Friday, December 14, 2007

Subjection to God and Subjection to the State (Piper)

In a sermon on Romans 13:1-7, John Piper argues that, since God has established (and "disestablished") every government in history, even evil ones, we "should learn that it is God's will to govern the world of mankind through human civil authorities."

But how can we submit to evil governments? What Piper argues is that since God ordained these governments, you are worshiping God by willingly submitting to their God ordained authority. He illustrates this principle with Pilate:

And what about Pilate, the ruler who above all other rulers did not reward good behavior but punished the only perfect man whoever lived? When he said to Jesus, “Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?' 11 Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above'” (John 19:10). So Romans 13:1 includes Pilate.

So Jesus worshiped God by submitting to evil authority, because God ordained this authority to carry out his will.

Piper recognizes some of the difficulties of this passage, including the idea that maybe there are times when we should not submit to the authorities, but he goes on to illustrate some implications of this passage like this:

Jesus is over the government. Keeping the speed limit is Christian worship! How you doing, all you snot-heads, when you say, you seventeen year-olds, "oh, this is just kind of a rule of thumb"? Your pride behind your steering wheel stinks in heaven! "I will get there on time; I don't care what the servant of my God says. Not a big issue." This is just a small illustration of the arrogance of the human soul. That's a big issue.

So, how you doing all you snot-heads? Wow, I know I felt convicted.

Yesterday afternoon, after listening to this message, I drove 55 mph on I-64 through Louisville. You have no idea how many people are speeding when you are speeding. Hundreds of cars passed me in the 20-30 minutes it took me to get over to Indiana. Isn't it easy to be sucked in to what everyone else is doing? It's easy to rationalize things, and say, "well, I'm going to get run over if I don't go with the flow of traffic." But what is more important?

So, why don't you join me in the slow lane worship service?



Jamsco said...

I found this after your comment on 22 Words.

I'm wondering, did you transcribe this - it's not in the text from the sermon.

It seems a little harsh.

S. Todd Young said...

Yes, it's from the sermon audio. Does seem harsh, I agree, but Piper is quite passionate! :-)

Anonymous said...

Of course, I also found this through 22 words. Do you realize that being the unusual person going the speed limit puts yourself and others at greater risk? The Autobahn doesn't have a higher death rate than our highways because the range of car speeds on a road is much more important to safety than the average or maximum speeds. In my state of Florida, the legislature passed a bill that would have allowed cops to tickets people going the speed limit in left lanes because they were blocking traffic and making the roads more dangerous. Every police department that addressed the issue supported the bill. But the former governor, Jeb Bush vetoed the bill because the said it didn't make sense to ticket people who were obeying the law because they got in the way of people speeding and breaking the law. His logic was fine. The problem is he was ultimately supporting the unsafe laws--requiring low speed limits--over the safer law-requiring driver etiquette.


S. Todd Young said...

Hi Bruce, Sorry it took me a few days to get back to you; we've had a crazy weekend. I think there are two different issues you bring up in your comment. First, I understand the risks. I would rather worship God's sovereign rule over government and other drivers by attempting to obey the posted speed limits. If I cannot control what others do, then I must rest my cares upon the Lord.

The other issue I hear you describing is slow drivers in the fast lane. However, just because I drive the speed limit does not mean I drive slow in the fast lane. If I desire to keep the laws given by the government in order to worship God, I don't pick one law and not the other. I believe that many states have a left-lane violation that would apply to someone driving too slow in the fast lane. The law makes provision for driving faster than the speed limit in order to pass slower cars. In that case, I speed up, pass the car, then slow back down.

Here is the main problem: most people, even Christians, simply do not WANT to drive the speed limit. And I do not expect anyone to decide to want to obey the speed limit as an effect of reading my arguments. But I do think that if we value God's Word as true and right, we have to do something with what the Bible says. If the Bible says, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities," we have to decide to obey God or reject God.

I am praying that people will be changed by God's Holy Spirit in order that they will WANT to obey the laws of the government that God has established.