Skip Heitzig - The Christian and Government
Good morning. I'm so happy you're here. And would you turn in your Bibles please, to the book of Romans, chapter 13. We have really, or at least I can speak for myself, really enjoyed the ability to go verse by verse through this incredible book of Romans. It's been so rewarding for me personally, and I think it's been good for us as a church.
We're in Romans chapter 13. Now did you ever hear what I heard as a kid? I think maybe even from my parents. Never discuss religion and politics in polite company or in public, however you want to spin that. You've heard that before, right? It's kind of a common maxim. If that's true, I'm in a world of hurt. Because the text before us is Romans chapter 13. The theme of the first section of Romans 13 is the relationship of the Christian to the state, or to the government. It outlines our responsibility to civil authority, which some people have great difficulty doing.
J.C. O'Neill even wrote, "these seven verses have caused more unhappiness and misery in the Christian east and west than any other seven verses in the New Testament." That may be an overstatement, but certainly the issue of how a Christian operates in a secular environment, especially in terms of the government and government authority, can be challenging.
But here's the bottom line. As believers, we have dual citizenship. We are citizens of Earth and its governing realm, but we are also citizens of heaven. Philippians 320, Paul said our citizenship is in heaven. So I have an earthly address. I live in this country. But I have a heavenly address, a spiritual address. I am in Christ Jesus, which means I have an eventual address in the kingdom of heaven. So since we are residents of two realms, we should learn to live responsibly in both. We cannot be cloistered. We ought not to be uninvolved or uninformed. But learning how to balance our allegiance to both realms.
I came to know Jesus Christ in 1973. Some of you weren't even born at that time. During that period known as the Jesus movement, that's a real thing, it's a real period of spiritual history in our country. A lot of people were coming to Christ. There was a lot of excitement that Jesus was going to return, which by the way, I still believe in. I believe he's going to come soon, sooner than we think, perhaps.
But there was such an anticipation and excitement that Jesus was going to return. I mean, people thought like, he's coming next week. So that excitement for the return of the Lord became, in some cases, irresponsibility. Why bother getting involved in our culture, why bother getting involved in any political structure, why bother getting involved at all? After all, Jesus is coming next week. And I even had friends think I can get a credit card, I can get all sorts of charges rung up. And if Jesus is going to come back and I'm going to get raptured, I won't have to make any payments.
I even had a friend come to me and say, "why do you bother going to college?" I announce I am accepted to UCLA, I'm going to go through a program. And the guy said, "why would you ever go to college? Don't you know Jesus will return before you graduate?" And I said, well, if he does, he'll find me in a classroom. Because last time I checked, colleges need Christians. Last time I checked, colleges in our country are not bastions of righteousness. I think they need involvement of believers just like political structures do.
Jesus said occupy till I come. That is, stay busy until I come. In fact, Jesus even prayed in that great high priestly prayer of John 17 when he prayed to his father privately, he prayed for his disciples and he said this. "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one." Our Lord never intended that we live in caves or monasteries or other hibernaculums that cloister us away from responsibility.
In fact, Jesus even put it this way. Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Now if I'm a brand new sheep following that shepherd, that doesn't sound comforting. Come here little sheep, I'm glad you're following me. Now I'm going to send you out in the midst of wolves. Thanks a lot. You must not love me. No, I actually love them so much that by sending sheep out into the midst of wolves, my hope is that some of those wolves will become sheep. That is his plan.
That is where the interface comes in. So one of our struggles as believers is balancing the responsibility as believers with God and state. But since we carry both passports, one in this world and one in the next, we need to discover what our obligations are. And we have that outline for us in the first seven chapters of Romans 13. Let's get a sense of it.
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God. And the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God. And those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 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. 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 and Avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore, you must be subject not only because of wrath, but also for conscience sake. For because of this, you also pay taxes.
Uh-oh, now he's getting personal. For they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due. Taxes to whom taxes are due. Customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. Before we jump in and unpack those verses, let me take you back to the governmental structure of the New Testament. Can I do that? Let's go back to the time when Paul was writing this letter. In fact, a little bit before that when Jesus lived in Israel at the time of the New Testament, you need to know that the political background of the New Testament was not a democracy. It was an autocracy.
