“…the authorities are God’s servants…” Romans 13:6b
Paul recognized the reality of living under Roman rule and directed the church at Rome to submit to the governing authorities (v.1a). This made for rather difficult living, as Rome recognized the emperor as a God and Christians only recognized God revealed through His Trinitarian nature: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God breathed into Paul a reasonable argument for this position: that there was no established authority except that which God had allowed (v.1b&c).
With the Judaic historical perspective, Paul was encouraging the first century church to trust God, not man. God raises up rulers and nations, while deposing others (Daniel 2:21). Jesus reinforced this biblical view at His own trial before Pilate, the Roman authority over Jerusalem. It seemed Pilate could not get Jesus to testify on His own behalf, leading to Pilate’s question:
“Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
Jesus replied with these words:
“You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
Paul, in effect, is using The Savior’s life example as a basis for this position. Even though faced with death, Christian’s who follow Christ’s example demonstrate faith in God’s sovereignty and trust God’s good plan – which may mean an early entry into eternity.
Paul asserted the position further by stating: “…he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” (v.2) Many pre-revolutionary preachers used these words in speaking against any conflict with England. However, they failed to include the rest of the passage:
“For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.” (vv. 3 – 5)
Did the words, “he is God’s servant to do you good” seem to jump off the page? God created three institutions which He blessed: the home, the community of faith, and government. Each are designed with the intention of blessing those who comprise them. The chain of humanity is only as strong as its weakest link, and it starts with the home. From the beginning, God established authority to keep in-check fallen mankind:
in the home, parents teach the way of right living and provide a loving, caring environment for their children to grow;
in the faith community, God calls leaders who devote themselves to The Word to teach and lead those who are drawn to its light;
in government, God established authority to ensure civility and commerce.
Paul also enlightened the reader of one reason citizens pay taxes: to pay those in authority (first responders – police, fire and emergency personnel; judges; rulers). He directed Christians to be responsible in paying their taxes, debts and honoring/respecting those deserving of it. Paying taxes is the responsibility of citizens to have those social gifts.
This passage reaches out to us today to thank God for our governing authorities, for THE AUTHORITIES ARE GOD’S SERVANTS, appointed for such a time. Trust God with how it all works out.
Have a blessed day…