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Twisted Scripture: Matthew 22 and Romans 13

• Greg Boyd

This week we look at the twisted interpretation of Matthew 22 and Romans 13. This is a text with a long standing tradition that teaches Christians to serve both the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms in which they live on earth. In this sermon, we will learn why this interpretation is false and how to better understand it.

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Our twisted Scripture today comes from Matthew 22 and Romans 13:1-7. From these verses come a misinterpretation and misapplication of a Scriptural passage that has done more damage to the Kingdom movement than any other Jesus started. Within the Christian tradition there is a long and rarely questioned way of understanding this passage that goes back to 5th century. In this traditional interpretation, Christians argue that we have a duty to give to Caesar all Caesar asks of us. This long standing tradition is known as the “two kingdoms” interpretation and is used by most American Christians to insinuate we have a patriotic duty to vote, participate in all levels of government, defend our country, and kill for our country if need be. The thought behind the argument is that for a Christian to disobey government means they are disobeying God.

Problems arise with this interpretation when it is compared to the rest of Scripture. One issue with the traditional understanding is that it does not reflect the way the New Testament describes Jesus. Jesus didn’t submit to either Roman or Jewish leadership. In fact, he was crucified as a revolutionary, a non-conformist, and a subversive example to his people and his times. Another problem is that it does not align with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus teaches that the commandment which encompasses all others is that we are to love God and love others above all else. Jesus tells his followers that the clearest way to manifest the truth of the Father’s love is to love indiscriminately—even towards your worst enemies.

If the traditional interpretation of this text doesn’t align with the rest of the New Testament, then how should it be interpreted? The word establish in this context is better understood as the way God files governments, in the manner in which he finds them. God orchestrates the sword wielding power to preserve law and order, as much as possible. This isn’t to say God approves of it. The New Testament teaches us very clearly that this filing is to be left to God. Christians are never called to judge or exact vengeance. Christians are called to only serve one Kingdom. We are to only serve one Lord—Jesus Christ.

This doesn’t necessarily mean Christians shouldn’t vote, run for office, serve on the police force, or any other governmental office. It does mean that all Christians should recognize there is much ambiguity depending on the specifics surrounding these areas, and discernment is required for each individual and in each community. As Christians, we should always extend grace to others. Although each Christian may apply things differently, all Kingdom people are called to embrace the ideals of the Kingdom. These ideals call us to love indiscriminately, live non-violently, and devote our singular fidelity to Jesus

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Topics: Controversial Issues, Kingdom of God, Politics

Sermon Series: Twisted Scripture: Season 1

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Focus Scripture:

  • Matthew 22:15-22 and Romans 13:

    Matthew 22:15-22

    15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

    Romans 13:1-2. 4

    13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; 4 for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority[a] does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.

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26 thoughts on “Twisted Scripture: Matthew 22 and Romans 13

  1. Kent Vanderwaal says:

    Boyd referenced a couple books during the version of this sermon I heard (first service sunday) and I’m not going to watch the whole thing over again to get them but would anyone know who wrote “God’s Government” that he referenced? I *did* do a google search but not no avail.
    Thanx a bazillion! I’ll hang up and listen now.

  2. Kevin says:

    I’m getting an error when i try to view. There is no image on the sermon title and it will not d/l either. Here’s the error when i try and watch on the blog:

    “video not found or access denied”.

    1. Joanna Hallstrom says:

      The sermon should be accessible by tomorrow afternoon. Our apologies for the delay.

  3. Kevin says:

    Oh, here it is Kent:


  4. kent vanderwaal says:

    Thanks Mr. Kevin!

  5. Kevin says:

    thanks Joanna; i know y’all will get it going; i’m finding it hard to wait 🙂

  6. Doug says:

    Sermon is still unavailable. thanks

  7. Erik says:

    I second that Doug!

  8. Sue says:

    Sermon is still not available. 🙁 Not complaining. Just want you to know the status.

  9. Dave Pritchard says:

    It’s a Conspiracy!

  10. Saundra Singh says:

    Video is not working. Please get it up and running because it was a really good sermon and I’d like to share it with my family. Thanks!!

  11. Kevin says:

    it’s 9pm in mississippi and ready for a woodland word from God. if all i had for spiritual food was from my church, i’d be starved to death by now….really!

  12. Dave Pritchard says:


    They could send it by Flatboat down the river and it could reach you in a couple of weeks! Ha!

  13. Jason Rohman says:

    I have been sober for 5 years. Today, I am reminded of what it’s like to be an addict searching for my fix. My name is Jason R. and I’m a podrishioner addict. Please get me by fix!

  14. Angie Wood says:

    I’m also a podrishioner hungry for Woodland’s messages each week. Another speaker that feeds my soul (bc he speaks straight from the teachings of Jesus non violently, in sharing the character of God), is Herb Montgomery of Renewed Heart Ministries. Greg and him have been speakers together on a few occasions. There are podcasts in audio, along with some video clips. Just food for thought as another alternate as we wait:-) See http://www.renewedheartministries.com if this calls to you.

  15. Kelly Wetzel says:

    Have not been able to download the podcast but have been reading something I just recently found online called “The Select Writings of William Dell”. It speaks about both kingdoms and has been an interesting read so far! It’s actually about 600 pages …. and it was written in the 1600’s … but it speaks so much to many “twisted” ideas we still face today as “the church”. I wonder if the ideas it presents could be broken down into a sermon series. I would love to hear other’s thoughts. 🙂

  16. Alvarez says:

    it says “video not found or access denied”…. Can’t see it.

  17. Joanna Hallstrom says:

    Hello all you podrishioner addicts. Unfortunately the sermon is still trapped in cyberspace. We are working on it and will give a shout-out when your life line is back up!

  18. Joanna Hallstrom says:

    Get your headphones on. This sermon is now posted. Hallelujah!

  19. Dave Pritchard says:

    “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak
    out – Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -
 Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak
    out – 
Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

    – Martin Niemöller (1937?)

    Greg has mentioned Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his messages frequently and I have found his writings to be deeply profound and inspiring. However, a contemporary of his, Martin Niemöller [a very controversial figure] who unlike Bonhoeeffer, was initially a Nazi supporter, also had an impact on the post-war peace movement. Unlike Bonhoeffer, he was not executed and survived imprisonment at Dachau and Tyrol and was eventually freed by U.S soldiers in 1945.

    In his famous “First they came….” statement, he clearly demonstrates the potential quandary that one may find themselves in if you take a stand of pacifistic inaction.

    I am not advocating in anyway a disproportionate retaliatory vendetta and or retribution – “Vengeance is mine says they Lord” – Deuteronomy 32:35 & Romans 12:19 But…. if I truly “Love my neighbor as myself” [Mark 12:31] and “I am to be my brothers keeper” – an inverted twist of [Genesis 4:9]….and I’m going to pull the chain here –

    Should there not be a time when I will lay down my life for my neighbor in an act of Christ-like love and servitude? If I will not defend physically the weak, the old and the despised in this fallen world, then who will?

  20. Right on, Greg! Yup! Radical indeed! Like Jesus!

  21. kathy d says:

    A friend of mine shared this on his blog once; I thought it fitting for this teaching, many of you may enjoy it:

    Google “Jesus’ Third Way” by Walter Wink; there is a PDF version of it available online; unfortunately having trouble including the link at the moment!

    Blessings; Greg, wonderful message, thank you.

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