There was only one governmental structure in power in most of the world, at that time, at least the world we're dealing with, and that is the Roman Empire. Rome had been a republic. Rome had quickly become now a monarchy, if you will, an autocracy, where all of the power was invested in one single individual named Caesar. He had unilateral authority. If he wanted to, and he did, he couldn't take a census of the known world and tax it. And the New Testament even records that.
Caesar in Rome, though he had a Senate around him, Caesar in Rome was considered, at one point in Roman history, to be a God that demanded respect and worship and loyalty. So that every year the citizens of Rome scattered throughout the world and all of their communities had to publicly swear allegiance saying Caesar is Lord. And they were given a little libellus, a little certificate that announced, here's a loyal citizen. The political power in Rome, though vested in one individual, also had around it a Roman Senate. But if you know your history, the Roman Senate was easy access for wealthy patricians, but not so easy for the lower class plebeians. So it was very off kilter, off centered. Power was really all in one person.
We also know that Israel was conquered by Rome. It was part of the Roman government. And to rule Israel, Rome used governors. So you know some of them like Pontius Pilate or Felix and Festus in the book of Acts. But they also had proxies. That is, Rome was benevolent enough to let you keep your language and your customs and even, up to a point, a certain form of government. So Israel was allowed to have a guy by the name of Herod as their King. A King under Rome, but a King nonetheless.
And Herod was called of the Jews. He was the King of Judea. But he had so much power that he was a tyrant. He had unilateral power. He could make a mandate that every male child two years and younger, could be slaughtered in one section of Judea, which he did, without any repercussions at all. He couldn't be impeached, he couldn't be voted out, he couldn't be put in prison. What he said was law.
Now add another layer to that. Slavery abounded. Slavery was an epidemic in Rome. One person said there are three slaves for every one free person. The actual statistic is between one third and one half, depending on what era, between one third and one half of the entire Roman population were slaves. Add to that an oppressive form of taxation to keep that Roman machinery operating and you have a little bit of understanding of what the governmental structure was like at the time Jesus lived and at the time Paul wrote.
With that in mind, we approach Romans 13 once again. And I'm going to show you out of this quickly but definitely, five elements that form the relationship of the Christian to human government. Ready? First element is our role. What is our role with government to be? It'll be summed up in one word in verse 1. It's the word subject. It says let every soul, I think that would include yours, since you are a living person. Every soul is every one of us. So let every soul, including yours and mine, be subject to the governing authorities.
You might automatically have a problem with that. And maybe you're even thinking, well maybe it really doesn't mean what it says it means. So in case you're thinking that, look at verse 5, because he says it again. Therefore, you must be subject. That is an imperative. It is a command. What does that mean, subject? Peter took the same work and translated it. Submit.
The Greek word is a familiar word, Hupotasso. Some of you have heard that before, hupotasso. Comes from two words, hupo, means under. Tasso means to line up. It means to line up under. It was used in a military sense to arrange troops in formation under a leader. When it was used in a non-military sense, it meant a voluntary attitude of cooperation. It was even translated to help carry a burden.
So then the basic role of citizens, including Christian citizens, is to help carry the burden of government by submitting to it. So in a nutshell, believers are not to be subversive, not to be rebellious, not to be troublemakers. But in fact, model citizens. Now why was this important? Why did Paul include this? Because at the time he wrote, and it would get far worse from this point forward, but at the time Paul wrote, Christians were already being viewed very suspiciously in the Roman Empire. And that is because their conduct was so different.
They had their own private meetings. That is, they got together for fellowship. They did not worship the Roman emperor as Lord. And so their actions were already being scrutinized. So Paul thought it was important that they be seen as good citizens without compromising their faith. Now here's what you need to know besides what I told you about the background of their government. What you need to know when Paul said, "let every soul be subject to governing authorities" you need to know who was the governing authority at the time in Rome when he wrote this.
