Respecting Government (Reading Romans 13:1-7)

There are many “but what if” debates surrounding Paul’s instruction in Romans 13:1-7. What if the ruling government is an oppressive, blood thirsty, tyranny? Should people submit to deadly government? What if the ruling government restricts one’s right to share the gospel? What if, what if, what if? In this week’s posts, we will entertain plenty of the, “what if?”

In interpreting a passage of this nature, one must determine whether the application is a general rule to be applied to the normal course of events, or is it an absolute rule that applies in all situations? The Book of Proverbs is a good example. Most people would believe Proverbs to be a list of absolute rules and promises, “if” one does this, “then” this will necessarily follow. Yet it does not take long in the course of life to experience a broken proverb. There are times when a person can do everything right and things go horribly wrong. A person can be wise with his money and lose it all. This being the case we should understand that merely by the experience of life the Proverbs are not absolute, but rather general applications to the ebb and flow of the majority of life. Most of the time proverbs work. There will be exceptions. Not only does the experience of life teach us this, but if one does a little bit of background study he would find that that original intent of the Proverbs was not to be applied in absolute but in general. With all of that said, in any circumstance, it is always wise to live the proverbs, even if you lose all of your money. There is no excuse for stupidity. Seek wisdom.

Romans 13 is a passage that applies to the way things should work in general. In general, the government should reward good deeds and punish evil ones. In general, government should be respectable having the good of the people at heart. Paul is not na├»ve to the fact that government was involved in the crucifixion of Jesus or to the fact that in the apocalypse government will become an evil beast. As a Jew, Paul was well acquainted with bad government. In writing Romans 13 Paul is not pretending that all the world is utopia. At the time of Paul’s writing he was aware the looming dangers of Nero.

So how should the people of God respond, in general, to government? As a general rule, the people of God should submit to government. The people of God should not be the source of evil, they should not be “evil doers.” The people of God should give the government no reason to incur judgment against them for unrighteous action. Christians should pay taxes. I hate them, but I pay them. When they go up, I pay more, which is the law. God’s people should respect government as an institution of God. There is no opportunity for respectable government to exist without people who respect the authority of government.


AP Mattox said…
Do you believe our founding fathers were justified in the revolution against England in light of Rom. 13?

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