Submission to Authorities, Romans 13:1-7

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”  Romans 13:1

In the wake of recent uproar against police officers, this isn’t a popular passage, at least by the world’s standards. But Paul sets the bar high for believers concerning divinely sanctioned government offices and our response to them. For to rebel against authorities is rebelling against what God has instituted and will incur God’s judgment (vs. 2). God’s purpose of rulers and their use of force is to keep order in society by rewarding good conduct and punishing wrongdoers (vs 3).

Paul doesn’t expand on his remarks—such as duties of rulers to those under them, or limits of Christian obedience—and many modern believers struggle with this. But the context implies that the officials are just and are “God’s servants” (verse 4).

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Are there times when believers should not submit to the government? The NIV Life Application Study Bible comments: “We should never allow the government to force us to disobey God. Jesus and His apostles never disobeyed the government for personal reasons; when they disobeyed, it was in order to follow their higher loyalty to God. Their disobedience was not cheap: they were threatened, beaten, thrown into jail, tortured, and executed for their convictions. Like them, if we are compelled to disobey, we must be ready to accept the consequences.”

So What?

Although interpretations may differ on verse one, Paul makes it clear that we are to strive for peace with the authorities. Allegiance to God does not dismiss our responsibility to secular authority. We are expected to respectfully abide by accepted regulations, including paying taxes.

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