As we begin this morning teasing out the meaning of Romans 13:1 forward let us begin with looking at this issue from a “salvation” perspective.
We might ask ourselves this morning what Romans 13 and the Gospel of salvation have to do with each other. Let’s see if we can connect those dots.
First, certainly we can agree that as Romans 13 is part of Scripture and that the issue it deals with (the nature of citizen obedience to Magistrates) is clearly part and parcel of what we call Christianity. It would not be in Scripture if it was not. However, we are looking to bore in even more tightly to ask if Romans 13 has anything to do with the death of Christ and the issue of our salvation.
I would say the answer is most definitely yes. Remember, as we looked at just a few weeks ago, the goal of the Christ-less state is to become God walking on the earth who sees it as their job to provide a humanist salvation to all under their charge. This salvation that the Christ-less state is offering is one that provides a very different salvation than the salvation provided by the God of the Bible.
Per the German historian Ethelebert Stauffer the religious foundation of Rome, from the days of Augustus Caesar forward was, “Salvation is to be found in none other save Augustus, and there is no other name given to men in which they can be saved.” I hope that terminology sounds familiar. It was the same terminology that Peter used in Acts 4:12 when he quite deliberately said of Jesus Christ,
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
So we see that there exists these competing salvation(s). One can trust the State for Salvation and commit themselves to the State to be saved. They can become wards of the State and look for the State to take care of them from the womb to the tomb. They can obey the State as their savior, when it is demanding obedience for the most Christ-less of things and that even if the State is seeking to save them from Christ by the obedience that the Christ-less state is requiring.
Or alternately one can look for salvation in Christ and understand that all other salvations are idolatrous salvations that will leave us not saved in the end. We have an anti-thesis then… a war if you please, between Christ and Ceaser. The State and its emperors offer salvation and the price you must pay is complete obedience or Christ bequeaths complete salvation and the consequence is a lifetime of obedience driven by gratitude for what you’ve been freely given.
This is how Romans 13 thus touches on the issue of salvation. Either we believe that God has provided a perfect salvation in Christ or we believe that the state must be unquestioned and obeyed no matter what it requires.
We have for a very long time now found the state returning to the aspirations of the Caesars.
“Trust the State. It will take care of you.”
“If you run out of money and lose your job we will provide a UBI.”
“You must take this vaccine because it will give you life abundant.”
“The State will be omnipresent to you as you receive this RIFD chip w/ vaccine.”
“You can trust us when we let criminals out of jail because they are in danger of this disease… oh, and by the way, you, as law abiding citizens, must submit to house arrest because of the same danger.”
Don’t you see?
The state is seeking to be a savior who provides a salvation that is contrary to the salvation found in Christ. You must take this vaccine because in just such a way you can have life and life abundantly. You must be willing to be tracked in order to affirm the state’s omnipresence. You must not question the state because the state in its aseity is beyond questioning.
And when we yield up to them an obedience that is not theirs to be had we are pledging them our fealty … a fealty which belongs to Christ alone as our savior and who provides our salvation.
And so this is how Romans 13 and understanding it properly nestles up to the doctrine of salvation. Either we will trust the finished work of Christ for our complete salvation or we will trust the state and walk in terms of its authority even while claiming a Christ other than the one Peter declared.
So, when we look at a proper understanding of Romans 13 – one which requires and provides for disobedience to wicked magistrates – we are looking at an issue that touches on salvation. Either we will obey the wicked magistrates and so show that we are looking to the state for salvation or we will trust Christ and so demonstrate we will have no God but God for our salvation embracing that disobedience to tyrants is obedience of God.