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.” Romans 13:1
How are we to respond to our government? Paul, are you telling me I must submit to their authority because God put them there!? I thought I was allowed to respond with resentment, distrust and bitterness because clearly God wouldn’t allow such government?
Like in our day, Paul had people in authority that ruled over the land. It was the Roman Empire ruled by the Caesar. Surely though if Paul knew how corrupt our government is today, he would not have written such words and requirements and expected us to listen to them, let along put them into practice!
Is this a fair evaluation? Would Paul have changed his tact here in Romans 13? I would suggest that the ruling authorities of the day in Paul’s time may have been about the same or possibly even worse. Reading the historical data that we have on life in the Roman Empire I would rather live today. Although South Africa as a country are now one of the worse in world stats on corruption and murder – the Roman palace was wrought with corruption and head high in blood shed too.
In fact, the Caesar in office as Paul wrote this was none other than Nero – who would a few years after this letter burn down half of Rome itself and blame the Christians. And simply because he didn’t trust them – Nero was famous for his lavish parties, and he used to Christians to give light to his drive way. From Nero came Paul’s death sentence, and many other faithful christians during his reign. On top of Nero’s anti-Christian stance, he is recorded to be a rather unpleasant man to most, and the Caesars after him didn’t improve – a good book to read, because it paints a good picture, has photos and is easy to read are the Horrible History books, the title for the Roman Empire is The Rotten Romans.
We are therefore left with no other option – “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.” Romans 13:1
This option however is not blind patriotism. I would suggest that we do our theology an injustice if we solely take one passage and form a biblical thesis from it – let us have a glance at the bigger picture of the Bible
– Consider the life and times of Daniel as he prayed, going straight against the decree of the king
– Consider the words of Acts 4:19 “But peter and john replied, “do you think god wants us to obey you rather than him?”
– Consider the phrase “but also for the sake of conscience” here in Romans 13:5
How are we to respond to our government as Christians in the Kingdom of God? We should submit to the authorities that the Lord has given us for the sake of the judicial system and our own conscious that has been renewed by the work of the Spirit, this does not look like blind obedience but conscientious following as children who are led by the Spirit of God, an example is for us to pay our taxes. And from the rest of the Bible: like in Daniel and Acts, when what the state says contradicts God we rather listen to God the one who has all authority, and from other teachings of Paul on government, we are to pray for our government, for wise and godly decisions but also for them to know the truth about Jesus.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgive us for our scoffing of your authority and decisions, and help us to pray for those in power in our land to make godly wise decisions and for their salvation. Lord, even though we do not understand what is going on, you do and we trust you. Amen