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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.

INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY OF TAKEAWAY(S)

In Article 5 of this series, I discuss the results of my observation of the fourth Greek sentence, i.e., verses 3-4a, which reads (ESV):

3 For rulers are not a terror to good [agathos]conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good [agathos], and you will receive his approval, 4a for he is God’s servant for your good [agathos].

This sentence set forth a number of attributes that described the relationship between the governing authorities and “every person.”  In addition, this sentence included one attribute that defined the God-“governing authorities” relationship. 

In reference to the takeaway(s), it is apparent from these attributes that Paul intended to convey that “governing authorities” were to reward or approve or praise “every person” who engaged in good conduct.  The government was to function as “God’s servant” consistent with His will for the “good” of the people.

I discuss in Article 6 that what is “good” is to be determined by the teachings of the Scriptures.  In other words, Paul wanted to emphasize to his audience that “good conduct”, which most certainly encompassed living a lifestyle consistent with the teachings of God’s Word, was to be praiseworthy by the “governing authorities.”   Activities that were “good” (i.e., consistent with biblical teachings) were not to cause terror or fear in “every person.”

OBSERVATION OF THE FOURTH GREEK SENTENCE

One attribute that defined the relationship between the “governing authorities” and “every person” was for the government to “not be a terror [phobos][i] to good [agathos] conduct.”   In other words, Paul intended to convey to his audience that biblical “governing authorities” were not to be a cause or source of fear by the “every person” based upon their “good conduct.” 

This attribute corresponded to the attributes of “every person” that he or she were to engage in “good conduct” and “do what is good.”  The fourth Greek sentence used agathos three times and the ESV translates it as “good” in every instance.  Because “good” described the way a citizen was to act and what the government was to do for [the good] of the citizen, I considered the meaning of agathos to be very beneficial to gaining a proper understanding of Romans 13:1-7.   In the next article, i.e., Article 6) I present an expanded discussion of the meaning of agathos.

Another attribute that defined the relationship between the government and the citizen was that the “governing authorities” should give “approval” [epainos] to “every person” who does “good.”  By this attribute, Paul intended to convey to his audience that the “governing authorities” were to praise “every person” who does “good.”  Note that the ESV translates the Greek verb echō[ii] as “you will receive.”  It means, “to have or possess objects or property (in the technical sense of having control over the use of such objects)—‘to have, to own, to possess, to belong to.’”[iii]  Paul had a real expectation that the government would approve or praise a citizen for good conduct.

Another attribute that Paul identified to define the relationship between God and the government was that the “governing authorities” was “God’s servant for your good.”   The ESV translates the Greek noun diakonos as “servant.”   One lexicon defines diakonos in this context, “one who serves as an intermediary in a transaction, agent, intermediary, courier.”[iv]  A theological dictionary discusses diakonos, “6. Pagan authorities are servants of God appointed to maintain order (Rom. 13:1 ff.).”[v]  Still another resource[vi] helps define diakonos:

1249 διάκονος [diakonos /dee·ak·on·os/] n m/f. Probably from an obsolete diako (to run on errands, cf 1377); TDNT 2:88; TDNTA 152; GK 1356; 31 occurrences; AV translates as “minister” 20 times, “servant” eight times, and “deacon” three times. 1 one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister. 1a the servant of a king. 1b a deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use. 1c a waiter, one who serves food and drink. Additional Information: For synonyms see entries 1402, douloo; 2324, therapon; and 5257, huperetes.See entry 5834 for comparison of synonyms.

The servant hood by the government was to be for the good of the citizens.  Because the government was “God’s servant,” the nature of the governing would be consistent with God’s will since the government was God’s agent.  This fact emphasizes the importance to better know what Paul intended by his use of agathos [“good”].

TAKEAWAY(S) FROM THE FOURTH GREEK SENTENCE

It is apparent from these attributes that Paul intended to convey that “governing authorities” were to reward or approve or praise “every person” who engaged in good conduct.  The government was to function as “God’s servant” consistent with His will for the “good” of the people.   

I discuss in Article 6 that what is “good” is to be determined by the teachings of the Scriptures.  In other words, Paul wanted to emphasize to his audience that “good conduct”, which most certainly encompassed living a lifestyle consistent with the teachings of God’s Word, was to be praiseworthy by the “governing authorities.”   Activities that were “good” (i.e., consistent with biblical teachings) were not to cause terror or fear in “every person.”

THE NEXT ARTICLE – ARTICLE 6

The next article, i.e., Article 6, presents a study of the literary context that impacts Romans 13:1-7 with a special focus on the meaning agathos.

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 and a more concise description at my (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/10/20/there-is-hope-even-when-there-seems-to-be-no-hope-2/ ).

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[i] Phobos means, “the occasion or source of fear—‘something to be feared.’”  See Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 315). New York: United Bible Societies.

[ii] The grammar of the verb echō is:

future — The verb tense where the writer portrays an action or state of being that will occur in the future.

active — The grammatical voice that signifies that the subject is performing the verbal action or is in the state described by the verb.

indicative — The mood in which the action of the verb or the state of being it describes is presented by the writer as real. It is the mood of assertion, where the writer portrays something as actual (as opposed to possible or contingent on intention). Depending on context, the writer may or may not believe the action is real, but is presenting it as real.

Heiser, M. S., & Setterholm, V. M. (2013; 2013). Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Lexham Press.

[iii] See Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 557). New York: United Bible Societies.

[iv] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 230). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[v] Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1985). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (p. 154). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

[vi] Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.