In our two-day introduction to Romans 13:1-7, we now turn to Wright’s taxonomy of how folks read this passage. The questions are easy, if doubly hard to answer: Which is your view? Why?
First, the passage is anchored in Paul’s general theory about ruling authorities — and applies to all legitimate authorities of all time. It is anchored in God’s desire for creation to operate according to a proper order.
Second, the passage concerns only Rome, the Roman Empire at that time, because Paul believed it was God-given, or because he had seen sensible magistrates who were protecting him, or because he was thinking of the safety of the Jewish and/or Christian community in Rome.
Third, the passage is tailored for one specific and time-bound situation: the rise of Nero to power.
Fourth, the passage reflects how Christians are to relate to government as a result of the victory of Jesus over the powers of the world.
There are other views — if you know of some that you think should be on the table, speak up.
Because Wright opens his deck of cards before he gets to the verses themselves, I’ll say that Wright opts for #1: God wants the world to live within the order of justice. He sees a tight fit in theme with 12:14-21 (and you should read it to see the fit; it’s there), and he finds similar ideas in the OT (Isaiah 10:5-11; Jer 24:4-9; Daniel; etc).
But, Paul believed Jesus was Lord and Caesar was not. But, this does not mean holy anarchy. The emperor cult is deconstructed: they are not divine; only God is. The passage undermines totalitarian governments. Paul’s theology is an inaugurated eschatology: the Eschaton is not fully here.