Romans 13

These small group studies of Romans contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Romans 13 Inductive Bible Study

Paraphrase

  1. Every person should obey the governing authorities. There is no authority that God didn’t establish. God established every authority.

  2. So if a person disobeys the authority he is disobeying the authority that God established. If a person does this he will be judged.

  3. Those who do right do not need to fear the government, but only those who do wrong. Do you want to be free of fear towards authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.

  4. It is the tool of God to do good for you. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because authorities will use the power to punish you. It is the agent of God to bring punishment on those who do wrong.

  5. So it is necessary to submit to the government so that you won’t be punished and so that you can have a clear conscience. Acts 24:16

  6. This is the reason why you pay taxes. For the authorities are God’s agents and governing is their job.

  7. Give people what you owe. If you owe taxes, pay them, if revenue, respect, or honor, give it.

  8. Do not remain in debt, except the debt to love one another, for loving others fulfills the law.

  9. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “do not murder,” “do not covet,” and all other commandments are summed up by the rule to love one’s neighbor as himself.

  10. Love does not hurt others. So love fulfills the law.

  11. Love each other, understanding the present age. You need to wake up from your sleep, because our salvation is nearer than we first thought.

  12. The night is almost over; and the day almost here. So put off all acts of darkness and put on the armor of light.

  13. Let us behave decently as we would in the daytime, nor in carousing or drunkenness, or sexual sins, or arguing, or jealousy.

  14. Instead clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to fulfill your own sinful desires. 1 Thess 5:1-11 (cross reference for 11-14)

Cross-references

1 Peter 2:13-20 – Passage on submitting to authorities.

Judges 21:25 (Three times in the OT it says that the people were doing right in their own eyes. They had no authority to establish order and the result was sin unchecked.)

Acts 5:29 (Peter and John didn’t obey the authorities in this instance)

Lending/Borrowing – Psalms 15:5. 37:21,26, Luke 6:34, Proverbs 22:7

Key Words-

Submit- To obey

Authority- What authorities does Paul have in mind here?

Debt- Can refer to monetary debt or other debts as well. Obligations, duties.

Sleep- A spiritual sleep in which one isn’t alert to sin.

Teaching Points:

Submission to authorities: Primarily it is talking about governing authorities. But it is also referring to any authorities God puts in our lives. God established authority to keep sin in check. Most governments of the world have generally good laws that keep society in control. Notice the superlatives in these verses. Every believer is to be in submission to authorities. There is no authority except from God. Whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinances of God. This doesn’t leave many cracks. It applies to everyone, to all governments. Yes, even dictatorships are established by God.

Even the worst governments will generally act as a deterrent to sin. I can’t think of any countries in which it is legal to steal, blow up other’s property with bombs, or commit murder (except to the unborn). Sometimes the government itself will do these things, but will prohibit their citizens from doing them. No country has the perfect government. It is almost certain that wherever you go in the world the people you meet will complain about their own government.

What would happen if there was no government? Crimes of all sorts would increase. The economy would crumple. Bartering would take the place of currency. Gangs, warlords, and mini-fiefdoms would rule the day. It would be person against person, family against family. We have to remember that everyone is totally depraved. Without this order and deterrent to sin, anarchy would rule the day. Just like at Genesis 6 and Judges to see what the world is like without established governments. Everyone begins to do what is right in their own eyes. There is no standard of law to arbitrate which person is actually right.

Three reasons are given why we should submit to authorities. Firstly, it is established by God. If we disobey the government (except if it tells us to do something we know is wrong) it is the same as disobeying God. The government almost acts as His representative. God gave governments authority to establish laws for its citizens. Resisting the government is the same as resisting against God. Secondly, if you disobey the government you will be punished. This is how a negative deterrent works. It is the same as disciplining disobedient kids. While not necessarily the purist motive for doing right, it is certainly very effective. It should be enough to know God wants us to obey the government. But for more self-centric people, Paul reminds them the consequences of disobeying the government. Verses 3-4 are general truths. Sometimes governments do punish their citizens for doing good, but these cases are rare. It is far more common to punish for doing wrong. If we do what is right, we can live in peace and comfort knowing we don’t need to fear the government, but imagine the lives of criminals. They walk around always looking over their shoulder, wondering if the police are watching or if they will be caught. This is a miserable and dangerous way of living. Those who do right will also sometimes be commended by the government through medals, words of praise, media highlights, etc. See Galatians 5:23.

