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Romans 13 — Thou Shalt Obey…

What to do with Romans 13:1-7

Introduction

And here we are! The last episode of this series. I knew this one would come, and I have been thinking a lot about the applications of Roman 13. I am slightly nervous about making this video (only slightly). Most of what we have discussed until now was basically plain theology and common sense. But as soon as you come into the realm of telling people what they should do… Oh boy!

Christian World-view

Paul is spending many words on how we, as Christians, ought to live life. It is all about looking forward to eternity. Yes sure, we live here and now, but Paul is taking us by the hand and showing us how we should view the world. The way God has transformed us should completely change the way we look at other people for instance. It changes the way we look at ourselves, our jobs, about how we get through the week, and even the way we look at our government. That renewal, that metamorphosis we went through during our re-birth has big consequences in our every day life.

Now, in Romans 13, Paul writes about a huge issue. That issue is the government. And let’s be honest, many of us have issues with the stuff our governments are doing. However, in the light of our Christian world-view, the earthly governments don’t seem to be so important any more. Your Kingdom-citizenship is tremendously more important! Your loyalty to the eternal God matters more than whatever else!

A little sidenote, when I talk about the Christian world-view, you can also say Judeo-Christian or Biblical world-view. Some would argue that there is a difference. Having said that, I believe we should take God’s complete word and see to embody the original Jewish story, truths, and principles upon which the Christian faith was founded. I also believe that there are many who do not identify themselves with Christianity but still treasure their freedoms. I have heard atheists say that we shouldn’t mess with our Judeo-Christian values. It is by no means that unbelievers are dumb just because they don’t believe in Christ. No, many of them realise what a huge blessing the Judeo-Christian values have been for societies.

In the Christian world-view we do not hold some sort of two kingdoms theology, in which we say that the earthly and the heavenly kingdom are kind of equal. Were we say that we have responsibilities in both, and we try to please both. No way! The Christian world-view holds to an ‘one Kingdom’ theology. Your loyalty, as a Christian, is to Jesus Christ! All our decisions, and all our actions ought to go through this filter in which we ask ourselves whether it glorifies God. “Is that what I am about to do or say building up God’s kingdom? Will it show love to others, will it promote the expansion of God’s Kingdom.”

This is first and foremost! A Christian should adopt this world-view. I believe Paul is trying to communicate this with us. All the other stuff is inferior. It might seem big. We can debate endlessly about dumb laws. We even fight each-other over these issues. But in the end, they are temporary, and they only stand in the way of the real Kingdom. It is like Paul wants to shout: “Don’t kill each-other about these matters! Think about God’s Kingdom, you are citizens of heaven!”

Is the Law Changing your World-view?

Okay, why did I emphasise the Christian World-view, you might ask. Well, in the previous episode I already said that we shouldn’t provoke the rulers unnecessarily. However, we’ve also seen that as soon as the rulers tell you to go against God’s greater law, we should obey God more. I hope we all agree on that.

Now, let’s look at the past year and what happened during the unrest concerning the virus. I have met several Christians who weren’t shocked about the measures the governments took. No, they said, it is an act of loving your neighbour by not shaking hands, wearing masks, keeping 1,5 metres distance and what not. But is it really?

Since when is it considered to be loving to stay away from the elderly? Telling them that you don’t give them a hug because they might drop dead to the ground. Mind you, it is not Ebola we’re talking about! We live on Madagascar were, in 2017, an outbreak of pneumonic plague tortured some parts of the country. It even reached the capital were we had to go to the visa-office. Yes, with a plaque like that, you better be careful. But to state that Covid-19 is of the same category as the plaque or Ebola is a blatant insult to all those people who suffered these horrible deceases. I consider it an insult to my own intellect, let alone to the intellect of those who are specialists regarding dangerous deceases.

So what are the results of these crazy rules? Thousands, or maybe millions of people have started to believe that the natural materialistic world is all there is. We do not see each-other as a precious creation of God. No, many have started to see others as a potential danger. A walking biological weapon.

You see, in the Christian world-view we believe that humans have a body and a soul. These two are intrinsically interwoven, they can not function without each-other. By avoiding other people’s proximity, we basically deny that spiritual side of our lives. We focus mainly on the physical part without taking into account that by doing so we abandon the idea that human life is sacred because we received the breath of life from our Creator. He who created us in His image.

We have been taught in the last year that we can control the natural by keeping our distance, wearing masks and avoid physical touch. In other words, people are to be approached as objects. Avoid that object and you might stay healthy. Like in the old times, when your mother told you to wash your hands when you touched the toilet seat of a public restroom. This behaviour, no, not that of washing your hands after you’ve been on the toilet but avoiding people, is directly impacting the Christian World-view.

The Christian world-view acknowledges other people, even the sick, old, young and disabled ones, as precious. Yes, humans are image bearers of the most High. Worth our full attention and affection. Jesus gave the example! He discarded the idea that some people weren’t fit to be part of the community any more. He approached the lepers with open hands, ready to bless them. Didn’t Jesus know that leprosy can be contagious? Of course He did! But, Jesus, compassionate as He is, honoured God more than the established rules. A rule by the way, which was set by God in Leviticus, but was carried out by the people without much grace. Nevertheless, this rule was not set in stone, but it was meant to be carried out with the most important rule in mind: Love your neighbour as yourself.

These are not Just Dumb Laws

As I said, I believe we should fully adopt the Christian world-view. That means that even if governments go crazy, we shouldn’t panic! Our eyes are fixed on God, right? However, when I said we shouldn’t fight each-other over dumb laws, I didn’t mean that we aren’t allowed to say anything.

Concerning the tax for dog owners, which I used as an example in the previous episode, it might be appropriate to remain calm. But how about the laws pertaining to abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage. Laws that tell you that you can’t talk about creation in public schools or even start the day with prayer in the same public schools. Laws that make it possible to drag a baker before the judge if he refuses to bake a same-sex marriage cake. And as mentioned, laws that can potentially cost you a fine or worst, when you shake hands, come too close to someone else, or when you are not wearing that dratted mask. Masks, by the way, that only prevent spreading bacteria since the holes are not tiny enough to stop a virus. To stop a virus you’ll need very special masks which are pretty expensive.i

You might know that the European football cup has started, and I’ve heard that supporters are only allowed in when they can show a negative corona-test or when they are vaccinated. In Holland, test will cost you about 125 Euros… Vaccinations are free. Think about it! How clever is that. So, now the Dutch are re-introducing the system of Apartheid, only this time not based on skin colour but on one’s physical status.

These are not dumb laws in the sense of a dog owner tax. No, these laws take away freedoms that were considered to be normal under the Judeo-Christian world-view. The Judeo-Christian world-view Many of the laws in the western democracies were based on the Judeo-Christian world-view. Now, the very freedoms, that we believe are given by God as an inalienable right, are being used to take away our freedoms. These laws seem to be specifically designed to cut away the roots of the Judeo-Christian world-view. They seem to nibble away bits and pieces, and in the end drag us into a complete opposite direction. Away from the classical world-view, towards a humanistic naturalistic view of life.

Humanistic Naturalistic

Wow! Hold on a minute! What is that about, you say?

