Last week, we started talking about politics a little bit. We discussed how, even if we hate those that lead us, that, because God creates authority, we need to submit to whatever our authorities tell us. This week, we’ll expound on what we just reviewed and see what else Romans 13 has for us.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.* 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good.”
*Verse 1 was left for context reading.
So, as we saw last week from verse one and again here, all authority is put into place by God. To add on to that, Paul tells us that resisting those that are in charge is going against God. We don’t think about that usually. If you hate a police officer, no one just assumes you hate President Obama as well. It doesn’t work that way in this. Going against God’s ordained authority goes against God himself.
The text says that those who resist will incur judgement, but from Christ’s sacrifice, we know that believers, to whom Paul is writing, we won’t be punished for our sin. It is paid in full. What this actually means is that if we resist the government, we’ll receive punishment from the government.
If we steal (sin and crime), our government will punish us. God does not punish us for it, but the government still has to do its job. God will allow us to deal with the consequences of our sin, and this is one way that unfolds.
As a side note, there is a difference between punishment and discipline. To read more about this, click here.
You might also be wondering about governments that are against what God has called us to do. In many countries, it is illegal to be a Follower of Christ. However, God’s will is always more important than man’s. If we are told to not do something God has told us to do, then we must ignore that message and do what his word says.Think of it this way: would you do something if President Obama told you to do even if a police officer told you that you can’t?
In verse three, Paul tells us that people in charge are supporters of good conduct, but this brings up last week’s question about bad leaders. Maybe some leaders are good and do want what is best, but what about Hitler, Mussolini, or your kindergarten teacher you hated?
Well, one, everyone has a conscious. Hitler, at least somewhat, knew right from wrong. He didn’t let everyone live in anarchy while he was in power. Even if the person is evil, they are not going to give up morality completely. Even the worst leaders are against criminal activity.
Then Paul tells the Romans that the way to be on their government’s good side is to do the right thing. Don’t break the law, and they won’t be angry with you. It’s quite simple, and it still works the same way now.
Finally, in the beginning of verse 14, Paul finishes the sentence from verse 13 by saying the government is God’s servant for our good. At first glance, this makes little sense and almost seems repetitive. Even in the context of Followers in the United States, it is still confusing.
What it seems like Paul is saying is that the government gives us the ability to do what we do. In the context of the modern United States of America, the government has played a role in helping us follow God in the way we feel like we should. The most basic example of this is the freedom of religion. We have the ability to openly worship God because of the laws made by government.
Next week, we’ll talk about what resisting the government looks like.