Instructing Rome about Government

Verlyn Verbrugge

READ : Romans 13:1-7

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God. (v. 1)

One of my seminary professors, whenever he wanted to emphasize that our objections were silly arguments, would say, “That’s like carrying coals to Newcastle.” Newcastle was the heart of England’s coal mining district, so to try to sell coal in Newcastle was the height of folly.

Doesn’t it seem like Paul is doing that here? He is writing to Rome, the Washington, D.C., of the ancient world. And he is instructing Christians there about the nature of government and how believers ought to relate to ruling authorities.

Yet Paul does have something to offer. In fact, sometimes those with a certain distance from a situation can see things others cannot. Government is good and necessary – even pagan rulers have been appointed by God. Thus, we ought to respect, honor, and obey them, and even willingly pay our taxes because governmental authorities are “God’s servants.”

The government has an important role to play in any society: to fight crime, apprehend lawbreakers, and maintain national security. In fact, although vengeance belongs to the Lord (12:19), God does authorize temporal, ruling authorities to function on his behalf. Give thanks to God for good, stable government – and keep its laws.


Thank you, God, for those who keep the peace. I pray for them today. Amen.