You’ve heard me right. We are marching towards a humanistic naturalistic world-view. Humanism should not be confused with humanitarian works. The latter should be embraced by Christians, the first one denied!

Modern humanism considers human beings as the starting point for serious moral and philosophical inquiry. So, please don’t confuse this humanism with the classical humanistic thinking in which one still believed that God was the final answer for ethical questions.

In modern secular humanism we are called to believe that the natural is to be preferred above all else. It is all about me and how I feel about things. It is this view that contributed to the abortion laws. Scientifically human life starts at conception. Human life used to be sacred but not any longer. Now, a mother can ask for an abortion because she might be unhappy with the child, or she might not be able to take care of the child. A mother may ask for an abortion because she doesn’t want to be confronted with that memory of the rapist every time she sees her child. The Christian world-view still upholds the sacredness of the unborn, but humanism teaches that ending the life of a baby should not be seen as a murder because it might ease the mother’s feelings. Her own hedonistic feelings determine the life of another human.

How would we feel about a woman who killed her ten-year-old boy? Well, that depends, right? If the mother killed the boy because she felt tired of having to work hard and taking care of the boy at the same time. It made her sick, she felt it every day. She almost faced depression. Well, I hope we all agree that this is wrong! So what is the narrative around abortion? The child is no person yet; it is just a little blob of cells; it is like a parasite. And so forth and so on.

Are we Surprised?

Are we surprised that these laws came about in just a few decades? We shouldn’t be. You see, these laws are just symptoms of something bigger. We’ve let it happen right under our noses. The passing of these new laws were and still are considered by many Christians as a hiccup in our peaceful society. Yes, that’s the way it just goes right? We have ungodly rulers and with them come ungodly rules. What can you do?

Keith Green sang:

“The world is sleeping in the dark, that the church just can’t fight, cause it’s asleep in the light.”

What did he know back in the 70s… And Francis Schaeffer, a hugely smart philosopher who also mostly preached in the 70s and 80s. Schaeffer already warned the Christians about these changes! Did we listen? No, sadly enough we’ve let it ran through our fingers.

The rise of humanism was already in full swing back in the 70s and 80s. Many Christians, back then and today as well, are strongly influenced by this view. Humanism, in which we are encouraged to develop our own personal peace. A view in which prosperity has to be celebrated.

A little example about ‘personal peace’. Just recently there was a poll among the Dutch. The question was whether people were in favourite for the vaccination of teenagers. Most singles, people without partner and children, were happy about this idea. Yes! Let’s vaccinate those teenager in order for me to be safe wherever I go. No surprise that most parents were against as they still lived a life in which personal peace is hard to achieve.

These two things, personal peace and affluence, are also abundantly present in modern day church.

You want examples? How many Christians have voluntarily closed their doors for visitors during the lockdowns and even long after the lockdowns? How many Christians rather see everybody being vaccinated so that they can walk safely in their favourite supermarket? How many Christians urged others to wear a mask if they came too close? It is all about your personal peace. I want to feel happy, save, comfortable. No matter the costs others have to make.

I’ve also heard Christians say that they wouldn’t mind being in quarantine, as long as they have their laptop and smartphone by their sides, as long as they can be entertained during their confinement. Other Christians, spend a fortune on their dogs or cats but have no money to sponsor missionaries. They are prosperous yet not willing to share it on stuff they can’t relate to. I mean, that dog will be there when you come home, right? Nah! Those missionaries will be fine! Should I go on, or do you get the picture?

Back to Obedience

I read one comment on a video with the following question:

[…]what about rules that are not against God’s rules but just neutral? For example (hypothetically) a law that you can only wear a red hat and not a green hat. Should you obey rules that don’t make you do anything immoral, but are just bad for you?”

Seen from a Biblical point of view one can not say that there is something like a neutral law. Rules mostly fit in a greater picture of a specific society. Is this society predominately humanistic? Then you can count on it that the rules are leaning towards that view as well. In the example of the red or green hat the question arises why one isn’t free to choose. Nothing neutral there!

I guess that the second part of this comment is likely talking about the masks. They seem not to be immoral but are definitely not good for your health—especially not when you consider how many use them. But again, to force entire populations to wear a mask was unthinkable just two years ago. But now everyone is duped into thinking that they really work against viruses and thus everyone assumes that you must wear them. Talking about personal peace right?

I truly believe that Christians should stand up for the truth! Paul did not write Romans to make us into government obeying zombies. Far from that, he specifically explained what our proper responsibilities are! We ought to live according to God’s standards. That means we have the holy duty to resist governments that go crazy. No, I am not calling for a violent revolution! Absolutely not! We, at least in many countries, still have legal ways to counter these changes. Many of you who are watching come from democratic countries in which you have all sorts of possibilities to stand for that what is good.

Micah 6:8 says:

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

So, as soon as you find yourself in an unjust situation you are reminded by Micah to do justly! Or in a situation in which you can not show love and mercy—in the case of dying elderly people who are not allowed to have visitors because they might die with Corona—you have the holy duty to go against such ludicrous rules. And how about walking humbly with your God? How can you walk humbly when you are pushed into a different world-view?

Where do you Stand in Romans?

As we have seen in the previous episodes, Romans 13 cannot mean that we should obey unconditionally. This chapter is embedded in a tutorial about Christian life and how to live it. It is good to have a government above you, but your Christian world-view should always prevail! When the government negates the laws of God, it nullifies its authority. God has given different offices to prevent chaos in our fallen world, but they are by no means sovereign in themselves. Realise this, if you are not allowed to disobey the government, that same government has just been made into a false god.

Throughout history, we see that Christians have always challenged morally corrupt governments or institutes. There is a moment in time in which it is the duty of a Christian to go against his or her rulers. That is not only a duty, no, you might even see it as a privilege. The reformation could only be successful because of disobedient people. Read and learn from our history and see what our forefathers had to go through to make it possible for me to even say all this.

Where do you stand?

My biggest question is: Where are my brothers and sisters in Christ?

Where are the Christian businessmen and women? Are they just doing their thing? Making more money? Or do they dare to speak out. Why do we hear so few Bible teachers speak out against these unbiblical developments? Where are the Bible believing lawyers to fight on behalf of their brothers and sisters who are dragged in front of the judge because they refused to marry a same-sex couple? Why are the Christian lawyers not standing at the frontline to challenge the humanistic laws. Why are the Christian politicians so mild in their opinions. Are they afraid of the establishment? Where are the Bible believing doctors when it comes to issues concerning abortion and euthanasia? Are they afraid to lose their jobs? Where are you? Where do you stand in the discussions on the work floor? Do you really stand for Christ and with that for real freedom?

I know it’s hard! Tell me about it. As missionaries, we depend on donations. I actually know that some of our supporters blocked me on social media. They don’t like ‘conspiracy thinkers’ they said. How many blocked me and didn’t say anything? I don’t know and honestly, I do not want to know. Does that mean I should stop talking truth? Maybe I should start making videos about wildlife on Madagascar? No way! For me, this is the best way to do something. When we were in the Netherlands last year I could speak out in my sermons. I could talk with individuals and try to make them think again.

