Sunday, September 6, 2009

Romans 13:1-7

In 1853, James M. Wilson published his Civil Government: An Exposition of Romans 13:1-7. Here is a quote from page 5o for your Sabbath meditation:

Do [civil authorities] oppress knowingly and obstinately? Do they slight and dishonor religion? Do they bestow their favors upon any kind of false religion? Do they disregard God and repudiate the paramount authority of His Bible? Are they guilty of any or of all of these sins? If so, then, whether they be few or many, the friends of liberty, of religion, and of God, should withhold from them their conscientious obedience; for they are not “a terror to evil doers, and a praise to them that do well.”

How does someone come to this conclusion while exegeting a passage that exhorts submission to authority? I suggest you read the pages leading up to that quote in order to find out.

One thing is clear. On one side you have those who explain this passage, while on the other you have those who explain it away.

On which side does Wilson fall? You decide.

1 comment:

Randall Gerard said...


Great post! I'm surprised this topic hasn't drawn more comments given the applicability of the passage to today's political situation.

You ask a good question: How can Wilson draw a conclusion calling for non-obedience from a passage that calls for obedience. The answer, I think, lies partially in the whole counsel of God. While Paul is certainly teaching loyalty and submission to legitimate authority, he is not giving those in authority a 'divine right' to rule however they want. He calls them 'ministers of God' and 'rewarders of good, punishers of evil'. A minister is one who represents and mediates God's authority, in accordance with God's instructions. The authorities are themselves under the authority of God. They do have an obligation to acknowledge God and define good and evil the way God would define it.

"Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who frame injustice by statute? They band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death. But the Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge. He will bring back on them their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; The Lord our God will wipe them out." Ps. 94:20-23 ESV

"Now therefore O Kings be wise; be warned O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear; and rejoice with trembling." Ps. 2:10,11 ESV.

I agree with Wilson, though I think his generation may have favored rebellion a little too much at times. There is a biblical balance we must all strive for between Godly submission and Godly resistance.