I’ve been studying Romans 13:1-7 in preparation for preaching this text tomorrow morning at our church. Now “tomorrow morning,” when you read this, is not really “tomorrow morning” because I won’t post these reflections until a month or two from now. Sooo — I’ll be able to tell you how my sermon went and maybe even upload the audio.
Here is the text in Romans 13 that I will be focusing on:
“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. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 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. 4 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. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 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)
Can we talk? I know you are as tired of the campaigning ads as I am. It is easy to become cynical about politics in general and specific individuals in particular. But let’s think about government and not politics for a few moments, shall we?
I see this passage breaking down into four sections: I. A Command to Obey (v. 1); II. A Servant to Fear (vv. 2-4); III. A Freedom to Find (vv. 3-4); and IV. A Debt to Pay (vv. 5-7). That’s my sermon outline. Let’s think about —
I. A Command to Obey (v. 1)
Paul makes it clear that everyone is to be “subject to” the governing authorities. Why? He says that governmental authority, human authority, is established by God. Paul is not dealing with specific rulers, for there were some incredibly evil ones in Paul’s day. He is talking about government in general. God is a God of order — and He has ordained and established human government for the good of His creation. Both anarchy and apathy are ruled out by this clear command. Rebellion against God-established government as well as not caring about those in authority cannot be the Christian’s position.
This is not to say that believers are not to ever exercise their rights or to passively do everything that the government tells them to do. The Apostle Paul exercised his rights as a Roman citizen in appealing to Caesar (Acts 25:11) and Peter and John classically stated in Acts 4 when they were commanded to no longer preach the gospel: “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (v. 19).
But the normal response of the believer ought to be obedience, submission to the God-established authorities which He has put in place. This verb “submit” is the same as used in Ephesians 5: “21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” We also read of the Lord Jesus submitting Himself to the Father in I Corinthians 15:58. (to be continued)
One takeaway: Are you submitting to the governing authorities God has placed over you? One way to do that, I would suggest, is to pray for those who are in authority!