What About Romans 13?

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43 Responses

  1. Jean says:

    Good video. I think she provided a helpful framework for applying Rm. 13. She also gave a good caution for how a text can be misused to support a pre-existing bias.

  2. Jean says:

    I hope listeners got one of her points that Christian citizens of a country are subject (subordinate) to two lords: (1) Christ; and (2) temporal authorities. If the will of those two lords are ever in conflict, the citizen must prioritize the will of Christ over the conflicting will of the temporal authority. In the case of such righteous disobedience, the Christian citizen should be prepared to suffer the penalty imposed by the temporal authority.

  3. Michael says:

    “In the case of such righteous disobedience, the Christian citizen should be prepared to suffer the penalty imposed by the temporal authority.”

    This is the point that many miss.

    Paul and the host of martyrs make this point very clearly.

  4. Jean says:

    Agree Michael.

    The one thing Christ and the apostles teach quite clearly is that those sanctified (set apart) by Christ will suffer in this age. If the kingdom of God had anything in common with this evil world, if our old selves had anything in common with our new man in Christ, sanctification and renewal would serve no purpose at all.

    We are taught we will suffer when we put off (put to death) the old self and its desires; and we will also suffer from the outside when we confess that Christ is Lord and submit to his Word in our lives. In our country, we don’t see much of either, because teaching suffering (whether Christ’s because of us, or our own as we pick up our own crosses and follow him) is not marketable.

  5. Captain Kevin says:

    Excellent video. I have to wonder how many fundanationalists would just write her off because she’s a…you know… a woman.

  6. Michael says:


    That thought crossed my mind…

  7. Officerhoppy says:

    Ok. I dunno

    While I agree with much of what she said, I walked away thinking, “can i read the Bible and understand it?”

    I get and support the context argument. But the argument of context can also be used to deconstruct what could otherwise be, a clear and simple understanding of scripture

    Not ready to jump on the bandwagon just yet.

  8. Michael says:


    “While I agree with much of what she said, I walked away thinking, “can i read the Bible and understand it?”

    I hear that question often from those with CC backgrounds and I have always thought it a silly question.

    Virtually every doctrine requires a teacher who uses many tools other than the plain text of Scripture.

    Reading the Bible without the help of interpretive traditions usually results in confusion and not infrequently, heresy.

  9. Officerhoppy says:

    While I am no longer associated with CC and have been vocal about its problems, I am glad for my CC background as well as my association with the Assemblies of God and the Lutheran church

    They are all apart of my growth

    I enjoy and feel compelled as a pastor, to read scholars. I don’t want to fall into the trap of preaching the real God vs the ideal God. Much of what happens in America is we worship an ideal God who never allows harm to his followers and have no reason to experience fear.

    I am well aware that many can misuse and misapply (cherry pick?) the scriptures. But this woman’s interpretation of Romans 13 is the first I’ve heard (and I’ve heard a few interpretations and applications).

    I need time to sift thru it, compare it with other writings by scholars before I jump on her band wagon

    That’s all I am saying

  10. Michael says:

    I loved it…my only issue was I find her exceedingly attractive. 🙂

  11. Michael says:

    She’s written a book on this and another on spiritual formation and politics…bought them both.

    I like the way she thinks…

  12. Officerhoppy says:

    I’d be interested in learning more from her

  13. Michael says:

    Buy her books!
    One is free on Audible…

  14. Kevin H says:


    I believe Schiess is single. However, I don’t know her feelings about old guys and cats. 🙂

  15. Michael says:


    She’s married…I follow her on Twitter…that’s “follow”not “stalk”… 🙂

    Old guys with cats are not in demand these days…if they’ve ever been…

  16. richard says:

    in regards to christians obeying governmental authority except when in conflict with God, I’m still looking for the christian that only goes the speed limit on the freeway.

  17. Michael says:


    True story on that shirt… 🙂

  18. Captain Kevin says:

    “…attractive.” Well, since you mentioned it. 😉

    Captain Old Guy with No Cat or Dog

  19. Michael says:


    Seriously, we need young theologians who can engage with multiple generations…she needs to be platformed more…

  20. Captain Kevin says:


  21. Em says:

    “never underestimate an old man who loves cats”
    we’ve got one in our “neighborhood” and he is a tried and true curmudgeon

  22. bob1 says:

    I liked her presentation a lot.

    I started reading Mark Noll’s book about theological interpretations of the Civil War. I quickly realized Luther’s comment that the Bible is like a wax
    nose — you can shape it in almost any way. That’s what both sides did, according to Noll’s research.

