Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Romans, Chapter 13

Let's face it, some earthly authorities that have existed throughout the course of history have not exactly been shining beacons of moral character. History is littered with despots, dictators, and rulers that were only out for their own personal gain. Why then are we asked to submit to all earthly authorities here in Romans chapter 13? This could be possibly the most confusing aspect of Romans we have studied so far because of what we know not only in history, but in the present day. How are we supposed to respect and submit to regimes such as the Taliban that persecute those that do not believe the way they do? How can this serve God's kingdom? Let's look at the passage of Scripture first.

"5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." – Romans 13:5-7

I find that I am troubled by this passage, but then I remember that God uses even evil to accomplish his purposes. That's the result of being all-powerful and all knowing. An example just from the Bible is the Babylonian exile that was used to discipline the kingdom of Judah. They had turned away from God and He needed to get their attention. We have learned that God is a God of love and discipline, therefore it does sometimes take drastic measures for Him to get our attention. In this case He tries to get the attention of an entire nation of people.

This passage is also set up to show that there are still earthly consequences that we must avoid by following the rules. We may not want to pay our taxes, but we live in a society that requires we do so or we will face the consequence of jail time. If we disagree with the authority in question we can speak of our displeasure by voting that person out of office. This is not open rebellion, as Paul speaks of here, but it is a way of voicing our displeasure. It is also God's way of choosing new leadership when His time is right, an important lesson to remember in this election season.

"10Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. 11And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light." – Romans 13:10-12


The power of love is incredible, and it takes a ton of maturity to love when we do not want to love. It is the greatest thing we can do for someone by loving them, as it is a reflection of what Christ feels for us. Love is the fulfillment of the law because of Christ. Since He is the fulfillment of the law, and He is love, that means love is the fulfillment of the law. We are asked to love because of this as an act of sacrifice. It is against our nature to love those that hurt us, therefore we are mature when we look past that darkness and step into the light as it says here.


The armor of light is much like the full armor of God in Ephesians. We must use this at all times in order to avoid falling to darkness. It is important to know that as long as we have Christ, in our hearts we cannot fail, and that He is coming for us soon. Awakening from our slumber is allegorical here because when we accept Christ we do awaken from a spiritual slumber and step into a new world of consciousness spiritually. Because the return of Christ is near, we cannot afford to sleep lest we miss it.




  1. How can evil authorities be used for good?
  2. What does it mean to pay respect and honor to authorities?
  3. How do you wear the armor of light each day?