Dear friends,

I confess that this blog will not make very much sense if you do not know what Romans 13 says! I apologize for this. Last week I preached on Romans 13; it was a long sermon on an even bigger topic. Some of the questions and comments that came my way afterward led me to think I should use one or two blogs to make a couple of points. If you are curious about my sermon you can listen to it here:

First, Romans 13 helps make it clear that human beings were created to be social, with a social structure and with an authority structure. The Bible does not specify one timeless social and authority structure. However, as we read the Bible we see that the Bible understands human beings as inherently social with a social and authority structure. While human social and authority structures share in the Fall, the mere presence of a social and authority structure is not a sign of the Fall nor a result of the Fall.

Secondly, in a sense, Romans 13 applies to Christians as they face every “authority” – whether it is in government, employment, religious institutions or the family. This is important to understand. In my sermon I said that Christians can and should pray that God would have mercy on their nation and not give us the government we deserve, but a government that is a blessing. We can pray this in the context of every “authority”. In my own tradition, people take Romans 13 to mean that every bishop who is chosen to be bishop must be God’s man – in the sense of a blessing. But properly understood, Romans 13 does not teach that everyone in authority is a blessing – some are part of God’s judgment.

Thirdly, the force of Romans 13 is positive in the sense that it encourages Christians to be involved in institutions and organizations outside of the church. We should not read Romans 13 as an argument to disengage from the world and retreat into the “Christian world”. Romans 13 is an encouragement for Christians to be involved in politics, government, education, business, the arts, law and the armed forces. Romans 13 is not saying we have to wait for a “pure” government or business before we can be involved. As Larry Osbourne put it in his superb book, Thriving in Babylon, Christians can thrive in Babylon.

Finally, Romans 13 is part of the New Testament rejection of the idea that Christians must form their own Christian nations. In the Lord’s Supper Jesus revealed that His death and resurrection would inaugurate a New Covenant between God and humanity. We enter that new Covenant one-by-one when we receive Jesus (and His finished work) as our Saviour and Lord by faith. God finishes us into His New Covenant. His people are then called to go to
every people group and proclaim the Gospel. He longs to have His people in every people group. In the New Testament there is no command to make a Christian “Israel”.