Did St. Paul violate one of his own epistles, namely Romans 13:1-7?


From Romans 13:1-7 (The Living Bible)

Obey the government, for God is the one who has put it there. There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power. 2 So those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow. 3 For the policeman does not frighten people who are doing right; but those doing evil will always fear him. So if you don’t want to be afraid, keep the laws and you will get along well. 4 The policeman is sent by God to help you. But if you are doing something wrong, of course you should be afraid, for he will have you punished. He is sent by God for that very purpose. 5 Obey the laws, then, for two reasons: first, to keep from being punished, and second, just because you know you should.

6 Pay your taxes too, for these same two reasons. For government workers need to be paid so that they can keep on doing God’s work, serving you. 7 Pay everyone whatever he ought to have: pay your taxes and import duties gladly, obey those over you, and give honor and respect to all those to whom it is due.

But Paul was executed by the Romans, the very rulers he exhorted Christians to obey! What gives? :confused:


Your confusion is the result of taking a biblical passage out of context–of the whole of Sacred Tradition, of which the Bible is one part.

We are to obey the ordinary laws of our country that do not violate the laws of God–i.e., the Ten Commandments. Paul would not “bow down and worship an alien god,” although it was a Roman law–a law made by men, not one of God’s laws.

To stand up against the laws of men in favor of the laws of God is admirable, virtuous, and, as in Paul’s case and many others, is liable to make one a martyr for the faith, not a violator of just laws.


To elaborate, authority is like free will in this sense. Free will is given to us from God, but free will isn’t meant to be abused. Likewise, God gives authority to our rulers, but their authority isn’t meant to be abused.


Yes, for example, for us in the USA, it means our government can’t violate our constitutional right to freedom of religion, although it’s been under attack more than once in our history.


Right. Governments are like your parents in terms of having legitimate authority. Honoring your father and mother includes obeying them in all things that are not sinful, not in all things period.


As with everything, there is nuance. Paul here is talking of just laws, ones that keep society together, even under governments we would objectively consider evil.

For instance, if you were in 1938 Germany, you’d still be obligated as a Christian to obey the speed limit, not litter, not rob, embezzle, rape or murder*. You’d even be obligated to pay your taxes, even though they would be funneled into an authoritarian regime. However, you’d also be obligated under charity to disobey the odious Nazi racial laws to the best of your ability, as those aren’t just.

*Though if such a thing were possible, I’d definitely look the other way if you wanted to chase Hitler down while riding a T-rex and wielding a chainsaw. Just sayin’… :smiley:



…there were no policemen back when… still; Scriptures speak of authority… obey the authority… here are three of Jesus’ Commands:

[FONT=“Garamond”][size=]1 Then addressing the people and his disciples Jesus said, 2 ‘The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. 3 You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach.

(St. Matthew 23:1-3)

43 ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. 44 But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; 45 in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. 46 For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? (St. Matthew 5:43-46)

20 ‘For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven. (St. Matthew 5:20)
The Command is to be righteous/virtuous (‘be Holy, for I, your God, AM HOLY’). Even when rulers fail, Jesus’ Disciples must uphold their Witness of Christ: Stand!

Maran atha!




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