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.
In all likelihood, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will become the next President and Vice-President of the United States. It appears certain that the Biden-Harris administration will advance an agenda that runs counter to fundamental biblical principles about the beginning of human life, human sexuality, gender, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If the law reflects their unbiblical agenda, every Christ-follower in the United States will be forced to decide about his or her response to laws that unequivocally violate clear biblical principles about the beginning of human life, human sexuality, gender and the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. The decision by a Christ-follower whether or not to be subject to such laws will be more than merely academic, but will be real!
The purpose of this series of articles is to examine Scripture to answer the question:
To what extent if any, must a 21st Century Christ-follower be subject to a governmental authority?
ROMANS 13:1-7 IS THE PRIMARY TEXT-OF-INTEREST
While there are a number of Scriptures to consult, Romans 13:1-7 is the primary text-of-interest. As one writer[i] writes:
The clearest passage in the New Testament dealing with the relationship of the Christian to the State is found in Romans 13:1-7. Although other passages discuss this issue [footnote 1], nowhere else is the argument as clearly and as carefully constructed.
Footnote 1 above cites the following texts: Mark 12:13-17; Acts 5:29; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Titus 3:1 and 1 Peter 2:13-17; 3:13.[ii]
The primary English translation[iii] is the English Standard Version Romans 13:1–7 (ESV), which 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.
DESCRIPTION OF THE ANALYTICAL METHOD
In Articles 1 through 12 of this series I analyzed Romans 13:1-7 using the inductive Bible study method (i.e., observation, interpretation, application)[iv] in an effort to answer the following questions.
First, what did Paul say to his original audience by what he wrote in Romans 13:1-7?
Second, First, what meaning did Paul intend to convey to his original audience by what he wrote in Romans 13:1-7?
Third, in light of Paul’s intended meaning, how does Romans 13:1-7 apply to a 21st Century Christ-follower with respect to being subject to laws that unequivocally violate clear biblical principles about the beginning of human life, human sexuality, gender and the saving gospel of Jesus Christ?
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The twelve articles of this series are listed below.
Article 1 – Overview of Romans 13:1-7
Article 2 – Observation of Romans 13:1a (First Greek Sentence)
Article 3 – Discussion of the Historical-Cultural Context of Romans 13:1-7
Article 4 – Observation of Romans 13:1b-2 (Second and Third Greek Sentences)
Article 5 – Observation of Romans 13:3-4a (Fourth Greek Sentence)
Article 6 – Discussion of the Literary Context of Romans 13:1-7
Article 7 – Observation of Romans 13:4b (Fifth Greek Sentence)
Article 8 – Observation of Romans 13:5 (Sixth Greek Sentence)
Article 9 – Observation of Romans 13:6-7 (Seventh and Eighth Greek Sentences)
Article 10 – Interpretation of Romans 13:1-7
Article 11 – Application of Romans 13:1-7
Article 12 – Concluding Thoughts about a Christ-follower and the Government in Times Like These
THE NEXT ARTICLE
In the next article, i.e., Article 1, I present an overview of Romans 13:1-7 developed through the use of the visual representation feature of the Graphōble Bible Study Journal.
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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Scripture quotations marked “ESV” are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture marked “NASB95” are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”
Scripture marked “NCV” is taken from the New Century Version. Copyright © 1987, 1988, 1991 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
The Scriptures marked “NET” are quoted are from the NET Bible® http://netbible.com copyright ©1996, 2019 used with permission from Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved”.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scripture marked “GW” is taken from the God’s Word Bible that is a copyrighted work of God’s Word to the Nations. Quotations are used by permission.
[i] Robert H. Stein, “The Argument of Romans 13:1-7”, Novum Testamentum, XXXI, 4 (1989).
[ii] These passages read:
Mark 12:13–17 (ESV) – 13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.
Acts 5:29 (ESV) – 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.
1 Timothy 2:1–2 (ESV) – 1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
Titus 3:1 (ESV) – 1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,
1 Peter 2:13–17 (ESV) – 13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
1 Peter 3:13 (ESV) – 13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?
[iii] The Greek apparatus is Nestle-Aland 29th edition (NA28), and it reads:
1 Πᾶσα ψυχὴ ἐξουσίαις ὑπερεχούσαις ὑποτασσέσθω. οὐ γὰρ ἔστιν ἐξουσία εἰ μὴ ὑπὸ θεοῦ, αἱ δὲ οὖσαι ὑπὸ θεοῦ τεταγμέναι εἰσίν. 2 ὥστε ὁ ἀντιτασσόμενος τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ τῇ τοῦ θεοῦ διαταγῇ ἀνθέστηκεν, οἱ δὲ ἀνθεστηκότες ἑαυτοῖς κρίμα λήμψονται. 3 οἱ γὰρ ἄρχοντες οὐκ εἰσὶν φόβος τῷ ἀγαθῷ ἔργῳ ἀλλὰ τῷ κακῷ. θέλεις δὲ μὴ φοβεῖσθαι τὴν ἐξουσίαν· τὸ ἀγαθὸν ποίει, καὶ ἕξεις ἔπαινον ἐξ αὐτῆς· 4 θεοῦ γὰρ διάκονός ἐστιν σοὶ εἰς τὸ ἀγαθόν. ἐὰν δὲ τὸ κακὸν ποιῇς, φοβοῦ· οὐ γὰρ εἰκῇ τὴν μάχαιραν φορεῖ· θεοῦ γὰρ διάκονός ἐστιν ἔκδικος εἰς ὀργὴν τῷ τὸ κακὸν πράσσοντι. 5 διὸ ἀνάγκη ὑποτάσσεσθαι, οὐ μόνον διὰ τὴν ὀργὴν ἀλλὰ καὶ διὰ τὴν συνείδησιν. 6 διὰ τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ φόρους τελεῖτε· λειτουργοὶ γὰρ θεοῦ εἰσιν εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο προσκαρτεροῦντες. 7 ἀπόδοτε πᾶσιν τὰς ὀφειλάς, τῷ τὸν φόρον τὸν φόρον, τῷ τὸ τέλος τὸ τέλος, τῷ τὸν φόβον τὸν φόβον, τῷ τὴν τιμὴν τὴν τιμήν.
[iv] One good reference that describes the inductive Bible study method is by Kay Arthur entitled How to Study Your Bible, (1994), Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon.