The Hurt Locker
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 Ro 13:1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.
 4 For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake.
 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing.
 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
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In Romans 12 we found out how the Christian should live in the confines of the Body of Christ. Surrendering our all to Jesus, we were told to allow Him and His Word to transform us from the worldís way of doing things to His way of doing things.  

We were told about our giftedness from God and how we were to use those gifts to serve one another, love one another, and thereby build up the Body of Christ.               

In 12:17, we started to receive instructions about how to deal with ďall men.Ē We were told to not repay evil for evil, or take vengeance, but rather allow God to do that, and one of the ways God takes vengeance is through the state.

How then is a Christian to live in relationship to secular government? This is what Paul addresses in these first 7 verses of Romans 13.

 Ro 13:1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God,

All we really need to know about our responsibility here is found in the first sentence. ďLet every soulĒ and that includes you and I, be subject to, (be under the rule of) governing authorities. No further explanation is needed. This is what God has ordained.

However, God in His great mercy for us doesnít stop there. Like a good father explaining the rules to His children, He goes on to tell us why we need to be subjects, and the benefits of subjection, and He even explains why we must pay taxes with a glad heart.

The number one reason that we are to submit to the governing authorities? They get their authority directly from God.  Jesus made that clear as He stood before Pilate and said, ď Joh 19:11 Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.Ē
We can trace this God-given authority back to the flood when God said to Noah,  Ge 9:6 "Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.

All the nations of the earth that we know today, were present when God gave this covenant to Noah, and itís why God can say ďevery soul be subjectĒ If there were some forms of government before the flood, (and there likely were) they did not understand their primary twofold function.

Restrain sin and preserve order. We know they werenít doing this because God made this observation about the condition of mankind before the flood:  Ge 6:11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. Governments werenít doing their job.

So fresh out of the ark, one of the first things God did was place the sword in the hands of men to govern each other in order to restrain violence. All of those who were dispersed at the tower of Babel left with this sword or mandate in their hand.

One thing is clear from this: Anarchy is not according to the will of God. Read the Book of Judges sometime and see what happens. The whole book is summarized in the last verse of the book:  Jg 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. And what a mess that was!


Although Israel of the Old Testament began as a theocracy, a church state if you will, it gradually evolved into what theologians call the two kingdoms. Church and state. It is in the NT that this teaching is greatly clarified, although the separation of the two kingdoms was already very evident by the time of King Saul.

Remember what happened to him when he tired to offer the sacrifice? God took the kingdom away from him. King Saul (the state) was entering a realm (the church) where he didnít belong. Separation of church and state is a very biblical concept.

We Christians would be wise to make note of it. The state must not attempt to tell the church what to preach or what people must believe as related to their salvation, and the church must not take it upon themselves to exact civil justice.

The Bible reminds us that we have dual citizenship. At once we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven and citizens of this world.  Php 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
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Jesus summed it up nicely when He said, ďRender unto Caesar what is Caesars and unto God what is Godís.  Luther said, ďJust as it is the function of the preaching ministry to make sinners holy, so it is the function of temporal government to make civilized people out of wild ones, and protect those who would live peaceably.Ē
Remember, government can only restrain sin and promote order. It cannot remove manís sin nature or cleanse men from their sins, only Jesus can do that.  The latter is the churchís business, the former is the stateís.    Paul continues:

ďand the authorities that exist are appointed by God.Ē

Another thing that we need to remember is that no authorities exist without the permission of God. He appoints them. There are good governments and there are bad governments, but both kinds are in place only because God allows them to be in place.

God uses these government to bless and to chastise. In the OT for example He used Egypt to first of all bless the people of Israel, later He used Pharaoh to chastise them in order to awaken them  from their spiritual slumber. He used The Babylonians to punish the Southern kingdom, and the Persians to bless them as Cyrus allowed them to return to their homeland.

We donít necessarily understand evil governments such as the Naziís or Communists, but if we look at these passages in Romans with faith, we can trust that God will raise up and God will topple these regimes according to His purposes.

