God and Government Part 1 – Mark 12:13-17; Romans 13:1-7

By John Bellingham on April 24, 2016
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God and Government Part 1

Mark 12:13-17;  Romans 13:1-7

I.  A Dilemma (vv. 12-14)

1)     An Unholy Alliance

  1. Pharisees and Herodians normally didn’t get along, but on this mission they were united to ‘trap’ and destroy Jesus
    1. Their flattery is an attempt to persuade the crowd that they are honest truth seekers
    2. Jesus sees straight through the hypocrisy (cf. Proverbs 27:6, 29:5)
  2. ‘Trap’ (v. 1) – rare word in the New Testament carrying image of a hunter capturing an animal
    1. Chapter 12 is a minefield of deadly ‘traps’
    2. Jesus skillfully dodges each trap that is set

2)     A Hot Button Issue – Paying Tax to Rome

  1. Taxes were a painful and burdensome reminder of Rome’s subjugation of Israel
  2. Taxes were paid with idolatrous coins bearing the image of Emperor Tiberius and an inscription declaring him to be divine and the ‘high priest’ of Rome
  3. Taxes had already resulted in an uprising in 6 AD led by Judas the Galilean (founder of the violent, anti-Roman ‘Zealots’)  cf. Acts 5:37

3)     An Impossible Question (v. 14)

  1. If Jesus answers ‘yes’ to the tax question he will be seen as a Roman sympathizer by the crowd
  2. If He answers ‘no’ he will be seen as a Jewish revolutionary by the authorities

II.  A Distinction (vv. 15-17;  Romans 13:1-7)

1) Caesar’s Sphere of Authority

  1. Jesus distinguishes between 2 spheres of authority – 1) Caesar’s sphere & 2) God’s sphere
    1. ‘Render’ – to give what is owed
    2. Jesus clearly affirms the legitimacy of Civil Government –  See also:  John 18:36, 19:11
    3. Disagreement about how these two spheres/ kingdoms should relate to each other
  • Segregation of Church from State
    • Anabaptist ‘pacifism’& withdrawal from politics
    • Secularist push to privatize religious expression
  • Fusion of Church and State
    • Roman Catholic Church – pope’s historic claim to hold supremacy over the Civil Magistrates
    • Protestant ‘Erastianism’ – Reformers believed that civil government was responsible for maintaining religious/ theological purity à Persecution!
    • ‘Moral Majority’– unhealthy tendency in America to wrap the Bible in the flag
  • Separation of Church and State
    • Baptist Position– distinct but inter-related spheres
    • Christians can fight in just wars and be involved in civil service.   There must be freedom of conscience!
    • Neither sphere should intrude on the other.  State has no authority to exercise Church Discipline.  Church has no authority to rule over the State.

2) Christian View of Civil Government (Rom 13:1-7)

  1. All Civil Authority is Established by God
    1. Jesus and Paul are speaking about the Roman Empire which persecuted Christians and Jews
    2. Bad government is better than no government
  2. Christians are to be subject to Civil Authority
    1. To resist/dishonor civil auth. is to resist God
    2. Resisting authority normally leads to punishment  (power of sword)
  3. Civil Disobedience as final Resort – only when man’s Law comes into conflict with God’s Law

3) God’s Sphere of Authority

  1. The coin bears Caesar’s image, but humanity bear’s God’s Image – we belong to our Creator!
  2. We Christians have the duty and privilege to ‘render’ ourselves fully to God – Romans 12:1-2

Application: “Honour everyone.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honour the emperor.”  – 1 Peter 2:17

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