Unlimited: Agents of Wrath
Sep 1, 2023 386
But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer (Romans 13:4b).
Paul has told us not to fear our rulers if we do right. However, just as our rulers are there to look after our good, they are also there to punish wrongdoers. The “sword” is a symbol of policing power in the Roman empire, including capital punishment. Criminals were mainly executed by decapitation.
The phrase “do wrong” refers to law-breaking. If you do wrong, you should be afraid, because the government’s judgment will come upon you. The civil powers are one of the tools that God uses to correct us when we do wrong.
They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer
That’s why those in government are here called God’s “servants” or “ministers” (KJV.) This is the Greek word “diakonos,” which is the same word used when referring to “servants” of God elsewhere in the New Testament, and as “deacons” in the book of Acts.
These perspectives might seem strange to us, even Christians, who live in a different era and culture. In our minds we tend to strictly separate church and state, and rightly so. Yet, we must always remember that Biblically, there is a sense in which the government we have is the government God permits. Paul sees the sovereignty of God in every dimension of life, as imperfect as it may be reflected at times in our world.
The New Testament worldview is a difficult one for us to adopt in our modern world. It is difficult for us to see our governments as “God’s servants.” If you were to do that, how would you need to change your understanding of the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world?