1 Let every person p be subject to the governing authorities. For q there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
Romans 13:1 - 2
ESV - 1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
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Romans 13 has been frequently quoted in support of submission to the government. Religious leaders, as well as politicians, often misuse and abuse Paul’s statements to support government providential authority. In Romans 13 Paul is saying that all people should submit to the government’s authority and anyone who opposes the authority is standing against what God has established and they will get punished. However, the historic context might be useful in understanding what Paul is truly saying here. He is speaking to Christians under Roman authority in a time when armed revolts were brutally put down all over the empire. He’s concerned that church members might be arrested, tortured and executed by the government if involved in such revolts. Paul doesn’t want Christians disobeying the Roman law – in other words, don’t be a rebel and try to overthrow the government. He tells Christians that some social order is necessary for human coexistence. However, he is not saying that all laws are just, or that unjust laws must be supported. Paul himself was executed by the Romans, just as was Jesus before him and thousands of Christian martyrs after him. If Paul's message from Roman 13 is that Christians have a sacred duty to support governments no matter the circumstance, then opposing Hitler would have been a sin, and supporting the American Declaration of Independence would've been a displeasure in God's eyes.
In this present age, governments will always be composed of fallible, sinful humans who may or may not act according to scriptural principles. God's permissive will (that is, His authority) allows them to exist for His own ultimate purposes, even when they do not act in accordance with the model of human behavior that He has prescribed. He is also capable of using even their worst, most unscriptural actions to bring about His purposes. (However, that also does not relieve government officials of responsibility for their behavior in His eyes.) (In addition, governments have the inherent right to defend themselves in order to remain in existence.)
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