The Christian and Government, Part 2 (Romans Sermon 99 of 120)
April 30, 2006 | Andrew Davis
Government & Authority
Introduction: Life in Two Kingdoms
At the center of the universe, both visible and invisible, there is a throne, and seated on that throne is Almighty God. And if you had the privilege that the Apostle John did in Revelation 4, of hearing a command, "Come up here and I will show you," what you would see is you would see that throne with everything centered around that throne, and all of Heaven ordered around the will of the one seated on the throne. But we live in an Earth in which that fact, that central fact of the universe visible and invisible, is systematically obscured and denied by the father of all lies, Satan. The essence of his lie is rebellion against that thrown, that's the essence of it.
And we, the human race, joined in his rebellion through our ancestor Adam. And we have, as a race, been in rebellion ever since. And therefore the essence of the saving work of God is to take sinners like you and me, who are in essence, in rebellion against authority, in essence, in rebellion against God and restore us back into glad submission to that throne that I mentioned a moment ago. That's what he's doing. That is the saving work of Jesus Christ and therefore he began his Gospel ministry in Matthew 4:17, by preaching this "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." And so I can't do any better than to say the same thing to you. Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
We have to repent. We have to come back under glad submission to the authority of God. That's the essence of our salvation and that's the joy of preaching that I actually could be instrumental through the power of the Spirit to help you and me do that very thing, repent and come gladly, under the yoke of Christ. Now, God, in His wisdom established human governments to help those who have not yet fully repented, who have not come back fully under the authority of that central throne to make it through this world without anarchy. And He has ordained human governments and He has ordained that we, His people, His adopted children should submit to those human governments.
Now in Romans 1-11, we saw 11 chapters of doctrine. And how it is that God has worked in history through Christ to take sinners, rebels like us and redeem us, save us, cover over our rebellion, transform us by the power of the Spirit into new creations and bring us into a whole new way of life. Romans 1-11 in about four seconds... Alright? A hundred sermons about four seconds of summary. That is what God is doing through the cross, he's taking sinners and bringing us back under the throne.
In chapters 12-16, He's explaining to us what our lives here in this world are going to look like as a result. Again, with Francis Schaeffer answering the question, "How then shall we live? How shall we live in light of Romans 1-11? And as we come to Romans 13:1-7, the issue is, how Shall a Christian, a spirit-filled Christian live with secular government? What is a godly way for us to live under secular government? In essence, the scripture is teaching that we are citizens of two different countries. And the fact that they are different makes for serious challenges.
Now, in the year 410 AD, the Western world was shocked to its foundation by a historical fact and that is that Alaric and the Goths sacked the city of Rome, burned it, they conquered the Western Roman Empire. It was shocking. Rome is burning, the eternal city under pagan boots, the Western Roman Empire conquered? And that was a little less than a 100 years after Constantine had declared himself to be a Christian. There were some critics, some pagans within the Western Roman Empire saying Christianity has weakened the Roman Empire. It did fine before Christianity became the official state religion. Now look, we're weak. And some wondered if with the fall of the so-called Eternal City, that Christianity would fall with it because the Roman Empire had been protecting Christianity, had been taking all of its might, and its political machinery and military strength, and protecting the Christian faith. So some people thought.
Well, there was a man at the time who knew better, and his name was Saint Augustine. And three years after the fall of Rome, he wrote one of the most greatest works, City of God. And what He says in the City of God is that basically Christians are members of an Eternal City but it isn't Rome. It's the Eternal City, the new Jerusalem which will come down out of heaven from God that we are citizens of the city of God but we are also citizens of another city, the city of man.
And the city of man is represented by the rise and fall of one human government after another. Characterized by wars and rumors of wars and good kings and bad kings and all kinds of politics and machinery and all of that, that's the city of man. The challenge is that we Christians are called to be good citizens of the city of God and the city of man at the same time, and that's a problem. Because the city of man is made up of sinners who rule and reign sometimes very unjustly. And we are led to a problem.
