THE BELIEVER’S OBLIGATION TO HIS GOVERNMENT AND HIS NEIGHBOR
Although the believer has his citizenship in heaven, he must never forget that he also has his citizenship in this world down here, which gives him a two-fold responsibility. However, if there is comes a conflict between the two, his first responsibility it to the Lord in heaven. The Word of God makes it clear that we do have a responsibility to human government. The Lord Jesus Christ, when He was asked about this, said, “Render therefore unto Caesar that which be Caesar’s and unto God the things which be God’s” (Luke 20:25).
Never forget that governments are ordained of God, ae and He gave them certain authority. When He first instituted human government He authorized the death penalty (Gen. 9:6) and He has never rescinded that command. In fact, when the Lord Jesus was before Pilate, He never once questioned Pilate’s authority to put Him to death. In fact, He even endorsed the fact that God had given Pilate the authority of the death penalty (John 19:10-11). The duty of the believer as a citizen of heaven is spiritual, and his duty as a citizen under a government is secular. These two are separate allegiances, and must always be kept separate.
It is generally allowed that this epistle was written about the year of our Lord 58, four or five years after the edict of the Emperor Claudius, by which all the Jews were banished from Rome. And as in those early times the Christians were generally confounded with the Jews, it is likely that both were included in this decree. For what reason this edict was issued does not satisfactorily appear. Suetonius tells us that it was because the Jews were making continual disturbances under their leader Christus. That the Jews were in general an uneasy and seditious people is clear enough from every part of their own history. They had the most rooted aversion to the heathen government; and it was a maxim with them that the world was given to the Israelites; that they should have supreme rule everywhere, and that the Gentiles should be their vassals.
With such political notions, grounded on their native restlessness, it is no wonder if in several instances they gave cause of suspicion to the Roman government, who would be glad of an opportunity to expel from the city persons whom they considered dangerous to its peace and security; nor is it unreasonable on this account to suppose that the Christians, under a notion of being the peculiar people of God, and the subjects of his kingdom alone, might be in danger of being infected with those unruly and rebellious sentiments: therefore Paul shows them that they were, notwithstanding their honors and privileges as Christians, bound by the strongest obligations of conscience to be subject to the civil government.
Subjection to civil governors inculcated, from the consideration that civil government is according to the ordinance of God; and that those who resist the lawfully constituted authorities shall receive condemnation.
Those who are obedient shall receive praise.
The character of a lawful civil governor.
The necessity of subjection.
The propriety of paying lawful tribute.
Christians should love one another.
The necessity of immediate conversion to God proved from the shortness and uncertainty of time.
How the Gentiles should walk so as to please God, and put on Christ Jesus in order to their salvation.