About Jesus Steve Sweetman
Chapter 13:1 - 7
(ch. 13:1 – 7)
we go into the body of chapter 13, imagine that you are a Christian in the
city of Rome
in and around 57 AD when Paul penned this letter.
Nero is the Emperor of the
you were a Christian living under these conditions you would never really
know when your day of execution would come.
It could easily come as Paul's letter was being read to you by an
elder in your local community of Christ.
Understanding the times in which the Christians in
chapter 13 Paul continues on with the practical outworking of our faith in
the world in which we live.
In verse 1 he says to submit” yourselves to the governing
Greek word "hupotasso" is translated as "submit" here
in verse 1. This
is a military word that means to "rank under", thus to submit or
subject one's self to another.
interest sake, in Ephesians 5:21 Paul says to submit to one another. Then,
in Ephesians 5:22 he says that wives should submit to their own husbands.
In both of these verses the Greek word "hupotasso",
meaning, "to rank under", is translated into English as
Understanding "hupotasso" to be a rigid military style
word, as it was used in everyday Roman and Greek circles, might present
you with a question.
Is a wife supposed to rank under her husband as if he is her
doesn't sound like a loving relationship, does it?
hermeneutical principle that needs to be applied to Biblical study is how
a Greek word should be understood in its Biblical context.
By that I mean just because the common usage of a Greek word might
mean one thing, the Bible might well put its own meaning to the word.
This is the case with the Greek word "hupotasso".
A careful study of this word in its New Testament context tells us
that the Bible doesn't use it in a dictatorial or military way.
Hupotasso, and thus the word submit, in New Testament terms is
simply a yielding to another based on a mutual love, care, and respect for
one another. Submission
to another has nothing to do with imposing one's will over another
It has everything to do with yielding to one another, or, putting
the other first in your relationship.
So, when Paul in Ephesians 5 tells wives to submit to their own
husbands, he's telling them to yield to the direction of their husbands
that is based on a mutual love and respect for each other, knowing that
her Christian husband wants the utmost best for her.
us review some history around the time Paul wrote these words in and
around 57 AD.
Around 49 AD, Claudius, Emperor of the Roman Empire, began to expel
Jews from Rome. It
didn't matter if they were Christian Jews or non-Christian Jews.
He just kicked them out of the city.
Some non-Christian Jews were trying to mount an insurrection
against Rome. This is one reason why Claudius wanted the Jews out of Rome.
raging debate between Christian and non-Christian Jews over the
resurrection of Jesus bothered Claudius.
He was so bothered that he passed a law saying that no one could
tamper with a grave.
He did this because of the non-Christian Jews who were spreading
the erroneous news that the disciples took Jesus’ body from the grave
and then claimed that He rose from the dead.
Claudius was concerned about grave tampering, thus he made it a
was also some false teaching being spread within the Christian community
that stated that Christians did not have to submit themselves to the civil
authority since they had already submitted themselves to Jesus, the King
of all authority, including the emperor.
This also was displeasing to Claudius.
can see that both Christian and non-Christian Jews were under great stress
from the Roman authorities, giving them good reason in their eyes to rebel
against Claudius and his government.
I've already stated, when Paul wrote these words Nero was Emperor of the
Greek, the verb "submit" is a present passive imperative verb.
Present means that one must submit right now, in present time, even
if the governing authorities oppose our every move.
Passive includes the idea that we are to allow the government to
rule over us.
Imperative simply means this is a command.
It's not a suggestion.
There is really no way around trying to soften what Paul is saying
Roman believers were to submit to the rule of Nero and allow him to have
his way with them.
may be hard for us to get our heads around this but Paul was commanding
the Roman Christians to submit to the same ungodly government that
imprisoned him, and would eventually execute him.
reason why Paul gives this command is also seen in verse 1.
He says that it is God who has established government.
The NIV uses the word "establish" in verse 1.
The Greek word that is translated as "established" means,
"to appoint, set in order, place in order …"
Paul says that there is no authority other than what God has
appointed or set into place.
Paul's belief in the sovereignty of God is so strong that he
believes that God has set dictators in places of authority.
This is important to know when Christians complain about their
government these days.
We can only conclude that it was God who caused the Roman Empire to
rise to prominence, who in only 13 short years after Paul penned these
words sacked God's city of
verse 2 Paul goes on to say, "If you rebel against the authorities,
then you are rebelling against that which God has set up and therefore you
will duly receive your punishment." Therefore,
from what Paul says here, government is an earthly entity authorized by
God Himself to keep justice and peace on earth.
Now this does not mean that government is always right.
God also gave Adam dominion over the earth to rule, and he did not
use his authority properly.
So, just because certain men have authority, does not mean all they
do is godly.
you read Old Testament Jewish history, one thing you will notice is that
God sets up kingdoms for a specific reason and He cuts them down for
For example, God caused
Roman government in Paul's day was clearly
verse 2 Paul states that the one who rebels will receive due judgment.
I think the judgment spoken of here is from the government, not
from God. That
only makes contextual sense.
If you disobey the government, that same government will judge you
and punish you for your disobedience.
verse 3 Paul says that if you do right, then you won't have to worry about
the government judging or punishing you.
You will not have to live in fear of the government.
He then says that if you do wrong, then you will have to live in
fear of the government's punishment.
Although Paul's intent here is not to give an exhaustive
explanation of the roll of government in society, there is one thing I
think we can conclude.
According to verse 3, the roll of government is to keep the peace
within the jurisdiction in which it governs.
