Kingdom of Heaven

 

 

Home

Alex Tang

Publications

Articles

Spiritual writing

 

Nurturing/ Teaching Courses

Engaging Culture

Spiritual Formation Institute

My Notebook

My blogs

Books Recommendation

Bookstore

---------------------

Medical notes

Medical Students /Paediatric notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kingdom of Heaven, Kingdoms on Earth

Christians and Governments
Text: Rom. 13:1-7

Dr Alex Tang


Sermon statement
Christians are to take care of the Kingdom of Heaven and let God take care of the kingdoms on earth.

Introduction

On 9th July, Bersih 2.0- a coalition of NGOs and opposition political parties held a massive rally at the nation’s capital, Kuala Lumpur. This is held in check by the Malaysian police with tear gas and water cannons.

The Bersih 2.0’s manifesto is
“Only when elections are clean and fair, can citizens be real masters of their own destiny and expect holders of public office to act accountably and effectively.”

BERSIH started out as the Joint Action Committee for Electoral Reform, which was formed in July 2005, and the coalition’s objective was to push for a thorough reform of the electoral process in Malaysia.

Bersih 2.0′s call consist of 8 points. In summary, they are:

1. Clean the electoral roll
2. Reform postal ballot
3. Use of indelible ink
4. Minimum 21 days campaign period
5. Free and fair access to media
6. Strengthen public institutions
7. Stop corruption
8. Stop dirty politics

Many Christians took part in this rally.

This is a good opportunity for us to re-examine what is the relation of Christians and the government of the countries they are staying in. The apostle Paul gives us some quidelines.

Romans 13:1-7
RO 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

RO 13:6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Context of Romans 13:1-7
Ø Written by Paul in Corinth to the Christians in Rome in the winter of AD 56/57.
Ø Roman government still persecuting Christians.
Ø Many of the Christians in Rome have been exiled (leaving behind their homes and business).
Ø Nero is the emperor.
Ø Emperor worship still taking place.

If you think this is only Paul’s view, Peter gives a similar view.

1 Peter 2:13-17
1PE 2:13 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

Jesus did not come to overthrow the existing political order in spite of the prevailing view at that time that the Messiah will be a political leader. Jesus came to herald in the kingdom of heaven amongst the kingdoms of earth. It must be in this context that we understand Paul and Peter views of government and authorities over us.

Rom. 13:1-7: This passage teaches five vital principles concerning the Christian’s response to the government:

A. The Government is

1. by divine decree (v.1b).

2. an institution of God (v.2a).

3. serves to promote good (vv.3b-4a) and restrain evil (v.3a, 4b).

B. The Christian is

4. to submit through their conscience (v.5).

5. to pay taxes and whatever is due to the government (v.6,7).


1. Government is by divine decree (v.1 b.)

v.1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

First Paul says that human government is ordained by God for the benefit of society. In whatever forms it exists, civil authority derives directly from God.

6 types of government:

i. Perfect government will only come when Jesus the King returns to establish His Kingdom in all its fullness.
ii. Just government is possible where full participatory democracy is in bloom so that people elect good leaders and replace them as necessary.
iii. Mediocre government takes place if less than the best people are chosen to rule.
iv. Ineffective government happens in places where rulers are changed too frequently or the people are ungovernable for some reason.
v. Corrupt government develops when rulers assume public office mainly for private gain.
vi. Wicked government ensures when those in authority are particularly wicked, unjust and oppressive.

Like marriage, it is a universal institution of God, regardless of place, culture, race or any other circumstances.

There is no civil authority except from God. No matter what forms it takes, no matter where it is, no matter what ideology, no human government that has existed, existing or will exist , all government are under the sovereign authority of God. The entire world, everything in the heavens, on earth and under the earth are subject to the Creator. Without exception, the power that any person, group or society may possess is divinely given. How well or poorly this power is used is another matter. Paul’s point here is that this power has only one source – God.

Yet in his divine wisdom, God has permitted Satan to have vast but limited power over the world and the affairs of men. And this include governments. Many if not most government are under the influence of Satan and are a means of promoting and perpetuating satanic activity. Governments like other institutions on earth at this moments are under powers, principalities and dominions.

