Bible Doctrine and Traffic Citations

Dr. Ron J. Bigalke

Recently, I was traveling on a highway notorious for speed traps, so I was monitoring my speed circumspectly. I was driving at the last posted speed limit, upon entering a construction zone. There were no signs posted to decrease speed, and I saw the officer readying his radar gun to aim at my vehicle.

I knew that I was driving the last posted speed limit, and also checked my GPS, so I did not decrease my speed as the officer targeted me. Imagine my shock when the lights began flashing behind me and I was forced to stop. The officer informed me that I was going 10 miles over the speed limit, to which I explained my understanding. The officer did not direct me to the posted signs requiring me to decrease my speed (because they were absent); rather, he stated that the construction zone required me to drive 10 miles under the normal speed limit. As the officer departed with my license, I was hoping and thinking surely he would give me a warning. To say I was livid when issued a citation is an understatement.

Later, at home, I searched for current law in this state, and found what I suspected: it was illegal to issue me the citation without posting a reduced speed limit sign. I was thinking to fight the ticket, but received another shock when realizing the officer lied regarding the speed I was traveling. He fabricated my speed as five miles over the normal speed limit (55 MPH), so it would not help my case even if I proved the absence of a reduced speed limit sign.

“What does God want to teach me,” I thought. 

I eventually overcame my anger by meditating upon Scripture and how it affected my unfortunate situation. My experience is certainly an exception to the otherwise stellar law enforcement officials who serve with great integrity. Nevertheless, if you have experienced frustration or injustice with particular circumstances, then perhaps this article will be an encouragement to you, and assist you to think biblically in those experiences, just as it was/is necessary for me.

Grace and Mercy
My first thought regarding my adverse experience was the mercy of God. The mercy I was seeking from the traffic officer was entirely absent, and yet I believe it was appropriately deserved. The contrast with God is that His mercy is not deserved, yet freely given to repentant sinners trusting in His grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Truly, grace and mercy are two integral aspects of God’s favor toward sinners.

The dispositions of grace and mercy were all the more evident in the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. At the cross, the demands of the Law were satisfied, and God 
extended mercy by sparing sinners from eternal condemnation. The undeserved love of God is offered graciously in the person of Christ Jesus, and through faith in Him, the Lord grants eternal life to guilty sinners. The grace and mercy of God are not only the basis of initial forgiveness at conversion, but also they are the means for the ongoing relationship between the believer and the Lord. Through His grace and mercy, God extends His forgiveness, yet the justice of God is never compromised. God is “faithful and righteous” in His readiness to forgive the sins of repentant sinners (1 John 1:9). He is just in demanding the death of His Son, who paid the wages of sin through His propitiatory sacrifice (2:2).

God is also faithful and righteous to forgive and cleanse from all unrighteousness when sinners confess their sins (1:9). The lack of dependability and faithfulness on the part of humanity is an evident contrast to the faithfulness and righteousness of God. The recognition that one is a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness, reminds the believer that God’s attributes of justice and mercy, and love and grace operate in perfect harmony. Unmerited mercy is provided through undiminished justice, and unlimited love is based in undeserved grace.

Justice and Mercy Illustrated
Jesus told a parable concerning laborers in the vineyard. The purpose for the narrative was to illustrate that, within the kingdom of heaven, “the last shall be first, and the first last” (Matt 20:16). In other words, operations within the kingdom of God often function in a manner diametrically opposed to those procedures within human kingdoms. Jesus’ parable illustrates the relationship between mercy and justice, and provides a relevant context for understanding Romans 9.

Although the parable of Matthew 20:1-16 does not concern salvation, it does illustrate principles concerning generosity and justice within God’s kingdom, which are concepts addressed in Romans 9. In His illustration, Jesus’ landowner selected all available workers for his vineyard, and these laborers were added to the workforce each time that he went to seek more.

