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John Piper: Christians Should Obey Gov't for God's Sake

John Piper
Theologian John Piper explains what it means to give Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. |

In a video message posted on the desiringGod website, theologian John Piper dwells on Jesus' statement, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's," and explains the relationship between Christians and the government.

When Jesus said, in Matthew 22:21, we should render to Caesar what's Caesar's and to God what is God's, He did not define the scope of things that belong to Caesar, or the scope of things that belong to God, Piper says in the video, adding, "He left it open."

"Everything belongs to God. Caesar belongs to God," Piper, founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary, says, giving the example from John 19.

Pilate says to Jesus, "Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?" Jesus said, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above."

Caesar's sphere of authority is limited, Piper adds in the view, which is part four of a six-part series through John Piper's book, What Jesus Demands from the World. "There is a limitation put on human authority and state authority because if any human authority tells us to do anything that contradicts what God tells us to do, we say no," the theologian explained, based on Acts 5:29, which states, "We must obey God rather than men."

Our submission to Caesar is shaped by the fact that God owns everything, Piper says, adding that we still do render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's. We submit for the Lord's sake, as Romans 13 says. "That little phrase, 'for the Lord's sake,' is a banner flying over all submission to human authority," explains Piper, who served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for 33 years.

"Therefore, if I render to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and he asks: 'Why are you doing this?' I will never say, 'Because you have final authority in my life.' I will never say, 'Because you are God.' I will always say, 'I am rendering allegiance to you, because I have an authority over you,'" Piper adds.

We do not submit because any human authority claims us, he continues. "They don't. We do it for the Lord's sake. … Paradoxically, our submission to Caesar is seditious as soon as Caesar claims to be God. We don't ever go beyond the rightful claims of Caesar under God. … We always do it for Christ's sake, which turns our obedience to human authorities into worship to God."

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