We must now briefly turn to the two other passages that are frequently considered alongside Romans 13; 1 Peter 2 and Mark 12 (refs of people quoting them together – romans comms).
1 Peter 2:11-17 bears many strong resemblances to Rom 13:1-7, and many of the same observations can be made. Firstly, the structure of the passage is similar in that it consists of a main imperative (ὑποτάγητε, v 13) followed by descriptions that support the command. Secondly, the command is exactly the same – to ‘submit’ (ὑποτάσσω) to the authorities. The same observations can be made about the difference between submit and obey, and are made even clearer since this passage is followed directly by Peter’s commands to submit to slave masters and husbands (2:18, 3:1). Helpfully, this passage gives a clearer definition of the authorities in view, and it supports the general consensus that Romans 13 is discussing political bodies.
Thirdly, the descriptions of the authorities have a very similar tone to Romans 13. On the surface, they seem quite positive: the Emperor is ‘the supreme authority’ (v13) and government officials are ‘sent out by God to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good’ (v14). In 1 Peter, we see the same dual function of government that we detected in Romans 13, but made clearer in its concision. We also see the same clear assertion that it is God who has raised up the government to do this a very specific task. Finally, outside of the role of government, Peter espouses the same ethic of non-resistance and non-vengeance that Paul does, even to the point of echoing Paul’s command to not repay evil for evil (1 Peter 3:9).
Similar conclusions can be made. Firstly, this passage is not a statement of what government should be, but what it is. Secondly, this description of government is not written as part of a theology of when a Christian can participate in the role of judgment, but to encourage the readers to submit to the ones that God is using to enact his judgment. Finally, the descriptions of government in this passage share the parallels with God’s Old Testament actions that Romans 13 holds. The positive description of government’s role in judgment is not written to encourage Christians to participate in it, but to submit to it.