October 10, 2018

What's Good? 

Romans 13:3–4

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For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.

In Context:

1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. 8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

What's Good? 



Bio | Abbey Snow

Hello! My name is Abbey Snow.

I married my amazing husband, Cameron, four years ago. Last year, the Lord blessed us with a beautiful daughter, Evangeline Grace. Now that I'm a mother, the Lord's love for us astounds me even more. That He should give His only Son to die as a ransom for our souls is unfathomable to me. If it had been left up to me to do the same, we'd be in trouble.

How GREAT the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! Be encouraged! You are dearly loved!

Central Truth

The Lord is sovereign over the governing authorities and uses them as instruments to bring about holiness in His people. So do what is good, and do not be afraid. 

Devotional | Romans 13:3–4

"[F]or he is God's servant for your good." (Romans 13:4a) 

What was Paul thinking in imploring followers of the Lord to see rulers as God's servants? Had he completely forgotten...

"[F]or he is God's servant for your good." (Romans 13:4a) 

What was Paul thinking in imploring followers of the Lord to see rulers as God's servants? Had he completely forgotten his Jewish history? Pharaoh enslaved the Jewish people. Jezebel persecuted the prophets of Yahweh. Herod the Great murdered all the babies under two years of age in Bethlehem. Did Paul just temporarily lose his mind?

How could God consider any of these rulers, biblical or contemporary, His servants?

Let's look at the Old Testament to find the answer. Between 607-586 B.C., Babylon took the Jewish people captive. This was prophesied by Jeremiah, who warned the Jewish people not to rebel against the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 27).

In fact, the Lord calls the brutal Nebuchadnezzar His servant! "Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant . . . ." (Jeremiah 27:6a)

Before their captivity, God's people had rebelled against Him and practiced idolatry. The Lord used Babylon as an instrument of judgment against Israel for their sins. 

" [F]or he is God's servant for your good." (Romans 13:4a) 

I think it's easy to find confusing what Paul writes here when so much of our history and present day doesn't seem to reflect goodness as we would choose to see goodness. But God does not equate our good with our happiness. Instead, He equates our good with our holiness. He uses those in authority to refine and purify us, just like the Jewish people in Babylon. 

In fact, the prophet Daniel, under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, obediently submitted to the governing authorities and sought the good of Babylon as God instructed (Jeremiah 29:7). Through Daniel's obedience, many believed, and many more were blessed under his leadership.

So in the same way, just as Nebuchadnezzar did not know he was fulfilling the will of God, the rulers of all the nations today are still servants of the sovereign God, who is working all things for the good (holiness) of those who love Him. 

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Discussion Questions

1. How are we to respond when someone suggests we should rebel against the governing authorities? What assurance do we have that doing good will result in goodness/holiness? Have you seen any examples of this either in history or in your own life? 

2. "But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." (Jeremiah 29:7) How does this verse relate to Romans 13:3-4? 

3. Spend some time this week reading the book of Daniel and reflect on how he sought the welfare of the city where he lived (Jeremiah 29:7). How can you follow Daniel's example? 

4. What does it mean to "do what is good" (Romans 13:3b)? How are we expected to conduct ourselves as followers of Christ in light of the current governing authorities?

10 Comments available

Michael Scaman 6 days ago

Good time to remember the first act of righteous civil disobedience in the Bible, the two Egyptian woman who would not kill the Jewish baby boys as Pharaoh ordered. God blessed them for it.

Another similar case involving another woman would be Rahab who disobeyed the King of Jericho in covering up their whereabouts. Rehab’s disobedience to the king was used as an example of works as evidence of a living faith in the book of James.

In both cases obedience to the authorities was in clear conflict with following God and obedience to God was the better choice.

greg jones 6 days ago

Thoughtful devotional today.

Q2 and Q3 Jeremiah 29:7 I’m not sure if I have the capacity to relate to the prayers of person in exile. I can probably better relate to Jeremiah’s warning in the next verse and his condemnation of those who remained with him in Jerusalem.

Michael Scaman 6 days ago

I like how Al Mohler’s puts it. We all do various things we do and stand for various things but when the lights go on and they are seen, those in authority if they take issue with us it should be in our right doings not in our wrong doings.

Michael Scaman 6 days ago

Abraham Kuyper, a Danish politician and theologian, talked about three overlapping spheres of influence: government, family and church.

There can be some overlap but none of them do each other’s jobs well, each accountable to God.

Michael Scaman 6 days ago

It may come as a surprise that God used governments at times to call some church councils to hash out issues. The council of Nicea was called by Roman emperor Constantine. In 1643, the English Parliament called upon “learned, godly and judicious Divines” to meet at Westminster Abbey in order to provide advice on issues of worship, doctrine, government and discipline of the Church of England

Ironic that the English parliament called for the writing of a theological document that would be influential in a large number of American denominations in the future.

Ronnie Oldfield 6 days ago

Great reminder Abbey, I see the rulers with my eyes and not the eyes of the Holy Spirit living in me. In my mind I know a life struggle’s purpose is to cause me to get to the end of myself as I will cry out to God. Thank you for the well written reminder. How can our great country have a spiritual revival??? God will “give us over to …:” paraphrase Romans 1:24.

Hope Harris 6 days ago

GM, Since teaching Court Ordered classes to those who have been caught breaking the law; I have had many opportunities to discuss why laws exist at all.

This mornings verses remind me anew that God is a God of order and has the best interest of all humanity in mind, He created a justice system to protect us and to keep humanity from falling into chaos.

Yesterday’s, devo reminds me without God there is no peace. Today I see without the law and a justice system there is only chaos.

Lindsey Driscoll 6 days ago

Abbey, great devo tying together the old and New Testament, and very timely are we are in a state election season in Texas. Great encouragement to read Daniel and see his faithfulness Even when leaders at the time did not follow the Lord.

Sue Bohlin 6 days ago

Super devo, Abbey! Thank you for all your work to connect the dots between the Old Testament and New Testament view of how we should respond to governmental authority.

God’s command to submit to, respect and pray for these authorities underscores His quiet confidence that He is sovereign over all people, including kings, emperors and presidents. He may allow evil people to do evil things, but none of it is beyond His ultimate control and His ability to redeem the smallest movement and human choice. Honestly, learning that a good and loving God is in control is the single most reassuring thing I’ve ever learned about our God!

Hugh Stephenson 7 days ago

GM Abbey. Love this devo! Love the call to follow Daniel’s example.

Exiled in Babylon. Perfect.

A casual perusal of the newspaper reveals how this world is “…following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” Ephesians 2:1-2

I am really tempted to withdraw from this world. The news disgusts me. I see persecution coming for all believers.

Yet, Paul reminds me I am called to fully engage (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8). Daniel’s example is an amazing one. A great passage on which to reflect.

Recently, I have been studying more of the “End Times”. Reading of the immense pain and anguish that non-believers will face gives me purpose to be a better witness. God calls us all to proclaim Him. I am convicted of my passivity in responding poorly to His call.

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