My latest Wikipedia update has been on a page describing the Roman persecutions of various religions. Wikipedia, for all its value, seemed to have skipped over a lesser known persecution described by Livy and colaborated by a bronze tablet discovered in Italy. This is the persecution of those involved in the mystery cult of Bacchas (Dionysus).
This is important to Christians because it helps illustrate the character of the Roman government, in addition to the execution of Christ, John the Baptist, the killing of the Galileans (Luk 13:1), etc. The Roman government was thoroughly evil. Furthermore, Paul would have expected harsh government persecution of a “new” religion, as opposed to Judaism which claimed historical roots tied to a particular people group. In spite of these evils, he wrote these words:
Rom 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Rom 13:2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
Rom 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
Rom 13:4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Although a government is murderously evil, we should still be subject to them to the extent that we acknowledge their sovereignty. Also, although a government is murderously evil, they are still commanded to preform executions. Be subject even to an evil government.