The Rev felt very satisfied that he was able to provide a bit of drama from the preceding article, leaving it a quintessential cliffhanger as he did. So continuing on from the introduction to this subject, our main point is to consider Romans 13: 1-7 (in the context of the letter itself and more so in the whole story of the Bible).
Where systematicians would delight in exegesing this passage, stand alone, and pulling any logical inferences that spring to mind, that will not do for the Rev, nor should it for anyone who is committed to understanding the Bible and only the Bible. The first thing to note is that the letter was written to Roman Christians around 56-57 A.D. That puts it in a very specific period in history and a contains a whole raft of social, economic, political and religious nuances that help us to understand what Paul is saying.
The second thing to note is who the recipients of the letter were and what would they understand when they read it. If we don’t do this, the words on the page could be manipulated to mean anything we want and therefore used to justify something which may or may not be a good thing to justify.
Building up to this point, which by no means is the climax of the letter, Paul basically explains how the church has come into being: “Therefore no one will be justified in His sight by works of the Law. For the Law merely brings awareness of sin. But now, apart from the Law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, as attested by the Law and the Prophets. And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3: 20-24) Later in Romans 8-11, Paul brings all we now know about the work of God in Jesus together to explain specifically what the church is, namely both Jew and Gentile.
It is within this backdrop that we can be fairly sure that a portion of the church would have been Jewish Christians. As such, the most likely rendering of Romans 13:1-7 has more to do with the history of the Jewish people in the time of Roman occupation than with anything else. Paul was not attempting in Romans 13:1-7 to write out a manifesto for Church-State relations for the next two or three millennia; his concern was pastoral and local. Paul was advising against anti-Roman and Palestinian nationalist sentiments among the Jewish Christians in Rome. They were to submit to the governing authority (the Roman Empire) because its authority was derived from God.
The climax is yet to come and must not be overlooked when thinking about submission to authorities. “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Romans 13: 11-14).
Live at peace with man; fight and destroy sin in yourself and the community of the church; be honourable, upright citizens knowing that the temporary world is soon to pass.
Coming back to the original subject, what does this mean when it comes to who to vote for?