Now, this dual citizenship that we're talking about is clearly established in the life of the Apostle Paul. Paul was a Roman citizen and he claimed that status again and again consistently claimed to be a Roman citizen. For that's what he was. And he used it at a key times. For example, in Acts 22, he was being stretched out to be flogged by some Roman soldiers and he mentioned to one of them, "Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty?" Ahh. Shock? So they went and got the Roman commander and he hurried immediately to Paul and the commander went to Paul and says, "'Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?' 'Yes, I am,' he answered. Then the commander said, 'I had to pay a big price for my citizenship.' 'But I was born a citizen,' Paul replied," a Roman citizen.
But yet Paul says to the residents of Philippi who are Christians, who just by the fact that they were members of the city of Philippi, were also themselves Roman citizens. He said our citizenship, Philippians 3:20, is in heaven. "Our citizenship is in heaven and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." We are citizens of whatever Rome we're under and we're also citizens of God. Citizens of the city of God.
Now, that dual citizenship is going to bring us into some problems. And those issues, those ethical questions have plagued and troubled brothers and sisters in Christ for 20 centuries. Now you have in your outline there six ethical questions. As I kept writing and writing and writing on this sermon and we passed the 20-page mark, I said, now, that's too much alright?
Because each one of those six ethical questions is the source of book after book, after book. And so therefore, we're going to have to do it in two weeks, not just this one week, but next week, and even then it will not be enough. We're going to talk about how we can be good citizens of the city of God and at the same time, good citizens of the city of man. We're going to ask some questions right in our text, we're going to ask questions. Is it lawful or right for Christians to pay taxes to a pagan government? Especially if we have a sense that that government is going to use our tax money for immoral things, what should we do about that? Right in our text, we'll look at that today. We're also going to start the first of those six ethical questions today, the others will remain till next week.
1. Are there limits to the obedience that Paul commands to secular government? Is submission to government absolute or are there limits to it? Next week, we're going to look at these.
2. Are there limits to opposition to secular government, for example, is armed revolt against a lawfully ordained government ever permissible?
3. We're going to talk about capital punishment, is it right for a human government to take human life?
4. We're going to talk about Christians participating in government, how much and in what manner, may Christians or ought Christian to participate in government?
5. And what about persecuted Christians, what should Christians do concerning the persecution of Christians by government either in our country or in other countries, what's our responsibility there?
6. And then this one question that has plagued so many, the issue of Christians in war, is it right for Christians to be involved in war? Should we follow the dictates of our government, if we're drafted or called to go fight for our country, etcetera, as citizens of a higher country are we to obey that call? We'll talk about that next week now.
We're not going to answer every single question. We're not going to solve every riddle that will rise in your mind. What then is our purpose? Well, to bring some clarity to these issues and specifically more than anything to make you yearn and long for the day when Jesus Christ himself will set up his throne and God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven, Amen. And I'm yearning for that and yes, to try to bring some insight and some truth to each of these ethical questions.
My desire is that you would gladly happily submit to whatever authority God has established, to do it with delight and joy as far as you are able, but to have the wisdom to know when you are no longer able, when government for example, has crossed the line and is now compelling you to do something that will violate scripture or forbidding you to do something that God has commanded you to do, to know how to say no.
I. Government in the Bible: Basic Principles
Now, last time that we looked at this, we looked at some basic principles of human government in the Bible. First we established as I already did at the beginning of my sermon that God is Lord of Heaven and Earth. He rules over all things. Secondly, we talked about how God has delegated some of his authority to created beings. A third, we said that God will judge both the rulers and the subjects by how they handle the relationship. The rulers will be judged and the subjects, the citizens will be judged by what they do with it. Fourth, we said that God, actively, sovereignly rules over the ebbs and flows of history. He hasn't just let it go, he hasn't just delegated authority and then said, "Don't bother me with the details." God is intensely involved in the details and rules over all things.
And we talked about how good government is a blessing from God for which we should be grateful. That it restrains chaos and evil. That it promotes and demonstrates God's passion for justice. It promotes order and peace and this order and peace is essential to the spread of the Gospel and to the ability we have to lead productive and godly lives in quietness as it says in one passage. And that good government encourages love and good deeds. And the key passage for a government as a good thing is Romans 13, as we've seen.
We also said there's another theme and that is that bad government is a work of the devil, that bad government is a curse from the devil and the key passage on that is Revelation 13. It's easy to remember. There's a certain parallelism. Romans 13, government a good gift from God. Revelation 13, bad government a beast from the sea under the influence of the dragon, and that's what you have and therein lies the problem.
