Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
When Paul wrote to the believers in Rome about governing authorities, there was no question as to what authorities he had in mind—the government of Rome, probably led at that time by Nero. According to this passage, even Rome’s harsh, corrupt system was established by God and deserved the respect and obedience of believers.
However, Rome’s authority—and all authority—was merely delegated authority. Ultimate authority belongs to God. But that raises a tough question for believers: if governments are subordinate to God and accountable to Him for what they do, then aren’t there limits on the extent to which believers must submit to them? Aren’t there times when believers need to obey God rather than human officials?
The early church had to wrestle with these issues. Likewise, the church today must wrestle with these issues. Throughout church history, believers have struggled with whether to obey or resist evil governments. There are no easy answers. But one principle that Paul clearly affirms here is that government itself is intrinsically good, having been established by God. This does not mean that man cannot corrupt it with evil intentions.
Scripture challenges us as believers to subject ourselves to whatever governments we live under. Submission to authority is never easy. Human nature tends toward resistance and even rebellion, especially if government is imposed, incompetent, and/or corrupt. Without question, some governments at times persecute those who do good. Paul had firsthand experience with that. But for the most part, it’s the lawbreaker, not the law-abiding citizen who has something to fear from government. Our motivation to obey must go beyond fear of punishment. As believers, we serve the highest of all authorities! Let us live our lives in such a way that Jesus is glorified in all we do.
Questions to Ponder:
Do you struggle with civil authority? Do you struggle with God’s authority? When might you obey God rather than man? Should you ignore your faith when deciding which leaders you will elect to rule over you?
- Worship the LORD and His Sovereign reign. Declare Him as LORD of all. Confess Him as Lord and all-wise God over every nation and every leader, even over America.
- Apologize to Abba for any complaining, slander, or gossip regarding local or national authorities.
- Thank Him that you live in America with so many freedoms. Ask the LORD to guide and direct each of your steps as you trust Him.
King of Glory, I praise You that I can rest in You and Your Sovereignty. I thank you that when I come to You for wisdom, You grant that to me. I ask for myself and Your church that You will grant strength, power, and wisdom to know who to vote for and to trust in Your ultimate ways, even if the results are not what I personally want or think are best. Help me and your church to remain faithful in praying for those in authority as the weeks, months, and years go by. Thank You that my trust is not in a man or group but rather in Jesus Christ! Amen.