Doing nothing is not an option! A Christian has not been called to live life for his or her own pleasure. The world around you might teach you that it is all about your personal peace and materialistic stuff that make you feel happy. If you think in terms like that, you should scratch yourself behind the ears and think: “Am I really a follower of Christ? Or do Titus’ words apply to me?”

What did Titus 1:16 say: “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”

Final thoughts

Good, this was the last episode and honestly, the most difficult one to make. Again! I am not calling for a violent revolution. Let that be real clear. We have enough legal possibilities to use. The least you can do is find out what your rights are! For example, in the Netherlands the government has no say about church services. They can give advice on how many people you allow in and about keeping distance, but that is just it, just an advice. Also, in the Netherlands the government has no right to command you how many visitors you receive in your house. None of their business! It is all based on advices. Knowing these rights make it much easier to find your way.

Anyway, I can go on about this topic for hours. I guess the video is long enough already. I am curious about your ideas, remarks or initiatives. Let me know in the comment section below. Please consider to make an account on Odysee and write your comments there. You’ll find an invitation to Odysee in the description below. When you accept that invitation we both receive some free LBC. But also, it is easier for me to answer on Odysee as I have a hard time opening YouTube and Bitchute.

YouTube isn’t my favourite channel anyway. I just received a message that I have been demonetised… Again! I only upload to YouTube because that way I might reach some more people. It is certainly not because they have freedom of speech in high esteem. No, for that you really have to go to alternative platform like Odysee.

I will post some interesting links about, what I thought to be remarkable, events concerning the battle against unjust laws and unjust decisions. Just take a look in the description of this video below.

In that same description you’ll find ways to support me… You don’t have too! But I would appreciate it!

Okay, like always, thank you for watching. The next one might take a while because I’ll be busy travelling the coming weeks. Let me know if you have ideas about topics we can tackle!

God bless you, and we’ll see each-other in the next video!


i https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2021/04/stanford-study-results-facemasks-ineffective-block-transmission-covid-19-actually-can-cause-health-deterioration-premature-death/
https://www.ninefornews.nl/rivm-nanodeeltjes-in-mondkapjes-kunnen-schadelijk-zijn-voor-de-mens/

Romans 13 — Thou Shalt Obey…

What I Believe Romans 13:1-7 Means

Introduction

I am a bit doubtful whether I should name this episode ‘What I believe Romans means’ or ‘What it definitely means’. Let’s just begin, and we’ll find out the most appropriate title along the way, okay?

There is no Authority Outside God

We have discovered in the fourth episode that we, as Christians, need to be focussed completely on God. That is an attitude we ought to adopt voluntarily, but how about those who are in some sort of ruling position? Paul’s opening statement is clear on this: “For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” Whatever exists, whatever breaths, all there is, it is there because God allows it to be there. It is because of this knowledge, Jesus could basically tell Pilate that the only reason he could rule was because God permitted it (John 19:10-11). Even though many rulers don’t think they have to submit, they are submitted under God’s ultimate rule—whether they like it or not. I am not saying here that, because God permits someone to rule, He likes the way they do it. Permitting or allowing, is not the same as approving. It is like that thing with my car. I can only park it before our house where the main path is. Everybody that needs to go out or in the village will have to pass my car. Many love to look at themselves in the reflection… And you know how it is! When you look at your reflection you cannot do that with your eyes only. So, many of them touch my car. What’s the problem, you say? Well, many of our neighbours work hard in the rice field and have muddy hands. After a few days my mirrors and windows are stained with all sorts of interesting blots. I mostly ignore it. I don’t feel like standing there as a guard, so I allow it to happen… Doesn’t mean I like it! I know, this isn’t exactly the same as God who allows stuff to happen but it is to see the difference between allowing and approving. You see, for God all things work together towards something great. He even uses to bad things in a way we have no idea about. For me, the smudged windows just mean more work before I want to travel out off our area. Nope, God is in absolute control! Look at Pharaoh. Boy! Did he thing he was someone! But what do we see? God was just using him as a pawn in a game (which of course was no game but a big demonstration of God’s unlimited power over any so-called Egyptian god). Or look at King Ahasuerus, aka Xerxes in the book Esther. Xerxes was the god-king, creator of everything, ruler of the souls. Right… But in the meantime we read nowhere in the book Esther that he actually makes any decision by himself. God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, but He is conspicuous by His absence. You just know God is there and He is acting on Xerxes. Xerxes is an excellent example of Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, As the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” So, this text unquestionably means that God is sovereign over everyone and everything.

Christians Should Obey Just laws

I also believe that Christians should obey just laws. Hold your horses!! When I say ‘just laws’, I definitely do not say that all so-called just laws are obey-able. For example, we see that governments make laws concerning marriage. The laws seem to be just but there is no way that humans can decided what a marriage is and what not. Marriage is a God-given institute and as such can not be redefined by governments. Even though a law is deemed, by the people, as just, we, as Christians, have to look deeper and find out whether our Christian world-view permits us to acknowledge such a law. That being said, I would like to go a little further by saying that we shouldn’t ignore all dumb laws. There are many rules that are just silly. In the Netherlands dog owners need to pay a tax per dog. Officially they should get places in return, where they can let their dogs run freely. Well, I have more often than not seen that this isn’t happening. And in a tiny, cramped country like Holland that can become smelly real quick. Nevertheless, I would say: “just pay the dumb tax”. No fun being fined and punished for something dumb like that… “Yeah, I had to go to the judge because I let me dog pooh freely without paying tax”. Doesn’t really sound Kingdom-minded, does it?

To Keep Your Conscience in Check

I also believe that it is good to have a governing power above us. Paul says in verse five: “Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” You see, most of us are orientated towards wrong stuff. I know, we do our best but in the end we like to drive too fast or earn just some extra bucks. It is good to have a governing power above us that can punish us for wrong deeds. It is an extra restrain. Selling you car and not telling the new owner that you turned back the odometer. You can get a few hundred buck more but the sword of the government is always hanging above your head. Okay, that went well. You’ve sold it, and now you can buy that sports car. You love to drive it to the max right? But hold on, the police is nearby! I hear you! Christians love to obey God and as such don’t need an extra restrainer… Apparently God knows better. By the way, this is one way to look at this verse. Others will argue that ‘conscience sake’ refers to our conscience towards God. That we should be subject to our rulers not only because we fear the sword if we break the law, but also because we fear the Lord. God knows our hearts. This makes keeping the laws of our land not just a matter of outward abidance, but also of inward obedience to the Lord God. With outward submission, you are honest concerning speed limits because you’re afraid that if you aren’t, you might get caught by the police. With inward obedience, you are honestly obey as you want to have a pure conscience before God, because you know He can read your odometer of your car as well. I believe Paul tackled both these reasons in one. A good conscience if it comes to sin and a clean conscience towards God.