II. Command #1: Submit to Human Government
Now, the key passage for what we should do, Romans 13:1-7, Paul gives essentially, two basic commands. Command number one is submit for the Lord's sake, to every authority instituted among men. Submit to human government. And secondly, what we're going to look at this morning, give to the human government whatever it deserves, whatever you owe it, whether taxes or revenue, respect, honor whatever. And we'll talk about that today.
Now, the command to submit, verse one, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities." We talked about that. It means a glad submission, gladly accepting a subordinate position, because it is glorifying to God. Submission we saw it was not demeaning or insulting in any way, and this command was given to everybody. Every soul literally must submit himself to the governing authorities, but especially to Christians. We listed... Paul listed seven reasons in verse one through five, I'm not going to go through them again.
You can get the message and listen to it again. But, basically, Paul is saying Christians are not in the business of overthrowing Nero. We're not gonna be organizing to throw off the Roman government, that's not what we're about. We have another calling. And so, submit. That's what he says.
III. Command #2: Support Human Government
But he says here in the second command, they're to go beyond merely submitting, they're to actively support human government by paying taxes and revenue and respect and honor, look at verse six and seven. "This is also why you pay taxes for the authorities are God's servants who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him. If you owe taxes, pay taxes, if revenue then revenue, if respect then respect, if honor then honor."
Was it shocking to you to see the cover photo there on the bulletin, that nasty 1040? You thought you were done with that a few weeks ago and here it is right on the cover of your worship bulletin of all things. What were they thinking? But that's how we pay taxes to the federal government. So it seemed appropriate to put the 1040 on there. This is what Paul is commanding. He's commanding that we should pay taxes. Now, resentment over the payment of taxes is not a new thing. Don't think it began with you when you finally started making enough money to have to pay a federal tax and file a 1040, it didn't start with You. Benjamin Franklin said "Nothing is certain but death and taxes." Do you think he spoke it gladly?
Was he speaking as an act of gladness and worship? I am so glad about those taxes we get to pay. It's an old thing. I think about the revolution itself, "taxation without representation." That was the issue. They did not think it was right for them to be taxed without having representation at parliament. Recently I was driving to the District of Columbia and I noticed that all of the license plates say the same thing, "Taxation Without Representation" at the bottom, why? Because DC's not the member of any state and so there's no senators from that city and so they're arguing for DC statehood as a result, taxation without representation. Got me to thinking I thought it was interesting.
Resentment over Taxes is an Ancient Issue
But it's an issue. And many people have expressed to me how much they hate filing their 1040. It's not a happy time, it's not something they look on as an act of worship but you know, resentment over taxes goes further back than that. Even to Bible times, taxes were a big issue of Jesus' life. If you think about where he was born in fulfillment of prophecy Bethlehem.
We know that it was because of the census that Caesar Augustus took of the entire Roman world, and behind that census (scholars are right in telling us) were taxes, so that the people would pay the tax and also so that they would have a sense of the population mass in each area, so they'd know how many troops to put, the legions... Where... How to distribute the legions. But it was about taxes. And so, because of taxes, Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea.
But then in Jesus' ministry was a major feature. Tax collectors were among the most hated people that Jesus ever ministered to. Everybody hated the tax collectors. Tax collectors were Jews who had gone over to the Roman side and were benefiting from the Roman occupation by collecting taxes and with the might of the Roman authority and military strength behind them, sometimes, read every day, collecting more taxes than they really needed to collect. And so they were filthy rich and very hated by the people. Moreover, they were in constant conversation with Gentiles, eating and drinking with them and going in their houses and breaking all the kosher rules and all this kind of thing. They were just ritually unclean all the time, and so tax collectors were the epitome of evil people to most Jews.
Zealots hated the Romans, hated the tax collectors, hated the payment of tax and would have at any moment organized themselves and actually frequently did around that time, organize themselves to fight the Romans. Isn't it amazing how one of Jesus' disciples was Matthew the tax collector and another was Simon the zealot? And how both of them came to realize that allegiance to the city of God, the kingdom of Christ was higher than any of their earthly political callings and they became brothers and friends and loved each other deeply from the heart. Isn't it magnificent how God did that, how Christ brought them together. Now, Christ taught twice directly about taxes.
