A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

Showing posts with label Questioning Authority. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Questioning Authority. Show all posts

May 5, 2024

Today's Christian and the Quandary Over Romans 13

It goes without saying that Romans 13:1-7 has been a subject of debate among Christians since it was written nearly 2000 years ago. But as with any critical consideration or interpretation of Biblical text, one must evaluate this passage within the context of what Paul is experiencing in his environment, and what God wants him to teach readers. I will admit that it is difficult to do that in the midst of our own experiences and environment; we are always wanting to contrast the two.

But this isn't about explaining our own biases in interpreting Romans 13. We must comprehend what Paul is explaining to the First Century Believers, with the clear understanding that God intends for us to take this teaching and apply the same Godly principles, not substituting our own prejudices. It's not an easy thing to do, and can lead to false justifications for our actions. So, let's dive in and see what we can discern.

It's important that we understand what has led Paul to this point in his letter to the believers in Rome. Remember, all the chapters prior to this one have related to instructing the Jewish and Gentile believers that God has a had a plan to reconcile [and bring into unity] all those who will believe in Jesus as His Son and the Redeemer of the world. God sees no difference between a Jewish believer and a Gentile one. In Chapter 12, Paul's letter brings everything from the previous chapters into focus to reveal that God demands our action [towards each other] as well as our believing and thinking, which leads to faith that expresses itself in obedience. 

All that coalesces into the instruction in Chapter 13 to "Submit to Authorities" or "Be Subject to the Government", depending on your translation. But here is what is not made clear in this short chapter. At the time, the Roman government imposed a hefty tax burden upon its subjects [which included the Jews], and those taxes had to be paid in coins [called a denarius] that portrayed the image of Caesar with an inscription calling him "divine". In addition, the Jewish people had a temple tax, which was required of Jewish males over age 20, and the money was used for the upkeep and maintenance of the temple. In this case taxes were paid in shekels.   

This information brings Romans 13:1 clearly into focus ... Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. Here, I believe, knowing the context of the culture Paul was writing from, he is saying, "Whether it be Caesar, or the Temple authorities, we are to render ourselves as subjects". Why, you may ask? Verse 2 tells us ... For there is no authority except from God [granted by His permission and sanction], and those which exist have been put in place by God. These authorities, whether a nation's leaders or church/synagogue leaders have been appointed by God to serve a purpose in His plan. The problem is that citizens, whether in Paul's time or our own, are short-sighted. We have only looked at these leaders as to how they have served or affected us, instead of understanding and honoring that God appointed them for HIS purpose.

So, here is what we need to come to terms with: God has not always appointed them to bless the people. Sometimes He puts them in place to judge the people or to ripen the nation for His coming judgment [bring His judgment to maturity]. If we would rightly discern the Word, we would see that neither the Lord nor Paul disputed or denied the authority of either the Roman Emperor or the Pharisee priests. In fact, both Jesus and Paul would suffer and be killed by the Roman authorities, having been targeted by plots of religious Jews. 

Just as Jesus did, we are not to resist [governmental] authority because to do so is to resist the decree of God. [NOTE: The exception to that is if authorities order us to do something in contradiction to God's law. We see that instruction in Acts 4:19, when Peter and John told the Sanhedrin that God's law superseded the laws of men, including the Sanhedrin's]. Back to Romans, Paul teaches that those who resist governmental authority will bring civil judgment and penalties on themselves. This should be a warning to all the people... if you do what is good, according to the law, then you have nothing to fear from the civil authorities, because they are God's servant to you for good. And in contrast, if you do wrong, then you should expect to be punished for going against God's protectors of society and social order. 

The mention that the civil authorities carry a sword of punishment and law and order seems to imply that force may be used, when necessary, to maintain order. If the authorities are acting in accordance to God's mandate to them, and the citizens comply with ethical and principled laws, then society operates in unity, everyone knowing what is right before God. It is through just punishment that government serves God's plan to hold man's sinful tendencies in check. IF a government fails to carry out this mandate from God, then it will find itself subject to God's own judgment and correction. This should be a stern warning to all the DA's who are not upholding our laws as we see crime escalating at extreme rates.

