Romans 13:1-3a

In Romans 13:1-3a Paul shifts gears and talks about a believers obligation to government and authority. He makes it very clear right up front that there is an authority that every one of us is subject to: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” He doesn’t leave any room for exceptions. Every person means exactly that. Paul simply says that we should be subject to the governing authorities. There is no qualifier like ‘if they are smart of doing what you like or leading with integrity’. He simply says we need to be subject to them. This was in contrast to groups of zealous Jews in that day who recognized no king but God and paid taxes to no one but God.

So why should we submit to authority? We subject ourselves to governing authorities because they are appointed by God and serve a purpose in His plan. “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” God uses leaders to accomplish His plan. God appoints a nation’s leaders, but not always to bless the people. Sometimes it is to judge the people or to ripen the nation for judgment. Remember what Paul wrote this during the reign of the Roman Empire. It was no democracy, and certainly no friend to Christians – yet he still saw their legitimate authority.

We are not to resist authority. If we do, that is resisting what God has appointed. “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” God uses governing authorities as a check upon man’s sinful desires and tendencies. Government can be an effective tool in resisting the effects of sin. We seem to have lost sight of this in America. We treat leaders with little respect and certainly don’t view them as authorities that God has put in place for such a time as this to address what needs to be dealt with. We need to realize that God uses leaders to change things and if we resist, we’ll have to answer for it before Him.

People in places of authority are there for a purpose. Our response should be to submit to their leadership and authority. Does that mean we need to obey everything they say? Unless it violates a higher law – God’s law – the answer is probably yes. Paul didn’t say to be subject to leaders if we agree or like what they do. Their purpose is to guide the world to living rightly. And as such, we need to fall under their authority and understand that they are imperfect humans but put where they are by a God who has a plan. “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority?”

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