Romans 13 continues in the same spirit of chapter 12 – advice for Christians on how we should relate to one another. Chapter 13 opens up with a focus on our fiduciary duties to Government and other authority structures.
Authority is God’s tool. It regulates communities and ensure people do good. It also administers justice and retribution and is the only structure on earth that has been empowered by God to execute vengeance.
“For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, [you should dread him and] be afraid, for he does not bear and wear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant to execute His wrath (punishment, vengeance) on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath and escape punishment, but also as a matter of principle and for the sake of conscience.” Romans 13:4-5
What should our response be then when the custodians of the law pervert it or use scripture to assert they have a “divine right to rule” (like the English Monarchy once did)? I hope Paul addresses these concerns at some point. It is a real issue in nations struggling with corruption and abuse of authority.
Paul tells us that walking in love fulfills every requirement of the Law. If we walk in love, we will have no problem relating to one another. This of course take us back to a dependence on the Holy Spirit as love is one of the fruits of the Spirit. He is the author of love.
“But if you are guided (led) by the [Holy] Spirit, you are not subject to the Law.” Galatians 5:18
“But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge].” Galatians 5:22-23
Finally, Paul encourages us to live as if these were our last moments on earth.
In Paul’s day, the Apostles thought Jesus would return in a matter of years. In fact, the thinking then was that John the Beloved would not die until Jesus had returned (because of a curious statement Jesus made):
“Jesus said to him, If I want him to stay (survive, live) until I come, what is that to you? [What concern is it of yours?] You follow Me! So word went out among the brethren that this disciple was not going to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not going to die, but, If I want him to stay (survive, live) till I come, what is that to you?” John 21: 22-23
In that spirit, Paul encourages believers to live deliberately:
“The night is far gone and the day is almost here. Let us then drop (fling away) the works and deeds of darkness and put on the [full] armor of light. Let us live and conduct ourselves honorably and becomingly as in the [open light of] day, not in reveling (carousing) and drunkenness, not in immorality and debauchery (sensuality and licentiousness), not in quarreling and jealousy. But clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), and make no provision for [indulging] the flesh [put a stop to thinking about the evil cravings of your physical nature] to [gratify its] desires (lusts).” Romans 13: 12-14
This advice still holds true today for no one knows when they will die and leave this earth.