Good citizenship means to observe the authorities God has appointed whether we like them and their ideology or not. I feel at times that Politicians and their Party and some Trade Unions, because according to the Constitution of the Country that permits demonstrating, bend and twist the reasons for demonstrating to suit their personal ends. I recently heard that a Union is calling its members to participate in a program not to pay taxes. I do not know the reason or what lies behind this. The way I understand good citizenship is when people accept that through their vote, the party winning elections are God appointed. My intention is not to comment on the following passage … it’s inserted for reading:
Ro 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
For Christians to disobey God’s instructions where it comes to those in power over us are deliberately being defiant against God and His Word. Before we leave Acts 16 I would like us to consider a few issues. Did you notice that throughout the beating up, whipping, arrest and imprisonment, the missionaries did not retaliate?
1) The authorities recant. Now where are we told why they changed their minds there was an about turn:
Ac 16:35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”
Normally this would bring joy and happiness … but not for Paul.
2) Paul refused to be release that easily. Paul and Silas were Roman Citizens which carried specially privileges throughout the complete Roman Empire … one of which was that there could not be no whippings unless found guilty in a court of law. (Not guilty until proven guilty).
Ac 16:37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”
God knew exactly what He was doing in eternity past when He chose Paul and Silas for salvation … even though Jews, they were Roman Citizens. Look how this advantaged the Gospel! Never think your past and upbringing are a negative. God knew what He was doing in eternity past when He chose you … and when you allow Him, He will used you for His Glory!
3) The authorities admitted their error. This was a huge thing for them to go to the prison and walk Paul and Silas out and away from it.
Ac 16:38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city.
One thing that is very important here is that the missionaries did not seek revenge or restitution. Although they could have gone further with their Roman Citizenship by making demands, they did not. Wherever they went they were good citizens but more importantly they did not want anyone to be able to point a finger of scorn at the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. Notice the words “appease” and “escorted”. This was as much a plea for forgiveness as it was loaded with embarrassment. As the people of God we must not seek revenge nor retaliate when we are done wrong, be it from the authorities or people. The enemy of the soul wants this because when we do he uses it to disgrace the Gospel. When we feel we have been wronged we need to follow the correct legal procedures.
4) The missionaries enjoyed fellowship. It seems as though Lydia’s house became the meeting place for believers.
Ac 16:40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them.
Included in fellowship was encouragement. This meant there was instruction. God’s Word ought to feature in every gathering of the people of God. Even if the Bible is not opened, say at a meal, we need to encourage (instruct) each other.
5) The missionaries went on their way … Then they left … they moved onto their next Gospel Appointment for the Lord Jesus. Allow me to be repetitive … If they just disappeared the Gospel Message, Cause and Believers would have suffered damage. For the sake of the Gospel Paul insisted that the authorities escort them out of prison for a few reasons.
(a) That no one harasses them and
(b) That people can see the missionaries were unjustly treated.
(c) That people can see the missionaries were different in their behaviour as Roman Citizens … loving, caring and forgiving. For these missionaries the Gospel came first and by the Gospel I mean the Bible, its message and its God.
(d) In Philippi they achieved God’s Gospel objective and left a healthy group of converts enabling them to move on to their next assignment with a clear conscience.
In all our serving our King we need to move on each time with a clear conscience because we have honored God in our serving Him.
O God our Glorious Father, help us to use these missionaries as our models as we seek to live our lives, wherever we are, as good Citizens, but above all as good Followers of Jesus for His sake. Amen.