Romans 13 Bible Study – Living Under God and Man’s Authority

Romans 13 show how the believer in Christ should be living in the world and in the church, and what that looks like in real life.

Prelude to Romans 13

Romans chapter 12 is how Christians are to live in the world, but this chapter also shows how they are to live among other believers, and it also tells us that we need a transformed mind by a renewal of the Holy Spirit (Rom 12:1-2), but how is this possible in the world that we live in today? We are commanded to be a living sacrifice, but the problem comes when we keep crawling off the altar to live to ourselves, and I am no exception. I have used this same study for our prisoners and church members to teach them how to be model Christians and model citizens in the world, and how to be a living witness and testimony to Jesus Christ and the Gospel, so here is a Bible study on Romans 13 about how we are to submit to authorities and how Christians are to love, both the members of the church, and even those who are our enemies.

Christianity in the World

How does the Christian affect the world? What does being salt and light mean? What are God’s requirements of every Christian in the world as far as being an employee? Actually, the world would be a much better place, and so would businesses, government, and the private sectors of society, if Christians really lived like Christians, so Romans chapter 13 can tell us how Christians ought to relate to their employers, employees, authorities, fellow believers, and to society in general.

Submitting to Authority – Romans 13:1-2

Paul is clear about what God’s expectations are for believers in the world of work. Starting in verse one he writes: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.”

Who is Paul talking about here?

What are the ways in which this can be lived out?

Where do these two verses apply?

When are there opportunities to live this out?

Why is this important?

How can we fulfill these commands?

Resisting God – Romans 13:3-5

Being obedient, submissive, and a faithful worker are commands for all believers. For example, in verse 3 Paul continues, “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.” God has placed people in the church as it pleased Him, not us, so our church has a deacon, and elder, so we should realize that people that are in authority over us, at work, in public and in church, are there because it was God’s choice. God, in His sovereignty, has placed each person in their position in the church and in society for their and our own good.

Does this apply only for believers?

Whom should we fear when we break the law…God or man, or both?

What does our conscience have to do with obedience?

Brethren Church

Respecting Authority – Romans 13:6-7

Paul continued in verse 6 “For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” In other words, we are to esteem those in authority with respect and the honor that is due them, and that includes paying all that we owe in taxes. You don’t do this because you necessarily agree with them, but because God has instructed Christians to do so.

Does this clearly tell us that we are to pay whatever taxes we owe?

What does it mean to pay customs to whomever customs are due?

What does fear have to do with obedience?

Are we limited to who we must honor?

Submission in Society – Romans 13:8-9

In verse 8, Paul says that we are to “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness, ‘You shall not covet,’, and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

Does this mean we should avoid debt at all costs, like car and house loans?

What law is Paul writing about?

What does loving your neighbor look like?

Walking in the Light – Romans 13:11-13

Paul tells us that the world is watching us and so he says in Romans 13:11-13, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

What does “walking properly” mean?

How do we supply provisions for the flesh?

What does it mean to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ?”

Conclusion

How different would the world be if Christians took these commands to heart to be a good neighbor, a model citizen, employer/employee, and a fellow member of the Body of Christ? If we truly lived this out, then it could be said of us too that “These that have turned the world upside down are come here also” (Acts 17:6). Maybe it should read that they have turned the world right side up, in the way that it was supposed to be originally, before the fall!

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

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  • Good study once again Jack, thank you very much for your scholarship broken down into easy to digest pieces. This is your gift brother dear.

    We need to clarify who are the authorities we are to obey.
    It is not necessarily man’s government is it?
    We are to obey man’s law UNLESS it violates God’s Law.
    Are we ready to do this?

    I am married to an elder who will be doubly blessed.
    One placed in a great office of trust in all his humility.

    Growing into the role by the exegesis of The Holy Spirit.

    There may be a physical death involved as a martyr at some point.
    Or fighting the apostasy of the “American church” who is by-in-large apostate.

    Jack will tell you in prison there are those who have turned four-square around and are now following I AM, The Way, Truth, and Life.
    Are you ready to go to the prisons at some point and minister to those who are in prison because of their refusal to betray Jesus Iesous Y’shua?
    Think Paul in the Roman Prison and Timothy, Titus, and others came to cheer him and be his deliverer of the letters to the churches.

    See Jack’s “Visiting Jesus in Prison
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2017/11/17/visiting-jesus-in-prison/

  • Doug Barron

    You mean that I have to be NICE??

  • Are we to obey the governing authorities if such authorities act unjustly? Would we be called upon to obey a Hitler where he commands the extermination of 6 million Jews in the gas chambers? Would we be called to obey a god who commands the mass slaughter of little children and babies? Are we called to obey the status quo when to do so would involve one in social injustice?

    Does God require us to support slavery or to reject slavery? Does God require us to grant women equality in leadership positions in the church, government and community organisations or does patriarchy still apply? Does God require workers to docilely obey their employers or should they seek justice in the distribution of their wages? Are Christians meant to support the status quo if the dominant political party supports this, or to challenge the status quo in the name of justice?

    And in democracies, different political parties have different policy positions. One party may be in power today and another tomorrow. So is God in charge, when it is the will of the majority, whose policies are being carried out? What happens if this will is contrary to the bible? Are Christians to obey their government or are they permitted to reject what the government says and disobey? And how can we say that modern government has any relation to an ancient book? And what if God doesn’t exist, how can we talk obedience to God meaning obedience to the governing authorities?

    • Jack Wellman

      Would you feel better under communism Mr. Arthur? If authorities act unjustly, does this mean we don’t have to obey the law? Would it be right then to have us act unjustly too since some do act unjustly? If any manmade law is contrary to the Bible, we must obey God over man (Acts 5:29), otherwise, we must obey mankind (as imperfect as they and as we are). What do you think sir?

      • “Would you feel better under communism Mr Arthur?”

        I don’t know where you get the idea that I would feel better under communism. Of course not! It’s a totalitarian system. I do believe in the rule of law and so operating within the legal framework for social change. But if laws are unjust, then on some occasions disobeying a law might be the lesser of two evils than obeying the law.

        If God exists and is just, then any law that is unjust is contrary to the mind, will and purpose of God. While disobeying the law should probably be a last resort and the rule of law be upheld, our first move should be to attempt to change the law in our democratic societies, and if it is impossible to change the law then we should consider disobeying it but only if we have given democratic change a persistent and continual scope for change.

        Communism is a top down use of political and economic power by the power elite in communist societies. It is socially unjust. But change is likely to be very difficult.

        Sometimes, non violent resistance or the Anabaptist concept of non resistance is perhaps a better strategy. Be a peacemaker in a world of power and violence where power (economic and political) is from the top down Be also a peacemaker in a democratic world where change is possible but where there is an unequal distribution of political and social power. Jesus, in his Nazareth manifesto, said that” the Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to set at liberty the oppressed and to announce the year of the Lord’s favour”. Some scholars take the phrase “the year of the Lord’s favour” to be the year of a permanent Jubilee in which the captives would be set free. John Yoder, the Anabaptist theologian and theological ethicist, took this view.

        According to Yoder, there is meant to be a redistribution of capital from the rich to the poor at the jubilee. This is not communism, since it is voluntary and is based on bottom up power.