Stay out of Debt

“Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” Paul uses two words for taxes. Tribute refers to direct taxes, such as property tax and income tax. The second, custom, refers to more indirect tax, like sales tax and customs when you import something. I believe, although we often disagree with how our tax is spent, we should pay our taxes. As I said in the previous episode, there is no honour in being punished for doing wrong. Some might say what about abortion clinics? They get funded by tax money. Yes, that’s horrible, I agree! But in a democracy we can protest through proper channels, and we can vote for those who agree on de-funding abortion clinics, but we aren’t free to opt out of paying our taxes. This is, at least to me, the most obvious reason of this verse. I believe that is also means that we should stay out of debt. If we read a little further we hear Paul say: “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Christians must avoid useless expense, and be thoughtful not to have any obligations they have not the possibility to resolve. This also means that Christians shouldn’t get involved with dubious speculations, and They are also to stand aloof from all venturesome speculations and reckless agreements. We should stay away from that whatever may expose us to the danger of not being able to repay our debts to our creditors. We shouldn’t spend more than we have, especially not that which you owe to others. Not owing someone can be seen as a deed of love. This is why Paul uses the second great command right after this passage. None of us like it when someone owes us something which he or she can’t repay. So, if we don’t like it, we should not do it ourselves, right? Not many of us see, being in debt, as a sin, and honestly I don’t believe it is always a sin. But, there are cases in which it is a sin to be in debt. If you want to borrow money or anything else, and you already know you can’t repay it? Just don’t do it than. Even don’t do it when you are in doubt whether you can repay or not. It is an act of love to stay out of debt. We call it the golden rule, love you neighbour as yourself. Do to others as you want them to do to you.

Lastly

This episode turns out to be a bit shorter than the others. I still, don’t know what the proper title of this episode should be. Either ‘What I believe Romans means’ or ‘What it definitely means’, or maybe you know a better title? Let me know in the comments! I am also very curious of what you think this text must mean. Are there any ‘musts’ I have missed? Or maybe you disagree on my analysis? Again, let me know in the comments I prefer reading your comments on Odysee.com. You’ll find the link to my Odysee channel in the description below. There you also find my invitation to create an account on Odysee. If you accept that invitation we both receive some free LBC. I emphasise my channel on Odysee because I have a hard time opening YouTube and Bitchute with our crappy internet connection here in the countryside on Madagascar. The next episode is going to be the last in this series. Last but not least because we are going to see what we, as Christians, should do with this text. I have already been thinking quite a bit about the application and I think it is going to be intriguing. Finally, I would like to ask you whether you have an idea about a possible new series. Are there topic you would like to study a bit more? If not, I’ll stick to my initial plan to tackle the best apologetic arguments one by one. Thanks for watching this video! Give me a thumbs up if you liked it and why not supporting me by sending me some LBC. You’ll find the support button under this video. We’ll see each other next time. God bless you!

Romans 13 — Thou Shalt Obey…

What Romans 13:1-7 Might Mean

Introduction

Sometimes you just want to see whether there are more possibilities than one. Welcome to episode 4 about Romans 13:1-7, in which we are going to do just that! Examining the text to see what else it might mean.

We have looked at history and how our predecessors made of this text, and in the last episode, episode three, we’ve seen what this texts cannot mean. If you haven’t watched these videos I would suggest you do that first. It will make it easier to understand this video. You’ll find the links in the description below.

Early Church Needs to Survive

When I was thinking about the possible reasons of what Paul meant I came cross someone writing about the situation the early church was in. Christians haven’t always been the favourite of the rulers. Those nasty Jesus lovers who teach that you need to love your neighbour. Those people who actually treat their servant as brothers and sisters and in the process teach people they should only bow for God. Well, you probably know what I mean right?

Paul was very much aware of the fact that Jesus told His followers to go out into the world and preach the Gospel to all nations. Might it be that Paul’s concern was that the church would diminish faster than it could grow? What do I mean? Well, the church was still so young that there were just a handful of church leaders. Imagine that the rulers, most likely Nero at that time, started a full-blown campaign against the church. It would have been easy to target that handful of leaders and the rest might fall quickly after.

So when writing this letter, which happened around the same time Luke was writing Acts, he might have been tactical concerning politics. The small group of Christians wasn’t physically strong enough to resist Rome. Also, they didn’t have much to say in the political arena as well. Still, their teaching about Jesus’ second coming could easily be misunderstood by the emperor. I already said in part 2 that Claudius, the previous emperor, had expelled the Jews from Rome because he viewed them as dangerous. Claudius and later Nero viewed Christians as a Jewish sect, so that suspicion of revolution was always a concern in the minds of these men. Maybe they wanted to overthrow the government in order to help bring in Christ’s kingdom.

I said tactical and by that I mean that Paul full well knew that Christians would always obey God more than men. He might have written the text in such a way that a ruler wouldn’t be shocked reading it. Remember, Paul writes this letter to the Romans who live in… You’ve got it, Rome, the seat of power at that time. The letter talks a lot about the heavenly kingdom and about morals that weren’t quit the same as the morals lived out by the powers in Rome.

Changes are that, when you send a letter like that to Romans, the rulers get a hold of it. And just imagine, Nero reading all this stuff about other kingdoms, different values and obeying God above all. He would be furious and might have sentenced all Christians to death. But now Nero comes to chapter 13. You and I get it right? We will put God above all others. We all understand that Nero wasn’t the good guy in this story. But Nero (or one of his servants) reads it and thinks: “Hmmm, those Christians got it right! I am in this place because God ordained it… Heck! I am God! Those Christians are not such a big threat as I used to think. Let’s not kill them… Well at least not all of them.”

Don’t get Punished for Being Bad

Let’s assume you are a burglar, but you also profess to be a follower of Christ. What kind of witness will that be for the world around? Might it be that Paul actually build on the theme as given by Peter in 1 Peter 4:12-19. Peter says in verse 15 and 16 “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.”

In other words, don’t shame the body of Christ by misbehaving yourself. There is no pride in being imprisoned for murder, theft or other clearly wrong stuff. But if you end up in jail, or when they hurt or kill you because you were doing Christ’s works, you can rejoice because it is to the glory of God.

Following this theme Paul might have tried to actually tell us not to do stupid things like partaking in riots or theft. Romans 13 seems to be in line with Peter’s teaching. Just obey the government when possible, and if you get caught doing honourable things for the glory of God you don’t have to be ashamed. In the end all disciples, except John, got in trouble doing the Lord’s work. We do not have to talk about them and feel ashamed. They’ve all got in trouble for preaching the good news.

What kind of legacy would we have if all Jesus’ first disciples died because they rebelled against governments or because they simple hurt other people. I do know of a religion that has this very legacy. Let me assure you, most of the radical followers of this religion are convinced that this behaviour is normal. So, they still run around, doing exactly the same as their examples of the old times, only now with modern day weapons.

No, that was not the kind of religion neither Jesus nor Peter had in mind. Paul understood this completely and with them, he might have tried to show the first Christians that they had to live according to the Kingdom values.

In the Ideal World

Another thing that pops up in my mind is that Paul might have written this with the intention to picture the ideal situation. We can all be pretty sure that during Paul’s lifetime the governing powers weren’t that great, to say it mildly. Just to name two rulers: Herod and Nero. Do I need to say more?

Actually we almost always picture Nero as a total deranged figure, but he wasn’t the only one. The Roman emperors were in a strange habit to act like complete lunatics. When you have some time on your hand you should read a bit about these emperors.

