✠ One Message: Christ crucified and risen for you ✠
The Word of the Lord Endures Forever
Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum
Romans 13,1-7 5318
23. Sonntag nach Trinitatis 068
Vitalis and Agricola, Martyrs at Bologna, Italy 304.
Robert Preus, Pastor, Theologian, and Seminary President. ✠ 1995.
4. November 2018
1. О Gracious, and Merciful God, Thou establishes temporal governments for our blessing, help us to obey our political leaders and grant us the wise words to call them to account for any misdeed or misrule, so that they remain just rulers and further establish peace and order for our nation. Amen. (Starck 174)
2. »Let every person be under the authority of the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 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 for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be under his authority, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 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.«
3. Saint Paul’s apostolic exhortation to the Roman Christians fits well in our current political setting as we are a couple of days away from Election Day 2018. The political landscape in Paul’s day in the middle of the 1. century ad was different from ours in early 21. century North America. Rome started out as a republic in 509 bc where citizens elected representatives to rule on their behalf; this is different from Greek democracy in which every citizen was expected to play an active role in governing. The Roman Senate was comprised of aristocratic patricians who elected the two consuls as leaders of the republic. Lower class plebeians had very little say in the government. The 100-seat, later 300- and 600-seat, Senate was the most powerful political body in the republic. The Senate created the Roman Empire in 27 bc when it by granted Octavian the title of Augustus and named him the Roman leader in succession of his father Julius Caesar, soon thereafter the Senate became weakened as strong willed emperors often coerced the senators; thus the Roman government in Paul’s day was a strong emperor with a weaker Senate. So for Paul, the governing authority would be the Roman emperor, the local Roman governor and the local ruling body of the town or city. Paul exhorted Christians to be subject to these authorities, for their authority to rule is from God who as God’s servants are to protect the good citizens and punish those who break the laws. Paul says we must be under the authority of our rulers to avoid God’s wrath and also for the sake of conscience.
4. The political landscape we find ourselves in is much improved over what Paul had and knew. Our American republic was built in part on the ideals of the old Roman Republic and our Constitution separates the government into three branches: legislative, with the House and Senate, an executive and judicial; each branch has some power and authority that is not granted to the other 2 so as to create a check and balance should one or more branches seek to accumulate more power for themselves. So Paul’s exhortation in Romans 13 is much more complex in our situation because we are under the authority of many more politicians. We also have a great responsibility as we elect several different leaders who represent us at different levels: local, State and federal; so our vote is an important act of citizenship, plus we have specific referenda to vote on and our vote carries more decision making weight.
5. Paul concludes and says: pay taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed and honor to whom honor is owed. Elsewhere, Paul exhorts us that »supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to arrive at the knowledge of the truth« (1. Timothy 2,1-4). This is very sound apostolic and Christian advice particularly because American politics are often a messy, raw business that brings out the worst in both politicians and citizens. Paul exhorts us to remember that we are Christians 1. and citizens 2.; we are to love and respect each other especially when we disagree over political issues.
6. Furthermore the Holy Gospels refused to portray Jesus as a political liberator of the downtrodden; rather the Evangelists tell us that Jesus upheld the legality of the Roman Empire and its governing of Judea and Palestine: Jesus paid His taxes to Caesar and He encourages us to pay our taxes as well.
7. All well and good if the government is truly being a servant of God’s goodness. What if the government gets off-track and becomes an agent of evil towards its citizens? When the government is in clear contrast to God’s will, then we are exhorted to obey God rather than man (Acts 5,29). This also is sound apostolic exhortation, but it is difficult or challenging to perform when the government threatens bodily harm or death if you remain opposed to their ungodly degrees. We do well to remember the Apostle Paul’s counsel: »Our citizenship is in heaven, and from heaven we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body (Phillipians 3,20-21). The government may not coerce a person in regards to religious beliefs. The government may not unjustly persecute citizens because they oppose something on religious, moral, conscientious or political grounds. On account of the estate of the government that is established by God for good order and for the sake of our neighbor, Christians must object when the government goes beyond its authority and mistreats good citizens as if they are wicked gadflies.
8. God exhorts us in His Word to pray for our government, pray for our leaders, help our neighbor and support those who are oppressed. Be respectful, be kind, exercise your duties as a citizen to change immoral or tyrannical government objectives. St. Paul tells us: »Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law« (Romans 13,8).
9. Our American republic grants us numerous opportunities to be a good Christian citizen. Our Constitution, in the Bill of Rights (1791), guarantees us the right to freely exercise our religion, the freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances (I. Amendment). As informed voters we elect and hold accountable our local leaders, representatives and senators. We pray for our leaders and our nation. In all this we act as Christians under God’s authority and under our government’s. Amen.
10. Let us pray. O Lord, whose works deserve thanks; guide us to bless You and speak of Your Glory, so that those who hear us may be granted faith in Jesus for life everlasting. Amen.
To God alone be the Glory
Soli Deo Gloria
All Scriptural quotations are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 4. Edition © 1990 by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, and the Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 28. Revised Edition © 2012 by Deutsch Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.
All quotations from the Book of Concord are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 12. Edition © 1998 by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
ELKB. Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Bayern. www.bayern-evangelisch.de/www/index.php. Copyright © 2013 Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Bayern.