Governments have authority by divine decree. The autocratic, ruthless and demonic regimes of Adolf Hilter, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung were no exceptions. The equally ruthless empires of ancient Assyria and Babylon were no exceptions. The Roman empire, ruled by caesars who declared themselves god are no exception.

2. Government is an institution of God. Rebellion to Government is rebellion against God (v.2a)

v.2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

The logical conclusion we can draw is that since government is an institution of God. Any rebellion against a government is a rebellion against God.

The seriousness in which God takes rebellion is illustrated in the book of Numbers. God has chosen Moses not only to be the law-giver but also to be the human leader of Israel to lead them from Egypt, through the wilderness to the Promised land.

Numbers 16: 1-3 Korah, Dathan and Abiram rebelled against Moses and Aaron. “ With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who has been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “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?”…v.13 “Isn’t enough that you have brought us out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the desert? And now you also want to lord over us?” They are questioning Moses and Aaron’s authority. And God was so angry that “the ground under them split apart and swallowed Korah’s men and their household and fire came out of the Lord and consumed 250 rebels”.

The next day, the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. They were still defiant. The Lord then send a plague which killed 14,700 people (v.49). Had not Aaron made atonement, the whole community would have perished!

God takes seriously any rebellion against those who challenge His appointed authority.

3. Government serves to promote good (vv.3b-4a) and restrain evil (v.3a, 4b)

vv.3,4 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

Paul then described the purpose of government. The government has a dual purpose- to promote good and restrain evil. Government is the God ordained vehicle to promote good and restrain evil in human society.


i. Promote good

To promote good is to promote order. The opposite of order is anarchy. Anarchy means there is no rules and everyone does whatever they want. Look at Indonesia when the government could not maintain order- the killing and raping, the destruction of properties. Look at Bosnia and Kosovo. Judges 21:25 “ In those days Israel has no king; everyone did as he saw fit “(NIV)

ii. Restrain evil

In order to promote and protect the good in society, human government must punish evil. Consequently, those who do what is evil have reason to be afraid. Because the sword is an instrument of death, the weapon here symbolized the right of civil government to inflict punishment, including the death penalty for crimes that deserve it.

To restrain evil, there must be a code of law that applies equally to everybody, rich or poor, black or white, educated or illiterate. No one can be above the law.

Interestingly, rulers are called God’s servant. This means that our Prime Minister is God’s servant whether he knows it or not and he is carrying out God’s divine purpose whether he acknowledges it or not.

4. Christian to submit through conscience (v.5)

v. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

Does vv.1-4 means that Christians must submit to whatever government they are under – whether good or bad?

Submit versus obey

v.5 comments on the above section on government. Here Paul is saying that the authority given to human government is not absolute. Submission is based on conscience. Conscience here refers to the Christian’s knowledge of God’s will and purposes.

When Jesus was asked a trick question about paying tax, He replied, “ Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (Mark 12:17)

So what are the limitations to the authority of human government?

When it is contrary to God’s law. Disobedience to God’s Word.
When rulers give orders which are contrary to God’s law, for example, by ordering the killing of newborns (Exodus 1)

Exod. 1:17-20
17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, "Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?"

EX 1:19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, "Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive."

EX 1:20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

Dan. 1:12-15
DA 1:8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you."

DA 1:11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.


DA 1:15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

DA 1:17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

Acts 4:18-20
AC 4:18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

Christians must say: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)


5. Christian is to pay taxes and whatever is due (v.6,7)

vv.6,7 This is also why you pay taxes, for authorities are God’s servants, who gives their full time in governing. Give everyone what you owe him; if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor then honor.

No one enjoys paying tax. But taxes are part of everyday life and we as Christians must pay our taxes.


When God established the nation of Israel, He also instituted a taxation system:

i. Tithe or a tenth (Lev 27:30) This tithe is given to the support of the priestly tribe of Levite which had no land allocated to it and has no support. It is also called the Levite’s tithe.
ii. Annual Festival Tithe. Used for sacrifices, for supporting the tabernacle and then the temple, for cultivating social and cultural life, and for fostering national unity (Deut. 12:10-19)
iii. Triennial Tithe. Levied every three years (about 3.3% per annum) to help the aliens, the orphans and the widows.
iv. Annual half-shekel Tax. Levied on every male Israelite twenty years and above as a contribution to the Lord.(Ex 30:14)
v. At the end of every harvest, Jews were required to leave some of their crops unharvested, allowing the remainder to be gleaned by the poor (Lev 19:10)
vi. Every seventh year, cultivated land is to be left fallow. Whatever crop that comes up is to be left for the poor and what remained was left for livestock to each.

