Thursday, November 10, 2005

Implementing the Law

Another key to understanding Romans 13 is given the third verse of the chapter.

For 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 he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer (Rom 13:3,4).
The word usually translated as “ruler” in the third verse is “arkon”. However, this Greek word can also be translated as “judge” or “magistrate”. It is translated as judge in Luke 12:38. This suggests that Paul is writing about submission to judges. This is confirmed by the context. The role of these authorities is to punish the wicked, which is what judges do, not political leaders or military leaders.

We should also note that the word “authority” is plural. Paul is not talking about a single political leader or king. He is suggesting that we should submit to authorities (plural). Romans 13 is not about kings and parliaments, but confirms the Old Testament teaching of the role of judges. There will be many judges and authorities and we must submit to the excellent ones. This is also consistent with the Old Testament, which always speaks of multiple judges (Ex 22:8,9, Deut 19:17,18; 25:1).

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