All Earthly Authorities Are Appointed by God!
O LORD God, my dear Savior, graciously look upon me and anoint me with Your Spirit. Grant that as I worship this day, I do so with humility-confessing my sins and rejoicing in Your forgiving grace. Cause me to listen closely to the preaching of Your Word, so that my mind might be instructed and my soul encouraged. Help me to live my life to Your glory in the joyous expectation of Your gift of everlasting life. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
Text: Romans 13:1-2
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
In Christ Jesus, who possesses all authority in heaven and on earth, dear fellow redeemed:
ALL EARTHLY AUTHORITIES ARE APPOINTED BY GOD! That is what the apostle Paul told the first century Christians. What was true in their day remains true in our own. ALL EARTHLY AUTHORITIES ARE APPOINTED BY GOD! That is a statement easy to understand and accept in theory, but not so easy to understand and accept in practice. It is easy to understand how God places good parents in charge of children, but is it really true that God places parental abusers in charge of their children? It is easy to understand how God places pastors whom we like in a position of authority within the church, but does He really do so in the case of pastors we dislike? It is easy to accept that God put King David on the throne, but was Adolph Hitler also an authority appointed by God? It is easy to accept the decisions of a kind and thoughtful boss, but what if he or she is just plain unreasonable?
ALL EARTHLY AUTHORITIES ARE APPOINTED BY GOD! Let us examine that Biblical truth today. As mentioned in our Scripture readings, our God is a God of order. Our Savior, who possesses all authority in heaven and on earth (cf. Mt. 28:18), has surrounded us with His representatives in this world. All of those authorities are appointed by God. All of those authorities represent God and are responsible to God for their exercise of authority—even if they are unaware of that fact and even when they abuse their authority. Man’s abuse does not negate God’s ordinance, nor is man’s abuse to be an excuse for those under authority to ignore God’s ordinance. God wants to bless us through those whom He places over us in positions of authority. He can and indeed does bring about those blessings in spite of man’s frequent failure to exercise authority properly. Let us, therefore, recognize God’s ordinance and submit ourselves to it. Indeed, ALL EARTHLY AUTHORITIES ARE APPOINTED BY GOD!
Given that fact, I would urge all Christians in authority—recognize the source of your authority! The apostle Paul writes: “There is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” Are you a father or a mother? Are you a pastor, teacher, council member, or officer of a ladies’ organization or of a youth group? Are you an elected official within your community, state, or nation? Are you the boss at your job-site, or do you own your own business and supervise a variety of employees? If you occupy any of these positions, you are a Christian in authority. Your authority may be large or small. It may seem insignificant, or actually be very significant. Irrespective of your particular situation—recognize that the source of your authority comes from God! You represent Him in the home, or at church, or within the state, or on the job-site. You are responsible to Him and are to fulfill your appointed role, so that through you He might bring His intended blessing to those under your authority.
Parents—God has given you the role of bringing up His children, and I do mean "His" children, for they have been entrusted to you for only a short length of time. You are to provide for their physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual welfare. What an awesome responsibility! What a tremendous task! Through you God wants to bless those children with a safe environment in which to grow up. He wants you to help them discover the talents He has given them, so that they might become productive members not just of this world’s society, but of His kingdom, for their ultimate future is that kingdom. He wants them to learn to know how to love through your example—to understand what the concept of "Father" is all about! That is why He urges us not “provoke (our) children to wrath” (Eph. 6:4) through overly harsh discipline or overly soft indulgence! Parents are to be firm, but supportive—examples of Christian piety and witnesses to God’s gospel truths!
In view of the broad nature of this discussion and the brief time we have allotted for our sermon, we will not consider at this time the responsibilities of public officials or leaders in the church, but rather will address those responsibilities of individuals given authority in the work-place. What does God expect of owners of companies and business managers? It is understood that God uses business to provide for the manifold and differing needs of all human beings. Therefore, it is expected that those entrusted with authority within business should use their authority to produce the best possible products for consumers. However, what does God have to say about the relationship between managers and workers? As you consider what God’s word has to say in this matter there are several points that can be made: 1) Managers are to deal with their workers in a fair and honest manner, paying them an appropriate salary for the work that is done and doing so on a regular basis. 2) Managers are to serve their workers, as if those workers were Jesus Himself. Therefore, managers are not to threaten and abuse their workers, but rather are to treat them with respect. 3) Managers are to remember that God does not view them differently than their workers, but rather holds them to the same, if not a higher, standard in view of the authority He has entrusted to them. Business leaders, as with all people in authority, are in accordance with Christ’s command to view themselves as servants—servants of the Lord, but also servants of those individuals placed under their authority!
