Jack Graham - God's Law and Order
I see this battle between right and wrong heating up, Christ and antichrist. And it is so essential that we be spiritually prepared for this battle. America is in chaos! The streets of major cities are filled with mobs. Police and law enforcement are threatened, stores are looted and robbed, statues are torn down, churches are desecrated, all in America. And we understand why some in our cities feel threatened by what's going on into the streets and we also understand why some in our country are concerned about equality and about justice, whether it is racial or political or economic justice.
The fact is the First Amendment guarantees the right of the people, and I quote: "The right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances". And we affirm that! The key word is peaceable and peacefully. A peaceful assembly must not be a smoke screen for lawlessness or looting or rioting or burning or organized agitators and anarchists! The problem in America today is the issue of authority. And the Bible warns against those who despise authority. And in our text before us, Romans chapter 13, first seven verses, we see what God says about law and order; about crime and punishment. And yes, about Jesus and judgment.
Verse 1 says: "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 are also to pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God".
It did not say the preachers are the ministers of God in this case, but the authorities. Those placed in authority are: "ministers (servants) of God attending to this very thing". He wraps it up in verse 7, "Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, and respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed". We live in a time in which we seeing decreasing respect for authority. We know that Satan is in the middle of this. Satan is the ultimate rebel and anarchist. And we are seeing the death of civility and debate and decency and discussion. And as a result, we are seeing self-destruction. One man said this: "Where there is no truth, only power remains".
This is the reason we are speaking of God's truth in these days. Because once Truth (capital T) is lost, God's Truth revealed in God's Word, Once it is lost, once Truth is gone, only raw power remains! I'm reading a brand-new book on the life of Abraham Lincoln. Certainly, one of the great heroes of American History. Many believe, most believe our greatest American president. It was Lincoln who said: "If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we will live forever or die by suicide". I want our nation to live under God, and therefore, we as believers and followers of Jesus shaping the future of our nation for our family, for our friends, for our children and their children, we believe in God's law or order.
First point I want to make to you is under the heading Law and Order. The first four verses that we just read describe that, the fact that order comes from God Himself. God has put into every human being an inexpressible desire to bring order into society. It is written into the consciousness of a human being because it comes from God. Many people who do not even know Christ or who may not even believe in God are concerned with law and order. Concerned with crime and punishment, policies and politics. There are lawyers and governors and politicians and police, and others who, again, may not have a personal faith in Jesus Christ, but innately, instinctively within every person there is created by God a desire for order rather than chaos.
Now God is the God of order. When He created the world, when He created the universe, He put everything in order, and that includes justice. God is the God of law and order of justice. And He has established rules to regulate society. He gave them in His word, the Ten Commandments themselves are the framework for freedom in all societies. If we just live by the Ten Commandments, you wouldn't need any other laws. He gave us these commandments, and He also, because He's a God of justice, He is a God of judgment. He holds everyone accountable to keep His law, and therefore, He judges sin. There is retribution because of rebellion against God's law.
The Scripture says, Galatians 6:7, "God is not mocked. Whatever a person sows, he will also reap". So God gave us law through government. Law established through governing authority based upon His own law. And without it, you have chaos, you have confusion, you have anarchy and yes, you have violence. But not only has God established law and order for the sake of law itself, but also because of love. The generous welfare of God for humankind, for society. Love requires law and order. Because you love your children, you establish guidelines and rules for your family. That rule is based upon a relationship. And God loves you! God loves people; therefore, He has placed rules, restraints within the culture to restore and to renew society when it is broken. And God establishes authority there and we are to be subject right here in the scripture.
