|Mercy Street Church of Christ
The state's authority...
I confess that I find it extremely impressive that Paul
writes of both the 'authority' and the 'ministry' of the
state; that three times he affirms the state's authority to
be God's authority; and that three times he describes the
state and its ministers as God's ministers, using two words
(*diakonos* and *leitourgos*)which elsewhere he applied to
his own ministry as apostle and evangelist, and even to the
ministry of Christ.(1) I do not think there is any way of
wiggling out of this, for example by interpreting the
paragraph as a grudging acquiescence in the realities of
political power. No. In spite of the defects of Roman
government, with which he was personally familiar, Paul
emphatically declared its authority and ministry to be
God's. It is the divine origin of the state's authority
which makes Christian submission to it a matter of
'conscience' (Rom. 13:5).
Nevertheless, the fact that the state's authority had
been delegated by God, and is therefore not intrinsic but
derived, means that is must never be absolutized. Worship
is due to God alone, and to his Christ, who is the lord of
all rule and authority (Eph. 1:21-22) and 'the ruler of the
kings of the earth' (Rev. 1:5; cf. 19:16). The state must
be respected as a divine institution; but to give it our
blind, unqualified allegiance would be idolatry. The early
Christians refused to call Caesar 'lord'' that title
belonged to Jesus alone.
(1) For *diakonos* applied to Christ see Rom. 15:8, and to
Paul 2 Cor. 6:4. For *leitourgos* applied to Christ
see Heb. 8:2, and to Paul Rom. 15:16.
For Mercy Street Ministries, I'm Stan Baldwin.
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