Rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil.
The Bible says that the purpose of government is to establish order. The reason God put governing officials in place is to keep order in the world by punishing evildoers and praising those who do well. Paul said in Romans 13:3-4, “Rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good.” That word “minister” in Greek is the word we get “deacon” from. Government is a servant to us for good, Paul said, “but if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing” (13:4). That is a clear reference to capital punishment. Government has the right to take a life. “It does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (13:4).
In these verses, Paul described a government that is fulfilling its God-ordained purpose. He said that good government should not be feared by those who do good. If you do the right thing, then you do not need to be afraid of government. That is a general principle. As long as you obey the traffic laws, pay your taxes, and don’t blow up buildings, you are going to be okay. If you do the right thing, then you do not need to be fearful of the government.
Paul also said in verse 3, “Do what is good and you will have praise from the same.” Now, Paul was not saying that the government is going to give you the Citizen of the Year award for paying your income tax or stopping at a red light. He was saying that if you do the right thing, then government will leave you alone. You will be in good standing with government. And that should be our goal, shouldn’t it? We want to be in a relationship with government where they will leave us alone.
That is what Paul said in 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” He was saying, “Let’s pray for the government. Let’s pray for the president, for the senators, for the Supreme Court. Let’s pray for them. Why? Mainly that they would leave us alone, so we can live a godly life and be free to share the gospel.” That is the reason to have a right relationship with government.
In Romans 13, Paul was saying that if we do the right thing, then government will leave us alone and leave us free to fulfill our God-ordained purpose.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “To Obey Or Not To Obey” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.