Acton Institute Powerblog

Christians in the Public Square

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Melanchthon, commentating on Romans 13:5 and following:

“let us learn that in those who believe in Christ, the works of political and economical life are good works and acts of worship of God, not merely secular works, because society must be preserved in order that God may become known in it. This purpose is not a worldly matter, since all activities of the political life are aimed at this purpose: God wanted them to be exercises of confession, and on account of this purpose he imposed them on us.”

Philip Melanchthon, Commentary on Romans, 1540

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty, where he also serves as executive editor the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary. He has authored articles in academic publications such as The Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, and Journal of Scholarly Publishing, and has written popular pieces for newspapers including the Detroit News, Orange County Register, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 2006, Jordan was profiled in the book, The Relevant Nation: 50 Activists, Artists And Innovators Who Are Changing The World Through Faith. Jordan's scholarly interests include Reformation studies, church-state relations, theological anthropology, social ethics, theology and economics, and research methodology. Jordan is a member of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), and he resides in Jenison, Michigan with his wife and three children.


  • D. Spencer

    Not all “political and economical life are good works and acts of worship of God…” in my opinion. Rather they hold within them the ability to be “transformed” from merely secular human work, to something holy. It is when these are “sanctified” that they can be healed, perfected and elevated.

  • I think that’s precisely what the Praeceptor Germaniae meant.

  • Puzzled

    I think that is why Melancton said “For those who believe in Christ.”

    He is writing prescriptively, to those in the Evangelical Movement, now known as Lutherans.

    It should also be understood that in Lutheran thought, to truly believe in Christ is to daily live in contrition, faith and obedience. It is not mere intellectual assent. That may make Melancthon’s words quoted, make more sense.