Our part is to be subject to those authorities He has placed over us for they are in place by Godís decree:  Ps 75:7 But God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another.
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Pr 21:1 The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.
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Dan 4:17  The guardians have announced this decision. The holy ones have announced this so that every living creature will know that the Most High has power over human kingdoms. He gives them to whomever he wishes. He can place the lowest of people in charge of them.'"

I wonder if the lowly and humble peanut farmer Jimmy Carter used that last one!

So, civil government restrains sin and provides protection for itís citizens. It also preserves order. In a sense this is an extension of protection. For instance we have laws that govern our highway travel. What would it be like having no stop signs or speed limits?  Some of you are thinking it would be like heaven, but you know better than that!

We have laws that determine how our government will be run, laws that regulate fishing, hunting, firearms. Government provides a sense of order and protection and thatís a good thing.

  2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

Because God ordains authority and appoints authority, if we decide to buck it, we have decided to buck God. Donít miss the word, ďwhoeverĒ in verse 2 because again that includes you and me.

And there is a warning for all who would resist subjection. In resisting Godís appointed authorities you are arraying yourself against God Himself. Do you know what happens to people who ďarrangeĒ themselves against God? Unless they change their ways, they will end up in the hurt locker. ....the woodshed.

Either at the hands of Godís instruments (the government) or at the hand of God.

Now there is an exception to this rule and we find Peter and John and the Apostle Paul all guilty on this count. When the government of man demanded that they do something contrary to the higher authority of God, they obeyed God rather than men. Should the state ever demand that we renounce Christ, we must not revolt! But obey God and suffer any consequences.

Should the state demand that we stop preaching and proclaiming Godís Word we must keep preaching and suffer rather than obey the state. Should the state demand that we abort our children, we must say no and be prepared to suffer the consequences. Should the state demand that we perform wedding ceremonies for homosexuals, we must say no and be ready to suffer the consequences.


Aside from being judged by God, why should we honor and obey those in authority over us?

3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.
 4 For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

Government is Godís minister.  In the Greek an errand boy. An attendant, a waiter and when Godís snaps His fingers He runs to do Godís bidding. God snapped His fingers and the Berlin wall came down? He snapped His fingers and Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
He snapped His fingers and Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo.

And these ďerrand boysĒ are not intended to terrorize you.  Do what is good and you have nothing to fear from these authorities, but do evil and tremble. He is Godís executioner on those who practice evil.

Some governments do terrorize the innocent and again, we donít know why God allows this, by faith we know that he has a purpose and that should be good enough for us. But in these verses we are talking about Godís original intent for government.  


And it is in these verses that we see,  it is clearly within the states power to wield the sword of capital punishment. The Roman sword was the equivalent to the gas chamber, the electric chair, the noose, or any state preferred method of execution.

ďIf you do wrong, be afraid!Ē Capital punishment was designed to be a deterrent to serious crime, and it is certainly within the will of God. But the church is not to be the one to wield the sword, that is up to the state.

Many times people will challenge pro-lifers with the statement, ďHow can you be for life on one hand and for capital punishment on the other hand? My first response is always, name the crime of the unborn child.

What has the unborn child done to deserve a death sentence? Right now in our country, unborn children are being sentenced to death for the crime of being unwanted. Thatís a far cry from sending Ted Bundy to the chair wouldnít you say?

Secondly I would say that capital punishment is the business of the state not the church. And  apparently God has no qualms about it as He has given that power to the state. Itís been in their hands since they days of Noah and affirmed here in Romans.

On the other hand I can find dozens of references in the Bible that speak of Godís aversion to the shedding of innocent blood. And thatís where the state needs to be careful.
The state that sanctions the shedding of innocent blood will be judged by God.

5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake.

Therefore, because of the fact that God ordained authorities and selected authorities and has given them to us for our benefit we should not only obey them out of fear, but out of a conscience that has been made alive by God! A conscience that says ďyes I will obey them just as I would obey the One who sent them!Ē

Yes, there is a certain element of fear of punishment in my obedience, but I gladly obey and serve my country because God in His mercy has placed me here! He has placed me under their authority and my government has nothing to fear from me because I am a follower of Jesus Christ.

