Pastor Steve Ellison
Romans chapter 12 through 16 teaches about using our earthly relationships to measure our relationship to God. How we relate to others is the best indicator of how we are relating to God. Romans 13:1-7 describes how we should relate to all human authority. This passage tells us that all other authority is delegated from Him. Romans 13:3-4 says, 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; 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. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake. NASU Twice in verse four, we are told that that government is God’s “minister”. This word translated as minister in the KJV and the NASU is translated as “servant” in the NIV, the ESV, and the HCSB.
It seems interesting and instructive to me to consider the original word which is “deacon”. I grant that it would be very easy to read more into the usage of deacon than was intended by the Holy Spirit. However, I do think it is worth considering. I also note that in all of the aforementioned translations, whether “servant” or “minister” is used, each is indicated as belonging to God Himself. The Bible is plain here in Romans and in other places regarding the role of government in God’s economy. Romans 13:1-7, Proverbs 8:15, Daniel 4:31-32, Proverbs 21:1, John 19:10-11, etc. leave no doubt that human government serves under the authority of God and at His good pleasure. In short, government is God’s deacon. Even as I write this, I can hear your questions regarding Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, etc. Surely there is a need to consider those questions, but not in a devotional of this length. I would simply note that the government in power over the human author of Romans was on par with those just mentioned. Second, I would submit that there is a more important issue in this passage: What is God calling me to be or do?
That creates a point of soul searching for me. I have a great tendency to look at the government as a negative not a positive. It seems to me that we have far more government than we need. I tend to view the government more of a hindrance than a help, more as an enemy than a friend. That leaves me with a need to carefully consider Romans 13:3-5. I am a law-abiding citizen, so I do not fear the punishing power of the state. However, I must wonder does my grumbling attitude mean that I do not keep the spirit of the command? Since the government is God’s minister/servant/deacon to me, what is the correct response from me to that government? This issue is further compounded by the fact that my relationship to governmental authority is used to evaluate my relationship to God, the true Authority from which all other authority flows. I could waste a lot of time debating how Caesar, Nero, Stalin, Hitler, the U.S. Congress/President/Supreme Court, etc. fit into Romans 13, but that pales in significance to how I fit into Romans 13. Where do you fit in? …….…..firstname.lastname@example.org