Romans

by David Cook

Day 37

Read Romans 13:1–7


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

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:

  • Ignore them—because we are not of this world or its political system;
  • Total adherence to the government—because it is regarded as equivalent to God;
  • Rebellion—because the government is deemed as an agent of evil;
  • Limited jurisdiction—because the Lord Jesus taught in Matthew 22 that the state and God have appropriate claims on us. However, God’s authority and claim over us must always take top priority.

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.


Think through:

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?



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About Author

David Cook was Principal of the Sydney Missionary and Bible College for 26 years. He is an accomplished writer and has authored Bible commentaries, books on the Minor Prophets, and several Bible study guides.

Author of Journey Through Series:

Our Daily Bread Journey Through® Series is a publication of Our Daily Bread Ministries.

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