Romans 13:1-2 and the American Revolution

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
Romans 13:1-2

Occasionally, over on my Facebook page (come join us!), I’ll post a question for discussion to help us think theologically and apply Scripture to various issues. This was a recent discussion question:

Was the American Revolution a violation of Romans 13:1-2? (Keep in mind Paul wrote this in Rome under the rule of Nero, who mercilessly persecuted Christians- much worse than anything the colonists experienced.) Should the American colonists have simply submitted to King George?

Imagine you’re a pastor in the early to mid-1770s. Many of the political and planning meetings for the Revolution took place in churches. Do you, as a pastor, allow such meetings to take place in your church, considering that the the Revolution might be a violation of Scripture?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section (The usual comment parameters apply.), and catch up with the comments on Facebook here.

2 thoughts on “Romans 13:1-2 and the American Revolution”

  1. I once encountered a KJV-Onlyist who claimed the KJV was the Bible we should use because it was funded and supported by a king, the highest authority in the land. I wanted to ask him if he thought the American Revolution was a huge sin (which it would be, by that logic).

    In regards to American Revolution, it might be interesting to note that, initially, the problems of the colonists was not with the king, but with the British parliament, who got most of the blame. The king was seen as the great unifier of sorts between the colonies and the mother country. It was after Thomas Paine and his (overrated) works that people began to think differently, and the king started to become the bad guy.

    I think the big think we have with the Romans 13 passage is that, when you read Paul’s context in full, he’s sticking strictly to governmental matters. (See v. 7, “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor”). I don’t think any Christian would disagree in me saying that Paul wasn’t saying we should submit to the government even if it tells us to sin. The question is, was it a SPIRITUAL matter the colonists were facing? Were they being asked to sin by their government, and hence the rebellion? Reviewing the worldview at the time, it was grounded more on the idea that men had inalienable rights given to them by God, and if a government power revoked or violated those rights, the government must be overthrown or done away with. This enters into the realm of political thought that starts to separate from the commands of scripture, and muddies the waters even further. If this is the case, one might very well argue it was a violation of Romans 13 – at the very least, a distortion of it.


  2. This has been a wonderful discussion & study starter for my husband and myself this morning!
    The perfect 4th of July subject. We are struggling a bit, too!! ;)) When leaders that are placed or allowed by God, but do not follow & lead in God’s ways, that is the situation with which believers wrestle? We are to pray for those in power…and that may be the best answer of all. Look at what Jesus endured as He was led to the cross? Completely submitting to authorities and praying for them on the cross.
    Wanting to see other comments. Thank you, Michelle!
    Happy Independence Day, and God Bless!


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