Thursday, January 31, 2013

Subject To Rulers & Authorities (part 1)

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work. – Titus 3:1  (NET)

Why would the Apostle Paul write such things to Titus?  If we give it a moment’s thought, we’ll realize the eminent practicality of this communication.  We can embark upon the process of realization by asking what it was that was the substance of the message that Paul preached?  He preached, above all things, that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Along with that over-arching message, Paul preached the crucifixion and Resurrection of the Christ.  For Paul, the Resurrection of the Christ functioned as the demonstration of His Lordship over all things. 

Paul, along with other early believers, consistently posits that the power that raised Jesus out from the dead was unleashed into the world for and through the preaching of the Gospel message.  This unleashing was for the purpose of sharing eternal life (bringing the life of the age to come into the world) with and through those who would believe that message.  Those who believed the Gospel proclamation, and thereby acknowledged Jesus as the supreme Lord and Master and Savior, were then said to be in union with Christ (believing in Him and joining His kingdom movement), transferred from kingdom of the Satan into the kingdom of the Christ. 

The warning then served two purposes.  With his understanding of human nature, Paul would have been keenly aware of where it was the conception of Jesus’ supreme rule could lead.  As we come to terms with the substance of this message, and what it would mean for ourselves as we operate in the world, we’ll have to confess that it would be rather easy for us to take the position that, since we are under the Lordship of Christ, and seeing as how He is in fact the Lord of all, with all principalities and power and rules and authorities under His feet, then we no longer have any need or compunction to submit to the human rulers to whom we find ourselves subject.  Of course, this can be nuanced to take into consideration the idea that, in a democratic republic such as that which exists in the United States of America, that the citizenry is not properly understood to be subject to the governing powers, but that the elected and appointed officials stand in subjection to the citizenry.

That said, “If we are a part of Christ’s kingdom,” some might think, “then we are in union with Christ and rule with Him, so we do not need to indulge any human authorities with our continued obedience or support.”  Such thoughts that would have naturally arisen are why it was so practical and appropriate for Paul to tell Titus to “Remind them,” that being the believers to which Titus was responsible, “to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.”

Another purpose served by this warning was eminently practical, in that followers of Jesus were, by definition, not followers of the Caesar.  They did not participate in the Caesar cult, nor the public worship of the Roman gods, and therefore were looked upon as subversive of public order, as the Caesar cult was a unifying force across a wide and diverse Roman empire.  With this perception of Christians coming to be widely held by those in positions of authority, and with various kinds of persecution potentially attached to this perception (if their leader was crucified as a rebel, it would be natural to crucify His followers that are continuing His rebellious mission).  Thus, the reminder to be subject, along with the insistence towards the doing of good works (deeds of public benefaction for their communities), which would show them to be the best citizens---indeed, the embodiment of what it would mean to be truly human.

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