Today's Reading: Table of Duties: To Citizens, Romans 13:5-7
Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. (Table of Duties: To Citizens: Romans 13:5)
When it comes to our righteousness before God, there is no doubt that we cannot merit or earn our salvation. Instead we only commit more despicable things. When it comes to civil righteousness, we mean a negative kind of righteousness, one which is the absence of extreme wickedness. God has given civil righteousness to restrain the wickedness of man, not to make men righteous in His own eyes. Thus, even though we regularly speak about how it is impossible for us to please God with mere works, at the same time, it happens that we would say you should pay taxes and the like, for the sake of conscience, so that human wickedness might be restrained.
Rulers have a heavy and unpleasant task, and we should pray for good governance and seek the welfare of our government. Even though this kind of government does not make men righteous, it is still beneficial that sin be restrained. It provides peace and tranquility for us to conduct our lives. And those who do not fear God may still fear the arm of the state. So it is a great blessing to have a good country and believers are in no way liberated from normal obedience to government.
However, it is apparent that such a morality and righteousness as seems to develop from the state is not all pure in God’s eyes, and we are to obey the state as an instrument of God’s wrath rather than as an instrument of righteousness. When the government condones or allows something wicked, it does not have the power or authority to alter the Law. Yet obedience is still due to the legitimate government for the sake of peace and order. In Jesus, we have a righteousness that is not partial, incomplete, or merely practical, nor is it settled in the Supreme Court of the United States, but rather it stands in Christ, before a higher Judge.
Jerusalem the golden, With milk and honey blest—The promise of salvation, The place of peace and rest—We know not, oh, we know not What joys await us there: The radiancy of glory, The bliss beyond compare. (LSB 672:1)
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