Yes, ALL EARTHLY AUTHORITIES ARE APPOINTED BY GOD! Christians under authority, therefore, subject yourselves to God’s appointed authorities! Paul writes, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities…. Whoever resists the authorities resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” It has become fashionable for many within our society to defy authority—children "blow off" their parents; students ignore and defy their teachers; employees work only when they are being watched; citizens think little of cheating on their taxes or lying under oath. This ought not be, first of all, because such attitudes and resulting actions are rebellion against God, but, secondly, because such attitudes and resulting actions will lead inevitably to personal destruction. Consequently, Paul urges us to subject ourselves to God’s appointed authorities.
Notice that Paul’s command is reflexive—in other words, we Christians are not to be forced into subjection by those in authority, but rather in faith we are to control ourselves, making that decision and subjecting ourselves to those in authority. This is what the writer to the Hebrews was driving at when he stated: “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:7, 17-18). These words refer to our relationship with our pastors and other leaders within the church. Apparently, part of Judgment Day will be the report of those entrusted with authority within God’s church about those under their authority. What will Pastor Eichstadt have to say on the last day about my response to his words of encouragement and admonition? Will he report that I was willing to hear his words from Scripture and that I responded, or will he have to report that in general I was rather surly and uncooperative? Knowing that such an ill report would reflect badly on that day, I choose by the grace of God and the working of His Spirit to strive to listen, to cooperate, and to contribute to the growth of God’s kingdom in our midst!
How ought we view our political leaders? We live in a time of political polarization. Politicians are often viewed with suspicion and members of the opposite parties are often criticized and their character assassinated. This is not what the Lord wants, even when those in authority are failing their public trust. We are to give those in authority the honor due their position. Oh, yes, here in our United States we can and should hold them accountable at the ballot box, but let us obey those laws in effect, pay those taxes lawfully due, and honor those individuals God has placed over us. To do anything less is to place ourselves in direct opposition to God!
Indeed, ALL EARTHLY AUTHORITIES ARE APPOINTED BY GOD! Dear Christians—rejoice in the blessings God bestows through His authorities! As we consider both our responsibilities as earthly authorities and our responsibilities as those under authority, we must confess to our short-comings and sins. As we have not always honored those God has placed in authority, so those of us in authority have not always faithfully fulfilled our God-intended purposes. Yet, God by His grace and through His goodness uses even our imperfect efforts to bring about great good.
God uses families to bring love and companionship, laughter and joy into our lives. He provides for a more stable society, as husbands and wives work together to bring up the children entrusted to them by God. Ultimately, children have their own children and bring the joy of grand-children into our lives!
God uses the church to proclaim His word—to bring the joy and certainty of His forgiveness to the grieving souls of men, women, and children everywhere. The reports of our mission helpers in India bring news of just such opportunities to share the gospel in amazing ways. In one week, our congregation will sponsor the Youth Conference in Como, Colorado. Over one hundred people—students and staff—we meet for five days and consider all that God has planned for us, both in this life and in the next!
God uses the state to provide us with protection. We live in a world filled with the horrors of war and terrorism. Satan uses the ignorance, greed, and bitterness of man to reap destruction on other men. Yet, God uses the state and gives authority to many individuals within the state to do that which is necessary to preserve people and protect our land and the freedoms we enjoy. What is the result? Last week twenty-eight of us traveled to Kentucky for a tour of the new Creation Museum. We were able to go where we wanted to go, when we wanted to go. We were able to do what we wanted to do, without the interference of anyone. We slept in safety. We ate with variety—all blessings from God, which arise from the protection provided by those in authority within the state.
God uses the work-place to provide us jobs through which we have incomes, by which we in turn are able to live our lives. Are there problems that arise on the job? Of course there are! God said after the fall into sin that there would be “thorns and thistles” in our fields of life (cf. Gen. 3:18). Yet, we are blessed with the strength to do the many things we do, and thereby are enabled to pay our bills and enjoy the fruits of our labors.
Ultimately, it was the One possessing all authority, who submitted Himself to the authority of His Father for our sakes—the ultimate keeping of the Fourth Commandment, which brings us the greatest of blessings. Jesus obeyed the Fourth Commandment when He said, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Lk. 22:42) and then submitted Himself to death on our behalf. Thereby our sins were removed, and thereby eternal life was gained! May we, with a clear understanding of God’s deep love for us and a joyous anticipation of God’s continued blessing, recognize and uphold God’s will in connection with the Fourth Commandment. Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting