Summary: Continuation of the Study of the Book of Romans
Book of Romans Study
Lesson # 35 – Romans 13:1-7
By Rev. James May
At the end of chapter 12 Paul’s teaching to the church on how we should behave toward one another, and toward our enemies in the church comes to a close. In chapter 13 Paul now begins a new subject matter, even though it still relates to chapter 12, the Bible now addresses how all of mankind should behave toward those who are placed in positions of governance over us. This isn’t just for the church, but for everybody.
We are citizens of two kingdoms; one is the Kingdom of Heaven, and the other is the United States of America. As citizens of two kingdoms we must know how to obey the laws of both as best we can, but we must also never forget that we owe a higher allegiance to the Kingdom of Heaven. This world is not our ultimate home. We are pilgrims and strangers in this land, but even so, we are not given diplomatic immunity to the laws of this land.
In today’s politically charged culture these verses truly come into focus in an even greater sense. God’s Word does not change, no matter what the political views are. The instructions to all men, especially those who are in Christ, are meant to bring us into a place of peace. God ordained that there should be civil governments that would maintain a society through its laws and people who are given authority to enforce those laws for the greater good of all men.
Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
One thing we must be aware of is that the early church was constantly considered as a threat to the powers that held sway over them. Christianity began with a Jewish Carpenter from Bethlehem, and therefore it was a religion of the Jews. To be a Jew back then was no more tolerated by the rest of the world than than it is now.
Christianity, and the Jews are looked upon as having the same roots, which is true. Being in any way connected with the Jewish faith is all it takes for a lot of heathen rulers to become belligerent toward the church!
It was well-known that the Jews were of the seed Abraham, and that by their own law, they were to never have a king over them, and certainly not a king who was of a heathen nation, and a stranger in the Land of Israel.
It was because of the Jew’s adherence to this law that they resisted the government led by Romans. They had to pay tribute to Caesar, but they didn’t have to like it; and they resisted it every step of the way.
Because there was this great opposition to Roman government and the authority of the Roman rulers over them, the Jews were hated, and because the Christians came from among the Jews and began to spread throughout the world, civil leaders and rulers considered them as one with the rebellious Jews.
In Acts chapter 5 we read where Gamaliel, a doctor of the Law, stood up and addressed the entire Jewish council who were demanding that the disciples be punished for preaching about Jesus. In his speech Gamaliel referred to the great resistance of the Jews, especially those from Galilee, who fought the Romans and refused to be governed by them.
Acts 5:37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.
Since Jesus was from Galilee, and the disciples were called “Galileans”, they were probably being watched, scrutinized and persecuted even more than many of their fellow Jews because Rome considered them one and the same with the rest of the rebellious Galileans.
As though that wasn’t enough to bring trouble upon the church, there were also many among the Christians in that day who thought that they shouldn’t have to obey godless heathen rulers from Rome. Most of these Roman rulers were very wicked and violent men who would kill anyone who got in their way without giving it a thought. These wicked and evil men had the might of the Roman Army at their beck and call, and the army was bound under Roman law to obey those who had command over them.
It’s no surprise then that so many Christians thought that their Christian liberty gave them the right to disobey those who were over them.
And just as it is in our day, there were a lot of people in Paul’s day that called themselves Christians but who do not live according to the Word of God, neither worshipped Jesus as Lord or serve him at all. They played both sides of the fence, trying to be accepted by the church, yet having no real experience in Christ at all. These self-proclaimed “defenders of the faith” often attacked the Roman rulers placed over them, and that brought a retaliation against all Christians.