If that is Paul's only thinking concerning the roll of government,
and that is a big "if", then Nero's government had well
surpassed its godly roll in society.
ends verse 3 by telling his readers to just do what is right in the eyes
of government and you won't have to worry about government.
I will get to it later, but we all know that Christians did have to
worry about their government in Paul's day.
authorities, as Paul puts it in verse 4, are there to punish those who do
that appears, according to Paul, to be government's job in society.
Therefore if you do good, then you should not fear them.
The authorities are "God’s agents" on earth to punish
Again, these words are hard to get our heads around with out
understanding of the Roman government.
Paul simply says that even a dictatorial government is God's agent
of cultural discipline.
God uses both good and bad governments to punish blatant wrong
The Greek word "diakonos" is translated as "servant" and "agent" in verse 4. "Diakonos" means a servant or slave. In its purist and simplest form, government is meant to be a servant of God, but, we all know that for the most part it never does serve God. I will speak about that later.
adds another reason in verse 5 as to why we should submit to government
says we should submit for the sake of our conscience.
I believe this means that we should submit to the government as if
we are submitting to God Himself, and in so doing, our consciences will be
clean before the Lord. If
government is indeed God's servant, by the transitive law, if we submit to
government, we submit to God, and thus our conscience is free from any
feelings associated with guilt.
verse 6 Paul speaks to the issue of paying taxes to the government, a
topic that is always relevant no matter where or when you live.
Our tax dollars go to government officials whose full time job is
to serve God by keeping the peace and acting on behalf of God.
verse 7 Paul closes this section by saying that we should pay our taxes,
give honour, respect, and whatever else, that is due to anyone, and in
this case, anyone is the governing officials.
sure these instructions would have been somewhat tough for the Roman
Christians to hear.
Paul told them that Nero and his dictatorial rule was actually the
servant of God.
He told his readers to pay Nero the taxes he required of them and
in the process honour him.
That' would be hard to swallow when Nero is killing Christians.
There must be more to Paul's teaching that meets the eye and is
of all, Paul says that government has been established by God.
This is the question.
Is Paul saying that government in general, that is, the concept of
government, has been established by God, or, is he saying each and every
government that exists has been set in place by God?
I think he is saying both.
believe the concept of government being established by God goes back to
Genesis 1:26 where God told Adam to take dominion (KVJ) rule (NIV and HCSF)
over all the earth.
Beyond that I believe God places men and empires into place and I
believe he takes them out of there place as Daniel 2;21 clearly states.
So, I believe God had placed both Nero and the
must conclude that not only Nero was God's man for that day, our
governments, whether liberal, conservative, socialist, communist, or
whatever, is God's will.
With that in mind, we thus ask, "Are we to obey God's choice
for government if that government demands us to do something
A careful study of the book of Acts actually answers that question
this section of Romans Paul says that government is in place to do God's
will, but, history tells us that government, more often than not,
oversteps its God given boundaries and not only does its own will but in
the process actually disobeys God's will.
If we take Paul's reasoning in this section that if we disobey
government we will be punished, I thus say, if government disobeys God,
government will be punished.
Remember, both the concept of government and any specific
government has been set into place by God.
Thus, government is subject to God.
As we are to submit to government, government is to submit to God
because God is government's government.
It's only logical to conclude that if government asks us to do
something that defies God's government, then we obey the higher
government, that being God.
apostles Peter and John found themselves before their Jewish authorities
who were demanding them to stop preaching in the name of Jesus.
Obviously, they could not obey that command because a higher
authority, that being Jesus, commanded them to preach in His name.
They just told the authorities that they would obey God rather than
believe Peter and John were not boastful or proud when they made this
believe they spoke in a humble manor, willing to accept the consequences
for their civil disobedience.
in Acts 7 was in the same position.
He defended his position to disobey the authorities with a lengthy
authorities refused to accept his defense and he graciously and humbly
accepted the consequences as the stones were hurled at his head.
As he died in their presence He saw the doorway of Heaven open and
Jesus welcoming him into his new home.
stance was the stance of most if not all first century Christians.
They obeyed the government as much as was possible.
When government disobeyed God and forced them to disobey God, they
refused to comply with government.
They graciously and humbly accepted the consequences that often
meant death, as was the case with Paul Himself.
defended himself before Nero but when Nero demanded full obedience from
Paul, Paul had no other choice but to decline.
Paul, in his supreme act of witnessing for Jesus, without a fight,
placed himself on the chopping block and was beheaded.
I said, Paul's intent here was to tell believers to submit to government.
His intent was not to give an exhaustive explanation of
government's roll in culture.
That being said, Paul gave just one reason why government should
exist in this passage.
That reason was to act on God's behalf to keep civil order in a
can't say for sure, but that might well have been Paul's only reason for
the existence of government.
If that is so, then, most all governments, our western world
governments today included, are overstepping their God given boundaries to
rule by implementing so many laws that go way beyond merely keeping the
peace within the nation.
The meaning of Romans 13:1 to 7 must be understood by us all as the western world becomes more anti-Christ in nature. We must understand ahead of time how we should respond to an anti-Christian government, and, we must have the Holy Spirit led guts to do as the Apostle Paul and others did in the firs generation church. We will submit to government, but when government demands us to disobey God, we will submit to God and graciously and humbly accept the consequences.
important to understand that God is in control, and has final authority
over the nations. Daniel 2:21,
along wit Daniel 4:34 and 35 make it clear that in the long run, it is God
who causes nations and its leaders to both rise and fall.
This does not only apply in Old Testament times, it applies to all
times in all ages. God is
sovereign, and although we do not fully understand that, we do know He has
the final say in all things.