Scriptural Meditation- Romans 13:4

for he is G-d’s servant, there for your benefit. But if you do what is wrong, be afraid! Because it is not for nothing that he holds the power of the sword; for he is G-d’s servant, there as an avenger to punish wrongdoers.


I think believers should be careful with how they take this section of Romans 13 about submitting to authority, after all this passage in 2 Peter 3:16 warns that Paul, the presumptive author of Romans, can be disastrously misunderstood:

“Indeed, he speaks about these things in all his letters. They contain some things that are hard to understand, things which the uninstructed and unstable distort, to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”

I wondered if Romans 13 was talking about authority within a community of believers, but the line about the sword makes me think it is instead about the political government of the time and place. Being that this is an epistle to the Romans, I would assume this is aimed at Roman gentile believers in Messiah. How does that differ from a letter written to Jews under occupying forces? I’m not sure. Yocheved resisted Pharaoh’s decree and the two Hebrew midwives were blessed for defying his order to murder the Hebrew baby boys. Rachav lied to and resisted the power of the leaders of Jericho when she hid the two spies. Miriam and Yosef fled from Herod’s decree to murder the male children of Israel; this was at a command from the Father, but the others were actions taken by people on their own. How do those instances of rebellion square with this message to the Romans in this epistle?

All things come from the Father for He is sovereign. The rulers of our day are mere mortals and we must always serve our Maker in spite of what those who wield the sword, who wield power, who are placed their by Him, say or do. No matter our lot, the Father desires for us to follow him and live righteously, even in the midst of godless tyrants.

Published by MJ Muñoz

Husband. Father. Believer. Writer.

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