Taxes and Christ
Once was about the temple tax, the money that you would have to pay to go worship. And Jesus asked Peter, a principle, said, "'From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes, from their own sons or from others?' 'From others,' Peter said. 'Then the sons are exempt.'" Jesus said. What an interesting statement. In other words, should a son have to pay money to get in his own home? Now, before you parents get any ideas as a fundraising measure and all that, it will not work because the money they're giving you, for the most part, it'll be your own money anyway, and you'd just be building up resentment, charging your kids to get in the door, alright don't do it.
Jesus said, No, They're free to come and go. Why should we have to pay money to be in my Father's house? "But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line fishermen and take the first fish you catch, and open its mouth, and there inside the mouth, you'll find what you need to pay the tax four drachma coin. Take it and use it for my tax and yours."
You're thinking. "Oh, Lord, do it for me, do it for me." I'm wondering what would be in a fish's mouth that would be enough to pay the federal government at this point. Any check in there is long since disgusting, and you can't cash it. So I'm not sure what it would be. Federal government took in $2.1 trillion in tax money last year, spent 2.4 trillion. We'll get to that next time. But $2.1 trillion, that's a lot of money. But the more direct teaching on taxes came in Matthew 22 when some of Jesus' enemies came to try to get him in trouble concerning the tax money paid to the Romans. And they came to trap Him and said, "Is it right?" They come to Him, the Pharisees come with Herodians and they say, "Teacher, we know that you're a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, since you pay no attention to who they are," that is all fluff.
You can just cut that and throw it in the garbage that is flattery, and Jesus knew it. "Tell us… is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" Now we get to it, let's not waste time on the flatter. Let's get to the point, Jesus said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?" Now, what is the trap? If Jesus says it is unlawful for us to have to pay money to stay in our own Promised Land, God promises to Abraham and we should not be paying taxes to the Romans as a result, what do you think is going to happen to Jesus. Next day, Romans come and they get him, and they kill him. But suppose he says "Or yes, we do need to pay taxes to the Romans. Romans are our rightful overlords," then the zealots are going to get him. Either way, they get rid of Jesus. And that was their goal.
So he said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." Oh, the brilliance of Jesus. We're playing Tiddlywinks, he's playing 80 million level chess, at the higher level. You think you can trap Jesus, the mind that created the universe? You think you can put him where he doesn't want to be and he can't get out? "'Show me the coin used for paying the tax.' They brought Him a Denarius. 'Whose portrait is this, and whose inscription?' 'Caesars,' they replied. Then he said to them, 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God's."
They were amazed. What are we going to do with that? We can't do anything with that. He openly said we should pay taxes to Caesar, we can't get him but then he says we should give to God what is God's. And what are the zealots going to say about that, other than hopefully to be humbled to know they're not giving to God everything he deserves. Oh, what an answer. That is the backdrop of Paul's command here in Romans 13:6-7. Yes, you should pay taxes. And Paul's reasoning, here in verse six, he said, this is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants. Do you see that word servants in verse six? The authorities are God's servants who give their full time to governing.
Literally, God's ministers, like a minister of the gospel, Paul uses the exact same word in Romans 15:16, Paul there calls himself a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the Gospel of God. He uses the exact same word for the Governor Official. He's a minister of God with the priestly duty of keeping society together. It's just a different calling, he says. Very high view here. And therefore, the taxes you pay as you render to Caesar what's Caesar's enables that servant of God to do His work. They must be supported financially, because they give their full time to governing and so they have to be supported, so pay them the taxes.
Taxes to a Pagan Empire?
Now, some Christians might have objected to paying taxes to a pagan empire and a wicked ruler like Nero. They might say, "Why should we take God's money and give it in support to a wicked empire like that to help advance a wicked anti-Christian Empire?" they might have struggled with that. Does God really expect us to contribute financially to that? His answer is, Yes, that's your responsibility, it's his responsibility what he does with it and he'll stand accountable for what he does. But you must pay that tax. Christians struggle with that, I might say is it right for me to pay taxes to a federal government whose goal is to keep abortion safe, legal, and funded?
