Written by Rev Zheng Biqing
“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”Ro 13:1
Last week we learned that Caesar Augustus was exalted as the savior of the world. Thus the arrival of the true Messiah King would pose a significant threat to him Indeed, a series of power struggles took place immediately following the birth of Jesus: the authority of the rulers of the world against the authority of God.
In the earlier days of the first century, the Romans saw Christianity as merely a threatless sect of Judaism and were not concerned about it (Judaism was a legal religion then). This was why Pilate decided to release Jesus after questioning him privately and found that Jesus’ kingdom was of no threat to Rome (John 18:36). Another example was when Paul was brought to the tribunal by the Jews in Corinth, Gallio who was the then proconsul of Achaia refused to take the case (Ac 18:14). It was not until ~60ad when Christians refused to acknowledge Caesar as their lord, nor to offer incense to his statue that the Roman government began to disassociate Christianity from Judaism and treated it as an unlawful movement. To Rome, members of a movement whose founder was charged with sedition were equally guilty of sedition! This was the fiery trial of the early church: to submit to Caser’s authority and call him lord, or to submit to God’s authority and die for Christ? Dear saints, this same trial is facing us and every Christian today.
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”Ro 10:9
In Jesus’ time, people in Galilee paid tax to Herod while people in Judea paid tax to the Roman emperor, because Judea was governed directly by a Roman governor. The Zealot leaders expressed strongly against paying tax to the Roman emperor, because God is the only king of Israel and hence it is high treason for Israelite residents of the Promised Land to pay taxes to a pagan emperor! The Zealots had the sympathy of the people because they had the people’s liberty from the Romans at heart. This was the backdrop against which the theologically and politically sensitive question “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” was thrown to Jesus when he was ministering in Judea. (Lk 20:22)
Jesus took a Roman coin and said, “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (The Roman coin was engraved with the head of Caesar) Dear saints, the Lord is telling us that “see to God what belongs to Him! Make sure first of all God receives the tribute and service that is His due.” Mat 6:33 So long as Caesar does not encroach on the reign that belongs to God, and so long as Caesar only demands what is his own, and not what belongs to God, then Caesar has a claim on the obedience and submission of Christian citizens. But when Caesar goes beyond the authority God gave him, let Christians be prepared to carry the cross and follow the true Lord Jesus boldly!