Verse 1, see it again. "Let every person be subject (that is, obedient) to authority". Law and order is the framework for freedom. If there were no rules without retribution there would be no freedom in society without boundaries. Without boundaries, freedom cannot prevail. And so, God has given us law and order. He establishes rulers and leaders of all kinds. Remember, when this scripture was given, Caesar was ruling in Rome. Paul, a believer and follower of Jesus, a Jewish man who converted to Jesus Christ, he understood that he was under the authority of the Roman government. And even in a case of a capital offense against his life for preaching the Gospel, he appealed to Caesar. He was subject to the leadership. And, we are reminded that no leader, no king, no president comes to power without God's sovereign control!
Proverbs 21:1, "The kings heart," the Bible says, "is in the hands of the Lord, and He turns it wherever He will". So the purpose of authority, the purpose of government is the protection of life and property. The protection of the life we live in freedom, and to resist law and order is to rebel against God. See that? To resist law and order is to rebel against God who has established law and order. How many of you have heard someone say, "Well, you cannot legislate morality"? How many of you have heard someone say that? You might even have said that yourself. While it is true that you cannot make people obey the law or even to obey God, while it is true that you cannot legislate morality in that sense, it is also true that you can legislate against immorality.
In fact, laws are given to us, including the Ten Commandments that legislate against what is wrong, and therefore, to punish wrongdoing. Do you see that? Certainly, there are things that are wrong and there's legislation. You know this, there is legislation that is there to prevent and to protect against immoral decisions. Verse 2 says that: "He who resists authority is opposed to the ordinance of the institution of God". When you do the crime, the crime is against God. We can seek to change the government, we can appeal for better laws, we can protest, we can politic, we can elect new leaders in America, but we are to never defy what God has divinely decreed. The only time we are to defy the law is if that law defies the law of God. "We must obey God and not man". And that's conscientious objection, of course, and that's appropriate in Scripture.
In Scriptures Christians are commanded to live in submission to the authorities of all kind, authority that God has placed over us. There are three primary institutions that God has established. One, of course, and first is marriage, home and family, and God has placed a divine order in marriage, home and family. Then there is the church for people of God. God established people in the Old Testament, the Jewish people and then when Christ came, the Messiah, He established His church, and Christ is building His church and the church is central and core to civil society and citizenship for the Christian. And within the church there is defined authority and there is order. And the third institution that God has given human beings is government. So you have marriage, home, family; you have the church; and you have government. And therefore, under the authority of God we are to live in law and order.
The second point that I want to make is that of crime and punishment. We talked about law and order; established authorities by God. But what about crime and punishment? Because in Romans 13, it talks about the judgment of God that is mediated between the servants of God, the ministers of God, that is, those who enforce and execute the law. Romans 13 tells us that there is punishment that is delivered by due authorities, delegated by the government and that crime has consequences. And therefore, the consequences are punishments. Whether it be in fines or in greater cases of law and beyond misdemeanors, the breaking of moral law and the nation's law that was imprisonment, and even capital punishment.
Four things I want you to write down about punishment. What it is. I don't have time this morning to talk about all the legal implications of crime and punishment, but I've given you the straight up scripture as to what the Bible says. Punishment is preventative. There is in the very fact that people are punishment the reality that it can be and should be a deterrent to crime itself. It is preventative of other crime. If you commit a crime and you are punished in jail, or even in death for a murderous crime, it is preventative of crime being committed again by you. Punishment is corrective. The goal of punishment is corrective. It is corrective in society for the welfare of society and corrective in the individual who rebels against the laws of God and of the nation.
Punishment is also punitive. Not all punishment is corrective; some is punitive. And that is punishment for the punishment itself. And that includes the death penalty and capital punishment which is taught in this very scripture. "who does not bear the sword in vain". The sword in this case is an instrument of death and execution. The sword obviously referenced here is the sword of capital punishment. The terror and the fear of death due to capital crime, such as murder. Now at the very dawn of society, after the days of Noah, when God put the whole world in a gas chamber. H2O and flooded the earth, and only left was Noah and his family. And on the heels of that retribution and judgment of the earth, God said this in Genesis 9:6: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed. For God made man in His own image".