Romans 9 addresses similar concerns (as Matt 20), since it references the entire mass of humanity (just as Jesus’ parable referenced all available laborers). Matthew 20 and Romans 9 communicate the parallel concept that individuals lacked certain abilities, and were entirely dependent upon the generosity (mercy) of another to alter their destinies. According to Jesus’ parable, the landowner displayed justice because he paid the first group as he promised. He demonstrated generosity by paying whatever was right to the last group. He is also merciful, because he gave the final group what they did not deserve. While grace is receiving what one does not deserve, mercy is not giving what is warranted. How does Jesus’ parable relate to Romans 9?

In the previous section (Rom 8:28-39), the Bible emphasized God’s sovereign capacity to save His people, in addition to the absolute impossibility that any other power could separate them from His love “in Christ Jesus.” Some believers perceived an apparent contradiction in regard to Israel. If the chosen people of God had been rejected, how could believers today know that He will not also reject them? If God was unable to save Israel, how can He be trusted to save believers today? The answer to those questions is the subject of chapters 9—11 of the book of Romans.

Unless one understands the association between God’s justice and mercy, it will be impossible to understand His plan of salvation. Romans 9 introduces mercy as the primary concept in “God’s purpose according to His choice” (v. 11; cf. 12:1). Scripture explains why it appears that God has been unfaithful, yet He has not, which is evident in the remnant of Israelites who have believed, and in consideration of Israel’s predominance in the future.

Therefore, “it is not as though the word of God has failed” (v. 6), because the Lord has been faithful to His promises toward Israel; indeed, He has been more than dependable. He demonstrated mercy when only judgment was deserved. And, because God has been faithful, believers today may know that God will likewise be faithful to keep His promises for them (e.g. 1 Tim 2:1-4). The fulfillment of God’s promises will result in a world absent of injustices and unrighteousness; it is this kingdom for which the believer longs (and the recognition that until that day, believers will experience the effects of a world system that is opposed to the character of God’s kingdom).

Paying Taxes
Romans 13:8-14 explains the responsibilities that Christians have as a consequence of their relationship to God. Verses 8-10 reveal that the primary motivation for the Christian’s behavior is love. The thought here resumes the discussion that concluded Romans 12. Christians are to “owe nothing to anyone except to love one another.” The thought of this verse derives emphasis from the immediately preceding statement in verse 7, to pay “tax to whom tax is due.”

Taxes and debts are legal obligations, and should be reduced as much as possible. However, the believer’s spiritual obligation is to love others in a manner that is continually increasing. In this sense, love is the only debt that should never be regarded as paid “in full.” The rule to love is the fundamental principle of the Old Testament law. Christians are to love God and love their neighbor. Only when love is the believer’s motivation, can one fulfill responsibilities to God, to other believers, to society, and to the state.

While not a tax, a traffic citation is a reminder to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). When the Lord Jesus spoke those words, He acknowledged the legitimacy of human government (as opposed to anarchy). In addition to the family and church, God has ordained human government; thus, it has the prerogative to collect taxes, and citizens have the responsibility to pay them. Government also has the right to make laws, and those governed are responsible to obey them. Other writers in the New Testament, especially Peter and Paul, reaffirmed and expanded upon the Lord’s words, even as they lived during the maniacal reign of Emperor Nero (cf. Rom 13:1-7; 1 Tim 2:1-8; 1 Pet 2:13-17). While recognizing that “every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17), Christians understand that the ability to pay fines and taxes is a result of God’s provision, and thus can be given in thankfulness.

Mercy is a communicable attribute of God that expresses His goodness and love for the guilty. While false accusations are present manifestations of a fallen world, God’s declaration of human guilt is irrefutable, and thus His compassion toward sinners is truly amazing. The God of the Bible is entirely unique from the gods of the world religions, for only He completely forgives sins.

Until the Lord’s return in faithfulness to fulfill His promises, believers can acknowledge that to some degree all governments serve the purpose of promoting good and punishing evil (Rom 13:3-4). Government limited to these ideals satisfies the biblical parameters, for if Romans 13 demands obedience to government, Revelation 13 illustrates what occurs when government commands the believer to do that which God has forbidden (and thus no government commands the believer’s unqualified support). Until the Lord establishes His kingdom on earth, injustices will remain. Nevertheless, a personal relationship with God necessitates that His people demonstrate justice and righteousness in society, while awaiting the time of the Lord’s return.

Midnight Call - 08/2018

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