Sabbath, December 16, 2006
“It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness. Righteous lips are the delight of kings; and they love him that speaketh right.” Proverbs 16:12, 13.
“Through observing our lives, the people of the world form their opinion of God and of the religion of Christ.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 258.
GOVERMENTS ARE ESTABLISHED BY GOD
1. How do the authorities fulfil their duties as “servants of God”?
Romans 13:3, 4 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
“We should act with great caution. ‘If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.’ We can obey this admonition, and not sacrifice one principle of our faith.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 356.
“The ten precepts of Jehovah are the foundation of all righteous and good laws. Those who love God’s commandments will conform to every good law of the land. But if the requirements of the rulers are such as conflict with the laws of God, the only question to be settled is: Shall we obey God, or man?” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, pp. 361, 362.
“There is a prospect before us of a continued struggle, at the risk of imprisonment, loss of property, and even of life itself, to defend the law of God, which is made void by the laws of men. In this situation worldly policy will urge an outward compliance with the laws of the land, for the sake of peace and harmony. And there are some who will even urge such a course from the Scripture: ‘Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. … The powers that be are ordained of God.’” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 712.
FULFILLMENT OF OUR DUTY
2. What should be our motive in rendering obedience? What else does this entail?
Romans 13:5-7 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
“I saw that it is our duty in every case to obey the laws of our land, unless they conflict with the higher law which God spoke with an audible voice from Sinai, and afterward engraved on stone with His own finger. ‘I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people.’ He who has God’s law written in the heart will obey God rather than men, and will sooner disobey all men than deviate in the least from the commandment of God. God’s people, taught by the inspiration of truth, and led by a good conscience to live by every word of God, will take His law, written in their hearts, as the only authority which they can acknowledge or consent to obey. The wisdom and authority of the divine law are supreme.” –Testimonies
3. How did Christ respond when asked about paying taxes?
Matthew 22:17-21 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
“Christ’s reply was no evasion, but a candid answer to the question. Holding in His hand the Roman coin, upon which were stamped the name and image of Caesar, He declared that since they were living under the protection of the Roman power, they should render to that power the support it claimed, so long as this did not conflict with a higher duty. But while peaceably subject to the laws of the land, they should at all times give their first allegiance to God.
“The Saviour’s words, ‘Render . . . unto God the things that are God’s,’ were a severe rebuke to the intriguing Jews. Had they faithfully fulfilled their obligations to God, they would not have become a broken nation, subject to a foreign power. No Roman ensign would have waved over Jerusalem, no Roman sentinel would have stood at her gates, no Roman governor would have ruled within her walls. The Jewish nation was then paying the penalty of its apostasy from God.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 602.
4. What position did Peter take with respect to this question?
1 Peter 2:13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme.
As we may see, here “the apostle plainly outlined the attitude that believers should sustain toward the civil authorities…” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 522.
OUR ACTIONS IN HARMONY WITH THE WILL OF GOD GO
5. Is this applicable to every situation, without exception? With what words did this same apostle answer the authorities of his day?
Acts 5:27-29 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
“But when its claims conflict with the claims of God, we must obey God rather than men. God’s word must be recognized as above all human legislation. A ‘Thus saith the Lord’ is not to be set aside for a ‘Thus saith the church’ or a ‘Thus saith the state.’ The crown of Christ is to be lifted above the diadems of earthly potentates.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 69.
DUTY TOWARD OUR NEIGHBOUR
6. What responsibility did Paul enjoin upon all believers?
Romans 13:8, first part – Owe no man any thing, but to love one another.
Psalm 37:21 The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth.
“Be determined never to incur another debt. Deny yourself a thousand things rather than run in debt. This has been the curse of your life, getting into debt. Avoid it as you would the smallpox. “Make a solemn covenant with God that by His blessing you will pay your debts and then owe no man anything if you live on porridge and bread. It is so easy in preparing your table to throw out of your pocket twenty-five cents for extras. Take care of the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves. It is the mites here and the mites there that are spent for this, that, and the other, that soon run up into dollars. Deny self at least while you are walled in with debts. … Do not falter, be discouraged, or turn back. Deny your taste, deny the indulgence of appetite, save your pence and pay your debts. Work them off as fast as possible. When you can stand forth a free man again, owing no man anything, you will have achieved a great victory. (Letter 4, 1877).” –Counsels on Stewardship, p. 257.
7. What duty does the Lord also enjoin upon us? What do we fulfil in this manner?
Romans 13:8, second and last parts – for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
“One of the strongest evidences of true conversion is love to God and man. Those who accept Jesus as their Redeemer have a deep, sincere love for others of like precious faith.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 262.
• In my daily life, do I observe the laws of the state? Am I an example in this?
• Is my relationship with the Lord so strong that it will never falter before a law which opposes the divine law?
• What is the only thing that can protect me from unfaithfulness to God?