• Tony Birkhead

Culture Crash Week -5



Don’t Lose Eternal Influence for a Temporary Kingdom!

INTRODUCTION

Politics can be a very difficult conversation place within a family, a group, or even a church community. Set the standard that’s it is ok to disagree before the conversation ever starts. Where God’s Truth speaks, it’s final. Where it doesn’t, respect opinion, even if we disagree.


How were politics viewed and spoke of in your home growing up?

KEY SCRIPTURE

John 18:33-37, John 19:10-11, Mark 12:13-17

Romans 13:1-8

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 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. 8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

1 Timothy 2:1-4

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Matthew 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Have a volunteer read Romans 13:1-7.

Who in our society would be included in the phrase “governing authorities”? What is the command for how we are to respond to those authorities?


How do most people feel about submitting to anything? Why?


When Paul used the verb rendered “must submit,” he implied that Christians are commanded and empowered by the Spirit to keep on being submissive to governing authorities. God expects His people to be model citizens and to relate to the government in a respectful, obedient way.


Describe a time recently when it was hard for you to believe God’s sovereign rule over government, either in our country or another nation.


What reasons does the text give for obeying and respecting authority?


Paul concluded there were two valid reasons for Christians to respect and submit to the governing authorities. One reason was the practical fact of the government’s authority to punish wrongdoers. The second valid reason was because of conscience. Here Paul had in view a higher motivation than fear of punishment. Believers who recognize and respect the God-given role of government submit to it as a demonstration of their Christian devotion.


What specific way did Paul tell us to submit in verse 7?


What should be our attitude about doing things like paying taxes? Why?


Because government is a public service, it must be financed and supported by the public. Government comes with a price tag. Those who serve in the government have a right to be supported as they attend to their proper tasks to the benefit of all citizens. As a matter of lawful obedience and Christian conscience (see 13:5), believers are to pay all their obligations. The apostle mentioned four such obligations, two of which are monetary in nature and two of which are related to attitudes: taxes, tolls, respect, and honor.


Do you find these four obligations easy or difficult to pay as a matter of lawful obedience and Christian conscience? Why?


How can we pay respect and honor to government officials we don’t think are very worthy of honor or respect?


Have another volunteer read 1 Timothy 2:1-4.


What kinds of prayers did Paul say we should pray? For whom were the prayers to be offered?


Do you believe “kings and all those who are in authority” have special God-given power? Why or why not?


Why is prayer for those in authority over us so important?

According to Paul, we should pray for everyone (v. 1). This seems like a tall order. But after all, we pray because it is pleasing to God (v. 3), not because we see God as some sort of cosmic Santa Claus who will give us something if we ask hard enough. Paul also encouraged Timothy to pray for governmental authorities who could help provide an environment conducive to evangelism. In a time when Christianity was spreading rapidly, persecution was also on the rise. Praying for those in authority was a way for the people of the church to be actively involved in the church’s evangelism efforts in Ephesus and other parts of the world.

MOVING FORWARD

  • When we think about showing respect and honor to the authorities in our lives, especially governmental, we often think primarily about our outward actions. How do your inward thoughts and attitudes measure up to Paul’s instructions in this passage?

  • What are some things you can do to remember to pray for our government leaders on a daily basis?

  • How can we be Salt and Light in the area of politics?

PRAY TOGETHER

Spend a few minutes as a group coming up with a list of people in authority for whom you can pray. Identify specific prayer requests to be made for those individuals or groups. Ask your group members to commit to pray specifically for one of these officials during this week. Challenge them to use news stories they hear or personal interaction with the individuals as triggers to pray.

COMMENTARY

Romans 13:1-8

13:1. In principle (though not always in specifics), to submit to the civil authority is to submit to God. The statement in this command which unlocks its meaning, and which gives Christians ground to accept it and apply it, is this: There is no authority except that which God has established. This is a statement of the overarching sovereignty and rule of God in the affairs of this world. If God has appointed every civil ruler, every governing authority, then why should any Christian fear submitting to that which God has appointed?

