Romans, chapter 13 is entitled:
Submission to the Authorities
I am already struggling with this title, but let’s be patient and see what the chapter is telling us.
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.
For there is no authority except from God,
and those which exist are established by God.
Romans 13:1 NASB
The idea that every person is to be in subjection is rather comprehensive, as no one is excluded. However, Paul is writing specifically to the church body that gathers in Rome, and generally to the entire body of Christ.
This letter about subjection may be especially important since this group of believers, which is majority Jewish, had recently made a return after either Claudius or Nero expelled the Jews from Rome. Why don’t I pronounce one or the other as the author of a decree to expel the Jews? Because Nero shared power with Claudius, his adoptive father, and therefore Rome was also under the governance of Nero (37-68AD), but one of the most disturbing leaders was Claudius. Nero became the emperor in 54AD after the death of Claudius. History tells us that the Emperor had been using the Jews for torches, and Claudius made it known that the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus – a Grecian derivative for Christ.
Based upon what they understood from the Torah, the Jews knew they were not to lay down and be doormats for this Roman oppression. This scenario should have us scratching our heads in bewilderment as we try to understand what Romans 13:1 is asking us to do.
Subjection, according to the dictionary, means to be: inferior in order, dignity, power, and influence. It also means to be subordinate, but NOT enslaved.
Do I think, for a second, that God desires for you to feel inferior? Not a chance, and neither did Paul. 2 Corinthians 11:5 Paul says, “I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles.” And in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul not only speaks again about how he is in no way inferior to the apostles, but he states that he has never treated any of the body of Christ as inferior.
Strong’s shows us the Greek word hupotassō, which means to subordinate; reflexively to obey: – be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto. This Greek word is a derivative of two others, hupo meaning under, and tas’-so, which means to arrange in an orderly manner, that is, assign or dispose (to a certain position or lot.
We are being asked to submit ourselves to the authorities in an orderly manner. Another way to look at this, we are being asked to put ourselves at their disposal.
Is Paul saying, for any foolish endeavor?
I seriously doubt it, but if you study life of the Apostle Paul, you find him arguing his case “before the courts,” but NOT screaming, yelling, and making an absurd scene. He carries himself with dignity.
What purpose does Paul’s submission serve?
It allowed for the gospel message to go to the Gentiles, caused the gospel to spread, and the gospel was preached to the highest levels of government.
What is the reason behind such a request by “God?”
As the NLT puts it,
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. (Romans 13:1 NLT)
Look at how distinctly the explanation comes.
Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God;
and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
Romans 13:2 NASB
- “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God.”
God has put them there in positions of authority, even if they are morons. There is a purpose behind everything.
We, in America, are coming to Presidential elections once again. The vote in which President Trump was elected did not start with him in the race. He threw his hat into the ring at the last minute. For me, before Mr. Trump jumped in, there was NOBODY sane worthy of a vote, but to be straight with you, most of us knew what kind of brash person the man was, and we all knew he had weaknesses, but the man has demonstrated that there is more to him than the shallow louse who loved to say, you’re fired.
So let’s try to glance at two scenarios.
- President Obama: An admitted Muslim, with falsified birth records, and a determination (his own words) to bring this nation down to a level with third world nations, was the President of my country. I did not choose him, vote for him, or like him. As long as we had the right to freedom of speech and the ability to vote, I made an effort to get the devil and his demons out of office. Fortunately, he could only be president for two terms, and yet, I had to abide by the laws, mandates, and presidential orders. If there had been a reinstatement of the draft and they had called my name, I would have gone to war – mind you, I would have been muttering the entire way angrily. And one religious zealot, in particular, would repeatedly say, you have to pray for our President. My response, in jest, was, I have, and, unfortunately, he is still alive.
- The current President, Donald Trump: Is brash, outspoken, and demanding; yet, the nation is running more the way many of us had hoped it would. I pray for his success, well being, and sanity (I think the job of President could easily make anyone nuts.)
Do I feel like I am doing this subjection thing correctly?
Not by a long shot, but know this, I don’t fight with the police, because I have not done anything wrong, as yet. And I do not believe it is appropriate for a Christian to be involved in the activities of Antifa, as their purpose is to fight against leadership and disrupt people’s lives. The day may come when aligning oneself with the scriptures may be a criminal act. At that point, despite what the current administration says, I will become a criminal.
Romans 13:3-4 NASB For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; (4) for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
You probably noticed how I said, I don’t see a need to fight with the police, as I have done nothing wrong. Romans 13: 3,4(a) speaks specifically to that end.
- “Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; (4) for it is a minister of God to you for good.”
Let’s just say you ran a red light, now do you feel you are in any place to fight with the police officer that is pulling you over? Some morons do.
- “But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”
Keep in mind that Paul is writing to believers. Some religious zealots would have you think that as a follower of Christ, we would never do anything wrong. My question to people who buy into thinking like this is, what planet do you live on?
While it is true that we, who accepted Christ, have buried ourselves with Him in baptism, have died and risen with Him – theoretically; but, as long as we are suited in these bodies, we will always be subject to the sin and death that surround us.
What advantage then is salvation?
It gave us a righteous standing with the Father, and that is our entrance into the Kingdom of heaven. Until that day comes and we are changed, we are capable of missing the mark/sin; and sin can get you landed in prison.
Romans 13:5 NASB Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.
Eugene Peterson does a very good job of giving us another take on this verse.
That’s why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live. (Romans 13:5 MSG)
These last two verses define the idea being subject to authorities very well. Because it’s the right way to live.
Romans 13:6-7 BBE For the same reason, make payment of taxes; because the authority is God’s servant, to take care of such things at all times. (7) Give to all what is their right: taxes to him whose they are, payment to him whose right it is, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor is to be given.
So being subject to authority looks like this.
- Pay your taxes. The reason: “because the authorities are working for God when they fulfill their duties” (GNB) This does not say they are Godly people, it merely states that unwittingly, they are working for God, as they fulfill their duties.
- “Give to all what is their right: taxes to him whose they are, payment to him whose right it is, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor is to be given.” The Message conveys this, “Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders.” It’s simple really, do what is right by the law.
To those who do not buy into the idea of being under the law, I know you think the “law” is explicitly talking about the Torah. Why then did Jesus, in compliance with Roman law, tell Peter to pay the taxes that Rome was demanding? Jesus answered the Pharisee’s argument by telling Peter to go fishing. When you pull up the first fish, look in its mouth and pull out the coin that you will find there. Peter did just that. Jesus then said, whose image do you see there? The answer was Caesar. Jesus then said, give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and by that, the taxes got paid that day, answering the foolish argument of the Jews.
Are we to comply with the law?
There is no doubt in my mind unless the law demands mandatory worship of the image of the beast – although I do not believe that it will be called the beast, take his number, and worship the beast, that perhaps, all other laws are such that we could comply. [Read Revelation 13 and pay particular attention to the details about the worship of the beast, taking the mark, and the worship of the image that is made to speak. Anyone, who does all three, goes to hell, no questions asked.]
And why could we comply? If we go back to Romans chapter 1, in which Paul introduces himself to this mostly Jewish community. He says, I Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ. Slaves have no right to do anything but comply; maybe this understanding is our biggest clue.