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Lockdown 2/1 – Obeying the Government – or NOT?

24/11/2020

Morning Service at Ballymacashon

Lord’s Day,  29th November 2020

Praise,  Psalm 2 v7-12 (Tune: Crasselius) From Sing Psalms

Opening Prayer.

Prayer.

Sermon

We are back in another lockdown!  Can the state tell the church what to do?  Isn’t that why our Covenanting forefathers died during the ‘Killing Times’ of the 17th century, – punished for their unshakable belief that Christ’s kingdom is ruled by the King of Kings, not the King of England? So, in these two Lockdown Recorded Services, we are going to explore that issue, with the help of Romans 13.  What is the relationship between the believer and the government? Let’s see…

The Believers Responsibility. Let every soul be subject Be a loyal subject!

To listen to this service as a PODCAST click: https://soundcloud.com/bob-mcevoy-171148921/the-saint-and-the-state-morning-service

The need for governing authorities. V1. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Paul recognises that they exist and that we must acknowledge them. Who would run the hospitals, empty the bins etc if they did not exist?  Who would order society?  Anarchy and chaos would reign.  Because government is necessary:-

  • God in his providence and sovereignty appoints our governments. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God    He always rules every situation according to his will and purpose, even if we can’t see that at the time.  In fact sometimes, that appointment is to chasten His own people.  There’s historical and biblical evidence of this.  Habakkuk 1:5  The conclusion of this is stark…
  • To resist them is to resist God, and incur his wrath. V2 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.  Now surely that will be a challenge for all of us, for there are times when it seems that civil disobedience is the only way.     Furthermore…
  • The government has the divine right to bear a sword for justice! V4

This is not some unusual doctrine for a specific local situation that Paul is talking about either.  There are plenty of other references in the NT: 1 Timothy 2:1-2   Titus 3:1  1 Peter 2:13-17   Jesus himself had been asked about this very issue in Mark 12:13 -17.  The early Christian apologists like Justin Martyr and Tertulluan employed the Christian subjection to authority as a defence of the faith!  So in making these comments Paul is stating quite clearly that the Christians attitude to authority is to submit, to acknowledge that authority and to respect that office. Practically speaking, how will that respect be given:-

  • Christians will obey the law of the land. V3 do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
  • Christians will keep a clear conscience in respect of the law. V5
  • Christians will pay their tax bill! Acknowledging that to do so is in fact an act of obedience to God, to contribute to the overall good of society, to pay for our hospitals and our security.  V7 
  • Christians will give honour to the king! And sing the national anthem! fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

So, the Christian believer is a model citizen in every way!

The State’s Responsibility. unto the higher powers

So Christians in Rome were to honour, respect and obey the laws of the land. Caesar’s law. But there are two sides to this coin.  The government also has a responsibility, and we can see it quite clearly here too.

  • To acknowledge the God who ordained their power. V2   2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God,
  • To minister benevolently. V4 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..
  • To punish evil doers. V4 and to praise what is good. V3  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.
  • To be consistent in administrative affairs.  V6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.   Government officials are ‘Ministers!’

There is a delicate balance. The Christian must respect the government and the government must honour the Lord God who placed it in power.

When Two Worlds Collide. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God

Ethically, what happens when government policy hinders the church in its worship or witness?  Worse, what happens when the government oppresses the church?   There is of course a biblical example of this. It is found in Acts 5, where the Jewish authorities ordered the Apostles to cease and desist from preaching about Jesus.  Acts 5:5:24-29  The key here seems to be that the governing authorities were hindering and prohibiting the preaching of the Gospel.  Look at the accusations against the Apostles, 5:28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”

  • Disobedience of an edict prohibiting the mention of Jesus’s name! Don’t talk about Christ! (Ok to OMG on Facebook, or use the name of Christ in blasphemy of course)
  • Preaching DOCTRINE. Can’t have that!  Declaring absolute truth, saying that only one religion is right – that only one way leads to heaven?  Don’t you Christians know ANYTHING about being ‘inclusive?’
  • Blaming us for Christ’s death! Like it’s because of us, our sins that Jesus was put to death, saying that He died in our place – how dare anyone blame me for the death of God’s son. Making others fell that they are being judged?  That’s just not on!  How judgemental.

Peter’s answer is clear.   In these circumstances, (and in very few others) our first duty is to obey God, not men.  This was the case with the great historical examples of disobedience, like when the Covenanters in Scotland in the 16th century rose up against the Stuart kings, who were trying to use the ‘divine right of kings’ to enforce Anglican conformity (and popish ritual) over and above the clear teaching of God’s Word.

We have a very fine ethical line!  When the gospel is being hindered, when Christian doctrine is being attacked, surely we have a right – actually a responsibility, to evoke Peter’s defence.  I’m just not so sure that it’s enough to warrant us disobeying a law that, at least on the face of it is for our own health and well-being.  What do you think?

Praise: Psalm 116 (Sing Psalms)

Benediction.

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