1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
This chapter continues the injunctions to live a life in submission to God (12:1-2).
Chapter 13 begins a new subject—the relation of the Christian to government. It is the central passage on this subject, which also includes the role of human government in society. Rome was the capital of the Roman Empire. Christians in Rome needed to pay attention to governmental authority because it was the most important capital in the world. There is no indication that Christians were under persecution from the empire at this time.
The tension is that the Christian is the citizen of two kingdoms, an earthly government and a heavenly kingdom (Mt 22:15-22; Phil 3:20; Co 1:13).
The principles for God’s empowerment of the state are found in Romans 13:1-5:
Christians are to submit to the state, 1:1a
The state has its authority from divine establishment, 1:1b
Rebellion against the state is mutiny against both God and government, 1:2a
God and the state will punish those who violate law, 1:2b
The state constrains evil, 1:3a
The state serves social order, 1:3-4a
God delegates the state power to punish lawbreakers, 1:4b
The Christian should let his conscience obey the state, 1:5
1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.
The principle is that Christians have loyalty to both God and government. “Every soul” indicates that submission to human government—whether Christian and non-Christian—is a universal command for everyone.
The word “subject” means to arrange under. The idea is to arrange our lives under the social order that government provides. Civil obedience is the operating norm. We should not muddy submission, however, with keeping silence about issues in government. Those of us who live in democratic societies have the right to speak to government.
There is a reason to submit to human government—all governmental authority ultimately comes from God.
there is no [civil] authority except from God,
“Authority” here is used for governmental power. No human government comes to power without the superintendence of God’s sovereignty, so state power is delegated power. The issue is not whether the government itself is good or bad but whether God placed them in authority or not.
The word “authority” occurs six times in this section of Romans. The Greek word here means delegated power. God delegates governments the right to use their power for the benefit of society.
Good citizenship follows the principle of divine establishment.
As long as Christians live in human governments, they must obey the given governmental structure. Believers are to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s (Mk 12:17).
God asks us to obey not only kings and presidents but also all levels of governing authorities such as policemen, mayors, and judges.
1 Ti 2:1-2, 1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
Ti 3:1, Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work,
1 Pe 2:13-16, 13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
Paul does not deal with every contingency that Christians might face with government. If there is a conflict between the will of government and the will of God, then obviously we give precedence to the will of God. The issue is authority. Christians must accept governmental authority, but if that authority overrides God’s authority, then God’s authority must be paramount. Our responsibility to obey the state is limited to the bounds of the Word of God.
Ac 5:29, But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
When authorities in Jerusalem warned Peter and John not to speak or teach about the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18), they did not obey:
Acts 4:10-20, 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
The apostles continued their evangelism (Acts 5:28-29).
The Biblical Doctrine of the State: http://versebyversecommentary.com/articles/the-biblical-doctrine-of-the-state/
Here you say No human government comes to power without the superintendence of God’s sovereignty, so state power is delegated power. The issue is not whether the government itself is good or bad but whether God placed them in authority ( this is how I always thought because God is sovereign) but later on you say not all rulers are chosen by God. Oh boy I must be misunderstanding something here please explain again.
Don, I presume you are talking about my statement in Romans 13:1b: https://versebyversecommentary.com/romans/romans-131b-2/ Notice that I make a distinction between the government per se and the ruler (who may be evil). Also take note of this article where I distinguish between the government as a divine institution and individual leaders in the government: https://versebyversecommentary.com/articles/doctrine/the-biblical-doctrine-of-the-state/ It is also true that God permits by His sovereignty (concursus providence) to allow evil men to rule.
