God’s Servants in Government

Notes for Oct. 8, 2017
Romans 13:1-7

Biblical Background

  • Loyalty to the State: Roman/Greek culture preached the importance of being loyal to the ruling power and to the state. In fact, Socrates is said to have stated that he would rather be executed unfairly than to undermine the credibility of the state.

  • Jews & Christians in Paul’s day: The Jews and Christians (who were considered to be a sect of Judaism) in Roman times were often accused of not being loyal to the state as they would not bow down to the king. Knowing this, it is clear that Paul is not telling believers to worship the state or Caesar or do anything that would compromise one’s first and primary loyalty to God.

  • Nero: The tyrannical Roman Caesar, Nero was ruling during the letter to the Romans, however, the persecution of Christians had not been stoked up yet.

  • The sword: The sword was the standard method of execution used in Roman times. It was used on Roman citizens (beheading) as this was seen as a more humane way of taking a life than crucifixion, which was reserved for foreigners.

  • List of exhortations: Paul continues to use Greek stylized writing with lists of things to do or not to do.

  • Rome’s taxes: Rome levied a tax of 1% on all property across the empire and also a head tax – tax/person. Taxes were used for public infrastructure like roads, bridges, and to run the armies and government.

Discussion Questions

  1. In light of Paul’s teaching on the freedom we have in Christ, how does this idea that we must submit to authority fit?

  2. What does it mean to submit to governing authorities? What does this look like when you have a good governing authority? A bad governing authority?

  3. What is the ultimate origin of a government’s right to govern? Is it power?

  4. What is the relationship between God and government?

  5. How is God’s action as a ruler different from early governments?

  6. Read Acts 5:27-32. How does this passage fit with Romans 13:1-7?

  7. What are the key principles for Christians who are also citizens of the United States or any country for that matter? List them and discuss.

  8. Have you ever received a traffic ticket? If so, what was your attitude toward the state trooper or police officer?

  9. How would you advise a Christian to act in a country in which there are great injustices being done by the government?

  10. How would you practice your faith in a country that banned Christianity?

  11. How can you live out in new ways this week, the command to submit to government authorities? What does this look like?

  12. What are some appropriate ways to act when we disagree with our government?