Romans 13:1: God’s sovereignty over bad government
Christians can and should submit to bad governments. They are not submitting to the devil but God. How is this possible, because God has given the authority relationship of government to man, and He has sovereignly put even the bad governments in place. This is the gist of what we have been saying Paul is impressing upon the Romans in our section so far. Submission to the Roman Government was a point of contention and they needed some motivation to submit. Paul’s motivation is that government authority is a common grace gift of God to fallen man, and now in this message we will be exploring the idea that Christians can and should submit to bad governments, because God has sovereignly appointed bad governments.
Now you and I live in a day of political liberation where we have seen the removal of monarchs, the casting off of the oppression of colonialism, we sit in a privileged position where we are reaping the benefits of hundreds of years of Christian influence in the west. We assume democracy, intervention through the UN and other peace keeping forces to overthrow tyrants and are deeply sympathetic to bloody revolution as we have seen in the Arab Spring where several countries in the Middle-East sought to throw off political oppression. The Arab Spring is a term used to describe the political unrest in North Africa and the Middle East, that began in 2010 and whose ramifications are still being felt today. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and other Arab countries saw various forms of political uprising for more liberal democratic freedoms. Authoritarianism, human rights violations, the great recession, political corruption and other matters were evils that could not be tolerated. Now when you and I hear the words of Paul, ‘and those that exist have been instituted by God,’ we have great difficulty in agreeing with Paul that this is, or is even a good thing. So today I want us to think deeply and biblically with Paul about the truth statement that he has made, that bad governments are put in authority by God.
Can you feel your knee jerk reaction kicking out? Can you feel all the assumptions of our modern age rising to reject such a statement? But this statement is as true today as it was for Paul. We however are no longer in a suitable position to appreciate what Paul is saying and how he means it. My job today is to defend biblically what is a most repugnant statement to the modern man. This is the sort of statement that because we are so distant and so politically attuned to liberal democracy, this shuts down all conversation because we cannot conceive of any way for it to be true. God is sovereign over bad governments, we will look firstly at the biblical teaching of this fact, secondly, we want to explore some of the mechanisms about how a good God can institute bad governments and still be good, and then finally we want to reflect on the relevance of such a teaching.