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19. Are "All Authorities ... Established by God"?

Leadership, Integrity and Nation building.

– by Colin Salter

Please read with me Romans 13:1-7:

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour”.

Giving proper respect to God-given government, while at the same time speaking a prophetic word against some of their present practices, is a tricky balance to hold in tension. Like the way a refugee tent is kept in useful shape by strong ropes pulling in different directions, so Christians have to be spiritually wise in relation to our political expression.

It is of course right for Christian believers to be involved in politics and in government, both nationally and locally. Our Lord Jesus told His disciples to be influential “salt and light” everywhere, Matthew 5:13-16. He did not exclude the sometimes ‘dirty world’ of politics. During my early visits to Sudan from 1979, I was shocked in discussion groups to discover many Evangelical Christians taught believers must not get involved! Not surprising, perhaps, that adverse tighter religious control has crept in since events like 1983/1989/1993/2011?

The Bible also tells us to be involved as we regularly pray for those who “rule in authority over us”, 1 Timothy 2:2. Again notice there are no exceptions made. When this instruction was written, the world-conquering Roman Empire ruled many lands not originally their own. They badly oppressed local populations.

In the Church of England here in UK, and the Episcopal Churches of Sudan/South Sudan, the ‘Prayer Book’ services include words like:

“O God, in love you provide for your people by your power and rule over them: be pleased to bless your servant Elizabeth our Queen so that under her this nation may be wisely governed and your church be free to serve you in godly quietness”.

“Most gracious God, we pray for the Prime Minister, members of Cabinet and Government and all elected to the Parliament and councils of this realm. Direct and prosper all their consultations to the advancement of your glory, the good of your church, and the safety, honour and welfare of all the peoples of this land; so that peace and happiness, truth and justice, faith and godliness, may be established among us for all generations; through Jesus Christ our Lord”. Amen.[1]

These are good prayers to pray for all national/state leaders, whoever and wherever:

Minister: God save the Queen/the President;

People: and mercifully hear us when we pray to you.

Minister: Endow all in government with righteousness;

People: and make your chosen people joyful.

“Here, in South Sudan, we use the prayer book too, but pray for the 'government' - and somebody leading the prayer can mention the president, ministers, and those in authority, instead of the Queen”. Elisama Daniel.[2]

“In our Bari Prayer book, done when we were one country, we have a ‘Prayer for leaders of Sudan’. It prays for our leaders who govern Sudan, that the people would obey their rulers so that we may live in peace and love as per God’s will. It mentions all leaders of the country and refers to District Commissioners and all leaders at different levels. A recent revision in Bari refers to the leaders of South Sudan”. Rt. Rev. Anthony Poggo. [3]

We now pray:

Minister: O Lord, save our Rulers;

People: and teach their counsellors wisdom”.

Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo.

Do we seriously pray for our national leaders in their work? Here are some steps. Do we believe that God the Holy Spirit can:

1. Make them aware of Who He is? At present “there is no fear of God before their eyes”, Romans 3:18.

2. Convince them of their own personal sinfulness? “there is no one righteous, not even one”, Romans 3:10.

3. Bring someone to them to speak of our Lord Jesus? “righteousness is given through faith in Christ Jesus to all who believe. There is no difference between (anybody)”, Romans 3:22.

4. Draw them to Himself for personal salvation? “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood – to be received by faith”, Romans 3:25.

5. Change our country into what He wants,[4] one person after another? “to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness”, Romans 4:5.

“It is God who has ordained the church and the state and their separate divisions of labour. It is not the function of the state to preach the gospel, to do evangelism, or to administer the sacraments; it is not the function of the church to wage war or to have the sword. They are different institutions with different responsibilities, but both have been ordained by God, and both are answerable to God.” “The minute a culture or a government claims independence from God, it becomes godless. It is the responsibility of the church to have a prophetic voice in the culture, to call sin “sin” whenever it arises in government or anywhere else in the public arena”.[5] (emphasis mine).

Explore in your Bible:

  • Ahab, Naboth and Elijah, 1 Kings 21:1-29, especially vs17-19.

  • At least four kings were challenged, sometimes face to face, by Isaiah: Isaiah 1:1; 7:1-20; 20:1-6; 39:3-8 etc. Tradition records that Isaiah died as a martyr by being sawed in two at the hands of Manasseh, perhaps Hebrews 11:37?

  • Herod was confronted by John the Baptist, Mark 6:14-29, who died as a result.

  • Our Lord Jesus spoke of His own kingdom to Jewish religious and civic or military leaders, Matthew 21:1-17 & 23-27; 27:11-26; 8:5-13.

May I challenge all South Sudanese and Sudanese Christians? to:

(1) Play your part in politics

(2) Pray for all God’s appointed civic and

other leaders

(3) Preach prophetically to big groups and to

individuals, as God opens the ways for you

(4) Always be ready to Pay the price asked by

our Lord Jesus.

Discussion guide

Using this chapter and Scriptures quoted

1. Precisely what does Romans 13:1 mean by “The authorities that exist have been established by God”? What implications does this have for those who are “subject to”, verse 1, and those who “rebel against”, verse 2, authority? Include Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-17 and John 19:11 in your thinking.

2. “Do we seriously pray for our national leaders and their work”? Why? Why not? Survey the five prayer points I have suggested then add (or subtract  if you must!) some of your own. Give reasons either way.

3. From the true story of King Ahab, Naboth and Elijah, in 1 Kings 21:1-29, especially verses 17-19, are there any lessons to draw for our witness to leaders today? List opportunities and obstacles. Consider the price of both – doing something or doing nothing.

[1] [2] From private correspondence with me, 16-31st August 2017. All three quotations. [3] Kitap Kwakwaset, (SPCK: London) c.1953. Bari is a Nilo-Saharan language spoken by about 500,000 people along the Nile River, primarily in extreme Southern Sudan but also in Uganda. It is a major language used by Anglicans in Episcopal Church of Sudan, and the diaspora. [4] Not necessarily what we want! Almighty God always knows best. [5] R.C.Sproul Acts Expositional Commentary (Crossway: Wheaton, Illinois, USA) p.259, 2010.


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