By Rev. Ron Purkey
Read: Romans 13:1-14
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” (Romans 13:1)
Christians have been called out of this world (John 15:18 and 17:14), but they still have responsibilities to the state. The best citizen ought to be the Christian citizen. There are four motives for obeying human government.
First, for wrath’s sake (Romans 13:1-4): The “higher powers” (verse 1) are the rulers of government, even though they may not be Christians. We must recognize the fact even an unsaved government official is a minister of God. Even if we cannot respect the person, we must respect the God-ordained office. Rulers are a terror to bad people, not to good people; so people who live consistent Christian lives need not fear.
Second, for conscience’s sake (Romans 13:5-7): Fear is perhaps the lowest motive for Christian obedience; a Holy Spirit-directed conscience lifts us to a higher level. The Christian should experience the spirit witnessing to his or her conscience (Romans 9:1); and, if we disobey the Lord, we know it when the Holy Spirit convicts our consciences. Some people have an evil conscience that is unreliable. The obedient Christian should have a good conscience (1 Timothy 1:5). To disobey constantly and refuse the witness of the spirit in the conscience leads to a defiled conscience (Titus 1:15), a seared or calloused conscience (1 Timothy 4:2) and finally a rejected conscience (1 Timothy 1:19).
Third, for love’s sake (Romans 13:8-10): Now Paul enlarges the circle to include not only government officials, but our neighbors as well. While the believer lives under the law of the land, he also lives under a much higher law as a citizen of heaven: the law of love. A husband does not labor all day because the law tells him to support his family, but because he loves them. Where there is love there will be no murder, dishonesty, stealing or other kinds of selfishness. More people are won through love than through arguments. The Christian who is walking in love is the best citizen and the best witness.
Fourth, for the Savior’s sake (Romans13:11-14): We reach the pinnacle of motives in these verses: from fear to conscience, to love, to devotion to Christ. “Our salvation” is nearer in the sense that Christ’s coming for the church is nearer today than ever before. By “salvation” Paul means the total blessing that we will have when Christ comes — including new bodies and a new home.
Sadly, the last days will be days of lawlessness (2 Timothy 3 and 1 John 3:4). It will be increasingly difficult for dedicated Christians to maintain their testimony. Governments will become more opposed to the Bible and to Christ, until at last the Anti-Christ bonds the world into one great satanic system to oppose the truth. Read 2 Timothy 3:12-4:5 to see what God expects from us in these last days.
Read Ron Purkey’s free Bible study outlines at rcpbibleoutlines.com. Purkey has been an ordained Baptist minister for 50 years.