Romans chapter 13 verses 1 to 7 - Two on the Road to Magaluf - J Stewart Gillespie 

Some chapters of Romans are well represented in our preaching: 

Chps 1 to 5 – Parts quoted in the gospel 
Chp 6 – at baptisms 
Chp 8 – ministry 
Chp 12 – ministry 

Certain parts are regarded as difficult: 

Chapters 7, 10 and 11 

Some parts the truth is found by some to be unpalatable: 

Chapter 9 

Some parts seem just plane ignored; amongst them chapter 13! 

Is this perhaps because we feel the ministry here is too direct / simple / on the surface and not much more needs to be said about it? 

Is chapter 13 really just about obeying the laws and paying our taxes? 

If it is this is well covered by other scriptures! 

Perhaps there is more to this chapter than that! 

Chapter 13 is certainly very practical and down to earth, 

We must be always wary of developing a theoretical, hyper-spiritual and somewhat ethereal view of Christian experience. 

Christian faith is no private affair and no secret activity. 

Romans chapters 13 to 15 are not so much a contrast with chapters 1 to 8 as a consequence of them! 

Chapters 13 to 15 are an application of the truth. 

From consecration in chp 1 to consideration in chp 14 

From sanctification in chp 12 to service in chp 15 

“ And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.” (Luke 22:25-26) 

The Christian ought to be the kind of person the world can't do without! 

He ought to provide 'salt' and 'light' (Matthew chp 5) 

Christian experience does not allow for lack of reality. 

Romans chp 13 we have 3 spheres of responsibility: 

The Believer as a Responsible Citizen (13:1-7) – Living in Liberty 
The Believer as a Responsible Neighbour (13:8-10) – Living in Love 
The Believer as a Responsible Christian (13:11-14) – Living in Light 

The Believer Under Authority (13:1-5) 
The Believer Under Obligation (13:6-10) 
The Believer under cover of darkness (13:11-14) 

Living in Liberty (13:1-7) 
Living in Love (13:8-10) 
Living in Light (13:11-14) 

The Believer as a Responsible Citizen (13:1-7) – Living in Liberty 

The Christian experience will not permit me to have a private faith 

I live out Christ in the real world 

Notice that in living out Christ in the real world there is a real spiritual dimension to this: “let every soul be subject” (13:1) 

The believer had: 

Offered their body (12:1) 
Experienced the renewal of their mind (12:2,16) 
Subjected their soul (13:1) 

This section (13:1-7) only works if it is taken up by those who have a spiritual attitude of soul (13:1) that has triumphed over the flesh (13:13-14) and has overcome 'rebellion' and the human 'chip on the shoulder.' 

The setting of this section is that of: 

                              Life and Liberty 

It is in 'liberty' ie where decisions are being made and can be made that the true nature of our character emerges! 

If we only do things because we have to do things we will never really see the true character of man. It is only in liberty where we are in a position of decision making that our true character is revealed! 

Do we recognise: “higher powers” (13:1) : 'power' : exousia : authority. 

To recognise authority does require a degree of humility 

To be subject does require meekness. 

For a believer to be subject recognises a God imposed order: 

               “ordained by God” (13:1) 

There is God appointed order when in the future God withdraws from this world, the world will be left to: “the man of lawlessness” 

It would be reasonable to deduce from these verses that as we withdraw from God we will become more lawless: human subjection (13:1) is linked with Divine Sovereignty (13:1-2) 

On the surface chp 13:1-7 is perhaps all about: 

Obeying the laws 
Paying your taxes 

So it is! 

That is no small matter. 

The Lord Himself toopk time to emphasise the truth of it: 

“Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesars” 

This is quoted 3 X in the NT: Matt 22:21; Mk12:17; Lk 20:25 

No trivial matter! 

There is more to the matter than this however. 

This section touches upon: 

The Truth of Gods Kingdom 
The Tension between Good and Evil 
The Testimony of Gods People 

The Truth of Gods Kingdom 

We belong to a Kingdom: 

Of a different SUBSTANCE: a Kingdom “not of this world” (John 18:36) 
A SOVEREIGN Kingdom (Daniel 5:21) 
A SPIRITUAL Kingdom (Matt 5:1ff) 
A CERTAIN Kingdom which will come (Matt 5:20) 
A SUPERIOR Kingdom: “seek ye first the Kingdom of God” (Lk 9:57ff) 
A Kingdom which we are CITIZENS of (Matt 13:8ff) 

What ought our attitude to be to the Kingdoms of men? 

It would be easy to develop a superiority context from all of this truth. 

In the context of our belonging to another Kingdom Romans 13:1-7 gives us important and perhaps surprising teaching: 

To obey the authorities 
To pay our taxes 

The Tension between Good and Evil 

Government: 'A Curiously Righteous Arrangement' 

I can only describe the institution of human government as a curiously righteous arrangement: 

Arrangement: 2 times in these verse 1 we have the word: “tasso” : 

v1 - “subject” : hupotasso : 5293 
v1 - “ordained” : tasso : 5021 

“tasso” : means ordained / ordered / arranged / appointed 

So government is an arrangement of God 


For government to do 2 things: 

Bear the sword (v4) 
Balance the books (v6) 

Government is to promote 'righteousness' : 

Judgment on those who reject the ordinance : 'damnation' (v2) 
“terror to the evil” (v3) 
“revenger” : ekdikos : 'ek' – out of and 'dike' – justice – executing right and justice. 


I say 'curiously' righteous arrangement because: would you wish to live under the righteous rule of God as a fallen creature with the 'flesh' still with you? 

Apply the absolute righteousness of God to the struggle of Romans chp 7 and what do you have? 

Do you have a dead man? 