The total of all these six taxes, all of which are mandately amounted to 24% per year. The taxes are for governmental administrative costs, religious costs and social welfare.

Lessons for us

Titus 3:1-2
TIT 3:1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

1 Thess. 4:11-12
1TH 4:11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

We as Christians are required to give the government their due.

i. Taxes
ii. Services

Some government may require some additional services. Singapore have compulsory national service for their youth. Malaysia requires all doctors to do three years of compulsory service after their housemanship.

iii. Prayers

We are required to pray for our government whether we like it or not. Jeremiah in writing to the Jews in exile in Jer. 29:7-9

7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." 8 Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: "Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them," declares the LORD.

iv. Nation building

And work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Pray to the Lord for that city where you are held captive, for if Babylon has peace, so will you.” (NLT)

Mind you, this is the Babylon that destroyed the Temple and carried them into slavery and exile. Yet Jeremiah did not ask them to rebel or pray for God’s vengeance on Babylon. Instead he asked them to pray for the prosperity of Babylon.

iv. Election

The new element that we now have which Paul and the Roman Christians do not have is called participatory democracy. Abraham Lincoln’s dictum of a government by the people, of the people and for the people is now everywhere embraced, in theory if not in practice. In a democracy, we have the awesome privilege of choosing those who rule over us.

What about socio-political activities?

If we are to discern history, different governments except for the prefect government carry within them the seeds of their own destruction. All the great empires fell. Assyrian, Babylon, Rome, the Third Reich, USSR and certain form of Chinese communism all crumpled under their own corruption and evil. Is that due to the actions and street demonstrations of their people? Maybe.

I believe more in a sovereign God who lift up and destroy nations in his own perfect timing. As a student of history, I sometimes think that people movement that causes regime change by means of anarchy causes more harm and hardships to the people themselves, often innocent people. I also see that given enough time, most evil regimes will fall by the weight of their own corruption.

I often find that as Christians, we are often selective in reading and obeying the Scripture. We often take what we like and disregard what we do not. Take for example the Bersih 2.0 rally. I wonder how we can apply Romans 13:1-7 if we take part in it.

Ø The call for a clean and transparent electorate is good
Ø It is plainly an illegal gathering
Ø It brought the nation capital to a standstill causing inconvenience to thousands and loss of income to many
Ø It might have led to violence, injuries, deaths and destruction of properties
Ø The Agong has already responded
Ø The public is already aware of the issues due to the actions of the government
Ø Indications that it is subject to manipulation by others with their own agenda

What is the Christian ethical response to this rally? What will Jesus do (WWJD)?

I myself do not have a ready answer to this. How to reconcile Rom.13:1-7 and participation in a rally such as this? Honestly, I have no idea what Jesus would have done. What I can do is to continue to think and pray about it. Hopefully the Holy Spirit will grant me wisdom when someone decide to organise a similar rally in the future.

Conclusion

Romans 13:1-7 gives us some indication of the relation of Christians and their governments.

A. The Government is

1. by divine decree (v.1b).

2. an institution of God (v.2a).

3. serves to promote good (vv.3b-4a) and restrain evil (v.3a, 4b).

B. The Christian is

4. to submit through their conscience (v.5).

5. to pay taxes and whatever is due to the government (v.6,7).

It teaches that government is not a necessary evil that we Christians have to endure. It is appointed by God and is part of His divine plan. Christians are to take care of the Kingdom of Heaven and let God take care of the kingdoms on earth.

Soli Deo Gloria

               

"treat, heal, and comfort always"

 "spiritual forming disciples of Jesus Christ with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in actions"  

 

     
Website Articles Spiritual Writings Nurture/ Courses Engaging Culture Medical Interests Social

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   
           

 

  Creative Commons License

Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is
licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

© 2006-2017 Alex Tang