The Obligation To Render Unto Ceasar
 By Milburn Cockrell
  Tell  us  therefore,  What  thinkest thou?  Is  it  lawful  to  give  tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness,  and  said, Why  tempt  ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And  they brought unto him  a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then  saith he unto  them,  Render  therefore  unto Caesar  the things which  are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. (Matthew 22:17-22).
Here  the  Pharisees  and  Herodians, natural  enemies,  made  common  cause against  the  Prince of  Glory.  They endeavored to set a trap for Jesus, so they could  report Him  to  the  governor  as  a rebel against the Roman authority. “Is  it  lawful  to  give  tribute ... or  not?” This was a controversial question in  Judea  2,000  years  ago. The Pharisees generally  answered  in  the  negative,  the Herodians  in  the  positive,  though  both obeyed the law.
Their  question  was  full  of  subtlety, and  the  Lord  Jesus’  answer  was  full of  wisdom.   Jesus  said:  “Shew  me  the tribute money ... Whose  is  the  image and superscription?” He referred to the denarius, a Roman coin worth about 17 cents in our money. These coins bore the emperor’s likeness, and a Latin inscription of his name and rank.

Render  unto  Caesar  the  things which are Caesar’s; and unto God  the things that are God’s.” This unforgettable statement  will  stand  for  all  time.  It teaches  Christians to be  loyal  to  their country and  faithful to God. It also sets forth the separation of church and state, distinguishing between the things that are Caesar’s and the things which are God’s.

The Christian religion is no enemy to civil  government,  it  is  the best  friend  it has in all the world. Christ’s kingdom does not clash or interfere with the kingdoms on  earth.  So  as  the  state  confines  itself to  its  legitimate  jurisdiction,  it will  not hurt, hinder, or hamper the work of the church. The  state  has  to  do  with  civil matters, while the church has to do with the Divine and spiritual things.

Christians are citizens of two worlds --- one earthly and the other heavenly (Philippians 3:20). We must render obedience to both God  and  the  state,  for  these  duties  do not necessarily conflict with each other. The things which are Caesar’s do not just mean taxes, but all that citizens owe the civil magistrate.

We  must  render  to  God  what  He requires of us. We ought to  live as those who belong to Heaven, but that does not mean we have no responsibility on earth. The Christian is a citizen of the country in which he dwells. So far  as  subjection and  obedience  to  the  civil  power  is concerned,  he  is  obligated  before  God to  obey  it. But  in his  aim,  in  reason,  in affection, in devotion, he is a stranger and pilgrim in every country upon earth. He is  to use  this world, not abuse  it (I Corinthians 7:31).

Since  the  authority  for  civil government comes from God, those who believe in Him are responsible to render obedience  to  the  state. This  applies  to every Christian in every country in every age. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers?” (Romans 13:1).
The  higher  powers  included  the imperial  throne  of  Rome  in  Paul’s  day. When  he wrote Romans  13,  the worst ruler  Rome  ever  had  was  upon  the throne, Nero himself. If a man  like that were  to be obeyed,  then  surely all other earthly rulers.

No  person  has  the  right  to  claim exemption  from  the Divine mandate of Romans 13:1. “Every soul” means “every person.”  It  includes  the  pope  of  Rome and all the clergy. It  includes the House of Representatives, the Congress, and the President and his cabinet. This  includes every Baptist preacher  in the world and all Baptist church members. No person is above the law of the land. No individual has the right to flagrantly break the laws of the state.

In I Peter 2:13-15 it is written:  “Submit yourselves  to  every  ordinance  of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king,  as  supreme; Or unto  governors, as unto them that are sent by him  for the  punishment  of  evildoers,  and  for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the  ignorance of foolish men.

Here  Peter  gives  two  reasons  for obedience  to  the  magistrate.  First,  he says: “For the Lord’s sake.” True religion requires  submission  to  the  state. Thus, a  Christian  is  not  to  be  a disturber  of the  state. He must  obey  the magistrate because  he  is  the minister  of God  and obedience  to  him  is  the  ordinance  of God.

Second,  a  Christian  should  submit to  the  civil magistrate because  it  “is  the will of God.” This is the strongest reason for  any  duty. He must  conduct  himself in  such  a manner  before  the  law  of  the land as to put to silence the unreasonable reproaches of ignorant and foolish men. Believers,  who  take  seriously  the teachings of  the Bible, will not perform acts of  civil disobedience  even  when they disagree with  the  state  and  federal government.  Any  minister  of  the gospel who  deliberately  refuses  to  obey ordinances  is  a wolf  in  sheep’s  clothing. Those  who  do  so  in  the  name  of  “civil rights” should have enough intelligence to know that they have a civil and religious obligation to obey the law. The Bible does not  endorse  civil  disobedience.  Those who violate the laws of the municipality, large  or  small,  should  be punished  for their offenses.

