Romans 13:1­-7

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, October 26, 2015 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“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.” (Romans 13:1-7)

If you like to obey the authorities, raise your hand! Is your hand raised? My guess is probably not. We as humans tend to have a problem with authority over us. We would often prefer to be the authority and boss other people around, rather than be bossed around by someone else. We like to set our own rules and do what we want to do, when we want to do it. But, if you’ve tried that approach to life, my guess is you’ve realized that it can often backfire on you. There is often someone who has gone before you and knows better that you choose not to listen to because you think you know better. (If it’s been awhile since your teenage years, think back to them and I’m sure these feelings will come back to you!)

As followers of Jesus, we are called to submit to God and be obedient to Him. We do this because of His great love for us, and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. All He wants in return for the great gift of salvation by grace through faith is our love and obedience to Him.

But what about obeying earthly authorities, such as your local or national government? Here in this passage, Paul explains that we must submit to them too, just as we would submit to God. Why? Because God has appointed those people to rule over us, so in a sense they are God’s liaisons. If that isn’t enough for you, it also says that if you disobey, you’ll be punished by God - and having the God of the universe punish you should definitely strike fear into your heart!

At first glance, this section appears to be a rabbit trail from what we had just been discussing in Romans 12. Just previously, Paul had been writing about how we live out our lives in love, so what does this section about governing authorities have to do with that? A lot, actually.

Early Christians in the first century, which is when Paul wrote this letter to the Romans, took avoiding worldly things to the extreme. Remember back in Romans 12:2 how Paul encouraged them to not be conformed to the ways of this world? That is extremely important, but not to the extent of not following the rules that have been set up for us in this world. The early Christians had decided that they didn’t have to follow the rules, because they’re only under God and not mankind. Paul counters this idea by saying that all of the governing officials were appointed by God to keep order in this world. That, in fact, is a good thing! “Not conforming” does not mean not following the government rules that God has put in place.

So who are these authorities that we’re supposed to follow? They can be anyone from your local mayor or other city officials up to the president of the United States. These authorities are all called to be God’s servants, just as we are all God’s servants. If we disobey God’s servants, we are disobeying God. Public leaders are in place to serve God’s purposes and keep order to this world.

Our attitude is important, not just our outward act of obedience. We’re encouraged in verse 7 to obey the authorities with respect and honor, which we do by doing what they ask, such as paying taxes. We may not enjoy paying taxes, but we need to do it because it fulfills a purpose of society and keeps order to our cities and towns.

Even if our leaders do not appear to be following Christ with the same enthusiasm that we might be, it is still important to respect them and pray for them, so that they may draw closer to God and truly be His servants here on earth.

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