It was a Caesar by the name of, anybody know? Nero. Caesar Nero. Infamous. Caesar Nero would be the very Caesar who took Paul's head off his body. He will be the one responsible, eventually, for Paul's death. Paul, that guy, writes about that guy saying, let every soul be subject to governing authorities.
Now we believe Paul wrote the book of Romans around AD 58. Which means within six years, by AD 64, an event will happen during that year, which some of you know your history. You know about the Great Fire of Rome. There was a fire that broke out in AD 64 In Rome that decimated a lot of the city. Decimated the Palatine Hill, a lot of the buildings. It just destroyed a lot of that great city.
The rumor was, the belief was, and it was spreading across Rome, that the fire was set by none other than Caesar Nero. That he started it. Well, when that was becoming public knowledge, Caesar Nero was thinking quick and he thought, I got to find a scapegoat. I've got to blame this on somebody. So who did he blame? Christians. He said, it's those Christians. They lit the fire.
Now him saying that perpetrated a series of persecutions that were unbelievable. There's even a story that halfway through his reign, Caesar Nero got the idea that he was a great chariot racer. He wasn't. But he thought he was. So he had a track built in Rome where he could race his chariot. And he liked it so much, he wanted to do it not just during the day, but at night. The only problem is Thomas Edison wasn't around to invent a light bulb for him. So there were no electric lights, there was no Benjamin Franklin with a kite.
So to fix the problem so he could raise his chariot at night on that newly constructed track, he ordered his army to round up Christians, impale them on poles or tie them to poles, cover them with pitch and light them a blaze to light up his racetrack at night. That's the Caesar in power when Paul says let every soul be subject to governing authorities, which means we have a problem.
The problem is, what do you do when the world you live in is filled with Caesar Nero's or Adolf Hitler's, or Bashar al-Assad's or Soleimani's or whatever. What do you do? Hold that thought. I'm going to get back to that thought. That's our basic role with government. Be subject. Let me move on now to the second of the five elements.
And that is the rule of government. Let's see how far reaching Paul says this authority goes. Look at verse 1 again, but the second sentence in that verse. For there is no authority except from whom? God. And the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Wow. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God. And those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. It's a very difficult statement. It's difficult. But Paul begins where you ought to begin, and that is with the sovereignty of God. Here's his point, power has only one source, and that source is God. No matter how well, no matter how poorly that power is used, all power comes from God.
If you have trouble with that, you need to understand Jesus had no trouble with that. Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the very man who would demand the execution of Jesus on the cross. And at one point, as they were meeting together, Pilate questioned him and Jesus gave no answer. Had nothing at all to say to him. So Pilate said to Jesus, are you not speaking to me? Do you not know that I have the power to crucify you and the power to release you? Jesus answered, you could have no power at all against me unless it had been given to you from above. Did you hear his answer? Pilate, the only reason you have power is my Father in heaven put you in power. That's Jesus saying that to the guy who's going to send him to death.
Here's another example. Pharaoh. Was he a tyrant in the Old Testament? Yeah. He butchered God's people, persecuted God's people. But in Exodus chapter 9 verse 16, the Lord said to Pharaoh, "for this reason, I have raised you up that I might show my power in you." who raised him up? God raised him up. Here's a third example, Nebuchadnezzar. The self-serving arrogant ruler of Babylon. Had a dream, Daniel came in to interpret the dream. Daniel said to that King the most high rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to whomever he chooses. That's divine sovereignty. That is power.
Now eventually, Nebuchadnezzar will come to understand that. He didn't believe that at this point. But he will, as you know the story. Now, the function of human government began after the flood. You could go all the way back to Genesis chapter 9 and human government was given by God, established by God, as a part of what theologians call common grace. Have you ever heard that term, common grace? Well, common grace means is the benefits or blessings given from God, apart from salvation, for common man. That's not restricted to just believers. That's saving grace.
But opposed to saving grace there is common grace, where God commonly blesses people in this world. Everything from the air we breathe to the beauty of nature. Jesus said the sun shines on the just and on the unjust, that's common grace. The rain falls on the just and the unjust, that is common grace. Government is in that category of common grace. Part of the way God restrains evil in a fallen world is through laws, police forces, judicial systems, that write and rewrite and enforce laws and even armies.
