DISCLAIMER: This series of articles reflects the results of my exegetical exercise to answer the following questions: (1) what did Paul intend to convey to his original audience by what he wrote in Romans 13:1-7? And (2) in light of Paul’s authorial intent, how ought Romans 13:1-7 apply to a 21st Century Christ-follower? In no way, shape or form is this series intended to influence in any way, or cause or be a catalyst for any person to disobey a governmental authority whether it be local, state or federal. This series is merely the exercise of my right to free speech and to practice my religion under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Bible study must begin with the text. For this study, Romans 13:1–7 (ESV) reads:
1 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. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
The Graphōble Bible Study Journal is a unique way to study the Bible.
One of the very helpful features of the Graphōble Bible Study Journal is the visual representation page by which one draws or sketches the passage. When I sketched out verse 1-7, I discovered that, Paul presented a number of attributes of the “governing authorities” as well as attributes for the “every person.” These attributes qualified the broad command for the believer to obey the government as set forth in verse 1a (ESV):
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.
A brief summary of these attributes is set forth below.
OVERVIEW OF ROMANS 13:1-7
Some of the attributes relate to the relationship between God and the “governing authorities.” And as it turns out, these attributes shine a bright light on the scope to which “every person” should be subject to the “governing authorities.”
Paul made it clear that the source of the “governing authorities” was God. For example, the “governing authorities” were “from God” (v. 1b), “have been instituted by God” (v. 1b), and are “what God has appointed” (v. 2). Paul taught that the “governing authorities” were supposed to be the servant of God. For example, the “governing authorities” are supposed to be “God’s servant” for the “good” of “every person” (v. 4a), “the servant of God” (v. 4b), and “ministers of God” (v. 6).
Some of the attributes related to the relationship between the “governing authorities” and “every person.” In this regard, Paul made a very clear distinction between “good” conduct and “bad” or “wrong” conduct. The “governing authorities” were not to be a “terror” to good conduct (v. 3). The “governing authorities” were supposed to give “approval” to “every person” who did “what is good” (v. 3). The “governing authorities” were to be a “terror” to bad conduct (v. 3). If “every person” did wrong, they were to be “afraid” (v. 4b). The “governing authorities” were not to “bear the sword in vain” but were an “avenger” who carried out God’s wrath on the “wrongdoer” (v. 4b). “Every person” was to be in subject to the “governing authorities” so as to avoid “God’s wrath” (v. 5). “Every person” was to be subject to the “governing authorities” for “the sake of conscience” (v. 5).
The “governing authorities” were to govern is such a way that taxes, revenue, respect and honor were owed by “every person” (vv. 6-7). At the other end of that relationship, “every person” was to pay taxes, revenue, respect and honor that he or she owed to the “governing authorities” (vv. 6-7).
In a nutshell, Paul told his audience that the “governing authorities” received their authority to govern from God, and therefore, were God’s servant. Consistent with their “servant of God” status, they were supposed to promote and reward good conduct and punish bad or wrong conduct on the part of “every person.” Because the “governing authorities” were supposed to be diligently carrying out their duty to be God’s servants rewarding good and punishing bad, “every person” was to be subject to (i.e., obey) the “governmental authorities” and pay financial support (i.e., taxes and revenue) and extend emotional support (i.e., respect and honor).
As the later articles will show, via verses 1b-7, Paul placed many qualifiers on the broad command of verse 1a to “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”
THE NEXT ARTICLE – ARTICLE 2
In the next article, i.e., Article 2, I discuss the results of my observation of the first Greek sentence, i.e., Romans 13:1a.
If you are reading this post and are not a Christian, unless God intervenes, your eternal destination is hell. But, your destiny can change. Today can be the day of your salvation. Please see my blog (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/04/20/for-god-so-loves-you-2/) for a description of how you can be saved.
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