THE PURPOSE: GOD’S REASONS FOR OUR SUBMITTING TO HUMAN AUTHORITY
The Believer’s Obligation
Charles e Whisnant, Pastor/Teacher, Shepherd, Leader, Learner
Romans 13:1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Let every soul be subject utno the higher power, for the power that be are ordained of God.
LET EVERY PERSON (literally – soul) BE (present tense -continuously) IN SUBJECTION TO THE GOVERNING AUTHORITIES:
(Deuteronomy 17:12; Ephesians 5:21; Titus 3:1; 1Peter 2:13-17; 2Peter 2:10,11; Jude 8)
PAUL’S EXHORTATION REGARDING BEHAVIOR AS GOOD CITIZENS
Deut 17:12 “And the man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the LORD your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.
Ephesians 5:21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
In reading Romans 13 it is important to keep the historical context in mind.
The political situation in Rome was difficult to say the least. The Roman Emperor Claudius had earlier expelled the Jews because of a dispute involving a certain “Chrestus” (i.e., Christ), and though the Jews had returned, the political situation was still potentially volatile. Moreover, Paul may have also been concerned about the possible influence of a group of Jews known as Zealots, (or here) who held a revolutionary attitude toward the government of Rome. Paul therefore will give practical instructions on how a believer should live under an unfriendly government. On the other hand Paul does not directly instruct believers on what we ought to do when a government departs from the role God has given it and does not specifically explain what to do when our government is committing a moral wrong (e.g., as in Nazi Germany). Neither are we told what to do in the midst of revolution. Furthermore, Paul does not hold up one form of government (theocracy, monarchy, democracy, dictatorship, etc) over another (e.g., “When Jesus comes back, He won’t be riding an elephant or a donkey” He’s an Independent and He has the only vote that counts!). He is speaking in broad, general terms about all human government anywhere in the world. The institution of government comes from the hand of God. So keep these thoughts in mind as you study Romans 13, so that you will avoid the interpretative danger of trying to read into Paul’s treatise something that he did not intend.
Brief Outline of Romans 13:1 – 5
Government is by divine decree. 13:1b
Resistance to government is rebellion against God 13:2a
Those who resist government will be punished: 13:2b
Government serves to restrain evil: 13:3a
Government serves to promote good: 13:3b-4a
Rulers are empowered by God in enflict punishment for disobedience 13:4b
Government should be submitted to for conscience sake 13:5
Romans 13:1-7. The proud love of freedom of the Jews
John 8:33; Matthew 22:17; Acts 5:37; Acts 18:2 First Corinthians 6:1; Acts 17:6-7
For the Christians—among whom, indeed, even the Gentile-Christians might easily enough be led astray by the Messianic ideas (theocracy, kingdom of Christ, freedom and κληρονομία of believers, etc.) into perverted thoughts of freedom and desires for emancipation
The danger thus lay, not indeed exclusively, but primarily and mostly, on the side of the Jewish-Christians, not on that of the Gentile-Christians, in the interest of the view that Paul desired to prepare the Roman church to be the base of operations of his western mission to the Gentiles, unhistorically assumes.
(1-7) Subject unto the higher powers.—
1. In the first place it should be noticed that though the duty of obedience is here stated without qualification, still the existence of qualifications to it is not therefore denied or excluded.
2. But the question of political obedience cannot be rightly considered without taking into account the relation of Christianity to political life generally,
1Peter 2:13-17. And going back to the fountain-head of Christian doctrine, we find, indeed, no express statements, but several significant facts and some important intimations
Here we have really the key to the whole question. So far as His practice was concerned, our Lord pursued a course of simple obedience; into the theory of political or civil obligation He absolutely refused to enter. The answer, “Render to Cæsar,” &c., left matters precisely as they stood, for the real question was, “What was Cæsar’s, and what was not?” The ambiguity of the reply was intended. It was practically a refusal to reply at all.
Towards the civil power they maintained an attitude of absolute submission. They refused to avail themselves of the elements of fanaticism which existed wherever there were Jews, and at the head of which they might easily have placed themselves.
Instead of this, they chose to suffer and die, and their sufferings did what force could never have done—they leavened and Christianised the world.
3. It is an expression of this deliberate policy (if by that name it may be called) which we find in these first seven verses of Romans 13.