Subject to Government
A Sermon on Romans 13:1-7
Be Subject to Government
1Every person is to be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation …
1Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3For rulers are …
How are Christians supposed to read the Bible? If there are many different views on what the Bible says, how are they to know the right interpretation? The answer is that they must read the Bible as one work of God. In the sermon on Romans 13:1–7 titled “Subject to Government,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones shares that this is because the only way to understand Scripture properly is by taking a holistic approach to everything that God has revealed. Christians should not use philosophy to create doctrine but doctrine is to come from the text. With all these things in mind, Dr. Lloyd-Jones seeks to expound the biblical view of government. He says that the submission to authorities and powers that the apostle Paul speaks of is not slavish servitude, but godly submission to the authorities that God has ordained for their good and the good of all people. In this attitude, Christians are to seek to live in peace with all those around them in a way that brings honor to Christ and his gospel. God in his providence has put magistrates in place as a means of restraining sin and evil in the world, though they are often corrupt and sinful. Nevertheless, Christians ought to strive to obey God first and foremost and to obey the government when doing so does not contradict the commands of God.
The sermon examines Romans 13:1-7 in detail. This passage discusses the Christian's relationship to governing authorities.
Verse 1 commands Christians to be subject to governing authorities because there is no authority except from God. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Verse 2 says that whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.
Verse 3 says that rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. If you do what is good, you will be praised. Do not be afraid of the authorities.
Verse 4 says that the ruler is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because the ruler does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
Verse 5 says to be subject to authorities not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
Verse 6 says that is why you pay taxes, because the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing.
Verse 7 says to give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
The preacher argues that "be subject to" does not mean "obey blindly." It means to recognize authorities as having a position over you and to behave accordingly.
The preacher says "the powers that be" refers to earthly authorities, not spiritual powers. The passage is practical instruction, not a reference to spiritual warfare.
The preacher says "fear" in verse 7 refers to fearing God, not the authorities. The Bible does not tell Christians to fear human rulers.
The Book of Romans
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.