Do you want your money going for that? I don't. I was thinking of another idea. You know how in some churches, you can designate giving? Why don't we do that with the federal government, we designate our taxes. I'd like it going to bridges and roads. Well, I favor educational programs. I'm into famine relief, relief for the poor, whatever. Well, can you imagine what society would look like, the things that would be super over-funded, and the other things that would not even be touched? It would be kind of interesting. I don't think that my plan is going to be adopted designated giving to the federal government, I don't think so.
They will decide what they do with the taxes, and they're responsible for their decisions, aren't they? But you must pay taxes.
Paul Goes Beyond Taxes
But Paul goes beyond the basic level of paying taxes. He says in verse seven, "Give everyone what you owe him. If you owe taxes, pay taxes. Yes. But if revenue then revenue, if respect then respect, if honor then honor." There's a sense of obligation and debt here. We owe these people more than just the taxes. Yes, the taxes, the tribute, the word taxes, this is usually collected from all individual citizens as a tribute to the Roman overlord just to keep the government going. But then there's this other word revenues. These are fees and taxes more like a sales tax or a poll tax for using... Bringing a ship into a port of entry or using a bridge or some of these other things like a toll road.
When I was in Japan, my wife and I, we crossed over one of the longest bridges in the world, the Seto Ohashi bridge, and it's actually a series of long bridges that connects the Island of Shikoku to the main land... Main island of Honshu, and it was an incredible bridge but it cost as almost actually over $100, the equivalent of $100 to drive it. I thought what a tax! I'd rather swim, of course, I wouldn't have made it. $100 to cross a bridge? Wow!
Yeah. Pay taxes, whatever it is. But go beyond just the payment. There's the issue of fear and honor, a sense of respect. Every society has its way of showing respect to leaders. If you were going to meet the Queen of England, you might first have an interview with the protocol officer who'd tell you what you as a commoner would be required to do and you better do it if you ever hope to have another audience which you probably won't get anyway. But the point is that you are going to show respect to the Queen of England in a certain way. And what Paul's saying here is, that's appropriate. Do it. Do it. Whatever it takes.
When I was in Kenya, on another mission trip, I saw the President of the country, Daniel Arap Moi. He was driving through a little town named after him called Moi's Bridge, and I was standing there surrounded my Kenyan friends, and for some reason I stood out. I don't know why, but I just did, and he saw me and pointed and waved. So I was wondering why but at any rate, maybe he just knew I was a guest in his home town. But he carried a Maasai stick, an older man's or an elder of the tribe stick as a symbol of his authority in the government.
I asked one of my friends, I said, "If somebody came and kinda grabbed that stick, what would happen to him?" He said, "He wouldn't get two steps. He'd be cut down. It's a symbol of his presidential authority." And so it is also these protocols. In our country, we say to the President, Mr. President. Yes sir and no sir, that's what you do, and what Paul's saying is it's appropriate.
When you're in a court of law, you say Yes, your honor, no your Honor. You just do, and that's appropriate. It's right. And these things are taught in families to begin with, aren't they? Children should address their parents reverentially. There should be titles of respect. Some families say yes or no sir, others. Yes mom, no mom, something like that but not just, Yeah, or whatever, as though the person you're talking to is a Yeah or whatever kind of person.
Those people that we're referring to are referred to in the 10 Commandments. Written with the finger of God, Honor your father and mother, there it says, and so therefore you honor them by a show of honor, by speaking title of respect, and from then the parents should be saying any other governmental authority, whatever show respect, speak with respect to them from the very beginning. So therefore, how should Christians live with government?
Well, we should understand that in so doing all of this submission, paying taxes, titles of honor, we are really worshiping God, aren't we? It's all flowing down from God's throne. It is a gift of the wise and loving God. And so therefore, every way that we show honor and that we submit, we're really worshiping God, aren't we? We're doing it because He established. And we're doing it in hope looking forward to the day when it will be Christ and Christ alone, directly and we will worship Him. It's an act of worship.
IV. Six Key Ethical Questions
Now, six key ethical questions in the two hours we have left. Why are you laughing? No, we'll just do one of them.
Limits to Obedience: Is submission to government absolute or are there limitations?
And the first is, okay, you've given the command, we should submit. The question is, is that absolute? Is it absolute? Does Government have the right to command any and everything it will to us and we must obey? That is an important question.
