You are reading from a letter the apostle Paul wrote to believers in Rome. They lived in the seat of the Roman Empire's government and power. A period of about two hundred years became known as the Pax Romana
. It was relatively peaceful and included the early New Testament times. The Roman government offered great blessings: a stable legal system, relatively safe travel on highways and the seas, mail service, oversight of regional and city governments, and stability for commerce to thrive. The Father had worked in history to bring about this time so that history was ready for My coming (Galatians 4:4-7)
The things that Paul wrote in today's passage about honoring the government spoke to their political situation in a time of a relatively stable government. As you read the New Testament, you will also find very good teaching about how to live as My disciple when the government is growing more hostile. (Both the early chapters of Acts and the whole letter of 1 Peter reflect this kind of situation.) You will also learn how to live faithfully when the government becomes aggressively hostile to your faith (the Revelation to John). During the last years of Paul's life and ministry, he used all the legal tools available to him to protect himself and his ministry from an increasingly hostile government that would eventually execute him (Philippians 1:19-23; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; In addition, don't forget the Old Testament resources of Daniel and Esther as examples of faith when faced with hostile government officials!)
I promised My disciples the Holy Spirit as their Comforter, Advocate, and Helper. Chapters 14-16 of the gospel of John record this extended conversation with My closest disciples. The Holy Spirit was sent both to them and to you to help "guide you in all truth" (John 16:13)
. As Paul told the Corinthians, the Holy Spirit will help you understand both the times and My will for you in these times (1 Corinthians 2:6-16)
I share this with you so that you will understand that the things Paul said here are principles of how My disciples are to live in submission to government. The context was a government that was not openly hostile to the Roman Christians, but this context would soon change. Even as a government grows more hostile, I want you to realize that there are other resources in the Scriptures to help you know how to live faithfully. And by living faithfully, you will be able to honor your commitments to love the Father with all that you are and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40)
The specifics of honoring the government for each changing circumstance addressed in scripture can be a little different. However, basic underlying themes are found throughout the New Testament such as:
- Be a good citizen.
- Do not be a person of violence.
- Make sure any suffering you face is not because of your own bad behavior.
- Be a person of peace.
- Live at peace with all people.
- Be a peacemaker.
- Be a blessing to others.
In addition to these themes, the Holy Spirit within you, My example lived before you, and your brothers and sisters of faith around you can help you know the best way to follow Me faithfully through all kinds of different political climates.
Paul's words today focus on honoring a political government. Your Father in heaven is the God of order and peace, not chaos and lawlessness. So governments are put into place with the divine intention to help and to bless people. When the governments become ruthless and tyrannical, the Father will work behind the scenes of history to bring them down (Psalm 2:1-12; the Revelation to John)
, although there is no way for you to know the Father's timing.
You must honor the government and obey its laws as a good citizen when these laws do not contradict My calling to you. "Do the right thing"
and "live with a clear conscience." "Pay your taxes"
and don't "owe anyone anything"
as you show "love to one another."
Once again, what Paul wrote the Romans brings you back to My second great love command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
This principle will make you a good citizen, because when you live this principle, "love achieves everything the law requires."
In the last third of Romans (chapters 12-16), Paul repeatedly gives practical applications on how to love your neighbor as you love yourself and especially how to love your brothers and sisters in faith. Today's verses focus on this responsibility as a good citizen.
It is important that all of us submit to the authorities who have charge over us because God establishes all authority in heaven and on the earth. Therefore, a person who rebels against authority rebels against the order He established, and people like that can expect to face certain judgment. You see, if you do the right thing, you have nothing to be worried about from the rulers; but if you do what you know is wrong, the rulers will make sure you pay a price. Would you not rather live with a clear conscience than always have to be looking over your shoulder? Then keep doing what you know to be good and right, and they will publicly honor you.
Look at it this way: The ruler is a servant of God called to serve and benefit you. But he is also a servant of God executing wrath upon those who practice evil. If you do what is wrong, then you'd better be afraid because he wields the power of the sword and doesn't make empty threats.
So submission is not optional; it's required. But don't just submit for the sake of avoiding punishment; submit and abide by the laws because your conscience leads you to do the right thing. Pay your taxes for the same reason because the authorities are servants of God, giving their full attention to take care of these things. Pay all of them what you owe. If you owe taxes, then pay. If you owe fees, then pay. In the same way, give honor and respect to those who deserve it.
Don't owe anyone anything, with the exception of love to one another — that is a debt which never ends — because the person who loves others has fulfilled the law. The commands given to you in the Scriptures — do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not take what is not yours, do not covet — and any other command you have heard are summarized in God's instruction: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Does love hurt anyone? Absolutely not. In fact, love achieves everything the law requires.
Father, I am blessed by a stable government that is not horribly hostile to my faith. I thank You for this blessing, but my prayer today is for those who face persecution and martyrdom for their faith. Please, dear Father, work in our time and intervene in the governments of humankind. Bring about the changes that will protect all peoples' freedoms and rights to worship You and to help grow Your kingdom on earth. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.