These rulers couldn’t care less about God’s word. They lived their lives without any restrains. Paul’s writing couldn’t possibly mean that he had these rulers in his mind. These rulers did punish people for just merely being in the way, while at the same time they hired an assassin to murder their opponents. In that light it doesn’t sound strange that Paul is writing this to show how the government should ideally function. It could.

Universal Law

It might also be that Paul wrote this down because he wanted to show some basic rules that governments should follow. We’ve talked about these so-called universal rules in part 2 of this series. Remember when we talked a little about Thomas Aquinas in part 2? You can’t remember? No worries, you’ll find the link to that part in the description below.

Anyway, He came up with this idea that the universal laws are given by God. Laws like, don’t murder or steel. Maybe Paul had this in mind when he said that evildoers will be punished by the governing power. And to be honest, most rulers do punish murderers or thieves. If they wouldn’t, their reign would end pretty quick I guess.

If this is why Paul wrote this text than it would mean that we should obey the rulers in that limited range. So, if the ruler says not to hurt people, you should just obey them.

Paul Trusted the Governing Power not to do Wrong

Canicus commented on my last video with a rather interesting thought. Let me just quote him because I think the way he ordered his thoughts are quite clear:

@Canicus

Part of the problem with this passage that leads to the variety of interpretations are:

  1. At the time St. Paul wrote Romans the Empire had not yet undertaken a systematic persecution of Christians. [which is correct because the first systematic persecutions started around 67AD after Nero had burned Rome]
  2. No living Roman emperor had yet demanded worship as a God; the practice was restricted to deceased emperors, so the concillia had not yet begun terrorizing the people to burn a little incense. Further, Christians were still considered Jews and were exempt from the pinch of incense to deceased emperors.
  3. The Romans had acted as a defence for Christians against the Jews. It had been more a boon than a bane at that point. [Although we need to recognise that Pilate was a Jew hater, but he was replaced after he caused an uproar]
  4. He asserts the Roman authorities are λειτουργοί [Lei-tour-gòi, servant of the government who do public work on behalf of the people. This word is translated in verse 6 with servants] of God, which had taken the sense of someone who conducts a formal rite to God.
  5. He quite plausibly from this context expects that the Romans would not punish right behaviour, ‘against which there is no law’ as he asserts in Galatians 5.23.
  6. St. Paul is later executed by the same authorities that he had praised [By this Canicus meant that Paul praised them not for their moral attitude but he thought them to be praiseworthy for the divine service of restraining lawlessness].

From this I think St. Paul meant quite literally the Christians had nothing to fear from the Romans. The severe persecutions hadn’t happened yet. I suspect his view of the Roman authorities was closer to the view in I Maccabees 8 with respect to Christians. He did not know, and had no reason to suspect, that Nero would use Christians as party lights and that emperors would soon begin demanding worship as gods while they were still alive.

Bad readings stem from forgetting this and a bad view of inspiration. When someone cites this passage for X, I remind them, ‘Yes, and those same Roman authorities made his head bounce three times.’ It also makes it easier to read limitations into the text and not abuse it.

Thanks Canicus for sharing these thought with us!

New Life in Christ

Okay, finally I would like to look at the broader context in which this passage is written. I know, we always should do that, so let’s do it now. The book Romans can be split up in three parts:

  1. Doctrine and Theology — Chapters 1-8

  2. God’s Plan for Israel — Chapters 9-11

  3. The New Life in Christ — Chapters 12-16

For time’s sake wesare not going into the first two parts, but we dive right into part 3, the new life in Christ. Chapter 13 isn’t the start of this section, so let’s start a little earlier, at chapter 12. After explaining doctrine, theology and the situation of Israel, Paul starts with the famous text:

(Romans 12:1-2 NIVUK)

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

The main statement Paul is making here is, that if you are a real Christian, you are dead. That’s not a threat, no, it is the logical consequence of giving your life to Christ. You should no longer be conformed to the world, you should be dead for the world and alive in Christ. Paul says that a Christian is a living sacrifice. Yes sure, Christians still breath the same air and eat the same food as non-Christians, but they are already offered. A Christian is not offered in the same way people offer a lam, but a Christian is offered in a way that is pleasing to God. This means that a Christian no longer determines the plans for his or her life. No, it is the Lord who has a plan. A plan that surpasses this earthly world, with all its suffering and immorality, into eternity. Yes, it transcends our physical, mortal bodies.

Knowing this, we can read on. Now we know that we should conform to Christ instead of the world … What is chapter 12 saying? Love one and other; hate what is evil; cling to what is good; bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse; do not repay anyone evil for evil. Nowhere we read that we should have any intention of overthrowing the rulers. Paul is clearly emphasising the Kingdom values as taught by our Lord, Jesus Christ.

What is more, Paul is teaching that we shouldn’t long to take revenge on those who do us wrong. Vengeance is Mine, says the Lord. These are clearly Gospel minded teachings. You live your life as a pleasing sacrifice to God. That is the Christian world-view and it is far removed from the materialistic, naturalistic world-view of the world around us. Now Paul brings it a little closer. What does that mean for every day life? Let’s move on to chapter 13.s

Whatta you know! There is a government above you, and you have to deal with it. You may not like it, and the government may not even like you. But hey! You are not from this world. God, Who is sovereign over you is also sovereign over the rulers of this world. And it turns out that the government actually wield the sword and have the right to punish those who do evil. After chapter 12 Paul doesn’t have to explain that we live in a broken world. A world in which we more and more find ourselves in a lousy situation.

It might well be that Paul is trying to teach us that we should just deal with the issues. Don’t go around and refuse paying taxes because you want to make a point. Don’t neglect your duties towards the government. In all this, the Kingdom values should be emphasised at all times. In light of all this, it is very interesting to note that Paul concludes the whole obeying stuff with verses 8-10:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.

Paul is addressing the Christians. Yes he mentions the government, but no, he is not talking to the government. The Christians were still in the minority and as such, Paul seems to suggest, they need to concentrate on the real important issues. Is government stuff not important? Yes, but for now they, the Christians, couldn’t do much. So focus on each other, strengthen each other, encourage and do good to each other. Live out those values our Lord has given to us.

Why? Because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. In other words, the day of Jesus’ coming is near, verses 11-14.

Lastly

These were the possibilities of this text. And again, don’t think I agree or disagree with these views, I just wanted to sum them up for us to see that there are more ideas than just one. Did I miss a possibility? Let me know in the comments! I prefer reading the comments on Odysee.com because I have trouble loading YouTube and Bitschute because of our reception here. You’ll find the link to my Odysee channel in the description below. There you also find my invitation to create an account on Odysee. If you accept that invitation we both receive some free LBC.

Thanks for watching this video! Give me a thumbs up if you liked it and why not supporting me by sending me some LBC. You’ll find the support button under this video.

We’ll see each other next time.

God bless you!

