“Wrestling With Romans”
The Divine Institution (Chapter 13 Verses 1-7)
The justified person’s life is to be lived out within the Christian community, just as chapter twelve has demonstrated. But now Paul turns to the subject of the Christian in the secular world (vv1-7). We live as Christians in a world that is controlled by the government of the secular world, so how does the Christian with his or her spiritual responsibilities conduct themselves? Paul gives us the general principles to enable us to work these matters out. Everyone, no exclusions, we are all to submit ourselves to the God-ordained authority (v1). There are some who would claim that there is excluded here the thought of over-throwing a perhaps tyrannical government. There is no grounds here for that at all, Paul here opposes that very thing. Whatever the government everyone, every single Christian is to submit to it, there is no place for anarchy in God’s will, whether in the Church or out of it. Why? Because the government, whatever you or I may think of it, is in fact placed there by God himself. So for you to fight against it, is for you to fight against God (v2). It is a divine institution (v2), God’s agent in this world, to be obeyed. Listen to the language of an American Baptist minister, who doubles up with being a commander in the Michigan Militia, as well as a gun-dealer, the Rev. Norman Olson, he says, “we’re talking about a situation where armed conflict may be inevitable if the country doesn’t turn around”. Now I suggest to you that that attitude, that life-style, and particularly those words are diametrically opposed to what the Holy Spirit commands here (v2).
We are to do right (v3), be good citizens, in fact Christians should be the best citizens in any country, obedience to it’s laws, servants to its rulers, taking and playing our part in the political thinking and system of the land. We, the Christian community, should be a blessing to the nation. Now when it comes to times of religious persecution, whether it is coming from an individual or a state, Paul has already instructed us (v12, 14, 17-21), as has Jesus. What took place in the Acts of the Apostles, the body which was withstood (Act.4.19-20; 5.19-20; v29), was the Sanhedrin council, not the Roman state, the government of the day. The Jews had no authority to silence the preaching of the gospel. The rebellion we see all around us today, doesn’t work the righteous peace of God, it just reproduces itself.
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)