Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:1–10)
Paul’s words here are very important. We are to obey the government. It doesn’t matter if it’s national, state, or local. The government that’s around us has been put there by the Lord. Speed limits. Cross walks. Taxes. Whatever law the government institutes should be followed. They should be followed because they are what God Himself instituted. Whenever God’s Word says something, we have His will. God’s Will first and foremost is that “He desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” But there’s other stuff too: don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal, don’t hate, don’t lust, don’t commit adultery. All this can be summed up with: “Love shall your neighbor as yourself.” Because “love is the fulfilling of the law.”
But what about where God’s Word is silent? That’s where we have government. What does God say about my driving? Well, He says, “Don’t hate or be angry” so road rage is out. But God also says the speed limit on I-220 is 70mph. He says its 45 on this stretch of Airline—35 between 7–9a and 2–4p in the school zone. He says don’t run red lights. Wear your seatbelt. Don’t litter. Don’t smoke in certain places. Use the crosswalk. Get health insurance. “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” You may not get a sword, but you may get a hefty fine or ticket, but the government, the president, the policeman, the judge truly “is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” “The authorities are ministers of God.”
But what do we do if the government tells us to forsake the faith? To not preach Christ? To do things God’s Word clearly says not to do. The prophet Daniel’s a good example and so is Paul. Daniel willingly went to the lions den—with no promise that he would live through it. Paul was beheaded for confessing Christ. And he’s the one who wrote “they do not bear the sword in vain.” He knew that fate awaited him. Ultimately, “we ought to obey God rather than men,” as Peter says to the Sanhedrin. We also heard Jesus say this past Sunday, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” We can work for the Government like Daniel, and, in America, we can even work to change the law. But we must “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”
Think also of the Lord Jesus. He was unjustly prosecuted. Pilate says, “Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” But Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” Jesus didn’t defend Himself, and “when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” He made the good confession to Pilate, and He was crucified. He was crucified unjustly for all the injustice we do. The speeding, jay walking, the littering. He shed His blood for it.
Even when the government works unjustly God can turn it for good. Jesus unjust death was evil, but God saves the whole world—you and I included—by it. And if we must obey God rather than men, we may loose our life, but God has redeemed us by His blood. And we will gain our life back on the Last Day because Christ Himself was also raised. INI + AMEN.
Let Me Be Thine Forever (LSB 689)
Almighty and everlasting God, give us an increase of faith, hope, and love; and that we may obtain what You have promised, make us love what You have commanded; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.