13:2. Rebelling against what God has instituted will bring the judgment of God, more than likely through the rulers themselves. The fact that “governing authorities” are human authorities—sinners just like us—is perhaps what makes it so difficult. The key to discerning when that time has come is found in Paul’s words, what God has instituted. When rulers put themselves in the place of God by legislating moral or spiritual positions (all acts have moral and spiritual roots) which are contrary to the revealed positions of God, resistance is warranted.

13:3-5. Paul next explains the “why?” behind his statement in verse 2 that to rebel against authorities is to invite judgment upon oneself. In an “ideal” world, governing authorities are God’s servant to do you good … to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. The world is not a governmental theocracy in which God is king. Since Israel abandoned the direct theocratic rule God desired for them, and asked God for a king like “all the nations around us” (1 Sam. 8:5,20), even His chosen people have been governed by human rulers. There is no direct, geopolitical theocratic rule in place today; all people on earth are ruled by some sort of human authority. In Israel’s case, this was to be a good thing (witness the moral and civil law codes given to Israel to protect their best interests) and should be a good thing for all nations.

Most governing authorities implement law codes that are basically moral, designed to protect citizens and to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Inherent in God’s assignment of responsibility for authorities is not only the provision of good but the use of force (the sword) to restrain evil. There is no conflict here between Paul’s words in Romans 12:19-20 about not taking vengeance, and his words about the use of the sword to restrain evil. The former is personal, the latter is constitutional. In the former, hatred (vengeance) is at work; in the latter, justice is at work.

Paul’s last word in his explanation concerns motivation. While avoiding punishment is always a legitimate motivation for submitting to an authority, there is a higher motivation for the Christian’s submission to the authorities—the motivation of a clear conscience. In order to keep a clear conscience, the Christian must submit to governing authorities (Rom 13:1).

13:6-7. Shades of Levitical legislation are apparent in Paul’s next words. Just as the Levites in Israel were to be supported by the twelve tribes, so governing authorities are to be supported by taxes on the people. Added impetus is given to Paul’s words by his change of terms from verse 4. There, God’s “servant” is twice designated by diakonos, the word which is also used to describe those who minister and serve in the church (e.g., Rom. 16:1; 1 Tim. 4:6). But in verse 6, Paul uses a different word for servant, leitourgos, a word used for someone who serves in behalf of another. The former word speaks of the activity, the latter the activity as representing another.

13:8. Paul’s words in this section are not as much an exhortation to life within the body of Christ (he touched this in Rom. 12:9-13) as they are a balance to what he has just commanded the church in 13:1-7. Paul’s overall emphasis in this chapter is to live submissively as living sacrifices in light of the coming end of the age. Living respectfully toward the king and loving one’s fellowman are the two dimensions of every person’s public life. If there is a key word in verses 1-7 it is “submit” (vv. 1, 5), which contains within it the range of words such as “honor,” “respect,” and “obey.” When it comes to one’s fellowman, Paul draws upon a range of words found in the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments given by God to Israel through Moses. He summarizes all those words in the operative word love.

Love (and its attendant synonyms) is the one sanctioned unpaid debt. Indeed, it is a debt that cannot be paid; it is a continuing debt. While it appears that Paul’s words are church-related, his use of fellowman seems to broaden the intent of his instruction. In light of the previous verses dealing with society and governance at large, it would seem his focus is still on the wider scope of Christian responsibility. It is not Christian to love fellow church members while hating a pagan neighbor.

1 Timothy 2:1-4

2:1. In this verse, the apostle mentioned four different words for prayer. “Petitions” included requests individuals made of God. The term “prayers” was the most general word. “Intercessions” included prayers for other believers. The “thanksgivings” Paul mentioned probably included gratitude for God’s blessings. The apostle may not have intended any sharp distinction among the four terms. The use of all four terms emphasizes the importance of prayer in overcoming the false teaching in Ephesus and in winning the lost to Christ.

2:2. Paul encouraged Timothy to pray for governmental authorities who could help provide an environment conducive to evangelism.

2:3-4 A quiet life of dignity and godliness pleases God. God is also pleased when believers express concern for the salvation of others. Paul directly connected evangelism with pleasing God in this verse. Prayer for the lost pleases God because God wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. The false teachers promoted lies, but Paul encouraged Timothy to pray that those lies would be exposed. “Come to the knowledge of the truth” is a way of referring to being converted. “The truth” is often used in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus as a synonym for the gospel.

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