What is a Christian’s responsibility to their governing authorities? In Romans 13:1-7 we will observe three realities regarding the Christian and the Government. When it comes to this relationship, the Christian has an obligation to display the behaviour of one who is being transformed by the renewing of their mind (Rom. 12:2).
This passage begins with a clear-cut command, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (13:1a). There is no qualification regarding the political persuasion, equity or even competence attached to this command. At the time of writing this, Paul’s governing authority was the Roman Empire. It is possible for a Christian to disobey when it comes to matters that go against the Word of God (cf. Acts 5:29). However, on such occasions this is to be done in such a manner that the attitude of submission is still evident (cf. 13:7). Let us now consider the three realities regarding the Christian and the Government.
The Source of the Government’s Authority (13:1b-2)
Why should we submit to the government? Because governing authorities are placed in the position of authority by God (13:1b-2). The fact that God has ordained and instituted governing authorities doesn’t mean that every authority is morally good or economically sensible. In His sovereign plan there will be varying reasons for their appointment – whether it be blessing or judgment. Regardless of the authority, the duty of the citizen remains the same.
The Sphere of the Government’s Authority (13:3-4)
How far does the government’s authority extend and what is their duty granted by God? God has appointed government to reward good and restrain evil. The reward is seen in protection and the promotion of peace, whereas the restraining of evil is seen in the application of just punishment.
The Submission of the Government’s Subjects (13:5-7)
As citizen’s that are commanded by God, it is our duty to subject ourselves to the authorities. This is displayed by our attitude and actions. Paul provides the specific example of willingly paying taxes (13:6). Christian’s may not agree with the amount required in taxation nor may they agree with the government’s use of taxes. Nonetheless, the Christian is to “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” (13:7).
Government is an institution ordained by God and for this reason the Christian is to willingly submit. Such conduct is a reflection of an individual that is not conforming to this world but being transformed by the Word of God.
Here are some questions to carefully consider:
- Why should a Christian willingly obey the government? When should a Christian disobey the government? See Exodus 1:17; Matt. 2:12; Acts 5:29
- If an occasion arises in which a Christian out of necessity must disobey the government (provide some examples), in what manner should this be done?
- What are some benefits of governing authorities?
- How can we pray effectively for our government? See also 1 Tim. 2:1-2