“ABUNDANT LIFE (7) CITIZENSHIP”               By Pastor YAU

Text: Romans 13:1-7  Independence Day”            July 3, 2011

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)   Citizen of a world nation: People from all over the world came to live and work and school in this country. From citizens to permanent residents to all legal and illegal immigrants came here for many reasons. But two basic duties they have to abide: obey the law and pay taxes. This is the minimum requirement the US government imposes on all people who want to live here. If you want to be a US citizen, you have other duties to fulfill such as pledging allegiance to this country.

2)   Citizen of God’s Kingdom: Those who were called and forgiven to become children of God become citizens of God’s kingdom. So, we hold a dual citizenship, one in this world and the other in eternal kingdom of God. Therefore, we have both duties to ful-fill as citizens of the world and of heaven. The Bible has much to say about what is required of us and how are we going to fulfill our duties as faithful citizens of God.

 

QUESTIONS WE NEED TO ASK OURSELVES: Being citizens of God while living in this world makes it complicated for most of us. We see things in this world and need to react to them in accordance to the Bible is never easy. Here are some of the questions we all need to ponder for answers.

1)   Political involvement: Should Christians actively involve in government and politics to change policies that we deem as unbiblical or even evil?

2)   On taking political actions: Is it always good or right to take actions against unrighteous and evil policies? Is the end justified the means?

3)   On civil disobedience: Is it biblical for Christians to stage and or participate in peaceful demonstration against government policy we see as biblically, morally or socially bad or evil?

4)   Using God given resources: Is it biblical, good or right to use resources God has provided us such as money, time, energy to promote in support or against government policies we see as good or evil?

5)   Church and state relationship: Should Christian churches expect civil government to be an ally or even a partner to achieve the goals God wants the church to achieve?

6)   The culture or the soul? Are we called to change or reform the culture of the world on the outside or to change the hearts and souls of men and women on the inside? What is our mission?

 

THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH AND GOVERNMENT:

1)   Mission of the church: The mission of the church of Jesus Christ is not to change the society to make it an utopia or heaven on earth but to worship and serve the Lord and to spread the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Look through the Bible, there is nothing to hint on this point. This doesn’t mean Christians won’t care the evil in the society or won’t try to impact it with good work. But it does mean Christians and churches are not sent to redeem the society by trying to reform it through social or governmental changes.

2)   Mission of civil government: God instituted civil authority for an entirely different, temporal and transient purpose. But even the absolute best of human governments do not participate in the work of God’ kingdom and the worst of human government system cannot hinder the power of the Spirit and the work of God. Repeatedly history has proven that God did not created the church and civil government for the same purpose.

3)   Christians and civil service: The Bible presents many positive illustrations of believers of God whose earth role placed them in civil services and they were useful to advance the course of God. Men like Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon are two supreme examples. After Jesus healed the centurion, He did not ask him to leave his service in the Roman army. After Zaccheus was converted, he did not leave his civil service. After he was saved by the gospel presented by Peter, Cornelius continued to serve in his military profession. (Acts 10) Believers of God can and should involve in civil government through service or voice our belief through voting for qualified political candidates and for sound legislation. That is part of doing good in our society.

4)   Setting biblical priority: At issue is the matter of priority. We need to realize that the greatest good we may be able to achieve in the temporal world, through government or politics, pales in comparison of what the Lord is able to accomplish through us in the spiritual work of His kingdom. Like the ancient Israel, the church is called to be a kingdom of priests, not a kingdom of social activists. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession,” Peter reminds us, “that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) We may lose sight if we mix up with biblical priorities.

 

TEACHING OF THE APOSTLE: (Romans 13:1-7)

1)   Christians are good citizens: “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities.” (13:1a) This is the basic command and it is simple and succinct. This reflects the universal plan of God for mankind, but was speaking specifically to Christians. The fact that we are saved and are citizen of the kingdom of God does not exempt us from civil authorities. In fact, Christianity and good citizenship should go hand in hand together for the good of people and the society in which we live, work, serve and witness. True Christians do not just obey the law of the society but respect with honor government agents as servants of God for maintaining law and order and justice in human society. Christians should be part of the society that promotes peace and harmony for all people.

