We are thinking through Romans 13:1-7 as elections draw near. Let’s look at our text again and think about its implications.
Here is what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 13:
“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)
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 —
II. A Servant to Fear (vv. 2-4)
We are to submit to the governing authorities because they are God’s servant! He is sovereign over earthly powers. He has instituted such authority (v. 2) and that authority “holds terror” for evildoers (v. 3). Such authority is also called “agents of wrath” (v. 4)!
I doubt any of us want to be seen as rebelling against GOD! When God-ordained authority is rejected, FEAR ought to be the result for those who are opposing God’s rule through human beings.
A recent Blue Cross/Blue Shield advertising campaign uses the slogan “Live Fearless.” Biblically, we are to fear the Lord. Here in Romans 13, there should be a legitimate fear on the part of evildoers of a government which is God’s “agent of wrath”! “If you do wrong, BE AFRAID!”
A comment about the statement: “for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason” (v. 4). Many of us see this as a justification for capital punishment under certain circumstances (which Genesis 9:6 also supports). (to be continued)
One takeaway: It’s really quite simple: If I do wrong, I should fear the human powers which God has ordained!