Subject to Authority

January 5, 2008

Should we obey a pagan ruler? Have you ever wondered about Christians, nations, and politics? Is the United States a Christian nation? Is it in our interest to have a Christian president? Do a ruler‘s moral values demonstrate his calling by God to be a leader?

This week‘s sermon comes from Romans 13:1–5.

Here are a few side notes that you might find interesting:

After covering 8,000 miles teaching and preaching, Paul was beheaded at Rome in A.D. 65—as was Peter, the founder of the church of Rome—, during the reign of Nero. By this time Christian communities had been established in all the important cities of the Roman empire.

The Roman government tolerated any religion as long as it did not disturb the status quo. Christianity was perceived as a subversive doctrine to both society and the state. Christians refused to participate in the worship of the emperor. To Christians there was only one God, and it was to his authority that they swore allegiance. Many were pacifists who refused to serve in the army.

In the first two centuries A.D., persecution of Christians was sporadic; but in the 3rd and 4th centuries, it became much more systematic as the empire weakened. The worst persecution was under Diocletian, emperor from 303 to 311. By 311, the emperor Galerius recognized that persecution had failed and was actually backfiring on the Romans; and he issued an edict of toleration making Christianity a legal religion.