4. There Is No Specifically Christian Duty to Govern Or Vote

While Paul as a Roman citizen had the right to vote (ius suffragiorum), and may have voted, he never instructed his churches on how to use that right. Why? One way to summarize the argument of Romans 13 is that believers in the New Testament should no longer do what believers in the Old Testament were explicitly commanded to do. This is implied by the context of Romans 12.

During the reign of “burning Christian” Nero, Paul wrote to Christians in Rome: “Repay no one evil for evil, live peaceably with all… never avenge yourselves, leave it to the wrath of God.” This is a remarkable departure from the duty of God’s people in the Old Testament, who from Moses to Christ had a mandate to govern. They were to wage war on their pagan neighbors, and commanded to inflict penalties (God’s wrath) upon various civil offenses. He continues, “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. … He is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath.”

The Christian takes no vengeance, but “leaves a space” for the wrath of God to be executed through the civil rulers he has instituted. This is not a prohibition from partaking in civil politics. But neither is it a command to do so. Such a command is lacking in the New Testament, and not merely because the opportunity was not at hand.