Submission to Authorities
Rom 13:1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
Rom 13:2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
Rom 13:3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;
Rom 13:4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
Rom 13:5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.
Rom 13:6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.
Rom 13:7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
v1 – We are all to be under submission to governing authorities. This is an important question because:
- Christians professed supreme allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ; he was their Lawgiver, their Sovereign, their Judge. It became, therefore, a question of great importance and difficulty
- The kingdoms of the world were then “pagan” kingdoms. The laws were made by pagans and were adapted to the prevalence of paganism. Those kingdoms had been generally founded in conquest, and blood, and oppression. Many of the monarchs were blood-stained warriors; were unprincipled men; and were polluted in their private, and oppressive in their public character. Whether Christians were to acknowledge the laws of such kingdoms and of such men, was a serious question, and one which could not but occur very early.
- Many of the early Christians were composed of Jewish converts. Yet the Jews had long been under Roman oppression and had borne the foreign yoke with great uneasiness. The whole pagan magistracy they regarded as founded in a system of idolatry; as opposed to God and his kingdom; and as abomination in his sight. With these feelings they had become Christians; and it was natural that their former sentiments should exert an influence on them after their conversion. How far they should submit, if at all, to heathen magistrates, was a question of deep interest; and there was danger that the “Jewish” converts might prove to be disorderly and rebellious citizens of the empire.
- Nor was the case much different with the “Gentile” converts. They would naturally look with abhorrence on the system of idolatry which they had just forsaken. They would regard all as opposed to God. They would denounce the “religion” of the pagans as abomination; and as that religion was interwoven with the civil institutions, there was danger also that they might denounce the government altogether and be regarded as opposed to the laws of the land.
- There “were” cases where it was right to “resist” the laws. This the Christian religion clearly taught; and in cases like these, it was indispensable for Christians to take a stand. When the laws interfered with the rights of conscience; when they commanded the worship of idols, or any moral wrong, then it was their duty to refuse submission. Yet in what cases this was to be done, where the line was to be drawn, was a question of deep importance, and one which was not easily settled. It is quite probable, however, that the main danger was, that the early Christians would err in “refusing” submission, even when it was proper, rather than in undue conformity to idolatrous rites and ceremonies.
- In the “changes” which were to occur in human governments, it would be an inquiry of deep interest, what part Christians should take, and what submission they should yield to the various laws which might spring up among the nations. The “principles” on which Christians should act are settled in this chapter.
Submit. The word denotes that kind of submission which soldiers render to their officers. It implies “subordination;” a willingness to occupy our proper place, to yield to the authority of those over us. The word used here does not designate the “extent” of the submission, but merely enjoins it in general. The general principle will be seen to be, that we are to obey in all things which are not contrary to the Law of God. They were told here by Paul to submit to the Roman leadership and hierarchy.
This is because their authority was given to them by God.
- Dan 2:21 “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.
- Dan 4:17 “This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers And the decision is a command of the holy ones, In order that the living may know That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, And bestows it on whom He wishes And sets over it the lowliest of men.”
- Dan 4:25 that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.
- This does not mean
- That he approves of their conduct
- That what they do is always right
- That it is our duty “always” to submit to them
- This does not mean
The main thing to remember is what Francis Schaeffer once said, and I paraphrase: “Obey the laws of man where it does not counter the laws of God”
“But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name. And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:17-20
“When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, saying, We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. But Peter and the apostles answered, We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Acts 5:27-32
v2 – That is, they who rise up against “government itself;” who seek anarchy and confusion; and who oppose the regular execution of the laws. It is implied, however, that those laws shall not be such as to violate the rights of conscience or oppose the laws of God.
vs3-4 – The general principle is that if you do good works, then we have no need to fear it. They are generally not a terror for good works.
v5 – As a matter of conscience, or of “duty to God,” because “he” has appointed it, and made it necessary and proper.
Christians professed supreme allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ; he was their Lawgiver, their Sovereign, their Judge. It became, therefore, a question of great importance and difficulty
- “Keep the command of the king because of the oath before God. I say, Keep the command of the king because of the oath before God. Do not be in a hurry to leave him. Do not join in an evil matter, for he will do whatever he pleases. Since the word of the king is authoritative, who will say to him, “What are you doing? He who keeps a royal command experiences no trouble, for a wise heart knows the proper time and procedure.” Ecclesiastes 8:2-5
vs6-7 – This is the same thing Jesus said to His disciples. “But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, Whose likeness and inscription is this? They said to Him, Caesar’s. Then He said to them, Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:18-21