Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities. (Romans 13:1)
Let’s continue with our inductive study of Romans 13. We’ve observed what was said in the text of the chapter. Now we need to address the question, “What does it mean?” The last half of the chapter is easier to understand than the first half.
Paul begins the chapter with the statement, “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)
On the surface this is easy to understand. It’s somewhat confusing when you consider the authority under which Paul lived was the ruthless Caesar. He was not primarily concerned about doing what was right, nor rewarding those who did right. He was concerned about rewarding those who furthered his interests and punishing anyone who stood in his way. In fact, he even punished some to satisfy the perverted enjoyment of his supporters.
Is Paul here saying we should blindly respect and follow such ruthless rulers? Paul’s response is found in verse 2, “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
It would seem to suggest that what Paul said in Chapter 12, verse 18 is relevant here as well, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone,” including Caesar. All of this sound ok if what is found in verse 3 is true in your experience. But even then, most of us find it difficult to submit to or follow any authority over us, especially a human authority.
Do you have a problem with the issue of authority?