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An Appropriate Christian Response to Tyranny

An Appropriate Christian Response to Tyranny

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Published by d4linthicum
Romans 12:1-7 poses problems for Christians, yet Paul's admonition is really a call to moral action.
Romans 12:1-7 poses problems for Christians, yet Paul's admonition is really a call to moral action.

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Categories:Types, Research, Law
Published by: d4linthicum on Jun 20, 2009
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06/20/2009

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EXPOSITIONAL PAPERSubmitted by Dennis LinthicumMay 2008
THE PROPER RESPONSE TO HUMAN GOVERNMENT 
ROMANS 13:1-7A.
 
Romans 13:1-7
1
 
13:1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is noauthority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.13:2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, andthose who resist will bring judgment on themselves.13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to beunafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from thesame.13:4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for hedoes not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to executewrath on him who practices evil.13:5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also forconscience’ sake.13:6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attendingcontinually to this very thing.13:7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs towhom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
B.
 
Introduction
“When we think of Romans, we think of Doctrine. Moreover, this response is bothunderstandable and appropriate.”
2
This quote from Douglas Moo’s superb study of the Epistle tothe Romans highlights the reason that Paul’s passage regarding submission to “governing
1
Romans 13:1-7 (NKJV). Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NKJV) are from the New KingJames Version copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.
2
Moo, Douglas,
The Epistle to the Romans
(Grand Rapids, MI, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996) p. 1
 
Page 2 of 17authorities” (
exousia
)
3
deserves critical analysis. If Paul’s admonishments are doctrinal, then allChristian believers should subscribe to this Biblical doctrine, recognizing it as a distinctobligation to be performed. William Shedd refers to the Westminster Shorter Catechism toillustrate this aspect of doctrinal obligation, the “Scriptures principally teach what man is tobelieve concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.”
4
 Doctrinal realities are simply basic truths about God. They fall into two distinctcategories: 1) real, observable and unobservable characteristics of God, and 2) any duties orrequirements that God might demand from His creation. Basic truths about God would includeour Biblical understanding about His nature or character, like His justice, love and mercy.Doctrine regarding His characteristics would describe the details of His nature and Hispersonhood. This category includes the concepts of omniscience, omnipotence, and omni-benevolence. The second category, understanding man’s duties to God, is a moral category. Thisentails an understanding of man’s physical and spiritual condition and any appropriate oracceptable responses required by God. According to Romans 13, a Christian’s response toauthority would entail this type of a moral requirement.Man’s response to governmental authority is composed of some form of adherence,support, duty, or obligation to God’s sovereignty, as administered through local governance. Yet,this blanket response can be fraught with trouble when a proper accounting of the human heart iscompiled. What if the authorities themselves are evil, or at least enforcing regulatory constraintsagainst righteous and godly behavior? One of Isaiah’s prophesies refers to this very
3
cf. Romans 13:1-7 (NKJV). The Greek word exousia is used 4 times in the passage to be considered and typicallyrepresents governing authority or a higher power of authority. The various contextual usages of exousia will bediscussed below.
4
Shedd, William G.T.,
 Dogmatic Theology,
3
rd
ed.
 
(Phillipsburg, NJ, Presbyterian and Reformed PublishingCompany, 2003) p. 53
 
Page 3 of 17circumstance, where Isaiah cries, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.”
5
Specifically,how should a man act in regards to the various authority figures, which he encounters in hisindividual life’s circumstances? Is Paul’s admonition imperative? Is it an absolute requirementalong the lines of, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved”
6
Or, are there any distinctcircumstances where Paul’s admonitions might not apply? This paper will address thesequestions through a contextual and historical analysis of Paul’s narrative.
C.
 
Historical & Cultural BackgroundTime Period
Scholars place the writing of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans easily within the first thirtyyears of the early church’s development. The most common time frame for reference would be ator about A.D. 57. Biblical authors, along with Paul, never actually provide dates for any eventsthey record, but they often refer to historical situations and personalities that appear within thecultural context of their narratives. Scholars use this data to weave the various timeframereferences that are found in the New Testament literature with external written andarchaeological material. Most New Testament timeframes are conversational references (“theyspent considerable time”, “after some days”)
7
verses precise and rigorous time references that themodern historian would prefer. However, there are occasional elements (“a year in Antioch”,“three months in Greece”, “two years in Rome”)
8
that provide considerable help in creatingreasonable estimates for the travels and writings of any given author. In this regard, “By far the
5
cf. Isaiah 5:20 (NIV). Quotations designated (NIV) are from the Holy Bible, New International Version,Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
6
cf. Acts 16:31 (NET). Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible®copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. www.bible.org. All rights reserved.
7
cf. Acts 14:3; Acts 14:28; Acts 15:36
8
cf. Acts 11:26; Acts 20:3; Acts 28:30

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