2)   Christians are to obey the law: Believers of Christ are to be model citizens, known as law abiding not rubble-rousing; obey and not rebel, respect government rather than demeaning it. We must speak against sin, against injustice, immorality. Ungodly practices with fearless dedication, but we must do it within the framework of the civil law and respect of civil authorities. We are to be a godly society doing good and living in peace within an ungodly world. Subjection, in Greek hupotasso, is a military term referring to an under ranked soldier, subject to absolute authority of his superior officer. The verb is passive imperative means it is a command, not an option.

3)   Christians obey all civil authorities: Paul gives no qualification or condition on which government Christians should obey. That means we are to obey every civil government regardless of its political or moral nature. There is no condition of which civil authority or its competence or moral stand that we will obey and respect. Paul told the early Christians to “treaties, prayers, peti-tions and thanksgiving be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority in order that we may lead a peaceful life in all godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)During the years in Paul’s life, Roman government and other authorities in the area were not godly, fair or just. But that didn’t qualify any of the early Christians not to obey the authority or the law. God did not give us the right to choose the kind of authority to obey.

4)   Seven biblical reasons to obey: a) Government is by divine decree. b) Resistance to government is rebellion against God’s authority. c) Those who resist will be punished. D) Government serves to restrain evil. e) Government serves to promote good. f) Rulers are given the power from God to punish the disobedient, and g) We obey government for our own conscience. (13:1-5)

 

WHAT HAD JESUS DONE?

1)   His kingdom is not of this world: In answering Pilate the Roman official who had the power of condemning or releasing him, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world, if it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest.” (John 18:36) This is the foundation on which Jesus proclaimed his ministry and purpose of life. He came to give life, spiritual life not political life although many of his followers were disappointed of his stand. Jesus was not sent to reform the political landscape of a Jewish nation, He came to die for the redemption of the world.

2)   He came to meet spiritual needs: The day after he fed the 5,000 with the lunch of a small boy, Jesus told those who came back to see him again. “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw the miracle but because you ate the loaves and had you fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6:26-27)  This doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t care their physical needs. He did so much to meet their physical needs but that was not his primary purpose in coming to this world. He came to save the souls of men and women, not to change political and economic or social system to make their life easier. That is why his first message to the world was: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2)

3)   He came to begin a new creation: Jesus did not come to change a new political, social or moral order but to begin a new creation of spiritual order, his church. He did not seek to change the old creation moral but to make the new creation holy. He mandated his church to perpetuate his ministry the same way and to the same end, to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) Later Paul echoed what Jesus has said, “If anyone who is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians. 5:17)

4)   He obeyed civil authority: In answering a tricky question by the Pharisees if it is right to pay taxes to Caesar that was seen as an act of betrayal of national loyalty by most Jews. Jesus made it clear that we “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matt 22:22) Obedience of civil taxation is another area that has caused many debates in Christian community. Should Christians pay taxes knowing that part of the money will be spent in things that are clearly against Christian principles such as abortion and war. Yet Jesus did not leave us any wiggle room but gave us a clear-cut answer: we will obey the law of taxation imposed by the civil authorities.

CONCLUSION:

1)    Treasure your citizenship: Citizenship is a privilege as well as responsibility. Citizens of this country enjoy lots of privileges and rights many other countries don’t have. We need to be grateful to live in this great nation, with all the imperfection, it is still by far the best in the world. Let us love this country, support this country ad pray for this country that the people will turn to God and do what is right in His eyes.

2)    Fulfill our citizen duties: As in all countries around the world, citizens are required to fulfill their duties to show loyalty to the country. Citizens are to obey the civil authorities regardless if you like the government, the officials or their policies. Obey the law of the land is commanded by God and we need to obey God. We are to live our lives in peace with all people for the good of the society. Participate in civic duties according to the principles of God’s word.

3)    Seek the eternal citizenship: Whatever citizenship we may have or whatever country we may belong, it is all but a temporary title. When our life on earth expires, we need the security of an eternal country we can count on belong. That is the kingdom of God. Anyone may gain entrance to this kingdom by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ through confession and forgiveness of sin. If you never have this citizenship before, you may submit your application through prayer of confession. Jesus will enter your heart and become Lord of your life today.