Click here to download the Study Guide in WORD
INTERACTING WITH THE SERMON
SYNOPSIS OF THE SERMON
In this week’s sermon, Pastor Rich continued in his series from 1 Peter. In 1 Peter, the apostle reminds Christians that they are in fact different from the dominant culture and that they will stand out and in many cases be ridiculed for their beliefs. This week Rich talked about one of the places Christians should be different, and that is in how we submit to authority. We have become a society is too comfortable with “dumbed-down” slogans and sound bytes instead of thoughtfully engaging complex issues presented us. As Christians, when we think about governmental authority in our lives we can come up against some very hard questions. On the one hand we are told to yield and defer to (submit to) all governmental authority whether we agree with them or not. Doing this not for the sake of any political leader but because we want to honor God the Father. God has given us the gift of government and He has established the authority of office and therefore we should desire to honor Him with our submission to it. But we know that there are examples in church history of Christians rightly resisting governments that forbid them to do something that God commands. One principle we learned that can be applied in trying times is we should resist authority if it “forbids what God commands, or commands what God forbids”. Additionally, Peter wrote that if you take the high road, if you choose to honor God in your heart no matter what, God will see you and reward you. When we read the scriptures we find that life in this world is not simple and can never be reduced to simple slogans and sound bytes. We have to be unafraid to ask difficult questions that take patience to answer and we have to be sensitive to God’s word, other Christians and the Church.
In 5 minutes or less, briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon. What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling? Explain.
GETTING THE CONVERSATION STARTED
These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.
•Was there anything Rich said in his sermon that stood out to you? Briefly share.
•Have you ever had a disagreement with someone over your political beliefs? How did that conversation play out? Do you feel like you have a biblical perspective when you approach conversations about politics?
•Have you ever found yourself in a position where someone who had authority over you was asking you to do something that you felt compromised your faith? How did you handle that situation? What helped you through that time? What helped you make a decision about what to do?
“God does not intend Christians should become agents of anarchy, which would replace the tyranny of the officially powerful with the tyranny of the unofficially powerful. The ultimate overthrow of pagan power comes by other means, and Paul has outlined in Romans 5 and 8 what those means are. Rome could cope with ordinary revolutions. Rome could not cope, as history bears witness, with a community owing allegiance to the crucified and risen Messiah as the world’s true Lord.” (NT Wright) As Christians we want to continue to think and meditate on how we should engage with the complexities and realities of authority, and therefore issues of justice, that we encounter in our work place, community, and world. Romans 13 (and 1 Peter 2:11-20) are guiding principles for our actions, but our application of those principles must be thoughtfully applied.
Romans 13:1- 1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Context: Romans 1-11 lays the foundation of God’s grace and our reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ. Chapter 12 turns a corner, and Paul begins to unpack all that we should do in response to God’s grace (v.1 “in view of God’s mercy”) – offer our bodies as living sacrifices (v. 1), have our minds transformed and renewed (v. 2), have sober self-judgment (v. 3), biblical patterns for relationship and community (vv. 4-20), and on-and-on. In Chapter 13, Paul addresses how a follower of Jesus’ attitude and response to authority and government should look.
•Why should we submit to governing authorities (1-2, 5)? What is the difference between submit and obey (defer to, or to yield to, or to listen to – generally to give up your way). Who reigns supreme over all enterprises of government and authority? What do these verses say about the ultimate order of power, not just in heaven but also on earth?
•Think historically, and to whom Paul was writing (Christians living in Rome ruled by Caesar) – why would vv.1-2 be much more radical sounding than it might be for Bible readers today? Why would this reality be a “freeing” reminder for 1st century Christians?
•V. 2 Just in case anyone misses the point of Christ’s rule and reign – it is not grounds for all out rebellion. Quite the opposite, lest we forget what Paul just wrote in Romans 12:17-21. Christian means of interacting with the world change as a result of God’s Mercy (Ch 1-11) and the model of Jesus’ life who submitted to the most unjust judgment of the cross. How does this inform our possible choice of behavior? What principle does Paul give us in 12:21? Think critically, how does this principle work with various forms of injustice or evil you see around you in our city, nation, or world (recall the principle from the sermon)?
•Describe the government’s relationship with those who do right (3-4). What about those who do wrong (3-4)? Is it possible Paul is simply making a pragmatic argument at this point (consider v. 5)?
•What does Paul say about taxes and debts (6-7)?
•In his classic book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes, “The limits of submission are at the point at which it becomes destructive (120).” For the recipients of this letter, what do you think those limits were? How might this passage and quote inform a missionary’s activity in a country like Iraq or Iran? How might this passage inform a Christian’s behavior living in the U.S. who believes abortion is wrong?
•When do you think it is appropriate for today’s Christian to resist submission? When are your acts of submission in fact an act of disobedience to the Lord? What fears or misguided beliefs cause this to happen?
•Under what circumstances does a tendency to rebel arise within you? What can you do to minimize this influence? How do you benefit from the government? How do others benefit from it? How does your submissive posture toward the government help to preserve its benefits?
•Is there any way the Gospel, and your credible witness as a follower of Jesus, are at risk because of your position and/or attitude to some form of authority in your life (legal, work place, government, etc)? What might God be asking you to do or not do anymore?
Below you’ll see some options for ministry time with your group. We always encourage you to reserve time in your group to pray for one another and wait on the Holy Spirit.
•As a group, take some time to meditate in silence about God and His provision in each of your lives.
•Is there any form of authority to which you are resisting submission? Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal those places and receive prayer for repentance and wisdom about a godly response.
•We live and work in highly polarizing environments. How might you witness to Jesus be affected by your particular political views (whether of federal or local government, or the work place)? Is there any room for you to change your words or your manner with other people for the sake of the Gospel?
•How might God be challenging you to “live at peace with all people, as far as it depends on you” Romans 12:18? Ask God for grace to act – this is a prescriptive verse.