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Sabbath School Lessons on Discipleship
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 9: Discipling the Powerful *
Introduction: Is government good? God tells us that it is. If that is
true, why is it that government does so much evil? Government
authority killed Jesus! How should Christians relate to those in
power? Let's race into our study of the Bible and see what we can
- Christians and Government
- Read Romans 13:1. Did God get Ronald Reagan elected
president? Did God get Barack Obama elected president? If
you have a hard time saying, "yes," to both questions,
what do you think this text means? (These are two U.S.
Presidents with different views of the role of
- We can all think of authorities like Hitler and
Stalin who killed thousands (millions?)of their own
citizens. North Korea is currently murdering its
citizens. Would God establish them? (I think this
text means that God generally establishes
- Read Romans 13:2. The church in Germany has been condemned
for not standing against the murder of millions of Jews
during Hitler's reign. How would you understand and apply
- We would never have had the American revolution if
this text had been followed. Was that movement
contrary to the Bible?
- If you say, "God supports some authority and not
others," you run into Romans 13:1 that says that God
establishes all authority. Is there another way to
look at these verses?
- Read Romans 13:3-5. We will look at Jesus' trial toward
the end of this lesson. Is it true to say "rulers hold no
terror for those who do right?" Paul knew what happened to
Jesus. Jesus was right and Jesus faced terror! (Two
things. First, the context. It was important for the
early church members not to be seen as enemies of Rome.
This message helped in that regard. Second, I think Paul
is speaking generally here. We know this is not literally
always true because of what happened to Jesus. However, it
is generally true.)
- Is Paul only writing about practical matters? (No. He
says he is writing because of practical
considerations (punishment) and "also because of
- Read Romans 13:6-7. Are Christians to pay taxes even if
they disagree with government policies? (Yes.)
- Are Christians supposed to show respect to Nancy
Pelosi (or fill in the name of some other
controversial politician in your country)? (Yes. A
few years ago, I read this text again and it
convinced me to quit referring to a leading
politician in a disparaging way.)
- Read Romans 13:8-10. Why are debts and love part of this
line of teaching? How do they fit in with paying taxes and
avoiding revolution? (All of this deals with the
obligations of Christians. They have an obligation to pay
their bills, they have an obligation to avoid harming
their neighbor, they have an obligation to be good
citizens. All of this obligation arises out of the
obligation of love.)
- Wait a minute! If the underlying foundation from
which all of these other rules arise is the rule of
love, what does that say about the Jews under Hitler
and living under Stalin? (If the underlying rule is
love, then Christians would defend the Jews and would
resist Stalin's murders.)
- The Disciples and Government
- Read Acts 4:1-3. We just read Romans 13:3 which says that
those doing right have no fear of the government. Is that
true here? (No. Peter and John are preaching the gospel.)
- Read Acts 4:4. What does this teach us about whether Peter
and John were doing what is right? (Their words converted
- Read Acts 4:5-12. Romans 13:7 says give respect and honor
to those whom it is due. These are legitimate leaders, is
Peter showing them respect and honor?
- Is it respectful to say, "Were we arrested for being
kind and healing a cripple?" "You claim to have the
power to arrest us, but you killed the Messiah!"
- Read Acts 4:13-14. Has Peter chosen a winning strategy?
(Yes! His opponents don't know what to say in response,
and they decide to regroup.)
- How does this inform our understanding of Romans 13?
(We are within the rule of love to resist government
when it opposes us promoting the gospel.)
- We need to stop a minute here. When we use the term
"oppose government," does that have the same meaning
in a democracy as it does in a totalitarian state -
like Rome? (Absolutely not. Authority is in the hands
of the voters in a democracy. Therefore, to resist
in accord with the laws is part of supporting the
legitimate functioning of the government.)
- Read Acts 4:15-17. The rulers are meeting to map out a
strategy. What is their goal? ("To stop this thing from
spreading." To stop the gospel.)
- Read Acts 4:18-20 and read Romans 13:5. Peter and John ask
if they should obey God or men. How can they create that
distinction since God says to obey those in authority? If
a ruler gives a command, you follow it! (Apparently not.)
- Read Acts 4:25-26. Here is a different view of rulers and
government than what we read in Romans 13:1. This says
that government plots against the work of God, while
Romans says that authority is established by God. Which is
- Read Acts 4:27-28. What does this say about God's power
and will and the evil deeds of rulers? (This says that the
most evil deed - the murder and torture of Jesus - was
what God had previously decided "should happen.")
- Is God behind the evil done by rulers like Hitler and
Stalin? (No. In this case, God decided that He would
die for our sins. Satan and his human allies decided
to make it painful.)
- Can you see a parallel between the discussion in
Romans about God and earthly authority and this
discussion about God and the death of His Son? (I
think so. It is God's will to have authority on
earth. It was God's will, once we sinned, to die in
our place. The fact that God has a general will for
something to be done, does not mean that God endorses
the evil that is done by the exercise of human free
- Read Acts 4:29-30. Are the disciples praying that God will
enable them to disobey authority? (Yes.)
- What, then, should be the rule for Christians about evil
done by authority? (We should not be part of it. But note
that we may be punished for being disobedient: "consider
their threats and enable your servants." Please, God, help
us to be able to suffer the punishment of doing Your
- Jesus and Government
- Read Matthew 26:59-62. Obviously, the government is up to
no good here. Should Jesus have answered? Isn't the
highest authority asking Him to answer? (Read Deuteronomy
19:15. The Bible has a form of the rule against self-incrimination. You cannot be punished on your statement
alone. Therefore this was an improper question.)
- Read Matthew 26:63. Did Jesus invoke the "Fifth
Amendment?" (Yes! For those who are not Americans, the
Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens
- Read Matthew 26:63-66. Is the high priest violating the
law? (Yes. He should not have demanded in the name of God
that Jesus incriminate Himself, and he knew that Jesus'
testimony alone was not sufficient for a conviction.)
- What does this teach us about dealing with authority?
(Authority is not always good, and it is not always
- When we are faced with unjust government authority,
on what should we ultimately rely? (Read Daniel 2:44.
God controls kings and kingdoms. He will ultimately
destroy all these earthly kingdoms.)
- Re-read Acts 4:27-28. In what can we take confidence?
(Even though unfair things may happen to us, we know that
God is in charge and that in the end His will must
- Friend, what is your attitude toward government? If it is
hostile, why not today recognize that God establishes
human authority. While it might not act appropriately, God
calls on us to obey the government unless a moral issue is
- Next week: Discipling the Nations.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.