In 1 Timothy 2:1-3 Paul tells Timothy these things: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Note the following points Paul makes to Timothy that is binding on all Christians:
1. It is our duty to pray for those in authority. This is true whether we support them or not. Paul uses four different words to discuss what “kind of praying” we must do — supplications, prayer, intercessions and giving thanks. How many of us have prayed for our country in the last twenty years? Did we pray for the President whether we supported him or not?
2. We pray that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in godliness and reverence.
3. Christians should pray that peace may reign so that the gospel may be heard. Because our first obligation is to the kingdom of God, we should pray that we have the opportunities to teach the gospel to others, and that is easier when we are at peace.
4. Consider the fact that Paul will later die at the hands of the Romans authorities (2 Timothy), yet he submitted himself to their authority, just as Jesus did when he was put to death. Were those authorities right in killing Jesus and Paul? NO!! Yet Paul still encouraged the same obedience that Jesus exemplified, even though it was wrong!
In 1 Peter 2:13-17 Peter wrote, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”
1. Consider that Peter (as well as Paul), would later be put to death by the authorities that he commands that Christians “submit yourselves to. . .”
2. We are to obey every ordinance of man “for the Lord’s sake.” It is not because we agree with the authorities and what they stand for, but Christians obey with a view to God. The only reason a man SHOULD NOT obey man’s laws are when those laws are against the laws and commands of God (See Acts 4 and 5).
3. The purpose of government is to punish evildoers and praise the good. We realize that all governments have failed in this – many times laws are broken, and the evildoer is not punished; and it is VERY RARE (if there is any time) wherein government praises the good. Christians should honor government because WE SHOULD BE MORE OPPOSED TO EVIL THAN GOVERNMENT IS!
4. The will of God is that we be submissive to government, and government’s role SHOULD be for the public good (“to promote the general welfare”), so that PEACE may abound. It is when a country is at peace that the spread of the “gospel of peace” may abound (see above).
5. The Christian, when he/she does good, puts to silence the “ignorance of foolish men.” How? When Christians do good to others, they promote love and harmony. Have we been remiss in doing our part in this, realizing our actions can help bring about peace in the world?
6. Christians must always remember that we are bondservants of God. We have been bought by the blood of Christ, and “I am mine, no more.”
7. He closes this section of his letter with commands that Christians must obey – HONOR ALL (no matter their color, or socio-economic background), LOVE THE BROTHERHOOD, FEAR GOD AND HONOR THE KING.
Paul addressed this issue in Romans 13:1-7 as well, wherein he states, “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 authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore, you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”
What are some things Paul teaches the Romans Christians in regard to these things?
1. Every soul needs to be subject to the governing authorities. This suggests that God has given humans these authorities for the purpose of keeping peace and order.
2. Notice that all governments (or at least the idea of governmental authority) come to men through God – the “authorities that exist are appointed by God.” As one reads through Daniel you see God in charge of governments during Daniel’s days:
a. In Daniel 3-4, we are reminded that God placed Nebuchadnezzar in authority as king over Babylon, but Nebuchadnezzar had to be reminded of this by being humbled by God. Nebuchadnezzar was not a “God fearing man” as seen in Daniel 3. Yet God used him as king during this time in history.
b. In Daniel 5 Babylon fell to the Persians while the king (Belshazzar) and his household were having a feast and desecrated the holy things from the temple in Jerusalem.
c. In Daniel 6 we see a law had been made that essentially said no one can pray to anyone but the king, and Daniel was thrown in a lion’s den because he kept his devotion to GOD first!
d. In Daniel 7 we see a recap of Daniel 2 in different images, foretelling the kingdoms that would rise and fall, and the trials God’s people would have as a result. In the time of the fourth empire (Rome) God would set up his spiritual kingdom with his people serving and obeying him.
e. In Daniel 8 Daniel talks of two nations (Persia and Greece) and what their kings would be like.
f. In Daniel 9 a prayer of Daniel is recorded concerning the end of the seventy-year captivity, and God allows Daniel to see events unfolding up to the times of Messiah’s coming. Much of this is covered in understanding what happened between the close of Malachi and the beginning of Matthew.
g. In Daniel 10:13-14 we read one of the “hardest to be understood” passages in the Old Testament, “But the prince of the kingdom in Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers too many days yet to come,” and he goes on to explain events that took place during the time of the Grecian empire. Daniel stresses to us, unlike any other book, how God is working behind the scenes in the governments of man and how God works out his will!
3. Romans 13:1-7 clearly emphasizes that when we resist the ordinance or authority of God rested in these leaders, we bring judgment on ourselves. If we do what is good, we SHOULD receive praise for our doing good from governmental authorities.
4. It teaches that God uses government to punish evil doers.
5. We must be subject to governing authorities. We do this, not just because we are afraid of their wrath, but because of conscience. We honor God when we obey, which includes paying our taxes and supporting government in that way!
We summarize these thoughts with these ideas:
1. A Christian’s highest allegiance is to God, not government.
2. God authorized government to preserve order in society.
3. God set up kingdoms and has brought judgments on kingdoms. God has not abdicated the throne and will judge all kingdoms of men.
4. Christians, because we are part of a spiritual kingdom, cannot do some things that government can. As an example, governments can and do authorize abortion, but God makes clear that the taking of innocent life is murder. Governments authorize divorce, but God commands faithfulness in marriage until death (Matthew 19:1-9).
5. If obedience to government can make what God condemns “right,” then is it right for a Christian to lie or steal because the government allows it? Or encourages it?