I will make a confession to you at this time. I never say the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. So that ďone nation under God argumentĒ doesnít concern me in the least. First of all, in this land of multiple sects and cults....whose God are we agreeing to be under anyway?

Secondly, my allegiance is to the Lamb of God. I pledge allegiance to the Lamb, and because I am loyal to the Lamb, because I am loyal to God......my country has nothing to fear from me. My allegiance to Jesus includes my allegiance to my country.
Donít get me wrong.  Itís not bad that you pledge allegiance to your country, itís just that I see it as being redundant. I already pledged allegiance to my country when I committed my life to Christ.

6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing.  7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

Ever wonder why we pay taxes? Wonder no more. We pay taxes because we are subjects of Godís servants...the government. We need to provide for them just as surely as we need to provide for the church! Oftentimes we are tempted to shortchange the government by cheating on or evading taxes.

Not only is this stealing, but look who it is stealing from! Godís ministers! He has put them in place and Jesus plainly told us to render unto Caesar what is Caesarís, and we arrange ourselves against God when we refuse to pay our taxes. We are just asking to be put in the hurt locker.

Oh but what about wasteful spending, ungodly art work, subsidized abortion and birth control. I canít support that stuff. Me either if I had a choice, but I donít. God says pay your taxes. I pay my taxes...cheerfully, not because I approve of what my government is doing, but because I know it pleases my Lord.

Now that doesnít mean that we canít work to stop some of that kind of spending, or that we canít work to change tax laws. Thatís the beauty of this great land! But until the laws are changed.....pay your taxes.  And if the government wants to give you loopholes...by all means use them!

How did the early church handle taxes? Well we know the Jews paid very grudgingly, but listen to what Tertullian, an early church leader had to say: ďAs to the record books of the tax collector, they stand as a recommendation of the Christian, who, because of their faith, pay what they are assessed and shy away any thought of embezzling what does not belong to them.Ē

When you understand that it is Godís will to pay taxes, you will do it willingly and faithfully. You need not worry how the government uses your money, if they are abusing it, they will have Someone Else to answer to, itís on them, not you. But if you donít pay...itís on you, you are the rebel.

So when you walk into the post office with your completed return, you ought to have the biggest smile on your face and when the clerk asks you why you are so happy, you can hand him the tax envelope and say, ďI am doing the will of God! I am pleasing my heavenly Father!

But notice that we are not to just render taxes. We are also to render customs, (another word for tariffs) And then we are to render something other than cold hard cash.

We are to render fear. The word fear here means fright. Paul is reminding us again that the government bears the sword. We should have some tension of fear when dealing with our government. It is this fear that will help us stay in line and out of trouble.

This kind of fear can best be described by what you feel when you drive down the road and a squad car follows you. Why are you afraid? Are you afraid of the person behind the badge? Why? You donít even know them. You are afraid because you know if you make a mistake, he has the God-given authority to nab you.

Finally we see that we are to render honor. That is we are to esteem the office. We ought to rise when the President walks into the room. This passage in Romans is why we address our Senators as the honorable Senator Kohl or Senator Feingold!

When a judge walks into a courtroom we rise out of respect for his God appointed office according to Romans 13:7, and we call him ďyour honorĒ because he represents God!  Oh, if the ACLU ever found out why we rise when the judge comes into the courtroom, my my, my.

We give honor to those in authority over us because they are direct ministers of God! I cringe when I hear the Christian talk show pundits or others who bad mouth the President of the United States or any other minister of God.  Havenít they read this portion of Romans?


Think this through. Since they are appointed by God and selected by God, who are you really bad-mouthing? Youíre setting yourself up for the hurt locker my friend.

One of the beautiful things about Lutherís catechism is how he sums this matter of authority up in the fourth commandment.

Honor thy father and mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do not despise our parents and superiors, nor provoke them to anger, but honor serve, obey, love, and esteem them.Ē

Honor, serve, obey, love, and esteem all those in authority over us. This means parents, teachers, pastors, work supervisors, husbands, or anyone else who has the authority to tell you what to do. Anything less than that is asking for the hurt locker. And woe to those who would abuse that authority!

This is the first commandment with promise. What part of ďthat it may be well with youĒ donít you understand? Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities for this is the will of God.