Jack Graham - God And Government
Take your Bibles and turn with me to Romans chapter 13. This is our THE ESSENTIAL GOSPEL series. It is essential because this is the priority, primary message of the Bible. And we find it all in the book of Romans. Romans, though it was not written as the first of the epistles or letters in the New Testament, it is first in its prominent, first in its alignment in the New Testament following the Gospels and the book of Acts, and that is because this book is so essential to our spiritual health and the health of God’s people, the Church.
And so when we come to this passage of Scripture in Romans chapter 13 today, we do it knowing that it is applicable and relevant. You don’t have to make the Bible relevant; the Bible is relevant! And it’s our responsibility who preach it and teach it, who hear it and obey it is to rely upon its truth and obey God’s Word. We believe in a biblically world view. That is, we see the world and everything in it through the lens of Scripture. Rather than seeing the Scripture through the lens of the world or culturally, we view everything around us through the lens, the view of God’s Word. So when we look at something like this war in Ukraine. Jesus said, "In the Last Days before I come, there will be wars and rumors of wars".
Now we know there have been wars in every generation, from generation to generation. So the question we ask in light of wars and rumors of wars, is war ever justified? Is there ever a just cause or a reason for war? We face issues in our generation of faith and freedom. We just experienced that as a nation and the world as various governments in the world, in America, including state governments and local governments have sought to slow the spread, remember that? "Fifteen days to stow the spread", but in seeking to slow the spread, we saw government overreach in some quarters and churches locked down and told they could not meet. And businesses shut down and loss of life and loss of economy and we've seen the harm that so much of the school systems have inflicted upon students during the pandemic, not allowing students to be together.
All these issues that you've been thinking about and I've been thinking about. These are all issued that are addressed in the Bible regarding freedom and faith. And then there are the issues in every generation, certainly ours, of crime and punishment, as in the Last Days lawlessness will increase. I don’t want to discourage you but things are not getting better in our world. We've been dealing with issues of the sanctity of life and sanctity and sacredness of marriage. And now our government here in the United States, the liberals in our government are proposing an equality act which is not an equality act, but rather it imposes upon the free rights of those who oppose homosexuality. People talk about the separation of church and state as though it is in our Constitution.
The phrase "separation of church and state" is not in the U.S. Constitution. God and founders never intended for our God to be separated from the people. God and government are clearly connected, because God, as we are about to see, establishes and ordains all government including our own. The phrase "separation of church and state" actually appeared in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson years ago. But how often have we heard don't bring your politics into the pulpit. We would have never had a Revolution in America, an American revolution if pastors and ministers had not stood for freedom in that generation. When you say "Don't bring your politics into the pulpit, then you would have to exclude the Apostle Paul because what we're about to read is politics from Paul in the pulpit"! And you know, politics matter. And you know why politics matter? Politics matter because policies matters. And policies matter because people matter. And so God's Word addresses faith and freedom. Politics in the pulpit.
And so beginning in verse 1 of Romans 13, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist", that is authority, "have been instituted by God" He is the king of glory. The earth is the Lord's and the fullness of all of it. "Therefore", verse 2, "whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment", and the word judgment there means punishment, "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, an avenger, that is bringing vengeance and judgment who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer" Wrath! 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". Both the human conscience of the soul and holy conscience of the Christian. "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".
Now when God made the world and put the man and the woman in the Garden, He immediately began establishing order, orchestrating and ordaining the way that we are to live together. So there have been established by God 3 institutions that have authority in our lives; the authority of God. One, first was the home and the family. Before there was any other institution, there was marriage. The Bible says male and female He created them. That has not changed regarding biblical marriage. And God established the home and therefore marriage and the family as the very foundation of all of life and culture, society. And then on the heels of that God established His people. In the Old Testament we would call that Israel. We would see it, we would view it as Israel. God selected and chose out a people. His own people. And in the New Testament we would apply this to the Church.