    That’s why sound exegesis is needed. Along with what’s been said
    before us in church history. Along with sound interpretation.
    To help keep the Church free from error.

  23. Em says:

    bob1 …. AMEN

  24. Just passing by. says:

    “That’s why sound exegesis is needed. Along with what’s been said
    before us in church history. Along with sound interpretation.
    To help keep the Church free from error.”

    Three questions:
    1. What is sound exegesis and who decides?
    2. Name a version of the Bible which is a sound interpretation?
    3. Which Christian denomination or “church” is free from error?

    Life is a struggle between following the voices of our heart/flesh and those of God. The story of humanity hasn’t changed since God created people and placed them in His Garden.

    Truthfully all of us follow the voices of our hearts over the voice of God. And we do the same when it comes to the laws of the community.

  25. Terry says:

    I wonder if the case she makes is why Maccabees didn’t make the cut as biblical canon. It’s heroes are those who rebel against the state, using violence and guerilla tactics against their evil overlords.

  26. Michael says:


    I’m not an Apocrypha expert by any stretch of the imagination,but I think the Maccabean revolt started because of a defiling of the temple and a demand to worship a false god…which would make it a righteous revolt.

  27. Josh says:

    I think it was NT Wright’s interpretation of this passage from his New Perspective Lectures that I found very interesting.

    His take was that these admonitions were coded language in case his letters were intercepted. Basically, the government was always ready to wipe out the young Christian movement, and he put things like this in here to keep them at ease if they came upon his writings.

    My librabry is in storage at the moment, so my apologies if I am attributing this to the wrong author.

  28. Officerhoppy says:

    How does Wright come to that conclusion?

  29. Michael says:

    This is Wright from his commentary on the passage;

    When we put these verses back into their context, right here in the letter, we start to see what Paul is getting at. He has just said, strongly and repeatedly, that private vengeance is absolutely forbidden for Christians. But this doesn’t mean, on the one hand, that God doesn’t care about evil, or, on the other, that God wants society to collapse into a chaos where the bullies and the power-brokers do what they like and get away with it. In fact, even in countries where people hate the authorities and fear the police, when someone commits a murder or even a serious robbery everybody affected by it wants good authorities and good police who will find the culprit and administer justice. That is a basic, and correct, human instinct. We don’t want to live by the law of the jungle. We want to live as human beings in an ordered, properly functioning society.

    That is almost all that Paul is saying, making the point as he does so that the Christians, who were regarded as the scum of the earth in Rome at the time, must not get an additional reputation as trouble-makers. No good will come to the cause of the gospel by followers of Jesus being regarded as crazy dissidents who won’t co-operate with the most basic social mechanisms. Paul is anxious, precisely because he believes that Jesus is the true Lord of the world, that his followers should not pick unnecessary quarrels with the lesser lords. They are indeed a revolutionary community, but if they go for the normal type of violent revolution they will just be playing the empire back at its own game. They will almost certainly lose, and, much worse, the gospel itself will lose with them.

    But, while making this point, Paul is making one or two others of great interest. To begin with, he declares that the civic rulers and authorities have been put in place by God himself. This would be news to Nero and the other emperors, who believed (or claimed to believe) in their own divinity, certainly that they held power in their own right rather than as a gift from the One Creator God, the God of Israel. They would have laughed at such a suggestion. The Christians are called to believe, though, that the civic authorities, great and small, are there because the one true God wants his world to be ordered, not chaotic. This does not validate particular actions of particular governments. It is merely to say that some government is always necessary, in a world where evil flourishes when unchecked.

    Of course Paul knew that quite often one might do the right thing and find the rulers doing the wrong thing. You only have to read the stories of his escapades in Acts to see that. But notice, in those stories (his visit to Philippi in Acts 16, for instance, or his trial before the Jewish authorities in Acts 23), that precisely when the authorities are getting it all wrong and acting illegally or unjustly Paul has no hesitation in telling them their proper business and insisting that they should follow it. Hardly the way to become popular, but completely consistent with what he says here.

    His comments about taxes may well have a specific point in relation to the Roman situation at the time. Roman subjects living in the capital paid two types of tax, some direct and some indirect. The latter was so unpopular that it led to riots about this time, and at one point Nero actually promised the people of Rome that he would cancel all indirect taxation. (Cynics today will not be surprised to hear that he didn’t keep the promise.) Clearly those who believed that Jesus was the one true Lord of the world might well use that belief to rationalize withholding taxes which many of their pagan contemporaries, too, thought were unjust. Paul stands out against that. Christians were likely to get into quite enough trouble for far more serious things, as he knew well from his own experience; but they should be good citizens as far as they can.

