Monday, December 4, 2023

A Quick Hit on Romans 13


Paul VanderKlay has done his weekly Sunday School class on Romans 13.  He offers a fairly balanced approach – at least noting that there are times to disobey the governing authority that is the state. 

My comment in the comment section:

A few thoughts:

It is correct to note that the “government” in the United States is the Constitution.  Unfortunately, the only part of the Constitution that still seems to be respected is the period of election for the various national offices – and even this idea of “election” is now questioned by far more than half of the country, and not for no cause.

My understanding is that the Greek word translated as “governing authorities” can mean authorities at any level, for example, for the family, for the Church, and for the state.  Hence, some people apply Paul’s words to mean we may (even must) defy governing authorities if they step out of their proper role – for example, when the state tells us how to raise our children, or when the state tells us if we can go to church on Sunday.

Finally, I have often wondered why we only look at this passage as Paul writing to the subjects / citizens.  He is at least equally writing to the governing authorities – setting the limits and boundaries about how these authorities should act.  In the case of the state, when they punish wrongdoers, they are acting according to Paul’s teaching.  When the state punishes right-doers (as is many times the case, even today and even in the United States), the state is acting against Paul’s teaching.


  1. Any way you cut it, Romans 13 must be read in context. It does not trump Acts 5:29: "We must obey God rather than men."

  2. Excellent comment. More Christians need to think through the topic like this.

  3. People forget that Paul was a ringleader of a criminal organization when he wrote the epistle.
    There is an old Episcopal maxim that no scripture can be used to set aside any other scripture. Most cults & wacko teachings latch onto cherry picked scriptures and twist contradictory ones to suit. The true context of any scripture is the whole Bible; you pretty much have to believe this if you profess that the Bible is divinely inspired. Christians should ideally be prepared to take responsibility for breaking the law when done on religious grounds.

  4. Thank you for some astute common sense. If St Paul truly meant Christians to bow obey the state in all things, he would be more a Mussolini or Stalin, or most of the rats in DC or even state capitals, than a Christian saint. Going back to the original language and knowing Church history and tradition is truly imperative.

  5. This is more or less how I've come to view it as well. It is a blueprint for authority under the banner of God: punishing evildoers, praising the good. It was an ingenious way of teaching the early church what Godly political authority on earth looks like while not needlessly drawing the ire of the Roman authorities (anymore than Christians already had), which clearly did not fit this description.