Romans 13: Christians and Government

This entry is part 131 of 132 in the series 365 Key Chapters of the Bible

How should Christians relate to the government?

Paul addresses this question in Romans 13, telling us that God raises up governments and we are to obey them. However, if they contradict God, then we are called to stand firm in the faith.

Four Governing Authorities

In Romans 13:1, Paul says, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” When we read this verse, we ought to have four authorities in mind:

  1. Family
  2. Work
  3. Government
  4. Church

God has set up all of these authority structures, though there are clear abuses in all of them because of our fallen nature. Although they are God-given spheres, we must determine whether they overreach their spheres. For example, if our boss mandates that we do something unethical, we must make a choice to obey God or to obey people.

At the time Paul was writing this, the Roman government was in charge—and their rule was far from good. All the same, Paul encourages people to obey the authority of the government as much as possible. Government is meant to be a “minister of God to you for good” (Romans 13:4).  As a result, we must give our government what is due to it.

A Christian’s Responsibility

The underlying principle in Paul’s discussion is that of love. God has commanded us to love one another. This applies not only to our neighbors, but also to our enemies. As a result, we are to obey whenever possible, walking in God’s love. Paul fulfilled this commandment in his life even though the government put him in prison and eventually executed him. He was a faithful witness for God through his love and respect for those in authority, even though they were in the wrong.

Now, there will come a time when we are called to stand firm and not yield to what governing authorities command. We also see this in the Bible (for example, see Daniel 3 and Acts 4). If we choose to do so, we must be ready to accept the consequences of what is to come, keeping our eyes fixed on Christ.

We must be careful with the way we act—our actions have a great impact. If we are living faithfully to Christ and loving our neighbors and enemies well, then that will shape the culture around us. At the same time, though, as the day of the Lord approaches, we will see a reaction against Christianity. In the midst of it all, God calls us to stand firm and follow Him.

This teaching is based on Ken’s Handbook to Scripture

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