Romans 13:5 gives a  third  reason  for subjection  to  the  state:  “Wherefore  ye must  needs  be  subject, not only for wrath,  but also for conscience sake.” This  means a Christian is  to  obey  the laws of his county and country, because a good conscience demands it. The Bible teaches him to be a good citizen, and that obedience to his government is God’s will. Therefore,  he must  obey  all  ordinances without grumbling and complaining.

God’s  children  are  to  obey  every regulation  of  the  government  unless it  would  be  contrary to God’s  law  and the  fundamental  laws  of  His  spiritual kingdom.  We  are  not  to  obey  the government  if  it  commands  us  to  lie, steal, or perform cruel deeds. Whenever one must chose between the will of God and the demands of the government, he must choose to obey God and be prepared to  take  the  consequence  (Acts  26:25). When  Peter  faced  such  a  problem,  he told the council: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

The  infinite Ruler  is  to  be  obeyed  in preference  to  any  earthly  ruler. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were required to worship the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar, they refused (Daniel 5:1-18). When Darius  insisted  that Daniel not  pray  to  his God, Daniel  refused  to obey this requirement (Daniel 6:1-24).

Government  forfeits  its  claims  to obedience  when  it  requires  what  God has  plainly  forbidden,  or  forbids  what He  has  required.  Human  authorities must not attempt to thwart the purpose of God. They must not punish men  for disobedience  to  them who  seek  to obey God. Such  rulers who  set  themselves  in opposition to God will have a great deal to answer for at the judgment of God.

To obey  the magistrate means  to pay all lawful taxes to the government. These are used  to  support  our  police,  our  law courts, our penitentiaries, our army, our navy, and our air force. We may think a certain  form  of  taxation  is  unjust,  but this does not free us from the obligation to  “render ... to  all  their  dues”  (Romans 13:7).  To  cheat  the  government  is  to cheat the public of which we are a part.

Christ’s example teaches this. He told Peter to go and to pay the temple tax which they both owed. “Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish  that  first  cometh  up;  and  when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find  a  piece  of money:  that  take,  and give unto them for me and thee.” (Matthew 17:27).

A Christian is to go to war in defense of  his  country.  Abraham  did  when  he declared  war  on  Chedorlaomer  (Genesis 14:1-16).  The  children  of  Jacob  often engaged  in  war  against  their  enemies with God’s approval. John the Baptist told the Roman  soldiers  to  “be content with their wages” (Luke 3:14), not to become deserters  or  draft  dodgers.  Christ  told Peter to put up his sword which belonged to  the  state,  not  to  throw  it  away. One of  the  early  Christians,  Cornelius,  was captain of a Roman cohort of 100 men.

In Luke 22:36 it is recorded that Jesus Christ  said:  “He  that  hath  no  sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” No  amount  of  spiritualizing  can  escape the  clear  meaning  of  such  a  text. This verse  overthrows  any  theology  of  non-resistance held by pacifists, conscientious objectors, Quakers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or any other sect.

Your government has a Divine right to bear the sword and to call upon its citizens to  aid  in  this matter. As Christians we must  bear  arms  if  our  government  has need  of  us.  Our government  has  the right to delegate any of  its citizens as  its representatives  in  its  military  or  naval obligation. One cannot  scripturally be a conscientious objector.

At all times a Christian is to abide by the laws of the land and to let justice take its course. If he commits a capital offense, he must receive a capital punishment. If he  commits  anything  worthy  of  death, he is obligated to accuse himself and give himself up  to  justice. He must make no attempt  to  escape  or  resist  the  powers that be.
On  trial  before  Festus,  Paul  said: “For  if  I ... have  committed anything worthy  of  death,  I  refuse  not  to  die” (Acts 25:11).

When a believer is a judge or juror, it is  his  duty  to  favor  capital  punishment when  the  law of God and man requires it.  In Deuteronomy  19:13  the  elders  of Israel were told: “Thine eye shall not pity him, but thou shalt put away the guilt of  innocent blood  from  Israel,  that  it may go well with thee.” Such  judgment is  good  for  society. Deuteronomy  19:20 says:  “And  those  which  remain  shall hear,  and  fear,  and  shall  henceforth commit no more any  such  evil among you.