Some Christians have taken Romans 13 as a requirement for unquestioning submission to human government. Others have taken the submission quite far. For example, Martin Luther did, German reformer. During the peasant Revolt of 1525, when the peasants who had legitimate grievances against their medieval overlords and who were legitimately right in bringing these grievances to the attention of their lords were not receiving any proper response and decided to revolt, the peasant Revolt of 1525, they thought that they would get support from Luther. Oh, how bitterly disappointed they were when Luther wrote one of his most vicious tracks ever, 1525 against the murderous and thieving hoards of peasants. That's not looking good, if you're a peasant reading that saying I don't think it's looking good. You open it up and you read. And he says to the princes and Nobles that they should crush kill and destroy these rebellious peasants. And his basic argumentation was they were rebelling against what God had ordained, God-ordained authority.
The German sense of duty and submission to authority is a very strong national trait. They have a very strong sense of a chain of command. And we saw in the time of Hitler and the Nazis, the extreme form of this. As the Nazis took over the Protestant church in Germany, and made it its whipped pup with the exception of some courageous pastors who formed the Confessing Church and Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of those and were willing to pay the price for rebellion against Nazi domination over the church. But they argued Romans 13, Romans 13, Romans 13.
This question of the limits of Christian submission to government is really an old one and the Bible has much to say about it. Peter and John were commanded by the Sanhedrin. They were given a very clear command by the Sanhedrin to stop preaching Christ and His resurrection. And their answer, Peter and John's answer in my opinion, stands for all time as a limit to Christian submission to government, a limit to it. In Acts 4:18-19, they called them in again, and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus, but Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God for we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."
Alright, now what's the key though? Judge for yourselves whether it's right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. Now that "rather than" is huge, isn't it? You have to discern, are you forced to disobey God by this government injunction? Are you being forced to do something that violates your conscience? Are you being forbidden to do something that God's commanded you to do? Now, that's the issue.
Later on in Acts the same issue comes up again. They call them back in. Say we noticed you're not obeying the command we gave you earlier. Well, they could say we already told you, and they did tell them again in Acts Chapter five, having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. "'We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, he said, and yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood.' Peter and the other apostles, replied, 'We must obey God rather than men.'" Again, "rather than". When the government forces you to violate your conscience, compelling you to do something that you know will break one of God's commandments or when the government forbids you to do something God has commanded you to do, you must say no. There's a limit to obedience, a limit to what the government can do with us.
And it goes even into the Old Testament. The Hebrew midwives were blessed by God by disobeying, after disobeying Pharaoh's command to kill all the boy babies, they were blessed by God for that. And the Book of Daniel gives us actually repeated examples of godly people who refuse to obey an ungodly command and yet maintained a stance of submission to the government. Daniel and his friends would not eat the defiled food in chapter one, but they asked permission not to eat the defiled food. In Daniel Chapter three, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego will not bow down to Nebuchadnezzar's gold statue. They're thrown in a fiery furnace but God rescues them. And then Nebuchadnezzar comes and gives them a lawful command. "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the most high God, come out, come here."
Now, I've thought before they should said, "Come in and get us. Deal with that right now." Of course that's me speaking because I'm kind of rebellious at heart and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not. They said, "Yes, King." And they came out. They did what they were told, it was a lawful command. Come out. Alright, that doesn't violate my conscience, bowing down does. You see the distinction? There's a difference.
And then later, Daniel refused to obey the unjust command of prohibition against prayer. He was prohibited from praying to God. He could pray to king Darius but he was not allowed to pray to the true God. He went ahead and bowed down and was thrown in the lion's den. And he says, when he's brought out, he says, "I was found innocent in his [God's] sight nor have I done anything against you, O King." He was submissive to the king's authority but not on that point. And so he refused to obey.
Christians suffering persecution under the Romans were forced to burn a pinch of incense to the deity of the Roman Emperor. They refused to do it, that would violate their conscience and many of them suffered as martyrs, as a result. Now, I tell you and be ready for it, be ready for it. So I don't know what the future holds. But in the future when human government gets as evil as it can be under the reign of the anti-Christ, the government at that time will try to compel you to receive the mark of the beast without which you will not be able to buy or sell. And you will need to discern and have the wisdom, it says, to know what the mark of the beast is and not receive it. You will need to stand firm. And apparently, anyone who does not receive the mark of the beast is going to be beheaded. You will need to resist the government at this point, because the command is evil, and wicked.