And so the second institution that God has established are spiritual organizations, spiritual institutions and for New Testament Christians that is the Church. So God has given the Church authority. And then not only the Church and the marriage and family, but God as we just read a moment ago has established a third institution and that is government. The higher authority, the higher power. There’s a key word for all of us regarding all authority and that is the word submission. Says here that we are to submit to the higher authorities. As Christians we are to live lives of submission. To honor to whom honor is due, to respect that which is to be respected.
And so we are to live summitted to first God's authority, the authority of God; the lordship of Jesus Christ. Not only the authority of God, but we are to submit to the authority of God’s Word. Not human opinion, not what the pundits say, the politicians say, the press says, what our sentiments may feel, but we’re always to live under the authority of God’s Word and submitted to the clear written word of God! which is authoritative over our lives. And we’re to live, therefore, in allegiance to Christ and in obedience to God’s Word. There are lines of authority in the Church. God has given us offices in the Church: the pastor, shepherd, elder of the Church of which I am the pastor of this congregation. And then the deacons of the Church who are the servants of the Church. And there is divine authority given in the Church. I myself am under authority in the Church. Though this church has given me the right and responsibility to lead it, I’m under authority and the accountability of this congregation and of the appointed leaders of this congregation.
So none of us have carte blanche freedom to do what we want to do. We are to be in submission to all authority. And so how does that work with God and government? Clearly all government, both good and bad is given by God or allowed by God. When it says, look at it again, "be subject to the governing authorities", it doesn't tell us what kind of government. Bad government is better than no government at all. So God has established government of all kinds or allowed governments of all kinds in order to establish rule and to exercise His own rule, instituted by God. For what purpose? What is the purpose in God’s plan for government? To provide peace and protection to its citizens. Safety and security for His people.
Therefore, when Paul speaks of government and governing authorities here, he immediately goes to the issue of crime and punishment because the role of government is to provide for the security and safety of its people. And that includes restraining evil and slowing violence and punishing lawbreakers. We are to submit to government always with the exception of when that government violates the Word of God in our lives. When the apostles were charged with preaching Christ and told never to speak His name again, and told we will beat you and imprison you and eliminate you if you continue to do that, Peter stood and said with the other apostles "we must obey God and not man". And so we obey God! But in obeying God, God gives room to exercising authority in order to slow and to even stop violence in a community or in a country or in a nation.
You see, most liberals and progressives of all kinds, they believe that all punishment should be rehabilitative punishment; that the goal of all punishment regarding crime is to restore and rehabilitate. The fact is, the Bible does not teach that all punishment is to be rehabilitative punishment. As a matter of fact, Jesus spoke more than anyone about the subject of hell, and there's nothing rehabilitative about hell. Hell is punishment; hell is God's wrath; hell is God's retribution. And this same wrath, according to Paul here, comes against us when we break the law; in particular when we break the law of taking another person's life.
So go to your Bible, open them to Genesis 9, verse 6. And I want you to underscore these words which were given at the foundation, at the dawn of culture in the world today. "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God has made man in His own image". To take another person’s life is to forfeit your own life — Genesis 9:6. Yes, the Bible teaches capital punishment. You say, "Can a loving God call for capital punishment"? We are not smarter, wiser, more loving, more compassionate than God, more just than God. And you need to remember that God is a God of love, but He is also a God of holiness and "He is angry with the wicked every day", according to the Scripture. And judgment is coming.
We live in a world of lies; we live in a culture of lies. And the big lie is this: It's been from the beginning. "You are not accountable for the things you do. Do what you want to do". When the serpent slithered into the Garden of Eden what did he say to the man and woman? "Has God said"? And then he went on to say, "You will not surely die". God said, "You'll die if you eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil". He said, "You'll not die". That's the lie that we're not accountable for our actions; that we're not accountable for our sin. Don't buy into that lie! The Bible says, "Whatever ever a man sows, that will he also reap". And so God has assigned and authorized governments to enact capital punishment.
