Subjection to Civil Authority
Copyright © 1986, Indian Hills Community Church, Lincoln, Nebraska
The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff for use as a Bible Study aid.
With an overall theme of good deeds or godliness, Paul first discussed areas related to the local churches in Crete in chapter 1.
In chapter 2 Paul talked about conduct as it related to families and individuals. He closed the chapter with a strong statement on the foundation of a life of godliness being the grace of God as manifested in Jesus Christ.
Chapter 3 deals with good deeds and godliness in the context of our relationships with other people. It covers the realm of government as well as unbelievers in general. He again includes comments on false teachers and our responsibility toward them.
Paul opens this chapter by speaking of the responsibility of believers toward the government. From secular writings we know that the Cretans were often frustrated and restless under the Roman domination.
Paul is evidently concerned that the believers at Crete might get caught up in the rebelliousness of the society, thus bringing discredit to the gospel.
"Remind them" - A present imperative which indicates that it was important that this be done on a regular basis. This command would imply that they already knew these things, or would at least recognize them as genuine implications of the gospel (cf. 2 Tim. 2:14).
"To be subject" (hupotasso) - The sense of this word is seen in the way that it is used in the New Testament:
Luke 2:51 - of Christ's submission to His parents.
Romans 8:7 - of proper subjection to the law of God.
Ephesians 5:22 - of wives to their own husbands.
Ephesians 5:24 - of the believer's submission to Christ.
1 Peter 2:18 - of slaves' subjection to masters.
1 Peter 5:5 - of younger believers to older believers.
It is also used in similar passages dealing with governmental authority (cf. Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17).
The believer is clearly instructed to be a good and obedient citizen. Note that there are no distinctions drawn between good government and bad government, between good laws and bad laws.
There are exceptions when we must obey God rather than men (cf. Acts 4:19; 5:29), but these are the exceptions. Under a godless government with depraved rulers, the New Testament writers give clear and simple instructions for Christian conduct: Submit to rulers.
"To be obedient" - reinforces what he has just said.
Paul had urged believers to pray for rulers in 1 Timothy 2:1,2.
"To be ready for every good deed" - This may include civic duties, but is probably broader, preparing the way for the rest of the list.
"To malign no one" - (blaspheme) - This is not just the speaking of evil, but reviling or slandering. When used of conduct from one man toward another, it always involves the exercise of a very bitter and malignant spirit.
"To be uncontentious" - The believer is to be a peaceable person. This is one of the qualifications of an elder in 1 Timothy 3:3.
"Gentle" (epieike) - The idea of the word is "yielding, gentle, kind" (A/G). It would indicate a willingness to yield what we might consider our rights. We recognize that we are fallible people living among imperfect people, thus we demonstrate tolerance even when wronged. This too is a qualification for an elder (cf. 1 Tim. 3:3).
"Showing every consideration" (prautes) - The ideas in this word are "gentleness, humility, courtesy, considerateness, meekness" (A/G). This is one of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:23.
Some would translate it here, "to show perfect courtesy to all men." There is to be no harshness or arrogance on the part of believers. Any attitude of superiority or pride is out of place in a believer.
"For all men" - This is the difficult part. This includes even those Cretans who "are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons" (1:12). Only by God's grace can we as believers expect to function this way.
We must function as he has just instructed us for two reasons:
The list of vices here may seem exaggerated, yet Paul describes the pre-conversion life of believers in similar language in other places (cf, 1 Cor, 6:9-11; Eph, 4:17-24). We sometimes forget how great God's grace has been in our own personal situation.
"Foolish" (anoetos) - We were without spiritual understanding. Not only were we ignorant, we were incapable of understanding spiritual truth (cf, 1 Cor, 2:14; Eph, 4:18).
"Disobedient" (apeithes) - We were disobedient both to human and to divine authority. This is a mark of the unbeliever (cf, 1:6,10,16; Rom, 1:21,30; 2 Tim, 3:2).
"Deceived" (planao) - This pictures straying from the correct path by following false guides. We had believed the lies of the world, the flesh and the Devil.
"Enslaved" - Scripture clearly indicates that before salvation a person is enslaved to sin (cf. John 8:34; Rom. 6:6). "Once a person gives himself over to sinful lusts and pleasures, the tentacles of sin tighten" (Barclay).
"Malice" (kakia) - This word denotes an evil disposition of the mind; perversity, wickedness.
"Envy" (phthonos) - Envy and jealousy are driving factors in the life of the unbeliever.
"Hateful" (stugetoi) - It denotes being odious, repulsive and disgusting to others. The sinner reaches that stage of degradation where he is repulsive even to other sinners.
"Hating one another" (miseo) - Another strong word which denotes "to hate, detest, abhor" (A/G). Sinners cannot even stand each other.
We need to remind ourselves of what we were and the track we were on before we experienced the mighty grace of God in salvation.
"But . . . He saved us" (vs. 4,5). It is the grace of God that has made all the difference for us. This must affect our attitude and conduct toward the lost.
We must see the lost as those who are in desperate need of God's great grace. We must live in such a way that they will see the grace of God at work in us.
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.
Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.
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