    In saying this Paul was standing within a particular Jewish tradition, and developing it in the light of the gospel. The Old Testament had denounced pagan nations and their rulers—but some of the very prophets whose denunciations were fiercest also told Israel that God was working through the pagan nations and their rulers for Israel’s long-term good (Assyria, in Isaiah 10; Cyrus, in Isaiah 45; Babylon itself, in Jeremiah 29). The long centuries before the coming of Jesus saw many Jewish attempts to hold together the firm belief that their God, the creator, was in fact sovereign over the nations with the equally firm belief that the pagan nations, and often enough their rulers, were wicked, idolatrous, immoral and dangerous for Israel. It was precisely this tension which came to its head when, in John’s story, Jesus stood before the Roman governor and declared that, even though he was about to execute him, the power by which he did it had come from God in the first place (John 19:11).

    There are complexities here we cannot delve into further. As we note that fact, we should also note that it is high time to awaken the older traditions of Christian political thought which have been dormant in the Western church for the last two hundred years or so. It isn’t a matter of the easygoing ‘left/right’ spectrum of politics we so often assume in the modern world, with the gospel on one side or the other. Life is more complicated, and interesting, than that. As we face the serious decline of democracy (as witnessed, for instance, by the shockingly low turnout of voters) in many countries that pride themselves on it, Christians today need urgently to consider what it means both that God wants his world to be governed under the rule of appropriate law and that Jesus is already installed as the supreme Lord of heaven and earth.

    Wright, T. (2004). Paul for Everyone: Romans, Part 2: Chapters 9-16 (pp. 85–88). Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

  30. Duane Arnold says:

    I agree with both the video and Wright’s exegesis. With regard to the video I saw one glaring omission. There is much concerning “the American experience”. We need to realize that we are not the center of the universe. Americans make up 4.23% of the world population, yet we act and interpret Scripture as though we can carry God around in our back pocket. Our arrogance keeps us from proper interpretation…

  31. Michael says:


    Thanks for making that point, even if it ruins many dispensational sermons…

  32. Officerhoppy says:

    Honest question?
    Is Wright’s commentary more eisegesis than exegesis…in the sense he’s reading into the text?

  33. Michael says:


    It’s actually exegesis the way it should be done.
    Wright is steeped in the thinking of second temple Judaism and how Paul uses the OT.

    This is written at the popular level…so he’s left out much of the technical work to arrive at this point.
    He includes that in other writings, but it’s good summation.

    You seem to have a different interpretation…what is it?

  34. Officerhoppy says:

    No. I have no other interpretation.

    Just responding Duane’s comment on Wright’s good exegesis. Seemed to me in my limited capacity and understanding that he may have used his research to support his view rather than let the passage (in context!) speak for itself.

    Just asking a question 🙂

  35. Michael says:


    Research either confirms or denies the literal interpretation…if it denies it, we look further into the historical, grammatical, cultural, and traditional views.

    For example…

    “I am so glad that you always keep me in your thoughts, and that you are following the teachings I passed on to you. But there is one thing I want you to know: The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. A man dishonors his head if he covers his head while praying or prophesying. But a woman dishonors her head if she prays or prophesies without a covering on her head, for this is the same as shaving her head. Yes, if she refuses to wear a head covering, she should cut off all her hair! But since it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut or her head shaved, she should wear a covering.

    A man should not wear anything on his head when worshiping, for man is made in God’s image and reflects God’s glory. And woman reflects man’s glory. For the first man didn’t come from woman, but the first woman came from man. And man was not made for woman, but woman was made for man. For this reason, and because the angels are watching, a woman should wear a covering on her head to show she is under authority.”
    (1 Corinthians 11:2–10 NLT-SE)

    Did you let women into your church without head coverings?

  36. Jean says:

    I don’t see anything controversial about Wright’s exegesis of Romans 13. If it were eisegesis, what do people see as his personal bias coming through? What specifically is he wrong about?

  37. Muff Potter says:

    Good point Michael (@ 4:47 pm),
    For me it’s a question of how much of that stuff from that way back when and location, do I wanna’ try and extrapolate out and make it fit into this here and now?

  38. Michael says:


    Yes…and how much of it makes sense to do so…

  39. Josh says:

    For those interested, the ideas I attributed to N.T. Wright were from his Paul in Fresh Perspective, and was not a specific commentary on any passage, but trying to understanding the mind of Paul in his historical context.

    Incredibly interesting book. Not an easy read.

  40. Michael says:


    You just saved me hours of going through the stacks…thank you!

  41. Michael says:

    All of the current political use of Scripture borders on heresy…

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