7th October 2023
Read (Romans 13v5)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Verse five begins with the word “therefore” and this should always stop our Bible reading in its tracks so that we can take stock of what we have just read. Let me summarise the opening verses of chapter thirteen. The Christian is to be subject to governing authorities because God has put those authorities in place (v1), judgement comes to anyone who resists the authorities (v2) and rulers are to uphold righteousness and punish sin (v3-4).
Therefore, in light of all what has been said, we must be in subjection to those who rule over us (v5a). I don’t know how you use these devotions but today is one of those days that the message ties in well with the attached shorter catechism question and answer. The fifth commandment states “honour your father and your mother; that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
What are we required to do with this commandment? The fifth commandment requires us to honour and do our duty towards those who are our superiors, inferiors or equals. You probably don’t think in these terms and yet your life is defined by such relationships. To some you will be superior, your children for example. To others you will be inferior, like your parents and the prime minister. To others still, you are an equal, perhaps your best friend with whom you enjoy a weekly coffee date.
In all of these relationships you are to do your duty. You protect your children as their superior, you obey your boss as her inferior and you laugh with your pal as his equal. As citizens of the State we are in an inferior position to our rulers. It doesn’t mean that they are better people than us but they are in a superior position and so Paul is clear that we simply must be in willing submission to our leaders.
What is the outcome of this willing submission? It’s twofold. Firstly, such willing submission avoids the wrath of God. The Lord is perfect and righteous in all His ways and He is perfectly angry with sin of all kinds. His wrath abides upon those who treat their superiors with contempt. Have you ever seen someone with a tattoo that says “only God will judge me”? There’s an element of truth in that statement but it doesn’t mean we can walk through life like an unaccountable King or Queen. Do you want to avoid the wrath of God? Then put your trust in Christ and be saved. This is your primary need and concern, but as you trust in Jesus and seek to honour Him in your life, willingly submit to your superiors. This is good and pleases the Lord.
Secondly, willing submission is also for the sake of your conscience. Have you ever been condemned by your own conscience? What do I mean? As you are lying in bed at night you feel the weight of guilt over something you've done or said. We are moral creatures made in God's image and we have all been given a sense of what is right and wrong. This shows itself by an inner voice whereby we wrestle with our actions. It is a joy when we can say that our conscience is clear but at times we are tormented by our conscience when we know that we have done wrong. The conscience isn't the voice of God, the conscience isn't perfect and not everyone pays heed to their conscience but nevertheless, we willingly submit to the authorities for conscience sake. No Christian should be lying awake worrying about deliberately unpaid taxes!
The Christian knows what God expects regarding the State and we should happily do it or as Paul says "Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience."
Q64 What is required in the fifth commandment? The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.