There has been no time such as this in our lifetime to share the relevance of Romans 13.1-7. In this service, we hear a message about what it means to submit to civil authorities, and how that relates to the uprising in the US last week and the current pandemic. You can watch the whole service below, or just the message below that. Apologies for some of the poor video; we had some technical issues this morning.
Happy new year!
A week in, and we’re already on pins and needles, eh?
I have to admit, I was going to write about the sad lunacy of the whole “Amen and A-woman” debacle in the US House of Representatives, but then this past Wednesday happened. I’ll save the other one for another time.
It might be the first time the White House was stormed since, well, the Canadians burned it during the War of 1812!
I’ve never believed in coincidences, not even homiletical coincidences.
When 9/11 took place, I was preaching through the book of Jonah.
This Sunday, returning to a series I broke from for Advent and Christmas, I will be preaching on Romans 13.1-7.
I’ve been looking forward to this passage for quite a while, but I wasn’t expecting such a current illustration as we got on Wednesday!
“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God” (Romans 13.1, NLT).
Amid the rioters on Capitol Hill, amid the pandemic and the lockdown, where lies the boundary for submitting to governing authorities?
The key comes in understanding the verb, “submit”. Rather than meaning “blindly obey”, its definition has more to do with appreciating the hierarchy that exists within the rule of law.
God is at the top of the chain, but he places governments – through various means – in place over us, and we are called to respect them.
For some, though, the question becomes, “To what extent do I submit?”
If the government forces you to do something that is patently and obviously contrary to God’s will in Scripture, that may be the point where civil disobedience kicks in.
If you want to know how that relates to the widespread lockdown we find ourselves in currently, tune in live on Sunday at 10:00 a.m., or on demand any time after 4:00 p.m.
In his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Richard Foster writes about various facets of the gemstone of the Christian life that is prayer. Among them is “authoritative prayer”, in which Foster suggests that God’s people are too often too timid about exercising their God-given abilities in prayer.
He cites all kinds of times when Jesus spoke authoritatively in prayer, and then he writes,
“Certainly I should not be expected to do those kinds of things. But then I came upon Jesus’ shocking words: ‘Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father’ (John 14:12)….In my concern over falling off the deep end, I realized that I just might fall off the shallow end. My desire to maintain religious respectability could easily result in a domesticated faith” (pp. 234-235, emphases mine).
Re-reading this book always challenges me, and on this go-round, it was this section that slapped me ‘upside the head.’ Am I more interested in religious respectability than I am about doing the work God has intended for me to do?
It’s as if I would sooner sit in the cold than get up and turn on the furnace.
Now, what might be running through your mind certainly courses through mine, and that’s this: What about the sovereignty of God?
Foster would remind us that any prayer we offer authoritatively must come not from any authority of our own, but from the authority of the Holy Spirit working in and through us – and the Holy Spirit, as the third Person of the Trinity, is sovereign and ultimately decides whether a prayer should be granted or not.
Yet, I want to suggest, too often we don’t even bother.
Instead of shrugging our shoulders and saying, “There’s nothing we can do,” what if we were to speak to the sickness in our loved one, in Jesus’ name?
Many of us are reluctant to do such things because we don’t own a white polyester suit, or a personal jet; we don’t want to be lumped in with those Christians. To be sure, any authoritative ministry we exercise does not happen for our own self-aggrandizement, but for the glory of God. But if God were willing to heal, willing to cast out, willing to aid – if we were simply to ask – would that not be worth the risk of losing religious respectability?