Grant does this verse(Rom 13:1) mean that the Lord puts every president and senator etc… in office to serve His ultimate purpose? Thanks
The ultimate authority is God. What we miss about the Government in the post modern world…if we lack knowledge and understanding of God’s Word… is that God uses leaders and the nations to destroy other nations in His judgement of their perverse, evil, and heinous immorality. He uses sinful Godless leadership within a country, ELECTED by the citizens of a country, to punish the nation AFTER He repeatedly warns, admonishes, disciplines, and finally turns away from their wickedness; giving them over to their chosen leaders in their sin. This IS the story of the Old Testament. Yes, we have a new Covenant of Grace. BUT, we have to KNOW God, and BELIEVE God in our HEARTS, MINDS, and SOULS to attain the Righteousness of Christ This makes us a repentant people desiring to turn from our immoral and wicked sin; obedient to the Will of God and always seeking to sanctify our ourselves in His knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. THIS comes by accepting Jesus Christ as the Savior of a dead and dying world. So, the point here, IF a country has rejected God, mocks God, “tickles” their ears with false doctrine from false teachers “modifying” God to fit the cultural demands and sin-nature, lives in the world and not apart from the world, repeatedly returns to the sin in their lives or gives themselves over to their sins, then this is not a heart that desires God, but a heart that desires the lust of the flesh, the unrighteousness of the natural man, and dwells with the world and not God. God is patient, but God is Just and God is HOLY. HE is our authority over the governing body of a country. He will not be confronted with man’s sin from destructive Pride and a heart of wickedness after a time, over and over, and over…He is merciful, and forgiving, and will humble man through the destruction man has chosen for himself, or by the use of other nations, apostasy within a nation, invasions from other lands to dilute or remove the population of a nation. THIS humbling can be done by giving the wicked and blasphemous people the leader that they themselves CHOOSE. God does sometimes give us what we ask for and what we deserve. Perhaps the Leadership MIRRORS their own wicked schemes to acquire wealth, power, and control. So, please, study the nations in the Old Testament. It is there for a REASON. It is a clear warning to the nations of the world at any point in time, past, present, and future. GOD never changes, His nature never changes, His Will never changes, His commands never change, His path to a new and changed heart never changes. We, in this nation, have turned to our idols and few know God and believe. Many of us who profess to believe have transformed God to suit man’s sinful desires, justification of the sin they desire, and literally “cherry pick” the Scriptures to create their own doctrines for their own “Christian” belief. The idea that God would CHOOSE to allow a nation to ELECT leaders that mirror their own perdition and wickedness, that would allow them to indulge in the desires of the flesh, albeit sexual in nature, sloth, complacency, vengeance, hate, money, fame, corruption, and power, (etc), in order to punish a nation in His Just Judgement should not surprising. The world is lost, dying, and in most cases dead. The Governments of the world were ordained by God beginning in the Old Testament with King Saul of Israel. The Biblical context of Government, which has been changed (as too much of our English Language has been to accommodate many things that cause our God grief and anger) is: “A governing body that seeks to serve, and promote the common good of the people, promoting the individual and never preventing progress toward peace and Prosperity without harm done to human dignity.” This definition was the basis for what I hope is a familiar mantra; “For the people, of the people, and by the people”. The culture of the world has come to see the Government as an entity that provides everything the people need, desire, and want…insisting that every individual, regardless of the GIFTS (Romans 12:6-8) that God has blessed us (individually) with should be freely provided and maintained for every citizen by the exact same measure believing us all to be the same collectively or as a mass of humanity. This was never the intentions of God’s Governance for his creation of mankind. It is not God’s intentions because it is not wise, nor is it possible in a world that is filled with the sins of man, the variance of God’s blessings, the various gifts given, the different nations of the world and their leadership, the geography of the world, the productivity and resources of the land, and ultimately the Faith of the nations and the plan God has for each of our lives. This is certainly not a complete or thorough opinion on the topic of Government. The complexity is staggering as you move from the history of the nations as God breathed in the Old Testament, to the New Testament, through the Dark Ages and its cruel leadership, to the Age of Enlightenment, to the Industrial Age (with it’s cruelty of Leadership), to the Modern and Post Modern age. One cannot ever really “nail” down the mind of God…for His thoughts are not our thoughts, His ways are not our ways. We need God. Know Him, for He has told us as much about Himself as we can possible understand in our childlike and foolish minds. After you know Him, Believe Him. PS. And you should know, I share my thoughts while being the greatest sinner of us all. God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.