Why Obedience to Secular Authority is Essential to Godliness (for the twenty-something)

Let’s just be honest with one another for a moment. You are in your twenties (okay, maybe your early thirties), you profess a love for Jesus Christ, you serve His people and those who are not yet His people, but you’ve got a real problem when it comes to giving up your rights solely for the sake of obeying authority.

You drive faster than the speed limit, and you gnash your teeth when you get a ticket.

You trespass with your friends to play football on the university playing field, but you curse the name of the officer who sighted you for the infraction.

You shake your fist in the face of the local police force because an officer – corrupted by the flesh, sin, and satan – used his authority to strip another of his rights without legitimate cause.

You claim God as your ultimate authority, but God claims them as your direct authority, and you rebel.

“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.”[1]

The logic is simple: you obey the governing authorities, you obey God.

But what about the authority who uses his power in destructive ways? What about the authority who is morally corrupt and you know it? What about the authority that takes your God-given rights and treats them as the ground beneath his feet?

The Bible is absolutely clear that all have fallen short of the perfect glory of God, and this includes those who are put in power.[2] If all have fallen short of perfection, and all includes governing authorities, we should expect that those who are in power will act corruptly, in unrighteousness, and immorally from time to time.

But do you think that God did not know that when He inspired the writing of Romans 13:1-2?

Surely He did.

God knew that those who attain to positions of authority would be far from perfect leaders, yet He chose to appoint them anyways. Why?

Because we live in a broken world full of broken people who, in their brokenness, choose to hurt themselves and hurt one another.

Governing authorities are “… God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is evil.”[3] If the greatest good is for us to love one another as ourselves, then the greatest evil is for us to hurt ourselves and hurt one another.[4]

God places broken people in positions of authority because that is all He has to work with. You are broken. I am broken. They are broken.

But a broken authority who brings justice to those who do evil is better than no authority at all, because no authority at all means evil will have no bounds.

Those in authority who explicitly violate the moral commands of scripture we should speak out against, but we must also obey them solely for the fact that they are in a position of authority granted to them by the God we claim to love, follow, and obey.

Obedience to secular authority is essential to Godliness because Godliness requires obedience to God.

The thrust, the purpose, the main point, of Romans 13:1-7 is that God has put broken human beings in positions of authority to put limits on evil so that individuals who hurt themselves and hurt each other will be limited in their pursuit of evil. Governing authorities are called by God to punish evil and commend good, though this is not always how things work out.

Twenty-something, if you do what is right and good in the sight of God our Father, you have no reason to fear, or disobey, the governing authorities. You stand before God with conscience cleared. He sees you, He sees them. It is not of you to avenge wrong. Vengeance is the Lord’s.

Twenty- something, if you want to grow in relationship with God, obey those whom He has called you to obey. When you obey them, you obey God. And when you obey God, you grow closer to Him by witnessing just how good it is to follow His commands.

Twenty-something, if you want to honor God, respect and honor those who are in authority, even if you do not agree with them.

“Anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted…”[5]

Thanks be to God our Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ, that even though our brokenness leads us to rebel, we live in an ocean of grace and mercy that allows us to turn back to God with joy. Repentance is the key to joy because repentance refocuses our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith rather than on our anger and our frustration.

You are a beloved child of God and as a child of God you are called to obedience because obedience produces the abundant joy and life that you desire, and God desires for you.

May we never forget that obedience of authority is essential to Godliness and Godliness is simply obedience to God.

[1] Romans 13:1, NIV

[2] Romans 3:23, NIV

[3] Romans 13:4d, NIV

[4] Matthew 22:39, NIV

[5] Romans 13:2, NLT

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