Psalm 130:3 “If thou Lord shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who should stand?” 

Malachi 3:2 “But who may abide the day of His coming and who shall stand when He appeareth?” 

That is without even beginning to think of the implications of Divine righteousness on a wholly fallen world! 

The judgment or 'damnation' in this arrangement (v2) comes out not on those who: 

Transgress the absolute righteousness of God 

nor who: 

Transgress the righteousness of the law of Sinai 

but upon those who: 

“antitasso” - “resisteth” - stand against the 'ordinance' 


Human government is not perfect; it is not judging for transgressing the righteousness of God. 

It is just as well that human government is not perfect for: 

Psalm 130:3 “If thou Lord shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who should stand?” 

Consider for example the difficulty often raised regarding the presence of a sovereign and righteous God with the reality of evil in the world: eg the holocaust. 

Illust: Recently viewed a clip from a documentary on WWII with the allied capture of the Nazi concentration camps in Poland. The officer in charge; a Brigadier noted a group of 3 Nazi youths shooting at prisoners in the camp. The Brigadier administered summary justice and killed 2 of the Nazi youths and one escaped. At the liberation of Bergen Belsen the American soldiers were so incensed by what they saw that they lined up the Nazi guards and shot them all. Few of us would shed a tear at that, but wait a minute, lets pause and think about the implications here: 

If a man tortures and murders 1000s – summary justice (at the hands of the Americans)? Yes 
If a man tortures an murders 2 or 3 – summary justice (at the hands of the Brigadier)? Yes. 
If a man tortures many but perhaps didn't actually murder someone – summary justice? Yes 
If a man possesses that hatred and vileness of spirit to commit such acts? “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Mat 5:22) 

Distinctions may seem clear cut but.... there may not be such a distance between us as you think, and if God would be righteous in dealing out summary justice to them, what about us? 


Psalm 130:3 “If thou Lord shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who should stand?” 

We cannot have a square circle! 

If Gods righteous and absolute judgment is to be applied, it must be applied across the board. 

This leads to moral anomalies in the world: 

The world is governed by secondary causes and not directly by God. Thus we have both a God given awareness of and desire for fairness and righteousness but we are left in a situation which always and must fall short of that experience of absolute righteousness. The world is not fare. The world cannot be fair either until all sin is subdued and the subjects are themselves capable of dealing with God on the basis of absolute righteousness. 

How often have we heard: 'Well if there is a God in heaven how can there be?' 

Injustice in the world? 
A holocaust? 
Wars in Eritrea? 

Part of the answers to these questions are hid in these verses. 

God rules and governs by secondary causes. 

If He did not govern by these means then: 

There would be no injustice 
There would be no holocaust 
There would be no wars 
There would be no repression in Tunisia 
There would be no persecution in Iran 

The down side would be however: 

There would be no Tunisia 
There would be no Iran 
There would be no humanity 

God not only permits a fallen world to survive in Grace but He has ordained means to: 


That fallen world in Grace. 

Illust: 2 on the road to Magaluff; not sure I believe in God, 'have you ever known anyone to die from cancer?' If there was a God why would He let that happen? 

And what about all the paedophiles?' 



You can't have a square circle 

Just because you want one doesn’t mean you can have one! 

Some things are mutually exclusive. 

We cannot have a perfect creation and yet live with the creator at a distance. 

If we claim, as the scriptures do, that God is: 

Life and 

Then if we have Him at a distance from our lifes we must live in a state of: 


If despite claiming that God is the source of: 


We could live happy and contented lives without Him, full of these very features we claim comes from God, then we would have proven that either: 

There is no God, or 
God is not necessary for our happiness; He is an added extra, or 
God is unoffended by our sin and disinterest in Him and that despite our neglect and rebellion He will always be there for Him, so we hardly need take Him as a threat. 

It is not suffering and injustice that disproves the reality of God but rather perfection in His absence that would disprove the reality of God! We would have shown that we can safely dispense practically with God; in that He is superfluous to our life, light, love and joy. 

The reason we have suffering and injustice in the world is because of sin, and yet the reason we have a world which can suffer is Grace, the Grace of God long-suffering with men, that none should perish but that all should come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Peter 3:9). 

God has build into His Grace, a Grace which permits a fallen world to continue, God has build in a curious righteous arrangement of government, by which the: 


of that fallen world is administered. 

One day that restriction will be removed (2 Thess 2) – just before the destruction of this fallen world. 

Government is founded on fear: 

Government is founded on fear (13:3) 

It is primarily reactive and retributive in nature 

When government falls into the hands of well intentioned, well meaning, wet liberals and woolly folk we all suffer! 

Government only operates effectively if there is fear 

I know there is “praise of the same” (13:2) but this is praise for good already done rather than the empowering of good itself. 

Government more effectively terminates evil than it does promote good 

Government is not Final: 

Government is a taster of a principle not fully realised but which lies in God and must one day reach its perfection in Gods Kingdom: “Thy Kingdom come”. 

It is the first glimpse of light from a rising sun (13:11-14) 

The role of government: 

Bear the Sword (13:4) 
Balance the books (13:6-7) 

The Bible affirms both of these as the rightful roles of government: 

Bear the Sword (13:4) 

“And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.” (Luk 3:14) 

“Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.” (Joh 19:11) 

Government has a moral responsibility to suppress evil and promote good. 

Government has a judicial responsibility to judge and punish evil proportionately and appropriately (v4) 

Balance the books (13:6-7) 

“They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.” (Mat 22:21) 

Government has a fiscal responsibility towards the people it governs 

We have a responsibility likewise to pay our taxes 

The Testimony of Gods People


Yours by Grace in Christ

Dr J Stewart Gillespie