Letter to Christians in Rome: Chapter 13 (pt 5 of 9)

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Governments have authority over what we do with our property and how we behave with one another, but our Lord clearly indicates they have no right to touch what God has put his image on, which is the spirit of man. In other words, Caesar has no right to command the worship of man or forbid his obedience to the Word of God. Rulers are under God; and they have no right to command men to do what God says should not do, or to command men not to do what God says should be done. Does that make sense? These are the limits of governmental powers.

Governments are not to enslave men, because men belong to God. Governments are not to oppress men, because men bear the image of God. What bears God’s image must be given to God, and not to Caesar—just as what bears Caesar’s image must be given to Caesar, and not necessarily to God. So I think that though this passage doesn’t spend a lot of time with this, to me it clearly indicates that believers have a right to resist oppression and religious persecution by nonviolent means but they are not to resist the legitimate functions of government. We are to accept government as a gift of God. The legitimate functions of government are described in Verses 3:

The honest citizen has no need to fear the keepers of law and order, but the dishonest man will always be nervous of them. If you want to avoid this anxiety just lead a law-abiding life, and all that can come your way is a word of approval (Romans 13:3)

Do you hear what Paul is saying? If you are driving down the freeway and don’t want to be forced to continually look in your rear view mirror, then keep the speed down! The officer is going to pull you aside and say, “Sir, you were driving so beautifully that I just want to commend you.” Well, maybe in your dreams. More than likely he the first words out his mouth will be, “Let me be your license and registration.”

For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, you should be afraid of him, because he doesn’t bear and wear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant to execute His punishment and vengeance on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath and escape punishment, but also as a matter of principle and for the sake of conscience.  (Romans 13:4-5)

This is a very helpful passage, and it says that there are two basic functions of government. Governments are to protect us from evil. That is, they are to preserve the security of people. They are to protect us from attack from without and from crime from within. For that purpose, governments have armies and police systems and courts of justice to preserve us from evil in our midst,

If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome


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