Summary: 1) The Principles of Authority (Romans 13:1-2) 2)The Purpose of Authority (Romans 13:3-4) 3)The Problems of Authority (Romans 13:5-7)
In Canada, this is the Victoria Day weekend. Victoria Day is a federal Canadian public holiday celebrated on the last Monday before May 25, in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday. At a time of civil unrest, from continued reverberations of the 2010 G20 sumit, Vancouver hockey riots, student riots in Quebec, to conflict on provincial and federal legislation, this is a useful time of consider what God calls our relationship with the state to be and why.
Due to the religious freedom that most westerners have enjoyed for many generations, it is difficult for believers living in such countries to fully appreciate the extreme struggle that many of their brothers and sisters in Christ face under regimes that restrict freedom and oppress Christianity .“Holy wars,” such as the Crusades, that are fought in the name of Christianity, are generally and rightly condemned. But historically, Christians have been involved, frequently in the name of their faith, in the forceful overthrow of oppressive and sometimes despotic governments. Democracy and political freedom are commonly identified with Christianity. For such reasons it is difficult for many Christians to be clear, or even objective and honest, about a passage so unambiguously restrictive as Romans 13:1–7.
In Romans 13, the Apostle Paul, a Roman citizen by birth, is writing to a church located in the very capital of the Roman Empire, the heat and center of government. They were people very aware of the operations of government and the effect on the people. In terms of the audience, a considerable proportion, though probably not the majority-of the membership of the Roman church consisted of Jews. Many of the Jews of that day and age were looking for an opportunity to shake off the yoke of subjection to Rome, and were eager to become politically independent once more, with a king of their own. When Paul wrote Romans 13, Nero was Emperor at this time. Christians were killed by dogs by having the hides of beasts attached to them, or they were nailed to crosses or set aflame, and, when the daylight passed away, they were used as nighttime lamps.
Romans 13:1-7 contain the clearest and most specific New Testament teaching on the Christian’s responsibility to civil authority. Every Christian, no matter what form of government they live under, is under command from the Lord to maintain proper and useful submission to that government for the sake of leading a peaceful life and having an effective witness. As such, God declares: 1) The Principles of Authority (Romans 13:1-2) 2)The Purpose of Authority (Romans 13:3-4) 3)The Problems of Authority (Romans 13:5-7) (Briscoe, D. S., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1982). Vol. 29: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 29 : Romans. The Preacher’s Commentary series (230–231). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.)
1) The Principles of Authority (Romans 13:1-2)
Romans 13:1-2 [13:1]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. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment (ESV)
Throughout the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul has described God in authoritative terms. It was His authoritative word that created things that were nonexistent; it is through the obedience of nature to His laws that the visible things portray something of the invisible God; His dealings with His chosen people clearly demonstrate that He is their God and demands their allegiance; and His freedom to deal with them and others as He chooses is defended vigorously, as is His absolute right to judge the world in righteousness. That ultimate authority rests with God is beyond question, but it should be noted that God exercises His authority on earth and in heaven through delegation. The most obvious illustration of this is His appointment of the Risen Lord as Judge. Elsewhere in his writings, Paul teaches that God has delegated His authority to parents, employers, elders, and husbands, but his emphasis here is on the role that government plays in the administration of divine authority. (Briscoe, D. S., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1982). Vol. 29: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 29 : Romans. The Preacher’s Commentary series (230–232). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.).
The directive begins though an injunction or command: "Let",. Who does this command apply to: "every person", therefore, there are no exceptions. The command is for every person to be "subject to", This is a PRESENT PASSIVE IMPERATIVE meaning, “continue to be made submissive” (Utley, R. J. D. (1998). Vol. Volume 5: The Gospel According to Paul: Romans. Study Guide Commentary Series (Ro 13:1). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International )
This is different from blindly obeying. Subject: is a military term denoting soldiers arranged in order under the commander and subject to his commands. They are lined up The verb here is a passive imperative, meaning first of all that the principle is a command, not an option, and second that the Christian is to willingly place themselves under all governing authorities, whoever they may be.