August 21, 2019
Romans 13 And The Kingdom of God
There is no denying that our nation has been in turmoil over the past few decades in regards to deciding how we want to be governed. The Presidential cycles are becoming more and more hostile; and citizens are aligning themselves along polar-opposite political lines, leading to aggressive and combative attitudes and actions -- not exactly following the commandment in Ephesians 4:32 to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
But we can hardly say that the world's governments follow the dictates of the Heavenly government can we? And how many people -- even Christians -- understand that how God governs in His Heavenly domain is to be the role model here on earth? I suppose secular people, who have no relationship with their Creator, can be forgiven for not asking those questions and seeking the answers. But, if you call yourself a follower of Christ, it is incumbent upon you to read His Word, taking the whole counsel of it and study what He had to say about how mankind was to be governed; and then pursue an understanding of how His Disciples interpreted government. If not, your opinion is not Christ-oriented.
All that being said, I would submit to you that most Christians look to Romans 13:1-7 to try to define how we are to regard government. So, let's consider that passage: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
Before we dive into an expository on this passage, I believe [as always] that it is important to look at what is spoken within context of the bigger picture. It can be a mistake [in understanding] if we let these seven verses alone determine our doctrine on what God thinks about earthly governments. So, let's look at who the Book of Romans was written to, and see if that gives us a clue where to start, because all 16 chapters would have been written as one long letter, without the chapter divisions that modern Bibles include.
Romans, Chapter One, verse 7 says [in the Amplified version], [I am writing] to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called to be saints (God’s people) and set apart for a sanctified life, [that is, set apart for God and His purpose. So Paul is writing to "God's people", not the general secular population of Rome. Furthermore, the Bible records this letter [to this particular group of people in Rome] right after the last two verses of the preceding chapter. Acts 28:30-31 says Paul lived in Rome two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Can you comprehend that when Paul writes in Romans 13:1, Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God, that "every person" refers to every Believer [his audience as stated in Romans 1] and he is reminding them to submit to the kingdom of God's government?
There is no reason to doubt that Paul understood that Jesus came proclaiming that the Kingdom of God had arrived [and along with it, its government]; Paul wrote about the kingdom 17 times in the 13 books of the Bible that bear his signature. Since he was writing to Christians and understood that Jesus came to establish God's governing principles on the earth, the "governing authorities" he referred to should be understood to be godly men entrusted to execute Heaven's government on earth. When you understand Romans 13 from the kingdom perspective, then you know who these authorities are, and who they represent. Then the statement "there is no authority except from God" makes perfect sense, and "those who exist have been instituted by God", should tell us that God is establishing an earthly kingdom that resembles His heavenly kingdom [through chosen Believers that will legislate according to His purpose]. And what was God's purpose for man as stated in Genesis 1:26-28? To rule the earth in His stead!
That makes verse 2 even clearer: Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Whose judgment? God's! And the next three verses make more sense from the kingdom perspective as well. The rulers who are appointed by God to administrate His kingdom government on earth are not to be feared if you are walking in the ways of a citizen of the kingdom. Only those Believers who stray from the righteous path should be concerned about the authorities of the kingdom. I invite you to think from a renewed mind [one that thinks from God's perspective and not the carnal mind] -- Romans 1:7 establishes that this letter is written to Christians, right? If you read this passage from the commonly accepted viewpoint, you must ask yourself this question: why would God give "worldly" authorities power over righteous Christians? Does it make sense that He would tell us to be subject to them above Him?
And I know that verses 6 and 7 might cause confusion because they tell us to pay our taxes to the ministers of God. This has long been interpreted from a secular government frame of reference because we all pay taxes to our nation's government. But when we stop to realize that Jesus came to re-institute God's kingdom and its government here on earth, He was fully aware that He was bringing a new kingdom that would have to exist here in the world; think "in" the world, but not "of" the world. That means God's righteous ministers of His kingdom's government would need to be supported to do God's work here on earth. Since we are in this world, that requires support by earthly means ... taxes and revenue; but all for God's purpose [establishing righteousness among His people], and showing respect and honor to whom it is owed.
A very dear friend sent me a link to a website called EmbassyofHeaven.com which gives a very good and concise summary of Romans 13: "The best way to understand Romans 13:1-7 is to read it as a blueprint for Christian government. Paul was not telling us to obey Caesar or the Roman State. He was giving us a definition of lawful [kingdom] government. Punish the evil and reward the good ... Jesus did not come to earth to put us under governments of men. He came to bring us a government to replace the governments of wicked men."
We must look at the big picture! Paul was beheaded for promoting a rival government to Rome's government. In Romans 12, Paul tells us "do not be conformed to this world." If, in Romans 13, he says to be "subject to the governing authorities", and is referring to the governing authorities of Rome, wouldn't that be hypocritical? No, Paul is presenting a very important argument in favor of the Kingdom of God. It is critical that we recognize our Father in Heaven's government is here NOW -- and that we share the Good News, encouraging every nation, tongue, and people to stop seeking the kingdoms of this world. Let us rejoice that we, in this time and age, are seeing this truth, and let us step into our purpose and destiny as the sons and daughters of the King. Partake of the government Jesus promised His disciples [and all who follow Him]...
Luke 22:24-30 The disciples bickered over which one of them would be considered the greatest in the kingdom. 25 Jesus interrupted their argument, saying, “The kings and men of authority in this world rule oppressively over their subjects, claiming that they do it for the good of the people. They are obsessed with how others see them. 26 But this is not your calling. You will lead by a different model. The greatest one among you will live as one called to serve others without honor. The greatest honor and authority is reserved for the one who has a servant heart. 27 The leaders who are served are the most important in your eyes, but in the kingdom, it is the servants who lead. Am I not here with you as one who serves you?
28 “Because you have stood with Me through all My trials and ordeals, 29 I give you your destiny: I am promising you the kingdom realm that the Father has promised Me. 30 We will celebrate in this kingdom and you will feast with Me at My table. And each of you will be given a throne, twelve thrones in all, and you will be made rulers on thrones to judge the tribes of Israel.”