Then comes the verses that are most problematic for American Christians. Romans 13:6-7 says, For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. From our cultural context, these verses rub us the wrong way. Having been birthed in rebellion to governmental authority, our national inclination is to object to an overlord that taxes our own hard work that has made us prosperous. But remember, Paul is writing to the First Century believers in Rome; both Jew and Gentile. We are to give to the state the money, honor and respect which is due them, while also giving to God for the work He desires to do. 

But it must be made clear [and understood] that these verses are implying that the taxes collected are for the purpose of restraining evil and keeping an orderly society -- not to line the pockets of the government officials. Paul leaves a lot of questions unanswered at this point in his letter. So, here we are in the 21st Century wondering how God wants us to respond to government authorities whom it is clearly discerned are not acting as righteous servants or ministers in accordance with His governmental "plan and purpose". At what point do we take a stand as Peter and John did? When and how do we justify actions to resist these ungodly authorities? We must remember that they are sometimes put in place [by God] to render judgment, not blessings, to a nation that has fallen far from Him. We must all be seeking God for these particular answers. We do not want to interfere with His purpose, but we want to do His will.

At this point in the chapter, Paul switches to the only "debt" we are to carry: Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. Yes, we are instructed that we have an obligation to pay our taxes and follow the laws our government has put in place. That is all the responsibility we have to our society. But Loving our Neighbor is a "forever" obligation and a debt that is never released. You can be religious and do all the "works of man", but to love like God loves is true obedience to our Lord and Master. 

Then we come to verse 11, which speaks so deeply to my spirit ... Do this, knowing that this is a critical time. It is already the hour for you to awaken from your sleep [of spiritual complacency]; for our salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed [in Christ]. This verse reminds me of the parable of the Ten Virgins, five of whom were asleep in their spiritual contentment and slackness; unprepared for the hour that would divide those invited to enter and receive their kingdom inheritance from those whom the wedding feast was withheld. We cannot sleepwalk into the Kingdom! We must be wide awake, clothed in righteousness and in Christ, with our armor on and ready to defend our faith in the Name of Christ, as well as attack the forces of Evil that are readying for the return of our Lord! 

Romans 13 is a call to spiritual arms for every Believer in Jesus Christ, the Messiah! We must be discerning of both our government and church authorities. We must do right by God and His appointed authorities, trusting that whether they have been appointed to bless us or judge us, God will be with us and for us. And so, we look forward to that day we hear the trumpet blast that announces His return. It can't come soon enough for me!

Proverbs 21:1    The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He will.

December 2, 2023

Our Western Mindset Questions Authority ... And Jesus Is Our Authority!

I have made it clear through the history of this blog that I live my life governed by a Biblical worldview. What exactly is that, you might ask? Here is what it means to me ... that I believe in God, the Creator of the world, who has established an absolute moral truth that we are to live by. This truth is available to us through His Word, the Holy Bible. Therefore, I try to live my life by the precepts and principles He has given us in the Bible, recognizing that He is a Sovereign God; a ruler over men, nations, and governments. He is our moral authority and He rules according to His wisdom and purpose, calling me to responsibility in safeguarding His kingdom here on earth. 

That's a mouthful, I know, but it lies at the heart of the theme of today's post. And I want to build a case for the topic I'm writing about today, which is our society and culture's problem with accepting the authority of Christ. I'll begin here: In 2019 I wrote a blog titled Is Your Biblical Worldview Hebrew or Greek? It Makes a Difference! In this article I pointed out that from the beginning of the Bible's existence, there has been a tension between the Hebrew mindset and the Greek mindset when it comes to interpreting it and understanding Scripture. Having a Biblical Worldview necessitates that we rightly view the world through the lens of God's Word. But if you study history, it is easy to see that the manner in which the Body of Christ/the Church has viewed God's Word has changed through the centuries. And I remember waking up to the reality that just because we believe certain things "according to the Bible" today, it may not necessarily be consistent with the original writings and intent of God's inspired Word. 

