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Mid-Week with Christ
September 2, 2020

Ministers of the Sword

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Romans 13:1-7

 
1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. 
 

Prayer for the Day

 
Holy Father, God of mercy, look with compassion upon this land and grant to us civil peace. Remove from all hearts hatred, suspicion, fear, and prejudice. Help us to explain our neighbor's actions in the kindest way and use Your Church to be an agent of peaceful and reasoned discourse in this time. Grant us unity as a nation, delighting in the rule of law and not of men. We ask this through Christ, who taught us to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's, and whose love embraces all and calls all to be Your children. Amen (from LCMS: A Prayer for our Nation). 

Most people are aware that, in its early years, Christianity was a persecuted religion. Some of that persecution was person-to-person. Many Jews felt threatened by this new faith that was drawing away brothers and sisters, cousins, and sons and daughters. Non-Jews hated the disturbance it caused to well-established patterns of civil religion (see Acts 19:19-41). 

But sometimes the persecution came straight from the top. It began with Pilate, who could find no reason to crucify Jesus but did it anyway. Jewish authorities executed Christian leaders (Acts 12:1-2). Paul was imprisoned and sent to Rome, where he was later executed according to tradition. Secular Roman histories speak of the attacks launched against Christians by the Emperor and other authorities. It is in this context that Paul writes to the Church in Rome to "be subject to the governing authorities."

Yet Paul goes even further. He states that these authorities should be obeyed, not as a necessary evil, but because they are "God's servant for your good." Therefore taxes should be paid by Christians, and honour given even to those who are persecuting the Church. How can Paul believe this?

It may go back to what Jesus said to Pilate as he was being tried. "Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you," he queries Jesus. The Lord's response was that he "would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above" (John 19:10-11). Even the Roman government derives its authority from God. 

All governments are God's hidden way of constraining the evil in our hearts and keeping society from falling apart due to sin. In that way, we are to respect them. We pray that our governments would do good, restrain evil, and permit the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus to be freely taught and preached. 
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