Romans 13

Roy Osborne 2006  

(Note:  This essay was written for a Romans series I taught in 2006.

However, I feel the content needs to be repeated, for it is still relevant

for our current age.)


We are not attempting to do a commentary on the book of Romans.   I have neither the desire, nor the scholarly ability for such an undertaking.   Instead, we want to examine certain important themes as they reveal the plan of God for the salvation of those who will hear and believe.   Our prime interest is to discover how these themes impact our lives today.   Christianity is not for paying homage to ancient history, nor is it just a system of ritual words and actions, with no relationship to our daily lives and activities.   Christianity should be the central focus of your life, and should impact every decision you make, every relationship you have, and every action you take.

In the 13th chapter, Paul discusses civil government in great detail.   I don’t wish to comment in detail on his views , but there are two aspects of this which need our special attention.   In the first place, Paul says God ordains the rulership of those in governmental authority.   It must be obvious that he means God ordains the system, not the individual ruler.   God certainly did not endorse a Hitler, nor a Saddam Hussein. However, from the beginning of God’s dealings with Israel, He appointed rulers to control the people.   Often the leaders were corrupt, but the system remained intact. God is a God of order and consistency.   He has always provided a way for the weak to be protected, and for the unfortunate to be helped.   Government is necessary for both of these things.   So Paul urges Christians to support the government, even if the individual in charge is something less than he should be.

In the second place, God insists that everyone be responsible for all the other members of their society.   In other words, no one, in God’s economy, has the right to do as he pleases.   No one is allowed to use his individual rights to oppress the less fortunate, and rulers are ordained to protect the weak, to organize, and to make peace.

Many years ago John Donne wrote, “No Man Is An Island”.   That is God’s sentiment. We do not live in isolation from other people.  The things we do impact other people, and, to the extent that we are able, we must help and protect the other members of our society, for that is God’s will.

As I study the 13th chapter, I am made to realize how different the Christian must think, as opposed to the popular philosophies of today.   No wonder Paul said in the 12th chapter, “be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”.    It is common practice for men to try to interpret the Bible in such a way as to make it acceptable to modern society. Too many preachers and religious leaders strive to be popular with the masses.   They justify this by claiming it brings more people to church. However, Jesus Christ did not die on the cross to fill church buildings.   He died on the cross to change lives, and in view of the hedonistic philosophies of the world, that is an unpopular exercise.  

In America today, there is, on the part of a large element in our society, a demand that there be no restrictions on their behavior.  Their interpretation of freedom is the license to do as they please, with no interference from the government, or from any other source.   The ultimate of this would be total anarchy, might makes right, the one with the most money or the most political power would rule.   Such a philosophy makes no one responsible for the peace and protection of society as a whole.   Each demands his own rights, and it doesn’t matter what that does to others, or to the country.   I don’t think I have to prove that this is a problem in our current world.   The daily news makes the point every day from someone’s lips or actions.   Obviously, these people don’t agree with Paul as he urges his readers to support and be controlled by the authority in power.

Paul’s telling argument is that our ultimate motivation should be love of our fellowman.   He argues that this would cause us all to obey the law.   It would make us feel responsible for the happiness and well-being of our fellowman.   It would cause us to forget self and personal rights, in favor of doing what would enhance the common good.   It would make for a brotherhood of peace, instead of competition for personal advantage, conflict and chaos.