The Christian Obligation to the State
An exposition of Romans 13:1-7. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, June 28, 2009.
Sermon Outline »
Everyone knows they are subjects to be avoided if you want to have a “civil” conversation. Unless you want a fight – you should avoid the subjects of politics and religion. On the other hand if you want a real “donnybrook” then deal with both politics and religion in the same conversation! I love my country. I consider myself blessed to have been born and raised in the United States. I think this is the greatest country on earth. We enjoy the greatest freedom, the highest standard of living and the freedom to worship or not worship as we please. Our Founders believed that we are endowed with the right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. While we have not always lived up to our ideals at least we aimed for them. I love my country but I do not wear blinders. All is not well. There are those who wish to “rewrite” history from their warped perspective. They would have us believe that the Founding Fathers were at best Deists who spoke of Providence and God in general terms and thought of him as a “watchmaker” who got things going and then stepped back to watch it run. To the Deists God is an absentee landlord. He is not involved in the daily affairs of his creation. While not all of our Founders were orthodox Christians they were far from Deists. Read their writings, hear their prayers, look at their actions they are hardly the writings, prayers or the actions of Deists. They believed that nations could not rise or fall apart from His hand. They earnestly sought His blessing. The first two acts of the new congress was to order the hiring of chaplains and the printing of Bibles. Our Baptist forefathers played a major role in shaping our nation’s spiritual life. It was the Baptists who demanded religious liberty and the separation of church and state. In the early 1600’s London Baptist pastor Thomas Helwys advocated religious liberty. Of course in England the King was head of the government and the Church of England. Helwys died in a London prison for his convictions. Meanwhile in the colonies Roger Williams called for a “hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.” Much later in January of 1802 Thomas Jefferson responding to the Danbury Baptist Association and their concern for religious liberty used the phrase, “a wall of separation between church and state.” I believe, and Baptist have always believed, in separation of church and state. I do not, however, hold to separation of God from government! I believe the State needs to stay out of the church’s business and the church has no business running the country. But I do want us to think for a moment this morning about our responsibilities as citizens. While it is true we are “in the world” but not “of the world” we do have certain obligations. To frame our thoughts I want us to look at Romans chapter 13 verses 1-7.
Text: Romans 13:1-7
There is some controversy around this text. Some think it is completely out of place and does not belong in Paul’s line of reasoning. Some go so far as to suggest this was inserted later and was not part of Paul’s original letter. I think it fits perfectly with what Paul began back in chapter 12:1-2. He calls upon the Roman believers to “live out” their faith. He says it is their spiritual worship to do so. He then speaks of spiritual gifts and their use not as a means of personal fulfillment but as a means of blessing others. He talked about loving what is good and abhorring that which is evil. Believers are to be patient in persecution, prayerful at all times and hospitable. They are not to return evil for evil but rather to bless those who persecute and leave vengeance to God. Then comes this section on submission to those in authority.
What is clear from this text is the fact that:
Thesis: Model citizenship is the Christian’s biblical obligation.
There are three things I want to point out.
- Model citizenship is firmly rooted in a God-centered worldview. (13:1-2)
- Model citizenship views government a God’s servant. (13:3-5)
- Model citizenship willingly fulfills all of its divine obligations. (13:6-7)
We are to be model citizens setting the example for others to follow. The only way we can do that is to understand things from a God-centered perspective. Seeing the state as God’s servant and willingly fulfilling our divine obligations.