot of the New Testament, challenges that believers should:

Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)—Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

To submit is to sacrifice. To sacrifice is to give something up for the benefit of another. Paul’s ultimate challenge is to be others oriented. To love others the way God has loved us. What would you sacrifice or give up for the removal of chaos? What would you sacrifice for the benefit of structure and order? Today, we are going to look at the role of government and how it fits into God’s plan. Does it have a purpose, if so, what is it? Then, how are we supposed to respond? If you have your Bible or electronic device meet me in Romans 13.

Sometimes we confuse what should serve and what should save. Let’s aim to sort that out this morning.

The Authority of Government (v. 1)

Romans 13:1—Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

“Subject” is a military term describing voluntary deference to the wishes of another. General rule—submit to authority. God has established authority and placed leaders. Government leaders would not be in their positions unless placed there by God.[i] Note—says “submit” not “obey.” To submit is to recognize one’s subordinate place in a hierarchy. Submission does not mean “uncritical.”—as occasion calls. God is sovereign. All authority is from Him. No authority exists apart from God or apart from His will or determination.[ii] The authority of the government has been delegated to them by God, thus their authority is not absolute.[iii] They are stewards and answer to a higher authority.

God is sovereign over government. He gives them authority, but to what purpose. What benefit does government bring?

The Purpose of Government (vv. 2-4)

Romans 13:2—Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Andy Stanley says it this way: “When someone tells us what to do the issue is not what but who.” To resist what God has appointed or ordained is to resist God. This rebellion is not just a single act but a settled attitude, an ongoing life of opposition to the things of God.[iv] There will be future judgment for those who come against God’s authority.

Romans 13:3—For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval.

Government is in place for our good. Is it perfect? No! But its intended purpose is to provide structure and order vs chaos and anarchy!

1 Peter 2:13-14 (ESV)—Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

Government is a friend to the righteous but an enemy to evildoers.[v] It praises, or encourages, good behavior and punishes bad behavior. The good should have no reason to fear and the threat of penalty should serve as a deterrent to the bad.

Romans 13:4—for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

John Calvin notes: “Good government will always maintain the rights of the weak and the afflicted.”[vi]

Here, “Sword” is a small dagger used to keep order, but could point to the death penalty as well. Certainly, means that the government is armed and can use force.[vii] But here, more likely, it is pointing to the idea of fairness of the system. Lawbreakers will receive only what their crimes deserve. In other words, the punishment would fit the crime.[viii]

Government’s role or purpose is:

1) protect human life.

2) protect personal rights and property rights.

3) handle disputes between people.

4) punish lawbreakers.

The ultimate purpose of government is to serve the people by providing order.

The Proper Response To Government (vv. 5-7)

Romans 13:5—Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

What should someone “submit” to governing authorities? Paul says first because of the wrath of God (V3-4). Now he gives a second reason, for the sake of conscience—Conscience is the inner awareness of right and wrong placed in us by God. It is the ability to discern what is right and the motivation to pursue what God would have us do, including obeying the laws of the land.[ix] Paul’s point is clear, he wants people to avoid the disruptive behavior that will bring soldiers storming into their neighborhoods. Avoiding this type of action will result in punishment from ultimately disobeying God.[x] Additionally, obedience is also an important part of the believer’s witness to a watching world.

Romans 12:6—For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.

The authorities are serving God and you. So, support them: 1) pay your taxes, don’t cheat. 2) don’t pay more than necessary. Manage your money well. Taxes are not just an arbitrary imposition. They are the means of carrying on responsible government. The state could not exist without them.[xi] Understanding that God is a God of authority and has put certain structure in place…can you be submissive to that idea?

Romans 13:7—Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

The “them” refers to officials to whom something is owed. Pay to all what is owed—paying back. Tangible and Intangible—poll tax or sales tax; reverence or esteem. Paul is getting at actions and attitude toward those in positions of authority. We respect government because it is God’s instrument of punishment, and we honor it as an instrument of God.[xii]

Mark 12:17 (ESV)—Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.

Government gets taxes. God gets your life, loyalty, allegiance.

Matthew 6:33 (ESV)—But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Put God first and obey the laws of the land when possible, unless Government asks you to violate God’s standard.

Acts 5:29 (ESV)—But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

Obedience to God trumps obedience to men. Again, government is a gift from God and thus we should respond with a good attitude. John Stott reminds: “So Christians should accept their tax liability with good grace, paying their dues in full, both national and local, direct and indirect, and also giving proper esteem to the officials who collect and apply them.”[xiii]

At the end of the day, Government is not the hope of the world. Government cannot change hearts or save people. JESUS SAVES. GOVERMENT SERVES.

Government is given for our benefit and we should be good citizens. How?

1) Be Informed—aware, not clueless.

2) Be Involved—minimum you can do is “vote.”

Titus 3:1 (ESV)—Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,
Jeremiah 29:7 (ESV)—But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

3) Be Influential—pay and pray

2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)—if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
1 Timothy 2:1-3 (ESV)—First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,

Why? So you are a good representative of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 5:13-16 (ESV)—“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

If Christians are silent about key issues (moral/ethical) where then will the standards come from? Imagine—a country impacted by a group that was actually informed…willing to be involved…it is time for good citizens to step up and sacrifice for the Gospel and seek to influence our culture!

Micah 6:8 (ESV)—He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the church was known by what it was for, instead of what it was against?

Tim Keller: “When a city perceives a church as existing strictly and only for itself and its own members, the preaching of that church will not resonate with outsiders. But if neighbors see church members loving their city though astonishing, sacrificial deeds of compassion, they will be much more open to the church’s message. Deeds of mercy and justice should be done out of love, not simply as a means to the end of evangelism. And yet there is no better way for Christians to lay a foundation for evangelism than by doing justice.”[xiv]

Let’s represent our God and demonstrate that we are “FOR” Fuquay by sacrificially serving out community!

This is a manuscript for a sermon originally preached on 7/21/19 at Connect Church.


[i]Frank Thielman, Romans in ZECNT (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018), 607. [ii]Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans 2nd ed. in BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018), 664. [iii]Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans in PNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), 461. [iv]Grant Osborne, Romans (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017), 411. [v]Ibid., 412. [vi]John Calvin, Commentary on the Psalms, abridged by David C. Searle (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009), 395. [vii]Morris, 464. [viii]Osborne, 413. [ix]Ibid., 413. [x]Thielman, 610-611. [xi]Morris, 465-466. [xii]Osborne, 415. [xiii]John Stott, Romans in BST (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 346. [xiv] Timothy Keller, Generous Justice (New York: Dutton, 2010), 142.

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