Why armies? Because so much evil is irrational and can only be deterred by force. Now ordained by God, but all of them imperfect. You will not find a perfect form of government, and certainly there is no such thing as a Christian government or a Christian nation, at least yet. There will be in the millennial kingdom, but not now. That is the rule of government.
So we have our role with government. We have the rule of government. Let me give you a third element. And that is the reason for government. Why does it exist? What's the purpose of a government? Well, verse 3 through 5 gives you the answer. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do it as good and you will have praise from the same. 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. By the way, that word sword has a specific reference to capital punishment. It is the sort of execution in its context and in its linguistic roots. For he is God's minister, and Avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore, you must be subject not only because of wrath, but also for conscience sake. So this is the reason for government.
There is a twofold reason Paul says government exists. Paul says government is to be God's servant on earth for two reasons, to protect and to punish. To protect the community and to punish the criminal. But did you notice the word Paul gives to government officials? He uses it three times, minister.
Now this is a different twist. When is the last time you got pulled over by a police officer, roll down your window and thought, there's a minister of God. Hi, Reverend. The word he uses for minister, by the way is the word, diáconos. Diáconos is the Greek word where we get our word deacon. A word that Paul uses for servants in the church.
What he means, by using this term three times in this passage, is this. Governing authorities occupy a divinely appointed office. Which means it's a shame when we have an attitude that is angry and belligerent. When instead we should thank them for enforcing the law. I have a very different attitude than I used to have with police officers. I'll remark on that in a moment.
But I now make it my point, whenever I see a police officer, somebody in government, to thank them for their service. To thank them. Thank them that they're in harm's way. Even when they pull me over and they write me a ticket. And yes, your pastor has gotten tickets. But so have you. And I always make it a point to thank them. It's not easy. I don't like it. I'm not happy, but I do it.
Now when I grew up, I had a very uneasy relationship with law enforcement. Picture a young unsaved California kid who liked motorcycles and he had two. I had two neighbors, they were both brothers, the Latist brothers. Both of more CHP, California Highway Patrol. They in particular did not like motorcycles and young boys riding them, of which I was one of my brother was the other. So they'd pull us over a lot, and hassle us a lot. And so they didn't like me and I was not particularly fond of them.
And then a little bit later, I got a driver's license for a car. As I was getting that, I was driving on the San Bernardino Freeway. I got pulled over by a police officer. I rolled down my window, he said, your offense is you are impeding traffic. Now you may have never heard that before, and perhaps this only happens in California. But I said, what does that mean? He said, you're going too slow.
I said it probably only happens in California. So I said, officer, I was doing the speed limit. He said, I don't care. The whole flow of traffic is going at this speed. If you get in this lane and you slow down, you are impeding traffic and that is a moving violation. I said, sir I promise you I will never let that happen again. So because of that, because of my early altercations with the law, whenever I see a police officer now, you know what I do? I white knuckle the steering wheel. I just kind of panic. It's just sort of a reaction. And I automatically look down at what? The speedometer. And if I'm going 75 I go, oh-uh. If I'm going 45 I say praise God, there's a servant of the Lord.
So the purpose of the government is to protect and to punish. That takes us now to the fourth element that forms our relationship to human government. And that is the response to government. Now we already know what he said, the basic response is to be. And that is to be subject to line up under that authority. But he kind of fleshes that out into a twofold response, verse 6 and 7. For because of this, you also pay taxes. For they are God's ministers.
Think of that IRS now as God's ministers. Boy, you know, that's a stretch. But it's in the word, so I'm going to go with it. For they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Boy, that's an understatement. That's all they think about is how to get my taxes. Rendered therefore to all their due. Taxes to whom taxes are due. Customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. We are to have a twofold response.
Number one, government should be supported, that's where you pay your taxes. Number two, government should be respected. Honor to whom honor, fear to whom fear. Listen, Christian brother, Christian sister, in the very least, you and I need to be very careful how we speak about government authorities and political figures. You may disagree with them. But you are bound by scripture to honor and pray for them. And if you talk about them, I hope most of your words are talking to God about them. That you're praying for them.
