Government Submission (Romans 13:1-2)
Historical context Paul wrote the book of Romans in AD 57, 57 years after Christ.
- The Romans were still ruling over the land of Israel.
- Nero is the Roman emperor at this time.
- And we know from history that Nero was one of the most brutal emperors.
- Many ancient scholars and historians, including Tacitus think there was a serious tax revolt happening at the time.
- So Paul may have been writing this to address that tax revolt.
- After all Jesus told us to pay taxes in Mark 12:17 “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”
- There may also have been a violent anti-Roman Jewish zealot movement happening at the time.
- And despite all of that. Paul gives this strong exhortation to be subject to governing authorities.
Theology We never develop Theology from just one verse in isolation.
- So, are there other verses in scripture that say the same thing or agree with this statement from Paul?
- 1 Peter 2: 13-17 Peter and Paul are in agreement on this.
- What that means is we can’t just dismiss this passage from Romans 13 as an anomaly
Grammar and language
- The verse starts by saying “let everyone… In The Greek it is the word, “Soul.” “Let every soul.”
- Quote: (Douglas Moo) “In typical OT and Jewish fashion, Paul uses “soul” to denote not one part of a human being but the whole person.”
- So, this exhortation to subject ourselves applies to our whole being.
- Similar to what Jesus says in Matt 22:37 on how we are to love God.
- The verse then continues with “be subject to”
- Most scholars agree that this could be understood as “submit to.”
- We are to submit our whole being to the governing authorities.
- This idea of submission is common to Paul’s Theology.
- What gets really interesting here is the verb is in the passive form.
- The action of the verb happens to the subject with no volition on the part of the subject.
- If God gives us the strength to be subject, that certainly is interesting and something we probably need to press into.
- The verse then continues with governing authorities.
- Scholars agree that this refers to secular government.
- The verse continues with Paul saying the same thing two different ways for emphasis.
- Something of a meta narrative.
Verse 2 is pretty self-explanatory and there is not unique grammar to look at.
So, let’s draw some preliminary conclusions.
- All secular government authorities are put there by God
- We are called to submit to them with our whole being
- God gives us the strength to do that.
Biblical example this 1 Samuel 24:4-12