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Question: Who are the ministers of God in Romans 13?

Class notes:
Intro: In ch. 12 Paul began with the fundamental transformation
(1,2). Then the relationship of the Christian to his fellow
Christian (3-16). Relationship to the world, including enemies

     Jesus taught that we are to render to God the things which
are God's and to Caesar the things which are Caesar's. This
principle is enlarged upon in this chapter. Also, this chapter
flows out of the last few verses of ch. 12.

1) Governments are appointed by God.
     The responsibility of subjection is directed to everyone,
regardless of his social status. Soul: 1 Pet. 3:20; Acts 7:14.
     Present active imper.: keep on being in subjection.
     It was highly distasteful for the Jew to be subject to the
Roman government, and there was the danger that when they became
Christians they would hold on to their former prejudice. Gentile
converts might feel that having confessed Jesus Christ as their
king, they were not subject to any other government (Cf. Titus
3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-15).

     Subjection is not based upon government being just. But
those in power had best realize that they are there through God's
providence (Dan. 17,25,32) (G.). cf. Dan. 4:17,25; Rev. 1:5;

     Pilate's unjust sentence was an abuse of his power
(Jno.19:10). Nero abused his power. But such did not negate the
principle of submission to the government (G).

     Also note the plural "powers." All governmental authorities.

2) This point logically and of necessity follows from v. 1. If
the governing authorities are ordained by God, then if one
resists those authorities, he resists the ordinance of God.
     The exception: when the ordinance of man would bring un into
violation to an ordinance of God (Acts 5:29; Rev. 2:13). 

3) Government also has its responsibilities. The first duty is to
protect society. Rulers are not a terror to good works. Not by
God's design! They are to promote good works. (G)
     The one who obeys the laws generally has nothing to fear
from the government. On the other hand, those who do evil ought
to be afraid, because God has given the government the power to
punish the evil doer.

     They are obligated to be a terror to evil works. Murderers,
rapists, thieves, child seducers, those who deal in drugs,
prostitution, gambling, should be actively opposed by the
government (G).

     When government goes astray from this principle and begins
to punish the righteous and reward the criminal, it is no longer
a minister of God. (ibid)

4) A second responsibility of government is to punish the
lawbreakers, not to pamper them. Sword: Decapitation was the
common method of execution for citizens.
     The MACHAIRA here is the sword in the hands of the
executioner who inflicts the death penalty on criminals. 
     Note that the government, not the individual, is to execute
this wrath.

     "Our society should shed a tear for its victims of crime. We
have heard much about crowded conditions in prisons, but let us
remember that the victims of murderers do not have much room in
their coffins either. The idea of keeping murderous monsters up
to the tune of thousands of dollars of taxpayer's money is one of
the more ludicrous activities of our time" (Green).

5) With this statement Paul goes back to v.1. There it is an
admonition; here it is a statement of necessity.
     Two reasons are given for subjection: 
          a) Wrath: Fear of punishment. Ill. officer with machine
gun in bank in Prague. Line formation; out of way of door.
     Healthy fear is good: Teach our children to fear unguarded
fires, deep and dangerous waters, dangerous heights.

          b) Conscience: The Christian has another, and a higher
objective. "Not only because it is dangerous to resist, but also
because it is right to submit" (Erdman). Because it is God's will
that we do so.
     To strive to be within what we are seen to be without. There
are those who act n private as they act in public.... because
they will fragment within if they don't. (Mcq.383). It is never
desirable or expedient to oppose the conscience.

     The lack of swift and just punishment today is constantly
eroding the first (Vinson). (cf. Eccl. 8:11).

6) Because of the truth expounded in vv. 1-5 we are to pay taxes
     For the third time, Paul calls government officials the
ministers or servants of God. (G)
     "This very thing" refers to punishing the evildoer and
protecting the good.

     Here again there is a responsibility of the Government.
Gibbon said that one of the five major causes of the fall of the
Roman Empire was "higher and higher taxes until the load became
unbearable, while officials of the empire continued to spend
public funds with reckless indifference."

7) Tribute: paid by a subject nation (Mt. 22:15-22.
Custom: Tax for support of civil government (Matt. 17:25).

Also: pray 1 Tim. 2:1-4.

If you have corrections, questions, comments or suggestions about these questions and answers, please contact Leon Mauldin directly at

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