That means that we should be reading our Bible [and understanding it] from the perspective of who it was written to (the Hebrews), and not through our own Western lens, which is based on a Greek mindset. One of the best explanations I've heard about the difference between the two mindsets comes from Todd Weatherly, of Bride Ministries Church: "The Hebrew mindset says, "I will do it [through obedience], and then I'll understand it." He says the Greek mindset thinks like this: "I need to understand it first, and then I'll do it". Which one puts God first?

Here's another way to look at it ... The Hebrew mindset allows for varied interpretations, and a passage can have multiple meanings [both in the physical and the spiritual realms] -- all to be revealed to the reader [by the Holy Spirit] from God's perspective. On the other hand, Greek thinking is very black and white; laden with precise exegesis rather than being rich in possibilities. Greek thought nails the meaning down; it can mean one thing, and one thing only. When we consider that Socrates lived 400 years before the crucifixion of Christ, and is considered the father of Western philosophy, we can understand why the Greek mindset would have been in direct conflict with the Hebrew mindset at the time the Bible was written and translated. The Socratic method of learning can be summed up, thusly: learning through the use of critical thinking, reasoning, and logic. From there, one questions, analyzes, and simplifies to get the one correct answer. The physical world contains the answer; the spiritual influence isn't considered. Can you see that influence in our modern American Church, and why it would lead to a religious frame of mind?

All of this leads to a blog post I wrote earlier this year, titled Why the Western World is Confused About the Kingdom of God. Because we read the Bible with a Greek mindset, we tend to form a rigid [and religious] belief system based on single concepts we've deduced from logic and reasoning. For example ... for years I read my Bible, never grasping or receiving the idea of what Jesus meant by saying His primary purpose for coming to earth was to bring the Good News of the Kingdom of God to the Jews (Matthew 15:24 and Luke 4:43). I had been taught throughout my Church experience that the primary message of Jesus was the one of Salvation, yet I only find that word used or referenced six times in the four Gospels, and only once by Jesus (He spoke of being "born again" [or Salvation] in John 3:1-5). Yet, the Kingdom of God is mentioned at least 62 times, and nearly every time by Jesus, Himself. 

So why didn't I ask the appropriate questions about the Kingdom, or seek more understanding of why my Lord and Savior spoke so much about it? Why didn't I hear the Gospel of the Kingdom of God taught from the pulpits of the churches I have attended? And although "Kingdom" has now become somewhat of a popular sermon theme these days [and a Christian buzzword, I think our Western mindset still is not in tune with the understanding of what Jesus meant. And as simple and absurd as it may sound, I believe our confusion lies in the fact that we in the Western world, and especially here in America, have no concept of what it means to live in a kingdom or under a King.  

And here is where I finally come to the heart of today's post ... Having been raised in our American identity of separation from a king in order to secure our God-given rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, we have what might be called a genetic bias towards authority; it's in our national DNA to be independent and to question any authority that threatens those rights. In fact, our culture has been bred to reject and question authority. So, when Jesus says, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me" (Matthew 28:18), anyone who is a non-believer and doubts His kingship, is naturally going to question His authority in their life. But, here is something that astounds me ... Jesus proclaims His authority and then announces that He is going to give that authority to us so that we might defeat the Enemy in our lives, take back the dominion we were given in the earth, and re-establish the rule of the Kingdom of God. "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you" (Luke 10:19).