Earlier in Romans chapter 12 in verse 9, we’re told that we’re to love without hypocrisy. "Let love be genuine". Remember that passage? And on the heel of those words came this: "Abhor that which is evil". Hate what is evil and cling or cherish or "hold to that which is good". Let love be genuine and without hypocrisy. It is a fact that virtually, for example, virtually all pro-choice politicians and people who are willing to kill babies, now some even after birth, that the same crowd, the same progressives that oppose the sanctity of life and cheer on the murder and the killing of babies, are virtually all against capital punishment. So I say, "Let love be without hypocrisy". Love everyone on both sides. And the fact is that God is more loving than you. God has more compassion than anyone else. And God has said, "This is My way of protecting and providing safety and security to a land, a culture, a lifestyle".
I don’t have time to talk about the issue of just war but the same principle is true in war: If you are protecting your home and your homeland, you have a right to protect your family if someone comes in to do your family harm. We have a right to protect our country. But again, the same people who are pro-choice are anti-war in many cases. They’re passivist. The fact is that God has said My authority is given to government. Now does government always get it right? Of course, not. We are not in favor of any innocent person dying ever; never. And so we should work for laws always to reform the system, to make sure that capital punishment, that all punishment is fair and equitable for all people. And that includes the victims. Who's speaking out for the victims?
Many of you know that... I'll close with this because my time is running out. Many of you know that my father was viciously and brutally murdered in 1970. He was beaten to death by a shoplifter. So we turned it over to the authorities, of course. The man who committed the murder was captured, he was put in jail and then he was sentenced. And because there was no capital punishment in Texas at the time where my father was living, he was sentenced to a life sentence. This was his fourth and fifth felony but he was running the streets. He was a violent person. And so they sent him up automatically. They told our family that he would go for a life sentence. And what happened to the man who killed my father was sentenced for a life imprisonment rather than executed. Which he should have been executed. He killed another man in cold blood. But the prison system was to take him, keep him there for life or a minimum of 40 years.
But guess what happened? "We want to clear the prisons". Maybe he was a prisoner in good standing, I don’t know. I don’t know his story, I hope he was. But he was out in 19 years. Less than two decades. Is that justice for the victims? Let God be the judge. And the fact is, and this is the first time I've told this story publicly. The fact is on his death certificate. The year he got out of prison the man who killed my father, the one who we said let God be God; give God space to judge; He'll handle it. Just months after he was released from prison he died of acute leukemia. Now did God take him out? I don't know. But I know God is just. And God is the avenger. And God's wrath is poured out on those who disbelieve and disobey him, always.
One final word, stay with me, Jesus took capital punishment for you and me. The cross was Roman execution and God Himself established the government that would kill His own Son. And by the way lest someone say doesn't the commandment say, "Thou shall not kill"? The word kill there means you shall not murder. So let's set that record straight. But God sent His only begotten Son to the gallows, to the cross, to His execution! Why? Because He took our capital punishment. "The wages of sin is death". Not just physical death but eternal death! And the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus! He took our sins and our judgment on the cross because "we've all sinned and come short of the glory of God".
We've all broken God's commandments. We've all lied; we've all stolen; we've murdered and hated and stolen and lied and coveted and dishonored God and taken His name in vain and broken the commandments regarding our parents. We've all broken the commandments of God in substance and in spirit. And therefore, we are guilty before God. But God took our punishment on the cross. He at the cross, the Lord laid on Him our iniquities. This is the Gospel; this is the essential Gospel of Christ. And so someone, I speak to people each week who watch who are in prison somewhere. God's grace and God's mercy is available to you regardless of your sentence.
You may be on death row and death row is a horrible, terrible place. Maybe in some cases even worse than death. But even if you're on death row and we're all on death row! We're all on the road to retribution and judgment. But in the love and the grace and the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, He paid the debt. He set the captive free. He forgave us by his blood of all of our sins. He bore our iniquities on the cross. He took it himself. Jesus died of capital punishment for your sins and mine. And therefore, when you put your faith and your trust in Him, He will save you and forgive you and change you and make you brand new. It doesn’t mean that you may not still suffer the consequences of human rebellion and sin and murder and something you have done. You still pay the consequences. Sin has consequences. Breaking the law has consequences. But you can have eternal life. You can have peace with God. You can be set free from the power and the addiction and the damage and the death and the hell of sin.