And so it says in Revelation 13:16-17, "He [the anti-Christ] also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark which is the name of the beast or the number of his name." What's so bad about that? Well, Revelation 14, "A third angel followed them, said in a loud voice, 'If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he too will drink the cup of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of His wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest, day or night for those who worship the beast and his image."
In other words, in that era, if you don't defy human government, you will lose your soul. And this is the horns of the dilemma of living in two kingdoms. Do you see it? God has said No, the government will say yes, and you'll be forced. Be ready, be ready for that time. God will give you courage what to say. Why would you want to keep living under anti-Christ reign, anyway, when you could live under the reign of Christ, when you can be freed from this world by martyrdom, and go into the very presence of Christ. Why would you refuse to do that? And you won't if you're the elect of God, not one of you will. Just be ready, be aware it could happen in your lifetime or mine. Romans 13 says we must gladly as an act of worship submit to lawfully ordained authority. We must do that but there are limits to it.
V. Summary and Application
Now, what application can we take from this? Well, I would urge you to find the points inside you in which you are chafing under human authority and government and work on them. Humble yourself. I had an experience this past week, I went to Louisville to a great conference, had a great time, until I got to the Louisville Airport. And here I am. You preach on something and within a week or two, you're facing it. And there I was at the checkpoint thing again, taking my shoes off, dumping out my bag, spilling stuff on the ground, getting out my laptop, taking my belt off, hoping that I didn't need it for the next minute or so. I didn't. Everything was fine but it's very disturbing fluttering time. And you've got 10 people behind you, and I'm kind of a people pleaser. I want to just get through it as quickly as possible.
And there on the other side is a guy who looked like he'd come straight from the Marines or something, 6'2", crew cut, looking kind of beyond me, over my shoulder. "Step forward, sir." It was kind of disturbing. Well, I had put my boarding pass and my driver's license in my breast pocket here for safekeeping. Have you ever put something for safe keeping and then you can't find it? Now, that document had already been checked four times. I do not exaggerate. But I stepped through the metal detector clean as a whistle, with pure intention in my heart. And he said, "Boarding pass." and so I went down here where I usually put it and it wasn't there. I thought I probably has dumped it on top. So I took a step forward toward the other side of the metal detector... Or the scanner thing. And he barked at me to freeze my blood, "Sir, not another step." "Ooooh boy, I am not a terrorist."
So what it says in 1 John 3, The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. I'm not a terrorist. I'm a nice guy, really I am. The way it burned inside of me. I didn't want to be under a barked command of judgment. I just stood there kind of seething, actually, a little bit until I remembered, "Thank you, Lord. Oh yes, here it is." Showed it to him, he didn't say a word, just handed it back. Imagine if I said, "I want another connection with him. I wanted to have coffee with him or something, sit down and talk to him." But instead I felt something boiling inside me. And I have been working on it now ever since. And some of it, I think, is righteous in that I don't think we want to be barked at as an act of condemnation and all that. And if he knew me, if I were his brother or friend, he wouldn't talk to me like that, etcetera, but there's a reason he talks like that. And that's because of the evil in the world and he doesn't know me.
And so for me, I have to pitch all those negative feelings and say, "Thank you, God, for people like that, who are standing at the post and doing their job. And if I'm so dunce headed as to not keep the thing in my hand, then that's my problem, next time I'll do better." As an act of worship, be glad of these people that are manning these posts while there's a need.
But let me tell you something, yearn for the day when they won't be needed anymore. Yearn for it. And if I can say to you, with all the love of my heart, if you're here today and you have never bowed the knee to Jesus as Savior and Lord, the barked command of that guard, that border guard, will be nothing compared to the statement that Jesus will make, "Depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." Oh, dread and fear that day if you don't know Jesus.
Jesus came and shed his blood so that now while you have time, you can believe in Him, you can bow your knee to him as your King, as your savior and accept him and yearn for the day when he will openly reign. You won't need faith then but you need it now. And if you do, your sins will be forgiven you, all of them. And he will take you into his eternal kingdom and you will reign with Him forever and ever. Close with me in prayer.