Preaching and the Politics of Paul

Preaching and the Politics of Paul

In the last few posts we have looked at the politics of Jesus and the politics of Peterand examined what those mean for our preaching.  In this post I want to look at preaching and the politics of Paul and see what else we can learn that will impact our preaching.

The Main Thoughts

Paul made one major reference to politics in the 13th chapter of Romans:

13 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.

I quoted this at length because it is the most comprehensive statement of Paul on how Christians are to relate to the government.

Bullet Points

  • God is in control of the governing authorities.  Remember that Jesus said to Pilate that he would not be in authority unless God had put him there?  God established the authorities that exist.
  • Rebellion, therefore, is not an option.  Remember that Nero was on the Roman throne at the time that Paul wrote these words to the church in Rome.  Eventually, he would order Paul to be beheaded just outside the city of Rome–at least that is what tradition says about the death of the apostle.
  • God designed government to be his servant, restraining evil and promoting the good.

Interestingly, Paul doesn’t say what to do if the government isn’t operating as God’s servant in this way.

Preaching and these politics

So, what does this mean as we consider preaching and the politics of Paul in our sermons?  A few things to consider in this regard as you think about your preaching.

God Is In Control

First of all, we must remember that God is in control.  Paul considered the government of Rome as almost an afterthought.  God created the government, but his purpose goes far beyond the government.  God’s purpose, as lived out in Paul’s mission, was to bring people to salvation.  The government of Rome provided some very positive things toward the completion of that mission.  There was a good road system for Paul and other missionaries to travel throughout the empire.  There was a common language, Greek, and so missionaries could go anywhere in the empire and be understood.  And there was peace and security, which made travel safe.  But God’s purpose went far beyond a particular government at a particular time.

Preaching the politics of Paul gives us the opportunity to remind people that God establishes the government.

Paul’s Politics in Ephesus

Secondly, preaching the politics of Paul means that we focus beyond any particular government choice to God’s

Artemis, Goddess of the Ephesians

purposes.  There’s an example of how Paul did this in Ephesus.   In Acts 19 Luke tells us that the merchants in the city who made their living from selling statues of Diana, the goddess of the Ephesians, were threatened.  So many people were becoming believers that fewer people bought their products.  So they began a riot, seeking to have Christians thrown out of the city.

How did Christianity have such a powerful impact in the city?  Here is how Matt Bedzyk puts it in his blog:

It was not through marches or protests, force or violence, public policy or political involvement, complaining orMatt Bedzyk slandering or insulting, but simply preaching Christ and portraying Christ! In fact, the town clerk himself admits in v.37: “You have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess.” This means that the Christians were not insulting Artemis worshipers, mocking them or their religion, or seeking to desecrate their temple. Paul was solely dedicated to boldly, lovingly, and persuasively preaching the gospel of Jesus.

Paul’s priority was the gospel, not trying to take over the government.  Keep this the priority in your preaching.

The Best Citizens

A third thing to note in considering preaching and the politics of Paul is to note that he calls on us to be the best citizens.  This is how he puts in in Romans 13:7:

If you owe taxes, pay taxes.  That seems pretty straight forward, doesn’t it?

If (you owe) revenue, then revenue.  When the government requires you to support something, Christians should come through.

If respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

We should be the best of citizens.

When To Rebel

So, there is much to learn about preaching and the politics of Paul. In the next post we’ll explore more fully the implications of all of these learnings about politics and preaching.