Caesar is a title used by Roman emperors. It usually stands for a tyrant, dictator or any temporal ruler in contrast with God or the civil authorities (Matthew 22:21). The modern day words “Czar,” “Tsar,” and “Kaiser” are derived from Caesar.
The Bible tells us that Jesus was born in Bethlehem under the rule of the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus as recorded in Luke 2. In Jesus’ youth, Tiberius became the emperor, bearing the title of Caesar. John the Baptist began his ministry in the 15th year of the rule of Tiberius’s (Luke 3:1-2). Tiberius subordinates executed both John the Baptist and Jesus while Paul and Peter were executed under the evil emperor Nero, who murdered many Christians as scapegoats for a fire that consumed most of Rome.
Yet, in spite of the evil characters of the Caesars, Jesus instructed His followers saying, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). Paul gave the same message saying, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1). Peter also taught to, “Honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17).
Why exactly did Jesus and His disciples teach that we should be faithful to the pagan rulers? Paul and Peter give us the answer saying, “there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1). Governments are ordained by God to keep the law of the land and are part of God’s political economy for the world.
Yet a ruler’s authority should not be absolute. God comes first. When the authorities judged Peter and John and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus they answered, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:18-20). God’s children have to be loyal to their rulers without compromising their principles and faith in God. When questioned again on this matter, “Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men”” (Acts 5:29).
We should not be discouraged by the injustice of the rulers for they will surely give account of all their actions at the Judgement Day. The Lord “brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing” (Isaiah 40:23). And He warns them saying, “Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth” (Psalm 2:10).
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In His service,
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