Summary of passage: You must submit to government authorities because God is the one who has given them authority so in essence you are submitting to God. If you rebel against the government, you are rebelling against God and are therefore subject to judgment. Do what is right and you have nothing to fear. The ruler is God’s servant ready to punish the wrongdoer. Thus, submit to authorities so you’re not punished and because of conscience.
3) The definition of submit according to Webster’s Dictionary is “to yield to governance or authority; to subject to a condition, treatment, or operation; to yield oneself to the authority or will of another”. Everyone must submit to governing authorities because God is the one who had given them authority so in essence you are submitting to God.
4) Part personal Question. My answer: The same reasons people struggle with submitting to God (which in this passage Paul says is the same thing i.e. God and authorities are the same): people want to do what they want to do (selfishness) and not what others tell them to do. Human nature is inherently evil and if a person wants to be able to kill another, that’s what he wants to do. Man wants power and to lord over others. God established rules/government so there would not be anarchy in this world. I’m fine with following the government (when you’re brought up in society it’s relatively easy to obey). It’s the daily selfishness I struggle with such as when I’m driving being nice to others or putting others needs before mine or giving up my time for others.
5) When man/human authority asks us to go against God and His Word. Daniel ignores the decree by King Darius to not pray to God. This is against God. When you’re asked to do something that goes against your conscience or that you know is wrong. Then you can disobey. Killing others, persecuting others, causing physical harm to others, etc.
Conclusions: Great passage by Paul and very important today when people are so against governing authorities. You may not like who is in office, but God put them there so respect them and the laws of your country.
End Notes: Connecting Romans 12, people are not to take vengeance but the government can punish wrongdoers since God gave them the authority to do so. Paul is speaking to some Jews who refused to acknowledge the authority of the rulers and thus paid no taxes.
“Be subject to” is a significant theme for Romans 13:1-7. The civil rulers, all of whom were probably pagans at the time Paul was writing. Christians may have been tempted not to submit to them and to claim allegiance only to Christ. Even the possibility of a persecuting state did not shake Paul’s conviction that civil government is ordained by God (1 Peter 2:13-17).
Government authorities serve a purpose for God. God appoints a nation’s leaders, but not always to bless the people. Sometimes it is to judge the people like we read in Daniel and how God used the Babylonian empire to judge His people.
Paul wrote this during the reign of the Roman Empire. It was no democracy, and no special friend to Christians – yet he still saw their legitimate authority.
“Your Savior suffered under Pontius Pilate, one of the worst Roman governors Judea ever had; and Paul under Nero, the worst Roman Emperor. And neither our Lord nor His Apostle denied or reviled the ‘authority!’ ” (Newell)
Since governments have authority from God, we are bound to obey them – unless, of course, they order us to do something in contradiction to God’s law. Then, we are commanded to obey God before man (as in Acts 4:19). Paul is describing the ideal rulers here. Obviously, man is fallen so this is not always the case the rulers will do what is right.
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 man’s fallenness.
Paul’s idea is that Christians should be the best citizens of all. Even though they are loyal to God before they are loyal to the state, Christians are good citizens because they are honest, give no trouble to the state, pay their taxes, and – most importantly – pray for the state and the rulers.
Paul describes government officials as God’s minister. They have a ministry in the plan and administration of God, just as much as church leaders do.
If the state’s rulers are God’s minister (servant), they should remember that they are only servants, and not gods themselves.
It is through the just punishment of evil that government serves its function in God’s plan of holding man’s sinful tendencies in check. When a government fails to do this consistently, it opens itself up to God’s judgment and correction.
The sword is a reference to capital punishment. In the Roman Empire, criminals were typically executed by beheading with a sword (crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals of the lowest classes). Paul, speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has no doubt that the state has the legitimate authority to execute criminals.
We must be subject to government; not only because we fear punishment, but because we know it is right before God to do so. Christian obedience to the state is never blind – it obeys with the eyes of conscience wide open. Christians must duly honor the government in order to maintain a good conscience.
Fun Fact (taken from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary): The Bible, by exhortation and commandment, requires submission and obedience to six principal authorities:
- Parents (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20; 1 Timothy 3:4)
- Teachers (Proverbs 5:12-13)
- Husbands (Ephesians 5:21-22, 24; Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1, 5-6)
- Masters–or today, employers (Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:22, Titus 2:9, 1 Peter 2:18)
- Government (Romans 13:1-2, 5: Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13)
- God (Genesis 26:5, Ephesians 5:24, Hebrews 5:9; 12:9, James 4:7)
The supreme test of faith is obedience (1 Samuel 28:18). The Bible often links obedience to faith (Genesis 22:18; Romans 1:5; 1 Peter 1:14). Jesus obedience to the Father is the supreme example for Christians.