Very rarely, when I read the Bible, do I read something that makes my “hackles” rise. When I read something and say, “That can’t be. It doesn’t seem right.” I know that any error in understanding Scripture is found in me, so when I encounter something that gives me pause. I dive into it. This is what happened today with these verses from Romans.

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 (emphasis added).

Romans 13:1-3 (NIV)

If anyone knew about persecution, it was Paul. Paul was constantly persecuted by those in authority. It wasn’t uncommon for Paul to have done something good and then be punished by the governing authorities. 

In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk…Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.

Acts 14:8-10, 19 (NIV)

Amongst those Jews from Iconium were leaders who had already determined to stone Paul (Acts 14:5).

Ten years after Paul wrote Romans, Nero was murdering Christians whose only “crime” was to put God first in their lives. Indeed, Paul was also martyred for his faith by the same governing authority. We also know from Scripture, as did Paul, that people disobeyed the governing authorities. 

The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.

Exodus 1:17 (NIV)

But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.)

Joshua 2:4-6 (NIV)

The midwives in Exodus 1:17 were told by Pharaoh to kill all newborn Jewish boys, yet they didn’t. In Joshua, Rahab disobeyed the king of Jericho by lying about the Israelites’ spies and hiding them. Indeed, Rahab helped overthrow the governing authority. Then, there are these examples from Acts.

But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!

Acts 4:19 (NIV)

Peter and John denied the authority of the Jewish leaders to stop teaching about Jesus. 

But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus” (emphasis added).

Acts 17:6-7 (NIV)

The Gospel message about Jesus was in direct opposition to the notion many held that Caesar was of divine origin and that there was no greater ruler than Caesar. Thus, Paul was in “violation” of this edict, and he was a Roman citizen. 

Finally, in Revelation, we have this insight about the governing authority in the end times.

It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world (emphasis added).

Revelation 13:7-8 (NIV) 

Clearly, Christians should not put humans’ authority over God’s will. What does this mean, then, in light of Romans 13:1-7?

I think Paul answers the question in Romans 13:7-10. We are to give what is due and love them.

Consider this from Romans 13:1, Paul says we are to subject ourselves to the governing authorities. Paul doesn’t say we are to obey them. There is a difference between the two, and it’s not rebellious or contrary to subject yourself to authority without observing it, as evidenced in these verses.

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”

Matthew 23:1-3 (NIV)

The religious rulers Jesus taught about might have accurately taught the law, but they didn’t obey it. Yet, Jesus taught the disciples to subject themselves to those same leaders. 

When we read Romans 13, we need to understand that Paul is not telling us to blindly follow and obey those who have authority over us. Indeed, Paul is not telling us to submit to and follow those who do evil. 

Do you know God? God knows you, and he loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, and he wants you to know him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, freed from death, and live eternally with him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart and receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.