But the American Church has not done a good job of teaching us these concepts! Yes, we have power and authority to rule in His stead, but He is still the King and possesses All authority! Psalm 24:1 tells us, "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness of it; the world and all who dwell in it". Then Psalm 115:16 says, "The heavens are the Lord's heavens, but the earth He has given to the children of man". We Greek-minded, Western-thinking Americans must be reminded that these verses are not saying God gave us ownership of the land called earth. At any time, He could take it back; that would be His exclusive right as King of the Universe, and Creator of earth. When God "gave" us the earth, He did not relinquish His ownership or authority over it.

We possess the earth as a trust, or stewardship. In Genesis 1:26-28, He gave us dominion [authority; jurisdiction; the right to govern in His stead] over the earth in order to extend the government of Heaven to this earthly realm. He gave us rulership, but not ownership. It is a privilege to rule this earth, and we must not take it for granted; we will be held accountable to the King for how we manage His kingdom here on planet earth. We are subject to His authority! 

But again, I fear that the American Church is a result of the changes in interpretation of God's Word that have come down through the centuries and been influenced by our Greek mindset. Have we become men and women who hold to a form of religion of our own making (and according to our national identity) but denying its power? 2 Timothy 3:1-5 says, "But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self .... rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid  such people". 

Once again, I suggest that our Greek/Western mindset is at odds with the true Biblical concept of God/Jesus's authority in our lives, and leads us to denial of His authority, which then leads to rejection [of] and rebellion [against] that authority. Luke 6:46 exemplifies how Jesus views this behavior: Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Remember, the Hebrew mindset says, "I will do it [through obedience], and then I'll understand it." The Greek mindset thinks like this: "I need to understand it first, and then I'll do it". Which one accepts the authority of God in their life? 

And here's where we need to take heed of 1 Timothy 4:1, "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons ...". Our national history reveals this in our decisions to throw God out of our schools and the halls of government. Furthermore, we see it in the tendency of our educational systems to teach atheistic curriculum, pointing to socialism and marxist philosophies as the better way. And Church leaders are guilty of teaching unBiblical social doctrine, leading many to mistakenly legitimize their sin through Church membership. But this seems so "upside down" to me!

Today, we find many of the inhabitants of our country rejecting the authority of Christ in their lives as too restrictive and limiting, yet they are embracing the authoritarian rule and ideology of oligarchies as a better way to administer a society. Little do they know that there is true Freedom in Jesus's authority in our lives. Somehow, we have gotten way off track. Because it is our national predilection, or bias, to "buck the system" and push back against authority, we have listened to the lies and wicked deception of those who renounce the power and authority of Jesus in favor of the false promises of Satan that self-indulgence and self-worship is where we will find our salvation. 

That's the same lie he sold to Adam and Eve in the Garden and the same false promise that they could be their own God! Lord, help us! Our nation has turned its back on You and we are in danger of calling Your righteous judgment down upon ourselves! For myself, I bow to Your power and authority in my life, and I do not question Your Sovereignty over the earth. I choose to have the Hebrew mindset and obey Your commandments in Your Word, trusting the Holy Spirit to reveal Your Truth. And there's no amount of logic or critical thinking of the Greek mindset that will convince me to reject Your authority in my life. The fact that our universities no longer teach critical thinking will only serve to further remove the understanding of Your authority. We are in great need of a spiritual reset. Come Lord Jesus!

#hebrewmindset #greekmindset #theauthorityofchrist #ourdominionintheearth #theauthorityofgodsword #biblicalworldview #ourculturaldna #ourpowerandauthority #satansdeception #satansfalsepromises #rejectingjesus'sauthority  

1 Corinthians 1:22-25     For Jews demand signs (attesting miracles), and Greeks pursue [worldly] wisdom and philosophy, but we preach Christ crucified, [a message which is] to Jews a stumbling block [that provokes their opposition], and to Gentiles foolishness [just utter nonsense], but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks (Gentiles), Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. [This is] because the foolishness of God [is not foolishness at all and] is wiser than men [far beyond human comprehension], and the weakness of God is stronger than men [far beyond the limits of human effort].