Romansby David Cook
In recent years, we see an upward trend in cynicism among the electorate round the world. Many people do not think highly of politics, politicians, or government. Paul probably had every reason to share this attitude in Nero’s Rome. Yet he says that authorities are established by God (v. 1), instituted by Him (v. 2), God’s servants (vv. 4, 6), and an agent of wrath (v. 4). Therefore, the believer is to submit to authorities (vv. 1, 5), pay their taxes (v. 6), and give them appropriate respect (v. 7).
Paul could have used the word “obey” instead of “submit”. By his use of this word, we recognise that there is something voluntary and mutual in the relationship. The state has obligations and so do we. Unlike first-century Rome, we live in a democracy whereby we vote for those who will govern us every three or four years.
Apathy and ignorance of politics can be subtle forms of rebellion against God. We are to vote intelligently, seek truth, and make assessments based on biblical conviction, and not be swept along by the media. We may choose to write to newspapers, lobby for the good, and even join a political party.
Christians have a variety of attitudes towards their governments:
A word of caution is needed here. If you believe you can share the gospel by joining a political party, by all means do so, but don’t idealise the party.
All parties, like religious denominations, have something commendable about them, but they are still imperfect human groupings. God is a God of order and the authority is an instrument of such order. The political party is an instrument of serving human need, just as the denomination is an instrument of serving the gospel’s broadcast. When either a political party or denomination ceases to do that and so compromises you by turning you away from doing these things, then it is time to leave, for we have a higher loyalty to God and to His purpose.
Compare the motivation of unbelievers and believers in their thinking about submission to authority. What extra dimension influences the believer in his or her thinking about obeying government and the payment of taxes?