Tuesday, July 19, 2005

John Piper on Subjection to God and Subjection to the State

As I mentioned in the previous post, John Piper recently completed a four part series on "Subjection to God and Subjection to the State." The timing couldn't be more appropriate. He's been preaching on Romans since April 26, 1998, and is now in chapter 13.

Here is a summary of the series, which was the opening part of the latest sermon:

First we stressed that all authority is from God and that the existence of civil authority and civil order is good for us. Verse 4: “He [the civil magistrate] is God’s servant for your good.” Anarchy, mob rule, vigilante justice is terrifying not comforting.

Second, we talked about why Paul spoke with such sweeping unqualified terms when he described the goodness of government, especially in verse 3: “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.” He knows there are exceptions to that. We answered: because he wanted Caesar and all authorities to know what ought to be, and he wanted us to lean hard toward submission and not rebellion.

Third, we looked at biblical examples of civil disobedience and what it should look like if it must be.

In this fourth and final part I believe we should focus on the way Romans 13 relates to our positive engagement with government in a country like ours where in a certain sense the government is us. That is, we should ask: How does submission to civil authority work when the ones submitting have created what they submit to? Or what does Romans 13 teach us about responsible Christian involvement with the processes of government in America?

There are at least two teachings in this passage that prompt the reflections I will share. First, is the teaching of verses 1-2 and the question of submission. And, second, is the teaching of verses 3-4 and the question of bringing the moral law to bear on legislative and judicial action.

Here are the complete manuscripts:

[By the way, if anyone is interested in getting Piper's Romans series--chapters 1-12--on MP3, it's now available for purchase at Desiring God.]