When Paul wrote to Timothy in First Timothy he said this. Now keep in mind, again, who's the Caesar on the throne in Rome? Nero. Paul says this to Timothy. I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and Thanksgiving, be made for all people. For kings, and all who are in authority, think Caesar Nero. that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all the godliness and holiness. In these verses he mentions taxation. Now tax supports the function of government. Even though some of our tax money may go for bad causes. You can't say, well, I'm not going to pay taxes if they're going to use my taxes for that. Oh, yeah, you will. Because they bear a sword for that.
However, you may complain about whatever taxes you have to pay. I just want to again, remind you of the taxation in the first century in Israel. They had a system of taxation called tax farming. What that meant is the Roman government gave the tax collector status to the highest bidder. You bought the position. Whoever paid the most for it was granted the position.
Rome assessed a region for its taxation. They didn't care how much you as the tax collector collected, as long as they got what they assessed. You could get twice as much if you wanted to, if you could. And you could pocket the rest. So with this kind of a system, it was open for incredible abuse. One Roman writer even said, only once in his life, and it was in Athens, did he ever see a monument to an honest tax collector. Because they were so rare.
What kind of taxes did they pay? Let me tell you about it. Every citizen paid what it's called the poll tax. The poll tax. P-O-L-L. Every male aged 14 to age 65, every female aged 12 to age 65, paid a poll tax. What's a poll tax? It's being taxed on breathing air. For being alive, age 12 or 14 to age 65, you paid the poll tax. That's just for you living.
On top of that, there was the income tax, a flat 10% rate. On top of that were taxes for roads and harbors. On top of that were import taxes. On top of that, we're not done yet, was it the ground tax. One tenth of all the grain or the proceeds of the grain, one tenth of all of it went to Rome. One fifth of all of the wine or proceeds went to Rome.
Then there was the fish tax. The fish tax, you were taxed on how many nets you would throw out into the lake or into the sea. You were then taxed on every single fish that your net caught. On top of that, there was called the cart tax. If you had a cart, you were taxed on the number of wheels you had on your cart. So the wheelbarrow was your friend. If you can get by putting everything in a one-wheel vehicle, great. If you require four wheels to distribute weight, you'll be taxed for it. So people lived under this oppressive taxation by an oppressive government, OK.
Into that world was born Jesus Christ. The Messiah. As soon as he came people thought, most people thought he was a political messiah. They wanted him to take political sides. The Jewish belief is that the Messiah will be a political ruler who will give them freedom from the oppressive yoke of Rome.
But then Jesus spoke and he lived. And he made no call for a political insurrection. He never tried to win a culture war. He never tried to overturn the tax code. He never really even addressed social issues. And there were plenty of them to go around like slavery, like bad treatment of orphans, bad treatment of widows. Was he aware of those things, yes. Did they break his heart, yes. He knew the great needs, but he did not come to enact a social revolution.
He came for a spiritual revolution. He came to save people. Because he knew if a person is saved, that saved person changes their lifestyle. And so if you want to change a country, get a person saved, get that family saved, get that community saved. And that will spill out into a whole different way of life. That's what he did.
People were not happy with him doing that. They still wanted him to take political sides. So you had one group and another group to try to get him to be a political figure. There were the Pharisees. The Pharisees hated the Romans. The Pharisees didn't want to pay taxes. On the other hand, there were a group called the Herodians. Remember them in the New Testament? They were Judea's who believed in the loyalty to the family of Herod and the Roman government. Believe you should pay taxes. The Pharisees and the Herodians hated each other. Until the day they didn't.
Because they both hated Jesus, they tried to trap Jesus. And they asked him a question. Master, Jesus, is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? You know why they ask him that question? They wanted to start a rebellion. A riot. A revolution. They wanted Jesus to take political sides. Oh, there's another group. Besides the Pharisees and the Herodians, there was a volatile group known as the Zealots. You remember reading about them in your New Testament?
