Romans 13:1: Submitting to the government


Human beings are political animals. We are deeply invested in who is in power and is making the big decisions that affect our lives. And as we move into a new chapter in Romans we move into the most systematic teaching in Paul on the matter of the Christians relationship to the government. Historically the relationship between the Christian and the state and the church and the state has been fraught with difficulties. A number of questions assail us as we being to think about this area.

  • Must Christians submit to governments?
  • Are governments a necessary evil and an institution resulting from the fall?
  • Can a Christian disobey the government?
  • Can a Christian be part of a violent revolution?
  • Can a Christian hold office?
  • Must a Christian answer a government’s summons to fight in a war?
  • Can and should the church start Christian political parties?
  • Can Christians vote for politicians of other religious beliefs?
  • Can Christians work with unbelievers in common political goals?
  • Is political activism part of the great commission?
  • Are all governments under the control of the devil and to be identified as the beast in Revelation?
  • In a democratic society is it a sin for a Christian not to vote?
  • Can a pastor preach on who the congregation should vote for?

These questions and more will be addressed in our look at Romans 13:1-7.

We must note from the context how Paul got to talking about our submission to the government. You will remember that at the beginning of chapter 12 Paul called us to respond to God’s mercy by being a totally consecrated living sacrifice, meaning that we should serve God with our whole lives. Paul then began to map out the various areas will this will need to be applied. Firstly, we are to serve one another with our gifts in the church. Secondly, we are to serve our enemies. A surprise to the early believes would be this third area of submission to the government. Today as we look at verse 1 we want to fill in the background tension of the early church and situate the Christian in relation to the state now that Jesus is King. Secondly, we want to stress with Paul how God regulates our lives by authority structures and look at how His providence brings about both the good and bad governments of history.