February 14 - Romans 13:1-7

Friday, February 14, 2014

Romans 13:1-7 – Submission to Authority

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Do you believe that God is in control and is completely sovereign over the earth and all that lives within it? This passage forces us to deal with this question honestly. If we do not believe this to be true, then anarchy is advised. However, Paul asserts that God is in control, even over the authorities that exist. Even when we don't agree with their methods or their politics.

We can't believe for a second that he was talking to a group of people who were being ruled by a fair government and yet, he insisted that Christians submit to that authority. This submission is the same response a Christian must have toward his or her Christian brother or sister. Recognition that the authority exists and is in place according to God's plan and respect for that authority.

While this does not mean that we categorically obey an authority's every command, it does mean that a Christian must not refuse obedience to that authority simply because he doesn't believe it is a legal form of government.

What Paul is trying to tell his readers is that individuals cannot make him or herself greater than the established authority. Much as he has written that Christians are to be humble and to set others above themselves, he writes the same regarding the government in place.

The strongest point that Paul is trying to make is that though Christians see themselves as under the authority of God, they are not to separate themselves from the authority of government, doing as they please.

The one in authority is God's servant and it is to God that this person will offer their final explanation of actions taken. We tend to be very short-sighted when we look at governments on earth. A four or eight year term by an American President is seen to be an eternity and a dictator in power of a country is believed to live through several lifetimes, but in truth, our focus is not to be on the momentary balance of political power in a government, but in the lifelong pursuit of a relationship with God.