Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Is Romans 13 speaking of Civil Government? NO

Is Romans 13 speaking of Civil Government? NO

July 5, 2013 at 6:28pm
Is Romans 13 speaking of Civil Government?  NO


The following is from Pastor David Curtis of Berean Bible Church.

Romans 13:1-7, presents a few problems. One writer says of it: "These seven verses have caused more unhappiness and misery in the Christian East and West than any other seven verses in the New Testament."

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. Romans 13:1-2 NASB
The majority of Christians believe that this text is calling for submission to the State of Rome, and thus calling for Christians to submit to all civil government. Those who apply these verses to civil government say that we must obey every law that our government passes or we are sinning against God. First of all, I don't believe these verses are talking about civil government. I don't think that Paul is telling believers to be subject to the Roman government. If he was doing that, why would Rome put him to death?

We in the United States of America do not live under a monarchy. We have no king. There is no single governing official in this country. The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the Land. Under our laws, every governing official publicly promises to submit to The Constitution of the United States. Under our laws and form of government, it is the duty of every elected official to obey The Constitution of the United States (and his or her State Constitution).

The problem in America today is that our political leaders have violated their oaths of office and ignore--and blatantly disobey--the "Supreme Law of the Land," The Constitution of the United States. Our government is loading us up with unlawful laws. I don't believe that we have to submit to these laws, because they are unconstitutional.

For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Romans 13:6 NASB
Talk about taxes, let me ask you a question: Are actions which are sinful for individuals, such as theft, murder, and kidnaping, also sinful even for those who call themselves government? Is it wrong for the government to take from some persons what belongs to them, and give it to other persons to whom it does not belong? Is it wrong for the government to benefit one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime?

I hold the position that Romans 13:1-7 is referring to--the Synagogue rulers in Rome. This is the position put forth by Mark Nanos in his book, The Mystery of Romans. The issue in 13:1-7 is still love as we saw in chapter 12. Paul is calling for love and unity in the synagogue for the sake of the elect Jews that have not yet come to Christ:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Romans 13:1 NASB
Who are the exousia or authorities that Paul was referring to in this verse? It is the leaders of the synagogue who are to be obeyed, for their authority is from God and is recognized even by the Roman emperor. Josephus indicated that Julius Caesar's decree forbid the assembly of foreign religious societies other than Jewish ones in the city of Rome:

Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. Romans 13:2 NASB
Paul wants the Christian Gentiles meeting in the synagogue to realize that Yahweh has put the leaders in their position, and they are to submit to them:

For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; Romans 13:3 NASB
The word "rulers" here is the Greek word archon, which is used 37 times in the New Testament, and 24 of them are referring to synagogue ruler.

for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Romans 13:4 NASB
The word "minister" here is from the Greek diakonos, which means: "an attendant, a waiter (at table or in other menial duties)." It's the word from which we get the English word "deacon." I would find it difficult to believe that Paul would be speaking of secular rulers as deacons. This is an ecclesiastical term. Paul uses this word to describe the authorities in verse 1. This strongly supports the fact that he was talking about God's leaders, not Rome's.

But the text says, "...for it does not bear the sword for nothing."--this verse is often used as proof that Paul was talking about civil authorities, since Rome had the power of capital punishment. The word "sword" is from the Greek word machaira, which is used of a knife used for circumcision in Joshua 5:2; and in the offering of Isaac in Genesis 22:6, 10; and of a dagger or small sword in Judges 3:16. Sword could be used here symbolically or metaphorically.

Paul could be using sword here figuratively for the Word of God. The authorities of the synagogue were the interpreters of the Torah, God's Word to Israel. The authorities would judge behavior based on their interpretation of Torah. They would praise good behavior according to their understanding of Torah; and they would administer God's wrath on those who violated the faith:

For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Romans 13:6 NASB
This is used as another proof that Paul was commanding submission to the civil authorities--because only the civil authorities collect taxes!

The Greek word used for "tax" here is phoros, which means: "a tax, properly an individual assessment on persons or property." I think that the tax that Paul is talking about here is the Temple tax:

When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, "Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?" Matthew 17:24 NASB
There are historical references indicating that "righteous Gentiles" paid the Temple tax during this period. Josephus mentions that the vast wealth of the Temple was directly related to the extensive contributions of Jews and "God fearers" from around the world.

"...for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing"--the word "servants" here is leitourgos, which means: "a functionary in the Temple or Gospel, or [generally] a worshipper [of God]." It is where we get our word "liturgy." It speaks of spiritual service to Yahweh.

In my understanding, Paul's purpose in Romans 13:1-7 was to promote peace among the Jews and Gentiles in the synagogue as much as it was possible:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Romans 12:18 NASB
He wanted them to do this so that the Jewish community would not be alienated prior to his arrival in Rome to preach the Gospel.

Side Bar: Can we, as Christians, fix the mess our country is in? I don't think we can fix it politically, because I believe our political situation is a judgment of God. When the Church is faithful, God gives her good leaders. I do not think we can reform the "State" as an action separate from reforming the Church. If the Church is faithful, God will bless her and there will be good rulers.

Notice what Yahweh says to Judah through Nehemiah:

"But they, in their own kingdom, With Your great goodness which You gave them, With the broad and rich land which You set before them, Did not serve You or turn from their evil deeds. "Behold, we are slaves today, And as to the land which You gave to our fathers to eat of its fruit and its bounty, Behold, we are slaves in it. "Its abundant produce is for the kings Whom You have set over us because of our sins; They also rule over our bodies And over our cattle as they please, So we are in great distress. Nehemiah 9:35-37 NASB

This could be said to America today. The rulers that we have are a result of the sin of Yahweh's people. A weak Church is not the victim of an evil society. An evil society is the victim of a weak Church. We won't fix this country through an election, but through the Church honoring Yahweh through righteousness. If a man like Ron Paul ever gets in office, it will be because Yahweh put him there as a blessing to His Christ honoring Church. We need to work to reform the Church, not the government.

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