Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed- Titus 1:3
Why would the Apostle Paul tell Titus to remind the churches to submit to authorities? Why is this an important task for pastors? There are a couple reasons that come to mind:
1. In our sinful nature apart from Christ, we hate authority and we hate submission. The only authority we mind is our own. The first sin in the garden was the sin of over throwing authority. God created man to rule over the animals. He created Adam to lead his wife. In the garden, that was flipped upside down. The animal, the serpent, comes to Eve and begins to lead her. Rather than looking to the authority of her husband through him to the authority of God, she submits to the authority of talking snake who deceives her into thinking she is her own authority. She gives the fruit to Adam and he listens to his wife. She was deceived and Adam shirked his responsibility. He rebelled against the authority of God. Ever since that day, we have all by nature lived by what is wise in our own eyes. We despise the authority of God and therefore we despise submission to the authorities he established. Therefore, we need to be reminded to submit to authority.
Secondly, for those of us who have been redeemed from lawlessness there is a special temptation. We read that in Christ there is neither Greek nor Jew, Slave nor Free, Female nor Male and we think that means that Christ has obliterated all distinctions on earth. We think that since Christ has freed us from bondage of sin, has made us priests and kings and has given us the inheritance of sons that we are now free from submission to those who have not been freed. We forget that the same God who sent his Son to redeem us is the same God who establishes all authority on earth and places us by his sovereign will in our stations of life. We are tempted to use the gospel of grace for our own license to throw off all restraint.
Paul just got finished writing to Titus that Christ gave himself to redeem us from lawlessness and to purify for himself a people zealous for good deeds. We are tempted to think that if we are these people, then surely we have no need to submit to civil governments run by those who have not been redeemed. We don’t have to honor ungodly fathers or obey husbands who disobey the gospel.
But the gospel is not preached to make us into anarchists and rebels. It didn’t come to destroy earthly authority but rather to redeem it. Jesus, your King, has commanded you in his word to be obedient to authorities and rulers. This is because God the Father has given his name to all fatherhood on earth. God is the source of authority.
Romans 13:1-7 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
God has established authorities. He has established fatherhood. To rebel against fathers in the church, state or home is not merely to rebel against humas but is to rebel against God. When we rebel against our mother and father for example, we don’t just rebel against them. We rebel against God. Young people who roll your eyes at your parents when they aren’t looking, or you sulk and pout, its not just against your parents. Your rolling your eyes at God. Young people when your father tells you not to do something and you go do it anyways because you think he really won’t mind, its not your father whose wisdom and guidance you disregarded.
This also goes for rebellion against pastors and elders. When the pastor preaches from the word of God, and you don't obey that preaching, you are not merely throwing off the words of men but rather rebelling against the word of God.
Deuteronomy 17:12 And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.
Remember when Ananias and Sapphira lied to the apostles. It wasn’t just the Apostles they were lying to. It was the Holy Spirit.
The text here in Titus is specifically referring to civil government. We have a duty to obey the civil government even when it is not ran by the most godly of people. Do you remember how many times that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and scribes? It was clear that they were wicked people. Yet listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 23:2-3 The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. We have a duty to obey the civil magistrates even when they aren't believers.
The gospel came to redeem us from lawlessness. Titus 2 says it is revealed to all types of people. That includes kings. There are many passages proclaiming that the gospel will be advance so far and wide that yes even kings and rulers will worship him. The gospel has the tendency to undo wicked authority. It has the power to bring political freedom and often does as a nation repents. But the gospel doesn’t make us rebels or revolutionaries seeking to overthrow all authorities. The grace of God doesn’t cause us to take up arms against every unbelieving government official. We are not revolutionaries.
Proverbs 24:21 says My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change
Don’t even meddle with those always trying to overthrow society. Don’t get involved with those who reject authority and work to undermine it. Stay away from marxists, socialists, social justice warriors, anarchists, and antifa.
The gospel is not revolutionary it is reforming. The gospel reforms the world. It is restores creation. It brings about social renewal.
Doug Wilson says, “The godly pattern of social renewal is never bloodthirsty. The radical insists on immediate action, through coercive, bloody, and political means. In contrast, the work of the gospel is done as silently as yeast working through the loaf, and the end result is liberation from sin, love for God, and love for one’s neighbor.”
This is not to say that Christians are not involved in the political process. On the contrary, Christians must take the gospel into every arena of life. They will be involved in calling civil magistrates to obey God and enforce his laws. They will support civil magistrates who do these things. Christians will preach boldly and strongly against sins in the public realm. The Church will proclaim the truths of God everywhere that those truths are applicable. The word of God is eternally true and applicable for every area of life.
But Christians reform, we don’t overturn.
E. Michael Jones says “Revolution is the fulfillment of the biblical promise of deliverance from bondage for people who have given up on waiting for the Messiah.” When you don’t trust and have faith in Christ you start trying to take matters into your own hands. The early church was often accused of being revolutionary. They were accused of turning the world upside down. It was their accusers, the Jews who rejected Jesus, who were the supporters of anti-Christian revolutionary movements. E. Michael Jones again is helpful:
“When they rejected Christ, the Jews rejected Logos, and when the Jews rejected Logos, which included both the social, moral and political order of any human society, which God intended for the world, they became revolutionaries. That is what they have been ever since the crucifixion of Christ...Jews became revolutionaries at the foot of the cross, but the full implication of their decision didn't become apparent until thirty years later, when the Jews rebelled against Rome, and Rome retaliated by destroying the Temple. At this point, the Jews had no temple, no priesthood and no sacrifice... Those Jews who rejected Christ and became revolutionaries, continued to seek a messiah who sets out to set the world aright but always fails, whether it's the new economics of Karl Marx or the new science of psychiatry as propagated by Sigmund Freud or the counter-culture of sex, drugs and rock and roll. None of these things or people have saved the world. There is only one savior — Jesus Christ.”
Revolutionaries never have faith in Christ and they always end up denying his word. 2 Peter 2:10 says But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
Christians reform, they do not destroy. They have a Messiah and a King who is transforming the world. They therefore can pray For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
We are to be subject to authorities. Wives submit to your husbands. Children obey your parents. Obey the civil magistrates.
Now, we have driven this point home and I have reminded you of this. Let me also remind you also that it is God alone who has all authority. He is the one to whom we owe unfettered allegiance. We do not owe obedience to unjust, unlawful, and ungodly commands. Whenever an authority commands an unjust, unlawful, and ungodly command, it is they are who are revolutionaries, turning upside down the created order. It is they who are rebels. Not only may we not obey an ungodly command, we must not obey an ungodly command.
I think you all know and get that point, therefor I won't write much more on it today. We can spend so much time talking about when to not to obey that we make disobedience to civil magistrates or fathers the rule rather than the exception. As you have read this, what area have you found that you need to repent in? Are you a father who has authority but abusing it? Repent. Are you a father who refuses to submit to church fathers? Repent. Are you a wife who uses the sins of your husband as an excuse for your own rebellion? Repent. Are you a son refusing to honor your father and mother? Repent. Are you someone always complaining about civil magistrates while never praying for them? Repent. May we all bow the knee to the Father above.