Let Every Soul Be Subject -- By: Erich D. Schwartz

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 26:1 (Winter 2013)
Article: Let Every Soul Be Subject
Author: Erich D. Schwartz

Let Every Soul Be Subject

Erich D. Schwartz

Paul’s Word To The Governed

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. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 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: 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. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing (Rom 13:1–6, KJV).

How is an evil ruler a “minister of God...for good”? We may have trouble swallowing these words in relation to our own modern governments, but for Paul, the “powers that be” were the powers of Nero’s Rome. It was Nero (reigned 54–68 AD) who was “not a terror to good works, but to the evil,” and it was to Nero that Paul willingly paid his tax.

What would tax dollars in Nero’s empire go to fund? The answers seem very modern.

Shakko 2007, Wikimedia Commons

Bust of the Roman emperor Nero (ruled 54–68 AD). One of the most evil of emperors in human history, Nero was the Romans 13 “minister of God,” used by Him for the spread of the good news of Jesus Christ.

Nero’s Government Programs

Foreign Intervention, Ethnic Persecution

In first-century Britain, the Iceni King Prasutagus named as heirs his two daughters and Nero. On Prasutagus’s death, Nero’s Rome took all. The extremity of Rome’s reach was the rape of those daughters, the scourging of Boudicea, wife of Prasutagus, the enslavement of the king’s relatives, and the theft of the ancient holdings of the leading Iceni. The fighting that followed ended in the death of a few hundred Romans and 80,000 Celts. Thus a generous or prudent or perhaps foolish act by Prasutagus had opened the door to Roman rapine and an ethnic purge (Tacitus 1952: bk. 14, chaps. 31–37).

Enhanced Interrogation, Execution (Of Political Foes)

Closer to home, Nero was applying the tax money towards more focused murders. Having been accessory to the quiet assassination of Emperor Claudius (Suetonius ...

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