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Romans 13:1-7 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:59 mins 12 secs

The Believer and Civil Government. Romams 13:1-7


Rom 13:1 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.

Rom 13:2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

Rom 13:3 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;

Rom 13:4 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.

Rom 13:5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.

Rom 13:6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for {rulers} are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.

Rom 13:7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax {is due;} custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

Points of review

1.  Civil government was first instituted by God in the Noahic covenant, Genesis 9:5, 6 when God ordained the sword for capital punishment for capital crimes (specifically murder). There is no mention of the word "government" here, so how do we get government out of this. If we are going to apply the principle we have to think about this. If we are now responsible for taking the life of somebody who commits this kind of act how do we go about adjudicating the decision? How do we decide of a person is truly guilty? How do we decide if it was an accident or intentional? Who is going to be given the authority within a society in order to carry out this punishment? What kind of redress might there be in this case for somebody who might be unjustly condemned? All of these things must be taken into account if we are going to apply this principle. 

2.  We must recognize that civil government is part of what we call the divine institutions. These are established by God. The term "divine institution" has been used by Christians to speak of the absolute social structure that was established by God and embedded within the social makeup of human beings. So in order for human beings to realize their full potential as image bearers these institutions must be followed. They are for the entire human race, believer and unbelievers alike. When they are followed there can be a measure of success and prosperity; when they are violated that society will eventually erode and collapse from the inside. In contrast, modern paganism (and paganism throughout history) has used these as simply byproducts of man's psycho-social evolution; they are viewed as cultural conventions: that God didn't ordain or establish marriage—marriage is something that people found to have a pragmatic value and so it was developed or evolved along the way; that God did not establish government, it is a convention that man developed. We have to understand that there is a difference between an institution as we are using the word and a convention. Human convention has to do with things that may differ from culture to culture, country to country, language group to language group, because they are developed by different peoples in order to carry out basic structures of their society.

3.  There are five divine institutions and three of them were established prior to the fall. That is important to understand because they don't have to do with sin; they weren't designed by God in order to somehow control sin. They were there is perfect environment and so the first three divine institutions were designed for man's prosperity, his blessing and his growth. The first was individual responsibility: each person is accountable to God for how he lives his life in terms of the resources God has given him. The second was marriage which was to be between one man and one woman. (The issue with homosexuality is that it is a sin which attacks the very core of a successful society; it attacks the divine institution of marriage) When the institution of marriage crumbles the family crumbles and future generations suffer so that its society will implode as these cancers eat away internally. Family is the third divine institution, it is the core education system for providing for the next generation, for passing values on from one generation to the next. These were all in place before the fall. Then after the flood was the development of the fourth divine institution which was human/civil government, the judicial aspect, and individual nations. These come along after sin enter into human history. The purpose of the first three, the pre-fall divine institutions, is to promote productivity and advance civilization so that man can experience all of God's blessing in his society in a social sense. The post-fall divine institutions are designed to retrain and inhibit evil which would destroy productivity and prosperity. Human government and nations are designed to protect the human race from evil and tyranny, but unfortunately living in a fallen world where these institutions are under the direction of fallen human beings, human government is often perverted to do just the opposite of what it was intended to do. Nevertheless it is an institution that has been established by God.

4.  The problem that we run into as Christians is when the authority of civil government conflicts with the mandates and responsibilities that are assigned to us by God. The problem is when the government specifically and directly contradicts what the Bible directs us to do. So we are to understand how we are to respond and what our attitude should be toward civil government.

The epistle to the Romans was written by Paul, some say as early as 54 AD, which would be the same time that Nero begins to reign as emperor, the last in the line from Augustus. Rome was the capital of the empire and the seat of much that was going on in government. There was a lot of turmoil at that time. One of the major issues that was in contention was taxes. Taxes in the Roman empire at that time were extremely heavy and the people were tired of being taxed all the time by the government. Romans chapter thirteen is really focused on the problem of taxes. Paul is going to start with the principle in the first verse, Romans 13:1 NASB "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." But the specific application that he is going to make is going to be in taxes. [6] "For because of this you also pay taxes, for {rulers} are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. [7] Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax {is due;} custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor." So the Word of God does not authorize disobedience to taxes in principle. We are to obey the law even when those taxes are onerous.

Romans chapter twelve is the major dividing section in the book of Romans. Through Romans chapter eleven we have more of a doctrinal discourse unpacking what God has done in our salvation in order to satisfy His righteousness, and to provide us with righteousness that we may live a righteous life. Starting in chapter twelve Paul describes what that righteous life should look like, and that righteous life is a life that is in submission to God's authority. That is a key concept that we find running through this section; we are to be subordinate to the authority of God. Roman 12:1, 2 sets the theme for the section and chapter thirteen addresses how the believer is going to relate to government in a way that honors and glorifies God as part of our service to God. Under the overall theme of being subordinate to God and living a life that is pleasing to Him, demonstrating that His will is good, acceptable and perfect, it has a particular application in the role or relationship of the believer to government. We see this developed in Romans 13 in certain ways. We see the words "evil" and "good" in the patter part of chapter 12 as well as 13:3, 4. Another thing we note is that the idea of wrath which is an expression of God's judicial condemnation of unrighteousness is mention in both 12:19 and 13:4, 5. Wrath is not a term meaning that someone has lost their temper or that someone is said to be angry. It is a figure of speech for the harshness of justice and the condemnation by the judge of any kind of violation of law. There is also another connection in the concept of vengeance—12:19; 13:4. Rom 12:19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath {of God,} for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord.