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"Honoring Authority"
Romans 13:1-7

Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
January 12, 2005

As a part of a believer's call to live in such a way as to "prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom. 12:2), he or she is to be subject to governing authorities. This is certainly contrary to the inclination of many (which is, of course, a part of what it means to "not be conformed to this world"). But it is nevertheless commanded of us in many places in scripture (Titus 3:1-3; 1 Peter 3:13-17; 2 Tim. 2:1-3).

Paul calls us to be "subject" to the governing authorities. The word for "subject" (hupotass˘) means "to cause to be in a submissive relationship"; and here, in its passive form, it means, "to become subject to" or "subordinated to". It involves a recognition of an ordered structure, and a willing respect of that structure, and a submission of one's self in the proper place in that structure.

A. There is no exemption from this: "every soul" is to do this.

B. There is no qualification as to "the governing authorities": even, as in this case, the rule of an evil emperor of Rome.

C. This should be seen as an aspect of our salvation. It is just one more of the consequences of our having been justified in Christ (see Rom. 12:14-21).


A. Because of conscience before God (vv. 1-2).
1. God has established the authorities that exist (v. 1b) - even if the one who exercises it does not recognize it as from God (John 19:11). They were, in fact, "appointed" by God; the perfect tense of the verb (tass˘, "to draw up an order, to arrange in place; to assign or appoint) suggesting a once-for-all fact. God's sovereign decree is the determining factor in those authorities either existing or being removed.

2. To resist authority is to oppose God (v. 2a). The command of God in the Old Testament is shockingly clear: "You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people" (Ex. 22:28). In the same verse, cursing a ruler is equated with cursing God. Paul submitted to this in a very difficult situation (Acts 23:3-5).

3. To oppose God by opposing the authority He has appointed is to invite punishment (v. 2b).

B. Because of wrath against evil (vv. 3-4).

1. Rulers are ordained by God to restrain evil through fear (v. 3). This is a legitimate role in government. For this reason, government is not a fear to those who do good (law-abiders) but to those who do evil (law-breakers). Therefore, be a law-abider, and you have no reason to fear. One of the God-appointed functions of governing rulers is that of being a cause of fear to law-breakers.

2. Rulers are ministers (diakonos) of God for the praise of good behavior (v. 4a). They not only cause fear to law-breakers, but also to promote good in society. They are actually God's "ministers" in their appointed sphere. (True, they don't always do it right; but then, neither do God's appointed ministers in the church!) Paul didn't hesitate to call upon the ministry of the civil government when it was appropriate to do so (Acts 25:11).

3. Rulers are ministers (diakonos) of God for the punishment of evil (v. 4b). As Paul says, in a very ominous tone, ", , , he does not bear the sword in vain . . ." It is not our proper sphere to execute the wrath of God as private citizens; but it is the proper sphere of the governing authorities. As our former police chief exhorted local ministers, "We all war, not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces. As the church, you deal with spiritual forces; and as the police, we'll handle the

C. Paul summarizes these two reasons for subjection in verse 5: ". . . not only because of wrath (because of its role of punishing evil) but also for conscience sake" (because of its appointment by God).


A. Paul places this in a very practical frame: that because the government is God's "ministers" (here a different word, leitourgoi; which refers to a minister in a service of worship), continually attending to their ministry, we ought to pay taxes (Luke 20:25).

B. This gives Paul opportunity to express a general principle - to render to all what they are due.

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