Romans 13

Good afternoon from sunny Texas!

I am curious about the Church’s interpretation of Romans 13. Specifically how can Romans 13 fit in with the Church’s condemnation of certain terrorist states?

I can see how useful this passage would be under the papal states but it sure is trouble while living in a secular nation. How does this verse match up with the Church’s teaching on Civil Justice?

Thank you for your time.

Posted for easier reference:

Rom 13:1 Every person must be subject to the governing authorities, for no authority exists except by God’s permission. The existing authorities have been established by God,
Rom 13:2 so that whoever resists the authorities opposes what God has established, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
Rom 13:3 For the authorities are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you like to live without being afraid of the authorities? Then do what is right, and you will receive their approval.
Rom 13:4 For they are God’s servants working for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for it is not without reason that they bear the sword. Indeed, they are God’s servants to execute wrath on anyone who does wrong.
Rom 13:5 Therefore, it is necessary for you to be subject, not only because of God’s wrath but also because of your own conscience.
Rom 13:6 This is also why you pay taxes. For rulers are God’s servants faithfully devoting themselves to their work.
Rom 13:7 Pay everyone whatever you owe them-taxes to whom taxes are due, tolls to whom tolls are due, fear to whom fear is due, honor to whom honor is due.
Rom 13:8 Do not owe anyone anything-except to love one another. For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

The Church has never submitted to terrorism, or anything else that contradicted the first Law, which are the Laws of God. Read through the book of Acts. Particularly Chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7. You will find many instances of the Apostles following the Laws of God rather than of men. We are to follow the laws where the laws are just and appropriate, but not those which are contradictory to those of God.

For example - man’s law states that abortion is legal - God does not. Man’s law states that strip clubs, gambling, marriage and divorce on a whim are acceptable - God does not.

Peace and Blessings


I find it interesting that many Christians fail to understand that it was written during the 1st Century Roman Empire, one of the most cruel, anti-Christian governments that have ever existed. It was not written during the existence of the Papal states, democracy, or even socialism.

It was not written to influence the government in relationship to its residences, but to influence the early Christians’ relationship to its government; the Roman government.

The question we must answer, is it relevant to Christians and their governments today?

from the Haydock Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Let every soul, or every one, be subject, &c.[1] The Jews were apt to think themselves not subject to temporal princes, as to taxes, &c. and lest Christians should misconstrue their Christian liberty, he here teacheth them that every one (even priests and bishops, says St. Chrysostom) must be subject and obedient to princes, even to heathens, as they were at that time, as to laws that regard the policy of the civil government, honouring them, obeying them, and their laws, as it is the will of God, because the power they act by is from God. So that to resist them, is to resist God. And every Christian must obey them even for conscience-sake. St. Chrysostom takes notice that St. Paul does not say that there is no prince but from God, but only that there is no power but from God, meaning no lawful power, and speaking of true and just laws. See hom. xxiii. (Witham)

Ver. 8-9. But that you love one another. This is a debt, says St. Chrysostom, which we are always to be paying, and yet always remains, and is to be paid again. — He that loveth his neighbour, hath fulfilled the law. Nay, he that loves his neighbour, as he ought, loves him for God’s sake, and so complies with the other great precept of loving God: and upon these two precepts (as Christ himself taught us, Matthew xxii. 40.) depends the whole law and the prophets. (Witham)

Ver. 10. Love of the neighbour worketh no evil.[2] This, by the Latin, is the true construction; and not, love worketh no evil to the neighbour, as it might be translated from the Greek. (Witham)

Ver. 11. Now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. Some will have the sense to be, that our salvation is now nearer, when the gospel is preached, and Christ offers us his graces, than when we believed the Messias was to come. Others expound it, that the more our life is spent, we come nearer to the judgment of God, and to the salvation promised in heaven. (Witham)

Ver. 12. The night is passed. That is, the night of sin and infidelity, in which you lived, before you began to serve Christ. (Witham) — St. Paul is here addressing himself to Gentile converts. Before your conversion, you were in the darkness of infidelity: this time is past; now is the day, when the gospel has dissipated the darkness of idolatry, ignorance, and sin. Let us lay aside the works of darkness, by flying from sin, which hates the light, and seeks always to conceal itself; and let us put on the armour of light, the shield of faith, the breast-plate of justice, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit. (Calmet)

Ver. 13. Let us walk honestly as in the day. As men are accustomed to do in the light, without being afraid that their works come to light. — Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering,[3] not in beds and impurities, not in immodest disorders. (Witham) — The night of the present life full of darkness, of ignorance, and of sin, is already far advanced; and the day of eternity approaches: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness. (Bible de Vence)

Ver. 14. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ. To put on, is a metaphor used in the Scripture; as when it is said, put on the new man, &c. And make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscenses. That is, do not take care, nor pamper and indulge you appetite in eating and drinking, so as to increase your disorderly inclinations, but keep them in due subjection. (Witham) — The apostle does not forbid all care of the body, since he himself says in the epistle to the Ephesians, v. “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.” But he forbids that care of the flesh, by which the desires and concupiscences of the flesh are strengthened and encouraged. This those are guilty of, who are always indulging in delights and voluptuousness. (Estius) — Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, enter into his sentiments, imitate his virtues, and indulge not the flesh in its inordinate desires.

[1] Ver. 1. Non est potestas, Greek: exousia, nisi a Deo. St. Chrysostom, Greek: om. kg. p. 189. Greek: ouk eipen, ou gar estin archon ei me upo tou theou, alla peri tou pragmatos dialegetai legon, ou gar estin exousia.

[2] Ver. 10. Dilectio proximi malum non operatur, i.e. dilectio non operatur malum proximi, vel proximo, Greek: e agape to plesion kakon ouk ergazetai.

[3] Ver. 13. Non in cubilibus, Greek: me koitais, which may signify beds, chambers, or immodest actions.

I never thought of Romans 13 as a ‘period piece’. I also agree that the Bible is written for Christians.

When we look at the horrors of the pagan emperors it makes me wonder why Paul would tell the Roman Christians to submit to a government that utterly hated early Christianity. Could this be an account of ‘killing them with kindness’?

In light of the framework, I think that this passage is not proof that we ought to submit to every whim of the government. It seems that Romans 13:3 acts as a caveat against submission to every whim of government.

Can anyone see a clear reason why this passage is still viable today?

Man’s laws may change - but God does not. If the government told you to go out and assist in Abortion, would you do it? (just as an example)

How about dumping nuclear waste into the nations rivers?

Maybe building sub-standard housing?

How about purposefully cheating people out of their land and homes to build a highway?

What if a district attorney told you to commit perjury in a trial case?

There are a thousand examples, for this country alone - what if we went to Russia with this topic? China - where persecution still happens?

I think it is relevant, and will remain relevant - so long as evil is in the world, and Catholic principles remain.



"For the authorities are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you like to live without being afraid of the authorities? Then do what is right, and you will receive their approval. "

This seems to be a hinge statement. If you cannot live peacefully when you do what is right, does the established authority come from God?


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