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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)

Article 7 of this series reports the results of my observation of what Paul wrote in the fifth Greek sentence, i.e., Romans 13:4b, which reads (ESV):

4b 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.

This sentence set forth a number of attributes that defined the relationship between the governing authorities and “every person” and an attribute that defined the relationship between God and the government.

The takeaway(s) from my observation of this sentence are set forth below.

First, the government is the “servant of God” and, therefore,  it was impliedly understood that Scripture, and not mankind’s standard, was the standard by which to define what was good and what was bad.   As a result, Paul intended to say that the nature of governing would need to be consistent with God’s will. 

Second, Paul intended to convey to his audience that the government had the license to punish those who did wrong (i.e., actions contrary to the teaching of Scripture).

OBSERVATION OF THE FIFTH GREEK SENTENCE

The God-Government Attribute

This text includes the attribute that, “For he is the servant of God,”   The ESV translates the Greek noun diakonos as “the servant.”  It has the same meaning as diakonos discussed in Article 5.  The impact of Paul’s characterization of the government as “the servant of God” was that the nature of the governing would need to be consistent with God’s will since the government was God’s agent. 

The Government-Citizen Attributes

One attribute that helped define the relationship between the government and the citizen was that the “governing authorities” were to be “an avenger” who carried out “God’s wrath” on the “wrongdoer.”  In other words, the “governing authorities” were to be a punisher or an enforcer of laws (Greek adjective ekdikos translated by the ESV as “an avenger”) who carried out God’s wrath (orgē) or anger “on … wrongdoer.”  The ESV translates the adjective kakos and verb prassō as “on … wrongdoer” and it has the sense of someone who has been practicing evil or moral wrongness.   By this attribute, Paul intended to convey to his audience that the “governing authorities” had the license to punish conduct that was contrary to the teachings of Scripture. 

The substance of what Paul wrote in this fifth Greek sentence when coupled with the fourth Greek sentence reveals that Paul intended to teach his audience that in order for a citizen to be subject to or obey the government, the government must govern in such a fashion so as to reward or praise good conduct and be a source of fear or punish bad or wrong conduct.   One commentator[i] makes the connection between 1 Peter 2:13-17[ii] and what Paul wrote here:

Paul, however, goes beyond mere recognition of the social order as derived from God’s authority. Like 1 Peter, he expresses a positive evaluation of the way in which the government actually functions. In short, the state rewards the good and punishes the wicked. If one does not want to fear the state, all one need do is be good (13:3). Now any number of people through the ages would have good reason to challenge Paul’s assessment. Many governments, however noble in structure, have been tyrannical and unjust in practice; far from rewarding the good and punishing the wicked, they have made a habit of doing the opposite. Paul’s statements, in fact, are possible (and tolerable) only in a situation in which the rule of law is in fact basically benevolent. And for all its excesses, the Roman state could be so regarded, particularly at the time Paul was writing. Certainly, Paul could not have made such statements if Christians had been persecuted by the state simply for being Christians. When the state—as already in the case of the Maccabean martyrs—demands ultimate allegiance to itself, then Paul’s statements are simply wrong and must be identified as such.

TAKEAWAY(S) FROM THE FIFTH GREEK SENTENCE

The takeaways from my observation of the fifth Greek sentence are listed below.

First, the government is the “servant of God” and, therefore,  it was impliedly understood that Scripture, and not mankind’s standard, was the standard by which to define what was good and what was bad.   As a result, Paul intended to say that the nature of governing would need to be consistent with God’s will. 

Second, Paul intended to convey to his audience that the government had the license to punish those who did wrong (i.e., actions contrary to the teaching of Scripture).

THE NEXT ARTICLE – ARTICLE 8

The next article presents the results of my observation of the sixth Greek sentence (i.e., Romans 13:5).

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] Johnson, L. T. (2001). Reading Romans: a literary and theological commentary (pp. 197–203). Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing.

[ii] The relevant text from 1 Peter, i.e., 1 Peter 2:13–17 (ESV), reads – 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.