In Romans, Paul speaks of our inexorable duty toward God, as well as duty toward the church. But he also develops a concept of duty towards civil government. The 13th chapter of Romans is fairly familiar to most of us, and today I’d like us to take a look at this particular concept. It is very important, and to really understand it—to really grasp what Paul is saying—we have to understand the historical background in which these words were written.
1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whosoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves judgment.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Will you then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and you shall have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid; for he bears not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that does evil.
5 Therefore you must be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’s sake.
6 For, for this cause pay you tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
That is a fascinating scripture even taken in our modern context. What should this mean to us? What obligations goes this lay upon us today? What is our relationship to the civil government in our time? Even before asking these questions, however, I’d like to take us back to the time when Paul wrote this…
(This message is a direct continuation of Romans: The Heart of the Gospel.)