Now that is a principle in God's Word before the law of Moses, before the laws of Israel; it is the principle of life and death that is written in the very foundation of civilization. I repeat it: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed. For God made man in His own image". Get back to Romans 13, the New Testament is teaching us that the sword is to be borne as an instrument of death to those who break God's standards and laws and the laws are to be established, the laws are to be equally applied, and the laws are to be executed. Romans 12:19 says this: "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is min, I will repay, says the Lord.'" So God has established this law and order with crime and punishment. There's never a place for personal vendettas or vigilantism because God has established government and one of the means of government, the most important functions of government is to establish capital punishment.
You say, wait, wait, wait, wait. What about the Bible verse: the Ten Commandments in Exodus chapter 20 when it says, "You shall not kill"? And there are some well-meaning people, I presume, others some bleeding hearts, who point to that scripture and say, "There it is, there it is. You shall not kill". They may be pacifist or whatever reason they choose, they say thou shall not kill. Isn't it interesting? Isn't it absolutely crazy that the same people who oppose capital punishment and just war, the same people who affirm abortion and the killing of the innocent?! It just drives me absolutely nutty! But I digress. Though that's a good digression. The sixth commandment says "Thou you shall not murder".
The scripture allows for the protection of your proper, of yourself and your body and self-defense; the scripture allows for just war. But you shall not murder means you shall not take another human being's life. Lawbreakers are to be justly punished by the God-ordained authorities. My father was brutally murdered in 1970. We never sought personal revenge; we left it up to the lawmakers. Ultimately, we left it up to God. And in all the years when the murderer of my father was in jail, we were told, the death penalty was not in practice in those days in the early 1970s. I believe it was reinstituted by the Supreme Court in 1976. So, the man who killed my father, I give this as a testimony to you, was sent to prison on a life sentence and we were told he'll not be out for a minimum of 40 years. Forty years in. We said okay. I never touched, I never checked on it; never checked on him. Just left it with God. And so did the rest of our family.
Until about two years ago, the Lord prompted me to try to find the murderer of my father and speak with him. We began to search and look and because the records were hard to find here in Texas from that period, it took a long time. But thanks to some friends we were able to find out that this man was let out of jail after 20 years. Now I don't know the circumstances. Could have been great behavior. I pray that the man came to faith in Jesus Christ. I really do. I pray that he knows the Lord. But in the same documents it said he was let out of jail in 20 years for the murder of my father. He took away our father, my mother's husband at the age of 56. The year he got out documents are clear, he died in a matter of two or three weeks of acute leukemia.
Now I don't know how to describe that to you other than to say when you leave judgment to the Lord, He does what He promises He will do. Judgment comes from God. Ultimately if judgment and justice is not done among men; God will take care of it. "Vengeance is Mine, says the Lord". So we are to forgive. We are to live in freedom of another person's crime and to live in the fullness of that freedom and of that forgiveness and let justice take its course. God's justice. Jesus Himself took our judgment on the cross. He died at the hands of wicked men. 2 Corinthians 5:21, "He who knew no sin, became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God". And there is only one cure for breaking the Laws of God. "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life".
The only cure is repentance and redemption in Jesus Christ. And every sin can be forgiven. There is no sin that is unforgiveable except to reject finally the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus took the fires and the pain and the punishment that we desire on the cross and bore on His own body. Isaiah 53:5-6, "By His stripes we are healed. The Lord laid upon Him the iniquity of us all". And I believe in our generation, Stay with me, that God is giving America a warning! Judgment is coming unless we repent; unless we find forgiveness and redemption in Jesus Christ. The Bible says, Ezekiel 18:20, "The soul that sins shall surely die". And so what did Jesus do? He took our death and He took our hell and He took our judgment. He was not a lawbreaker, but He died as a lawbreaker in order that we could be forgiven, and our trespasses forgiven so that we could be forever saved. And there is no person beyond the love and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no person, murderer or not, who cannot be forgiven if you would come to faith in Christ.