Romans 13 — Thou Shalt Obey…

What Romans 13:1-7 isn’t saying

Introduction

This is part three of this series about Romans 13:1-7. In part two we’ve looked at the history around this passage. We’ve seen that it strongly depends on who is in charge how we interpret this text. It is also interesting to see that, as soon as the church gained political power or influence, smart people had to think about how to incorporate God’s word into that situation. If you did not see that video yet, I would recommend you to go and watch that one first. Its is absolutely an eye-opener, and you might understand the rest of this series better. You’ll find the link in the description below. Now we are going to see what Romans 13:1-7 is not saying. It is not difficult to make a text to say what you want it to say. That’s what you in theology would call eisegesis. You put your own words into that of the text. But that’s not what we want. We want to do exegesis. We want the individual words being explained by the totality of God’s word.

Treatise on Government

Okay, first of all we cannot use this passage to explain how the government should function. I did hear people say that this text explains how the government ought to be. Some would even go as far as saying that with this text a government has the right to inflict the capital punishment. Verse 4b “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” The fact that this text talks about a sword does not command a government to implement the death penalty. Although there are hints in the Bible of how a government should rule, there are no absolute rules given. You could argue that the Theocracy in the Old Testament is the preferred model but this was meant to be for God’s people. It failed because the Israelites wanted to have a king. Not God as their king, no they wanted to be like the other nations (1 Samuel 8:10-22). The ideal form of government will come when Jesus returns we will live under His rule. He will set up the perfect model. A model we can’t even imagine how it is going to be. The Bible is not advocating one government above another. Sure, we can say that democracy is the model advocated by the Bible. Many of us grew up in such an environment, so we are quick to say that it is almost perfect. However, when people start to decide what rules we should have—that’s what we do in a democracy because democracy means ‘rule by the people’—we quickly end up with rules that are opposite of those given by Christ. As Christians, we shouldn’t strive to live our lives according to the worldly rules. No, we should keep our eyes fixed on Christ and His coming. He will establish the most perfect, unblemished form of government, ruled by Him.

They are not Automatically Right

Politicians, kings, police, dictators and all other sorts of authorities are not automatically right because Romans 13 says that they are established by God. We are all allowed to breath, we are all given life. Does this make that we are always right? No of course not! We are sinners and so are the rulers. That’s what we do, sin. But God, in His wisdom and by His goodness, allows us to life our lives, but He does not agree with all our doings. Also, just mirror the rulers against the ideal, the sermon on the mount. If you’re honest, you’ll see that our earthly governments are not always right. Far from it! They often go straight against God’s word. It is not for nothing that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:1-6 that we, as Christians, shouldn’t go to earthly judges to sort out our problems. Apparently he did not have a high esteem of the authorities. No, better to solve the problems among each other because you share the heavenly kingdom values, as described in the sermon on the mount. We can all come up with examples from the Bible were the ruling party didn’t do that great. Herod ordered all the little children in Bethlehem to be killed. Shall we vote and see who likes to have Herod as king? Or how about that king who wanted to have an extra garden. His wife gave him an excellent idea. Just order the rulers to falsely accuse the owner and let him be stoned to death. I’m pretty confident that we are against such behaviour. But also today, what to think about the legalised infanticide… Yes, abortion. Or that brilliant idea of authorise doctors to kill their patients, euthanasia. Should I go on or do you get the picture? The Bible makes it clear that just because God allows certain people to be in a ruling position that doesn’t mean their always right.

The Rulers only Punish bad People

How often did I hear people say that this or that person must have done something wrong. Why else would the judge have him send to jail? I do understand that people read it like this. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. It does sound like the authorities only punish those who do wrong. However! Can we on the basis of this text say that this is a universal law? Is it true that we only have guilty people in jail? How about God’s own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that Jesus didn’t do anything wrong, He was without sin. And still He got executed by the government. Jesus was not commended for doing that what is right. You want some more examples? How about the illegal execution of Stephen, the beheading of John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph who had to flee because of the infanticide. No, we can be pretty sure that Paul did not write this as a general rule. It looks like he wrote it as the ideal.

Thou Shalt not Criticise the Government

Wow! Tell this to your average Dutch person! We are known for our directness. The region where I grew up even more so. We are even considered to be rude by Dutch people from other places. Did the mayor do something dumb? Then there was a good change that you heard something like this: “Tjonge! Wat een domoor. Laat die gast ophoepelen en eerlijk werk zoeken.” But now we are not allowed to criticise the mayor any more? What about that time that some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” What did Jesus answer? “O thank you dearly I will go away at one’s” No, He said “Go and tell that fox, I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” It looks like Jesus didn’t really respect Herod too much, did He? Didn’t Jesus understand the Old Testament? Exodus 22:28 “Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.” We also have Peter and John in Acts 3 & 4. They were doing their thing and in between Peter healed, through the power of the Holy Spirit, a man who had been lame from birth. Wonderful right? Well, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees didn’t think so. They took both Peter and John and they put them in jail. Later, Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin and they began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “know this, you and all the people of Israel: it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.” And finally, what to think about Paul’s behaviour in Acts 23, when he stood before the Sanhedrin? The high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to hit him on the mouth. Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!” This made the people very angry. Why? Well, the graves were often whitewashed, but only contained dry bones inside. Paul’s insult was severe. They said: “How dare you insult God’s high priest!” Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realise that he was the high priest; for it is written: Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.” Do you think that Jesus, Paul, Peter and John all got it wrong? Was it a slip of the tongue when they criticised the ruling parties? If you take Romans 13 to mean that you are not allowed to criticise the rulers, or for that matter, if you take the word ‘curse’ in Exodus 22:28 and think it means ‘Thou shalt not criticise’, than you should also say these men were sinning against God’s word… Well, Paul, Peter and John might have sinned, they were merely humans after all, but to say that Jesus sinned… Hmmm, tricky business.

Not Everyone can just Claim to be the Boss

When we read this passage without any context, we might say that whoever seizes power is the authority set by God. That is going to be awkward. I’ll use an example from the second world war. When the Nazi army had to withdraw from the Netherlands, because the allies were winning, who was the authority at that moment? One half of the Netherlands was liberated, while the German soldiers were still in charge in the other half. So, one day you obey the occupier and that would have meant that you’ve helped them with all their wicked ideas, right? Then, the next day, you’re cheering and are welcoming the Canadian and American troops. Or, you are still trapped in that occupied part and a Canadian paratrooper comes to your house and is begging you to hide him… But, the Germans ordered complete compliance. Are you going to disobey and hide the soldier? Where lies your loyalty? You see, authority is a very complicated matter. If we only look at history we have to come to the conclusion that we can not read this text as straightforward as some would like you to read it. Authority is not a synonym of goodness. Many rulers, throughout history, were just plain vicious.