Zealots were Jewish nationalists. They refused, absolutely, to pay taxes. And a group of them staged terrorist attacks. Mideast terrorism is not new. There were a group of these Zealots called Sicarii. They were dagger carriers. And they staged terrorist attacks to kill the Roman oppressors. But get this, their rebellion was all based on scripture. They would often quote the text out of Deuteronomy 17, you shall not set a foreigner over you who is not your brother.
So you got Pharisees and Herodians and Zealots and Sicarii, and all trying to get Jesus into their little political thing. So they say, master, can you pay taxes to Caesar or not? Don't you love Jesus' answer, Matthew 22-21. He said, give me a coin. Held it up. He said, whose mug is on this coin? Whose face is, whose inscription is on there? He said, Caesar's. Put it down. And he said, then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. And give to God what belongs to God. That ended their argument. He said yeah, pay your taxes. But give to God what belongs to God.
So back to Romans 13. God is honored when his earthly representatives are seen as stabilizers in society. Not rebels. The central issue here is basic. A good Christian is a good citizen. Not only because there are laws that impose that on him. But he says in verse 5, for conscience sake, for a clear conscience.
Speaking of a clear conscience, I've always loved the story about the guy who had a guilty conscience. So he wrote the IRS. The letter said dear sirs, I cannot sleep. Last year when I filed my income tax return, I deliberately misrepresented my income. Now I can't sleep. So enclosed is a check for $150. Well, that's pretty cool. He came clean. But he ended by saying, if I still can't sleep, I'll send you the rest.
Yeah, let me just give you enough payment to ease my guilty conscience. If that doesn't work, I'll pay you what I really owe you. By the way, according to Forbes magazine, 7 million Americans fail to file their income tax returns every year. That's 5%. And you can try to justify that. Well, they would spend it on things I don't agree with. So what? Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Render to God what belongs to God. The point of Romans 13 is God is the ultimate authority. And if the ultimate authority says submit to intermediate authorities, guess what? Then you line up under them.
Now this brings up an issue, and I told you I'd get back to this. Is there ever a time, is there ever a time for civil disobedience? I'm glad you asked. That brings us to our fifth element that forms our relationship to human government. I call this the rival against government. I'm going to play off a word in verse 5, it's the word conscience. Notice verse 5. Therefore, you must be subject, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience sake.
Let me explain that quickly. The context is that God has given us a conscience. A conscientious recognition that government is God given. So by submitting to authority, that gives us a clear conscience, generally. But what about when it doesn't? What about when the government violates God's law and we know that, and now we have an uneasy conscience. What if the government is violating clear scriptural principles and your conscience is violated? Paul said, I always live to have a clear conscience before God and men. But what if the state passes laws or policies that oppose God given laws? Let me make it more complicated.
Picture yourself, put yourself in these shoes. You are living in 1850s America. You live in the south. You happen to be the owner of a quite large plantation and you have working on your plantation a number of people that are slaves. You have become a Christian and you're starting see a moral problem with this. This is wrong. Humans shouldn't be owned and treated this way. I feel uneasy about this. Yet, this keeps the economy going. It feeds my family.
But then you read in the newspaper that your area, the South, is waging a war on the north to secede from the Union. What do you do? Do you stay in the South? Do you run across that line to the north? It's a moral dilemma. What do you do with that? Or let me move you ahead a little bit. You're a politician in 1930s Germany. Everybody's so excited about this new ruler, this fúhrer. Adolf Hitler and his Third Reich. It seems so promising.
Adolf Hitler gets a hold of you and offers you a high ranking position in his Third Reich. But you come to realize that he has an incredible antipathy to the Jewish people. And you come to realize this is wrong, morally. What he says about them, what he says he's planning for them. But as a believer, you remember Romans chapter 13, be subject to governing authorities. And maybe you even justify it by saying, well, Daniel was able to work in a very ungodly political environment. So was Joseph with Pharaoh for that matter.
So is there ever a time when believers obligation to civil authority is negated? Yes. Yes. Yes. And here's the rule. Here's the principle. We submit to the government up to the point when obeying the government means disobeying God. When the government says, don't do this and God says do it, you do it and disobey the government. If the government says the opposite, to violate a clear command of God, you obey God.
