He (that is, the government authority) is God’s servant to do you good. (Romans 13:4)
Let’s continue trying to understand what Paul wrote concerning our civil responsibilities in Romans 13. Paul says we should submit to the established authority, “For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (verse 4).
God gives governments authority to wield the sword in punishment of the wrongdoer. The sword is a symbol of authority. It does not refer here specifically to capital punishment, but that would be a prerogative of government, and would have a Biblical base in the Old Testament.
Some might argue from this statement that governments have a moral and Biblical right to go to war for a just cause. We need to remember, however, that this portion is not written to governmental authorities about when to go to war. This is written, according to Phillip Jensen in an article in Christianity Today, “to God’s people about how to live in this war-ridden world. It is about God’s plans for the world and for you. And the Bible’s view of life, war, and peace gives us the real basis for prayer and action.”
If you live in a country where the people have a vote concerning who will govern them, then it is perfectly ok for them to be actively engaged in the process of putting in leaders who will wield the sword justly and commend those who do right. It is not as clear what is permissible for those who live under the ruthless, unjust rule of a dictator.
Do you have clear convictions about your responsibilities as a citizen of your country?