This Sunday, we focus on the Romans reading, and we read a devotion from The Abiding Word, Vol. 1.
Read the propers for today on lutherancalendar.org.
As sojourners in this world, we may sometimes feel tension between what our earthly authorities would have for us and what God would have for us. Today’s reading from Romans helps us remember that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). We thank God today for His institution of government as we ask that those who are in authority over us would govern with wisdom and good discernment.
In His sacerdotal prayer, Christ says that His disciples are not of the world, that they no longer conform to the manner and ways of the sinful and unbelieving world. Yet Christ has not taken them out of the world. They are still within the world and as such have the duty to shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation and to be blameless and beyond reproach also in their attitude toward those ordinances which God has instituted for the preservation of order and discipline and peace in a world of sin. One of these divine institutions is civil government.
Paul very emphatically teaches the divine institution of government, irrespective of its character or form, so long as it has power to rule. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God” (Rom. 13:1, 2). And three times (vv. 4, 5) he calls government the “minister of God,” a servant, or attendant, who carries out the will of his Master, through whom God maintains order and discipline in the world.
Irrespective of how we understand the term “ordinance of man,” there is the clear demand that we should obey these ordinances, whether they be higher or lower authorities, “for the Lord’s sake.” God demands such obedience, because, as Paul says, they are God’s ministers, divinely instituted.
In the preceding verses Paul had pointed out the honor which is theirs by divine will. Not only are they vested with an office of divine institution, but every officer of the state, every person in an official position is ordained, assigned to his place by God, is appointed by God (Rom. 13:1), honored by God to be made His “minister,” or servant, through whom God rules the community (v. 4, 5), and as such clothed by God Himself with the power and authority he holds in his particular office.
It is not always an easy matter to render due honor to officials, judges, legislators, whom we know to be disreputable men, companions of gangsters, dishonest, venal. Yet, however wicked and dishonorable his character, being one of the authorities that be, he has been honored by God to be His minister.
Devotional reading is adapted from The Abiding Word, Vol. 1, pages 508, 510, 517–18 © 1947, 1975 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.