Does Paul derive the critical passage in Romans 13 on how Christian’s should relate to “the king” from the very pragmatic, earthy & Jewish book of Proverbs? Below is a demonstration that Romans 13:1-7 seems to essentially be the Apostle Paul using Proverbs as pragmatic & pithy advice to early Christians to discourage violent revolution, against withholding the hated tribute & against unwisely & unnecessarily invoking the inevitable violence of the king. But more importantly it is a positive call, along with the entire text of Romans 12 and 13, to use Love (not violent revolution!) as the force to overcomes evil in the world.
Here is a comparison that might indicate Paul is stitching together Proverbs to create the text of the first part of Romans 13.
|Romans 13:1 – Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.||Proverbs 24:21 – Fear the king. Proverbs 8:15-16 – By God kings reign. By God all princes & judges on earth rule. Proverbs 21:1a – The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD…|
|Romans 13:2 – Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.||Proverbs 24:21 -…meddle not with them that are given to change [NIV=rebellion]: Proverbs 24:22/NLT – for disaster will hit them suddenly. Who knows what punishment will come from the LORD and the king? Proverbs 20:2b – whoso provoketh him [the king] to anger sinneth against his own soul.|
|Romans 13:3 – For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:||Proverbs 14:35 – The king’s favour is toward a wise servant: but his wrath is against him that causeth shame.|
|Romans 13:4 – For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.||Proverbs 8:15 – By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. Proverbs 14:35a – The king’s favour is toward a wise servant: but his wrath is against him that causeth shame. Proverbs 20:2 – The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: whoso provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own soul. Proverbs 16:14a – The wrath of a king is as messengers of death…|
|Romans 13:5 – Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.||Proverbs 14:35 – The king’s… wrath is against him that causeth shame. Ecclesiastes 8:2/NIV – Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God.|
|Romans 13:6 – For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.||Proverbs 3:27a – Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due… Proverbs 21:1a – The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD…|
|Romans 13:7 – Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.||Proverbs 3:27 – Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in your power to do it. (Commentary: and the king is due fear!) Proverbs 24:21 -…fear thou the LORD and the king:|
If Proverbs guides us in what Romans 13:1-7 is saying, it certainly communicates a Christian condemnation of the kind of violent revolution that is at the core of the founding of many nations, including the United States. If Romans 13:1-7 says anything, it condemns “Christian’s” founding a nation using violent revolution.
An implicit condemnation in Romans 13 comes from the fact that the characteristics of “the king” are characteristics Christians should expressly not have! “The king” as a “violent lion” is contrasted with the very different standard that Paul is explicitly calling the Romans to, and God is calling all men to, that of Love , which was taught & modeled by the King of Kings (the Lion of Judah! the one “Lion & Lamb” referred to in the Bible). The King of Kings first call to humans is to “Owe no many anything but Love”.
Kingdoms which use violence, even in the name of a more perfect order, are doomed to be kingdoms that pass away. Outside Christ and His Kingdom, outside of the “very good” Creation, God has given power to a “rev limiter”, a stop gap on evil run out of control, and that is the human self destruction of violence against violence. As Jesus says it: “They that take the sword shall perish by it.” and John confirms that the holy are patient because “They that kill with the sword will be killed by it” (Re 13:10) This world is by necessity one which will “perish” and “pass away” because destruction is in it’s DNA.
Daniel says “[God’s kingdom] will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end” (Daniel 2:44/NIV). How? Paul himself notes one way just a few chapters later in Romans “The God of Peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20) What can Love of Jesus in the hearts of humans do other than be the “destruction of destruction”?
This post triggered by another post: Is Romans 12 & 13 a Medley of Proverbs?