30th September 2023
Read (Romans 13v1)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Although Paul's death isn't recorded in the Bible, it has long been believed that the Apostle lost his life in the city of Rome in the year 64/65AD. There are various stories about Paul's final moments including one which says he was beheaded with his head bouncing three times causing a spring of water to gush from the ground with each bounce. None of this can be proved and ultimately isn't terribly important but we can be reasonably certain that Paul was martyred in the city of Rome under the rule and reign of the Emperor Nero.
Before his death the Apostle would certainly not have called Christians to riot or attempt to assassinate Nero. Instead Paul taught something very specific about the Christian and the State, namely that we are to be subject to the governing authorities (v1a). To be a subject is to understand one's position within society or an organisation, you are subject to your office manager and she is subject to the board of directors. Roman Christians were subjects to the Emperor as we today are subjects to His Majesty's government. We are to be willing subjects to these authorities and well prepared to give our leaders honour when it is due.
Does this mean we are to always obey the authorities? No. Paul would not have worshipped at Nero's feet even if commanded to do so and so we should not obey any request from the authorities which would cause us to sin against God. However, when possible, we freely subject ourselves to the governing authorities.
Why should we do this? Because any and all authority finds God as its source (v1b). Rishi Sunak has no power except the power instituted and given to him by the Lord. Joe Biden may be considered the most powerful man alive but he has no power except the power instituted and given to him by the Lord. Therefore, all rulers would do well to remember that they will one day give an account for how they used their God given authority. Wicked leaders will be judged and wicked decisions will come under the holy gaze of the Lord. All leaders should stand in fear!
Nevertheless, the Christian is called to be the finest citizen in the land and a willing subject of the ruling authorities. As we honour the authorities, by extension Christ is honoured, for He is the One who rules over the affairs of men. You may not like your local councillor and you may wretch when you new MP is announced on election night but even so your willing submission to such individuals is sure evidence of your love for Christ. May all "know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men." (Daniel 4v17)
Q58 What is required in the fourth commandment? The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his Word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to himself.