You are not Allowed to Disobey

This ties in with another thing this text cannot mean. It cannot mean that you are not allowed to disobey the ruling party. Whatever the government says goes! People who say you have to obey forget the limitation clauses Paul has build into this text. Paul makes it clear in verses 3 and 4 that the authority has to reward those who do good and punish who do wrong. But when the rulers start to deviate these rules, and start to punish or limit those who do good, and reward the wrongdoers, we have the duty and right to obey God instead of the ruling party. Let’s look at the three basic governments as given directly by the hand of God. The government of the family (Matthew 19:4-6), the civil government (Romans 13:1-5) and the government of the church (Ephesians 2:20-21). I hope we all understand that the authority in the family, as given by God, is not unlimited. In Ephesians 1 we read that children need to obey their parents. We don’t find any limitations here, but we all understand that a child should not obey when his father or mother tells him to rob someone. Likewise, the churches. Hebrews 13:17 says we have to obey our leaders and submit to them. Again, not limitation clauses to be found. But here also, we all automatically understand that this submission can’t mean to be unlimited. When a church leader misbehaves horribly and tells you in the process that you can’t tell the others, we all understand that it is no sin to discuss the matter with the other leaders. But, as soon as we arrive at the civil authorities, where we clearly do find limitations, many tend to think we always have to obey. This is simply a misrepresentation of the text in Romans 13. It is an interpretation that has been read into the text. That what we in theology call eisegesis, your reading something into the text that is not there. It cannot be found in Romans 13 nor in 1 Peter 2:13-14 or that matter. In both texts we find the clear limitations. Both texts state that the rulers are there to punish evildoers and to reward those who do good.

Good Hermeneutics

Hermeneutics is the study of the Bible as a whole. You’re doing it wrong when you isolate one verse or even one chapter. Good biblical hermeneutics dictates that we should always study the text in light of the other texts. In other words, Scripture interpret scripture. So, scripture with the small ‘s’, these are the single verses or chapters, are to be interpreted by Scripture, with the capital S, which is God’s complete word, the Bible. When we do this, we will find that nowhere the Bible is actually teaching us that we always have to obey the governing powers. No, quit the opposite. We see time and again that the people of God, I mean those who truly love Him, constantly disregard the rules of the Kings and other rulers. As soon as it goes against God’s higher laws, they will set aside the man-made rules and sometimes by doing so they have to face horrible consequences. Let’s look at Daniel in the book, Daniel 6:6-10. Nobody was allowed to pray to God. They had to pray to the king. Daniel openly defied this law. He sat down at the window, which was open. He knelt down, so nobody could have mistaken about what he was doing. He did this three time a day! Everybody could see him, there was no mistake. So, like Daniel, at some point you might even have to be clear in your disobedience of the ruling power.

In the end

Now, some will say that, even though they read this text in a literal rock solid straightforward way, they also acknowledge that we should obey God more than the government. But, we do not see this escape in this text. It does not say ‘obey… unless’. We do not see any allowances in this text. You can’t have both. Either you read this text literally en wrestle your way through the rest of the Bible, or you allow yourself to be a bit more nuanced and try to find out what is really behind this text. In the next video we will look at what Romans 13 might mean. Yes, that does sound vague, doesn’t it. But because we want to approach this text open-minded I would like to look at the possibilities this text gives. Please allow me some time to dive into the next episode… I actually have other work to do as well you know. In the meantime, let me know what you think about this episode. Do you know of other things, that has been said about this text, that fail the test of sound biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. Also, if you watch this video on YouTube or Bitchute you can subscribe there, but I have a hard time opening these two platforms due to bad internet. So why not follow me on Odysee. You’ll find the link to my invitation in the description below. When you accept my invitation, we’ll both receive some free LBC! Yes, really free, no strings attached. You can also show your appreciation for my work by sending me a tip. Just click the ‘support’ button under this video! Thank you for watching, and we’ll see each other next time, God bless you.

Romans 13 — Thou Shalt Obey…

Throughout History of Romans 13:1-7

Let’s dive into the history and see what Christians throughout the ages made of this text. As I said in the introduction Romans 13 seems almost always be invoked by oppressing groups or governments. It is not often that you hear the ‘normal’ people say that we need to obey whatever the rulers want you to do. These normal people usually suspect that there is more behind this text.

Early Church

When we look at the early church we see a diverse reaction. Many early Christians expected the return of Christ pretty soon. It seems that many of them just laid low and tried to make the best out of life. Paul was writing to Christians, some of whom were Jews, in the capital of the Roman Empire. Claudius, the previous emperor, had expelled the Jews from Rome a few years before because he viewed them as dangerous (Acts 18:2).

The Jews hated being under Roman rule. The Romans often viewed Christians as a Jewish sect, so that suspicion of revolution was always a concern in the minds of the rulers. Also, Christians easily could have taken Jesus’ teaching about the coming kingdom of God to mean that they should work for the overthrow of the secular, morally corrupt government in order to help bring in Christ’s kingdom. In fact, when Paul wrote Romans, Nero, one of the most evil rulers of all time, was on the throne. What a time for a revolution! I mean, living under Nero wasn’t fun at all. Most people that resisted this absolute dictatorship ended up dead. We can see what happened when the Jews started to resist in 70 AD. They got slaughtered and the temple ended as a pile of rubble. Nope, with the usual exception, most Christians just tried to obey and hoped that Christ’s return would be soon.

Now that last statement is a bit misleading. I say that the Christians ‘tried’ to obey. That this didn’t work in many cases seems obvious when we see how many got executed. Sometimes we tend to think you were just thrown in front of the wild animals for not reason, but that is too simplistic. No, the Roman Empire had no problem with people of other religions. If you wanted to worship Zeus or Wotan, by all means, go ahead, as long as you bow to the emperor. Not bowing to the emperor was seen as a matter of state, it was obligatory. Didn’t you bow? Then you were considered to be dangerous to the state. Many more of this kind of rules made it pretty difficult for Christians to obey.

Constantine

But it started to look like Jesus wasn’t coming back as soon as many wanted Him to come back. So we move on in time, and in the fourth century we see emperor Constantine who became the first emperor of who is said that he accepted Christ. Under him and Theodosius (347 – 395) we see that Christianity started to become the accepted religion. This meant that the church fathers had to develop, what you call, a theology of the state. This basically means they had to think about how Christians and the Christian faith had to deal with government issues.

In this time we see the church father Augustine coming to the scene. Augustine wrote a thesis which is known under the title ‘City of God’. This thesis talks about two cities. One is the earthly city or city of men and the other is the city with true believers. The latter is mostly concerned with Godly issues and in the first one, people are mostly busy with their own traditions. Augustine said that these two cities will always be in conflict. He explained that a righteous government could restrain the impulses of the city of men. Some say that Augustine wasn’t afraid to say that the city of God could even use violence to keep the city of men under control… But that last statement is debated among scholars.

Papal System

Not long after we see that the church starts to appoint popes to rule the entire universal church. Now it became interesting because the theology around the pope was that he is the representative of Christ on earth. So, if he is that powerful shouldn’t other rulers just listen to him. Can the pope declare who becomes king and what the kings or emperors can do and what not? The theology that comes out of this situation is called the ‘two sword theology’. One sword is spiritual and the other is the natural sword. Both are from God, but the spiritual sword has more authority and can tell the other what to do. Well, you might imagine that this caused some trouble between rulers and the church.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Aquinas was a very smart man who became not older than 49. I am always a bit shocked when I do the calculations… Anyway, Aquinas was a pragmatic man. He was the one who came up with the idea of ‘just war’. Oh! I would love to talk about that idea for a while, but I will restrain myself.