Thirdly, we should obey governments so that we will have a clean conscience. This motive is perhaps more pure than the previous one. It speaks more to our mental well-being than physical well-being. Our mental well-being is even more important. If you feel guilty, it is hard to have a joyful life no matter how prosperous you are, but if you have a clean conscience you can lead a joyful life no matter how poor you are.

Secondary Issues:

1. Capital Punishment – This passage shows that a government has a right to bear a sword and punish its citizens. We can also see what God said to Noah to see that a government does have this right.

2. Paying taxes – The Bible is very clear throughout that we are to pay taxes. Jesus said to give to God the things that are God’s and to give to Caesar the things that are Caesars’s. Government workers are acting as servants of God by maintaining public order and as such deserve to be paid just like workers in the church.

3. There is an exception to this rule of obeying governments we learn from Peter and John in Acts. That is, if the government gives an order that is clearly contradictory to Scripture, we are to obey God first rather than man. Applying this principle, if you were a believer in Germany in WWII, should you obey the government to hunt down and imprison/kill Jews? How about in America, should you have revolted against England?

4. Pray for those who are in authority – 1 Timothy 2:1-3. It is much easier to complain. I know I complain a lot about US and China governments. But do I pray for them? Actually very little. How about you? Instead of complaining, we should get on our knees to pray for those who are in authority. We know from Daniel that governments are a battle ground between spiritual forces.

5. This doesn’t mean you can’t work to change government policies (such as right to life prayer chain). It doesn’t mean you have to be passive and silent. But you should work within to change the law (not like the abortion clinic bombers).

6. The fact that God establishes authorities doesn’t mean that He is the source of or c condones or approves of their sins. Seemingly the logically only way to have a perfect government would be to wipe out sin and judge the world immediately. Short of that, God uses sinful humans to restrain worse sin and somehow even turns their sin to accomplish His purposes.

  1. Without goveWe don’t have to agree with the policies, etc. But we should obey the law and not find excuses not to. One part of being a good Christian is to be a good citizen and support the government where we can. As believers in China it is very easy to fall into the trap of resisting the government since it is anti-Jesus. But still, it was established by God. We should obey the laws where we can do so with a good conscience.

  2. This verse talks about not remaining in debt. Proverbs gives many reasons for this. But the main idea is love. It fulfills the law. We don’t have to know every single rule and command. It is enough to act out of love for others and we will naturally be keeping the law.

  3. Finally we should live expectantly. We are in the night now, meaning Christ has not yet returned. He could return at any time. Therefore we need to be alert and awake and ready for His return. The negative aspect is to put away sinful behaviors. The positive aspect is to put on Christ’s righteousness. It mentions thinking in reference to the sinful nature. It is important that we not think about our sinful desires or we will fall into temptation easier.

Questions for Discussion-

What kinds of authorities do we have? (As children, parents. Government. Spiritual leaders. Teachers. Husband. Ultimately Christ.)

Why did God establish governments?

Does this include wicked governments like dictators, Nazis, etc.?

What would the world be like without government?

Is having fear of authority a good thing? Why?

How does a government use negative and positive reinforcement?

Is capital punishment biblical?

What is a more “pure” motive for doing right than fear of punishment?

What is the purpose of taxes? Should we pay them? What did Jesus say about paying taxes?

What are the three basic reasons given to submit to the government? (It is established by God. We will be punished by them if we don’t. And we want to maintain a clear conscience.)

What are some common ways that many do not obey the government? (Pirated software and DVD’s, taxes, etc.)

What is the last part talking about in reference to night and day and sleeping?

Application

Think if you are obeying the authorities in your life now and with a good attitude. If not, work on correcting that in the approaching week.

Study Romans 14-15

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