13b:and those who resist will incur judgment… 4b:But if you do wrong, be in fear, for it does not bear the sword in vain. It is God’s servant to administer retribution on the wrongdoer. 13:5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath of the authorities but also because of your conscience.
I’ve grouped these verses like this because thematically they all address the consequences of disobedience to our authorities. Rather than revisit the recurring thoughts over several days, I thought it would be more efficient to consider them all here together.
Government is God’s servant. That’s something you don’t hear or think about very often. Usually we think of how government is opposed to God or is godless. It makes me smile to read this and think that even the most atheistic politician is in reality a servant of God instead!
administer retribution. It’s interesting to note that — at least some of the time — our just God will use the civil authorities to accomplish His justice.
not only…but also because of. There are two negative incentives given as reasons to obey our government leaders. 1. because their wrath will be upon you and 2. our conscience will be violated. I am reflecting on the fact that the former one is a temporary earthly consequence while the latter one involves peace with God through eternity.
My friend Jim’s comment Monday made me think that perhaps there are times when we need to incur #1 (temporary wrath) for the sake of #2 (eternal peace with God). That certainly was the case for the early church many times.
be in fear. I can’t recall very many times when scripture tells us to be in fear. If we do wrong, however, we should be in fear. It seems this must be exclusively be referring to fearing God’s wrath, not government’s, since a right disobedience (obeying God rather than men) would result in blessing not cause for fear.
Here are two supporting arguments from scripture. Matthew 10:28 says we should be afraid of God if we do wrong, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” If we’re doing right, however, 1 Peter 3:14 says not to be afraid of earthly punishers (including governments): “But in fact, if you happen to suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. But do not be terrified of them or be shaken.
So the bottom line is: obey government leaders or face the corresponding consequences. Of particular importance are the eternal consequences that come with doing what is right or wrong.