Are there scriptural examples of this? Tons of them. I'll spare you. I'll give you only five or six. Number one, Pharaoh. He was in charge. He was of the powers that be. He gave a law. He ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill all the newborn baby boys who were Hebrews. What did they do? They said no. They refused to obey. Exodus chapter one, but the midwives feared God and did not do as the King of Egypt commanded. That's civil disobedience.
Second example, Nebuchadnezzar ordered Daniel and all of his Jewish recruits to eat the delicacies from his table. Daniel was a kosher Jewish boy. Daniel, chapter one, but Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with a portion of the King's delicacies or the wine which he offered. Civil disobedience.
Third example, the same King Nebuchadnezzar commanded an image to be built, a golden image. Commanded everybody in the realm to bow down before that image. There were three Hebrew workers on his staff. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we know them by their Babylonian names, or Hebrew names, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They said no way Jose. They refused to do it and took the consequence of death, if that was the case. In Daniel chapter 3 they said, we do not serve your gods nor worship the golden image.
Fast forward a few years to a new King in Babylon named Darius. Darius made a decree that for a month, for 30 days, no one could pray to any other God except himself, the Babylonian God. Daniel refused to do it. And in Daniel chapter 6, he opened his windows toward Jerusalem. So he's inviting eyes to come in and like, see what I'm doing? I can't do it. Watch. He opened the windows toward Jerusalem, knelt down on his knees three times that day, prayed and gave thanks before God. Almost cost him his life.
Here's another one, a fifth one, the Jewish Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, the powers that be in Jerusalem, mandated a law. Passed a law that you could not speak the name of Jesus publicly anymore in that city. Peter and John found out and said, pft with that. I'm going to go out right now and preach the gospel. So they went out and did it. They get arrested. The powers that be said, why are you doing this? We gave an order. We gave a command. It's a law. I love their answer, act chapter five, we must obey God rather than men. That is civil disobedience. Because to obey man would be to disobey God, and they said, we'd rather offend you and take the consequences than offend God.
There are other examples we could point to. We could look at Dietrich Bonhoeffer who violated laws that Nazi Germany passed. He was killed for it. We could talk about William Wilberforce taking the laws in Great Britain of slavery to overturn them in the parliament. But Eric will talk about that next week. But you and I are confronted with issues today. Laws on same sex marriage, laws on abortion. We are confronted with a society that says this is OK. And we go, no it's not.
Here's the rule, and we close with this. Here's the rule. A Christian is to be a good citizen until being a good citizen means being a bad Christian. That's the rule. That could sum all of what we said up. A Christian is to be a good citizen until being a good citizen means being a bad Christian. In closing, we could discuss all day the idea of our relationship with government and what about this and what about that. But there is a bigger issue. We're talking about what should I render to Caesar?
You know Jesus said. Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but what else did he say? Render to God what belongs to God. So a coin may have the image of Caesar stamped on it. You have the image of God stamped on you. You're made in the image of God. God wants you. You should surrender your life to Him. That's what God wants. That's where we begin. That's where we should all begin, in subjection and submission to the one who has stamped his image on us as a special creation. My earnest hope and prayer. Beyond being a good citizen for y'all, beyond did you keep the speed limit on the way home from church, my big issue is have you rendered to God what belongs to him? You.
Father, we close with this incredibly profound thought that you created us so we are yours by that fact. But then you sent Jesus to buy us back to you. We call that redemption. And if we are believers, we are yours by creation and by redemption. You own us. We are your slaves. We are your servants. You are our master. And what benevolent relationship that is, though we are your slaves, to be your slave really is to be Royalty, is to be a King or a Queen. And so my prayers for those who have yet to surrender their life to Jesus is that on this day and going forward, they would give you control over their lives.
If you have not done that yet, if you're here in this service or you're watching online or watching by television or radio or internet, how about right now you say a simple prayer, mean it from your heart. If you mean it, say this. Say:
Lord, I give you my life, I surrender. I know that I'm a sinner. I am sorry. I turn from my sin. I turn to Jesus as my Savior. I believe you sent him to die for me on a cross. I believe he rose from the dead and conquered death. And I take his offer for ever lasting life by believing in him. And I want to follow him. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.