Those  who  are  saved  are  obligated to  show  respect  and  honor  to  those in  positions  of  authority.  Paul  said  in Romans:  “Fear  to whom  fear;  honour to whom honour.”  I Peter 2:17  tells us: “Honour  the  king.”  To  those  who  live in  America  it  could  be  understood  to read: “Honor the President.” When Paul addressed  the  procurator  of  Judea,  he called  him  “most  noble  Festus”  (Acts 26:25). When  he  spoke  to Agrippa,  he said: “O king Agrippa” (Acts 26:19).

Respect  for  earthly  rulers  and reverence for God are put together in one verse  of  Scripture.  “My  son,  fear  thou the  Lord  and  the  king”  (Proverbs  24:21). He  who  has  no  respect  for  the  earthly rulers has none for the Divine Ruler.

Our high officials must be  spoken of with great respect. Job 34:18 asks: “Is  it fit  to  say  to  a king, Thou  art wicked? and  to  princes, Ye  are  ungodly?”  It  is interesting  to  notice  that  the  reproving of  a king  in  the Bible was done only by a  prophet  or  one  sent  of  God.  Herod was reproved by John the Baptist (Mark 6:18). David was reproved by Nathan the prophet (II Samuel 12:1-14). Language like Shimei  used  against  David  must  never be used when addressing a king (II Samuel 16:7).

To unleash biter criticism against our President and Congress  is to oppose the revelation of God’s Word. We must not use derogatory or  insulting words when speaking of even our governor or sheriff. Exodus 22:28: “Thou shalt not ... curse the  ruler  of  thy  people.Ecclesiastes 10:20 declares: “Curse not the king, no not  in  thy  thought: and  curse not  the rich  in  thy bedchamber:  for  a bird  of the  air  shall  carry  the  voice,  and  that which hath wings shall tell the mater.

It  is  also  our  responsibility  to make fervent  intercession  for  all  people who  have  the  rule  over  us. Writing  to Timothy, Paul said: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made  for  all men;  For  kings,  and  for all  that  are  in  authority;  that we may lead  a  quiet  and  peaceable  life  in  all godliness and honesty.” (I Timothy  2:1-2).

We must pray to God for all our civil leaders,  for president or prime minister, senator or sheriff, congressman or circuit clerk, federal judge or justice of the peace. If prayer for rulers was obligatory under the  cruel  Nero,  the  obligation  must remain in all ages, irrespective of the form of government or the character of those in authority. Prayer for the government, rather than denunciation, is the duty of a Christian.

Let  us  pray  for  their  health  and happiness  and  the peace  and prosperity of  their  government. The  peace  of  the people  is  dependent  upon  the  peace  of the  potentates.  Jeremiah  29:7  declares: “And seek the peace of the city whither I  have  caused  you  to  be  carried  away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.

Only  under  a  peaceable  government can  Christianity  grow  as  it  should. Under  a  reign  like Solomon’s  in  the Old  Testament,  Christians  are  enabled to  live  in  peace,  free  from  turmoil  and oppression, and to pursue a righteous life in God’s sight and honor in man’s sight.

Rulers encounter many difficulties and are often subjected to severe criticism. A heavy responsibility rests upon them and they bear many burdens of the day. Their decisions  have  a  bearing  upon  the  lives of millions. Their problems are complex, and  the  temptation  to  abuse  their  high office is great.

The Bible reveals that evil spirits seek to  manipulate  earthly  rulers.  Daniel 10:13  reveals  that  Satan  assigned  a demon  to  influence  the  King  of  Persia against Israel. This is a very good reason to  pray  for  those  in  authority,  lest  they become  either  demon  possessed,  or demon influenced.

God  is  greater  than  Satan.  He  can move upon the hearts of unsaved people to do  things  for  the good of His people. Proverbs 21:1 reads: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he  turneth  it whithersoever he will.” The powers and prerogatives of kings are subject to the King of all kings.

The Apostle Peter made a tremendously significant  statement  when  he  said: “Honour all men”  (I Peter 2:17). Honor is not only due our national leaders, it is also due all men without exception. Even the  wicked  must  be  honored  to  some degree. We  must  not  despise  the  poor (Proverbs 17:5). “Honor” suggests the highest regard for the dignity of the individual.

Christians must remember that all men are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) and of one blood (Acts 17:26). We are to treat  people with  proper  recognition  of their essential worth. Every human being has feelings, aspirations, and basic rights. We  should  treat  all men  as  gentlemen, not because they are, but because we are.

As  born  again  believers,  we  should promote the concept of equal opportunity for  all.  All  men,  regardless  of  race  or ancestry,  are  to  enjoy  the  rights  and privileges  of  humanity.  But  even  these rights  and  liberties  are  to  be  subject  to the limitations of God’s moral law.

(Berea Baptist Banner - May, 2010)

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