He looked at the world and saw that there was a sort of universal law. Everything needs to listen to this law. This law comes directly from God, and it talks about things like life, how we should treat one and other, and things like property. However, next to these universal laws he sees that there are also laws that are there because rulers put them in place. Many of these laws are obvious and righteous. Don’t murder, don’t steel, rape, lie etc.

He also sees some rules that are more or less relative. You know, they seem to be depending on the culture and time. He says that these rules are not necessarily wrong and the Christian shouldn’t make too much fuss about them. In modern day Holland we could say that the compulsory permit to build something is such a law. Personally I wouldn’t battle too much over this idea.

On the other hand, there might be a government that gives some hideous law. A law that goes against the universal given law. Aquinas’ idea is that a Christian should obey God above all. Aquinas sounds much like what we say today and with that he actually set an example for many who came after him.

The Reformers

Now we jump to the time of the famous reformers. Luther (1483-1546) kind of liked the idea of separation of church and state. He did teach that Christians should obey the government, but he thought that the government should not interfere with church business. That was a very good idea, but we have seen that whenever the governing parties wanted more power they actually started to break with this idea. They’re idea was often that when the controlled the church, the controlled the people. Hitler quickly made sure that he had allies in all influential churches of Germany. He simply dismissed the critical pastors and replaced them with pastors who shared his ideas.

When we look at Calvin(1509-1564) we see that he mostly agreed with Luther. He said that Christians should obey both the church and government. He took it a little further by teaching that the state should enforce the Biblical values. By doing so, the state would set an example for the world around. Calvin, did not directly protest when the state punished people for having heretical ideas.

Now, we come at Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531). This is a very interesting man. I actually examined his life and work during my theology study. Zwingli said that the church had to order the state what to do. Not only that, he believed that the church had to be fully involved in state matters, even if that meant they had to use violence. What I admire about Zwingli is that he wasn’t an ivory tower pastor. No, he walked the talk. He did what he preached. He was prepared to get his feet dirty. He went as far as leading his church into battle against the Roman Catholics. Now, mind you! I am not saying that I agree with everything he said and did. Let that be clear. Zwingli died. Yes, so does everybody right? But Huldrych Zwingli died in battle, fully convinced about the task he thought the church had, namely ruling over secular institutes.

You might ask whether there was any conflict between these reformers. Well, let me cite Luther when he heard that Zwingli died in battle:

They say that Zwingli recently died thus; if his error had prevailed, we would have perished, and our church with us. It was a judgment of God. That was always a proud people. The others, the papists, will probably also be dealt with by our Lord God.i

Although Luther’s dislike of Zwingli’s theology was mostly about the way both interpreted the meaning of the bread and wine during the Eucharist, it is clear that they weren’t the best buddies.

Enlightenment

In this period, I am talking about the 17th and 18th centuries, the idea was mostly to keep the state out of church business and the other way around. The thought is older, but the expression ‘separation of church and state’ comes from ‘wall of separation between church and state’, a term coined by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). John Locke (1632–1704), one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers, already promoted this idea.ii

Locke said that the government lacked authority in the realm of individual conscience, as this was something rational people could not hand over to the government for it or others to control. For Locke, this created a natural right in the liberty of conscience, which he said must therefore remain protected from any government authority. In other words: The separation was meant to protect the church. People just didn’t see any advantage of a state telling the Christians how to understand their theology. Still, the Christians believed that their faith could be influential in state affairs. But the role as law enforcer was to be a typical state matter. Only the state could use violence and violence could not be induced by the church. The decision to use violence could never be on the shoulders of the one who had to carry it out. In other words, it is not the soldier that makes the decision, but it is the soldier who carries it out.

Modern Times

Okay, let’s go to modern time. I already said we’re not going to discuss the Hitler regime so let’s see what happened after the war.

Things seem to become more quite in Western Europe. Well, not everywhere of course. We still had the problem in East-Germany, the Democratische Deutsche Republiek. There wasn’t much democratic stuff going on there. And there were also the other dictators who all made life miserable for many people. The fascist dictator of Spain, Francisco Franco, controlled the country until the mid-1970s. We also had Antonio Salazar and later Marcelo Caetano who both ruled Portugal with an iron fist up until 1975.

Maybe I should say, it became relatively quite in the Netherlands … Yes, that is more safe to say.

Democracy seemed to flourish, and we’ve seen many political parties that originated out of Christian groups. Many of the politicians were very well-behaved, so it seemed. The either went to church every Sunday or they were quick to say that they treasured the Christian morals.

You see that nice man who our prime minister? He is a Christian, so he will do what is good for us. In such an environment not many Christians doubted whether to obey the government on the basis of Romans 13 or not.

In this phase it wasn’t hard for the politicians to get people on board. As time moved on, they refined their narrative in such a way that even the liberal Christians and many of the unbelievers joined them as well.

Depending on the Leader

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities […] For the one in authority is God’s servant […] They are God’s servants.”

It strongly depends on whose name you fill in. If you say “let everyone be subject to Nero because he is God’s servant”, you obviously get a different taste of this passage.

While, at least in the Netherlands, I made sense to obey the government just after the second world-war. It might not make as much sense now. Of course, I know Christians who don’t want to hear anything bad or doubtful about certain politicians. Why not? Well isn’t that clear. He is a Christian! Why else would he be a member of this or that party? Be that as it may, doesn’t the Bible also teach us that we recognise the tree by its fruits? And going back to the introduction of this series, don’t you think weird stuff is going on right now?

Why would a politician of a Christian party wants to take away certain basic rights? Why this talk about compulsory tests, vaccines and quarantines? Why pushing away politicians who try to investigate certain ‘misunderstandings’? Why flat out lying about stuff you just said on public television… No, I can’t recall I’ve ever said that.

You see, in this last period only, enough weird stuff is going on to make us think that Romans 13 might be about something else than face value read. Is Paul talking about something else?

And I know, I take the crisis around the virus as an example while there is so much more going on. But hey! Where would we be without real life examples, right? However, it does explain the rise of several political parties who all want to do it better. In Holland, we have a fairly new party that isn’t primarily Christian, but their speech is. They clearly vocalise that they want to return to the Judeo-Christian values on which our country was once established. And I know of many Christians who voted on them. Why? Well, reading Romans 13 on face value becomes so much easier when the governing power lives out the Christians values. It is as simple as that. And I can relate to that feeling. Life becomes easier when you don’t have to worry about your rulers all the time. Hold on! I am not saying that I agree or disagree with the idea of trying to get a ruling position, so we can form a government that doesn’t disturb our view on this passage. No, I merely try to give an outline about the things that are going on.

In the end

Anyway, this was an outline of the history. I hope you tasted a bit of how difficult it has been throughout the ages to interpret Romans 13. We see that Christians throughout the ages have been defying the rules and at the same time they tried to obey them. They tried to be compliant, but they didn’t always succeed. If you struggle with this passage… or maybe you never wrestled with it until now. Don’t think you’re the only one. Many of the most smart people in history have wrestled with Paul’s words. In other words, you are not strange by suspecting that there might be more going on than just the brick solid straightforward read of this passage.

Footnotes

i Luther Works Tabletalk No. 94: God’s Punishment of the Godless (Early November 1531).

ii https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-hccc-worldhistory2/chapter/the-enlightenment/

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