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Submit to Government? (Romans 13)

Aside from the organization that God established—the priesthood in the Old Testament, and the Ekklesia in the New Testament—has he really asked us, in Romans 13, to submit to secular governing authorities?

Remember, God tried to discourage Israel from setting up a kingdom by warning them of the dire consequences.1 That warning listed ways by which that king would limit their freedoms and take their property. Also, using the writers of the books of Daniel and Revelation, God presents/symbolizes those secular government as terrible beasts.2

I suggest the Peter's words to the governing authorities of his day would violate Romans 13 if what we read in our modern translations is accurate:

But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:19-20 NASB)

So too of Jesus who repeatedly disobeyed the authorities' rules by healing on the sabbath, among other things.

Throughout the early years, it was secular governments that persecuted Christians. Even today, in governments allegedly elected by the people to serve people, we see prayer removed from our schools, marriages perverted, and limits placed on what we are permitted to call sin. These governments, supposedly elected to serve the people are actually serving to benefit the bankers and large corporations at the expense of the people—and we’ve done little to oppose it. Why? Was it because we led to believe that "good" Christians are to be in subjection to “governing authorities”? Is this not a conflict in which master we serve? To submit to government is to surrender our God-given unalienable rights. Too many of those rights have already been given up to a government, who by law should be our public servant, not our superior.

In that light, we need to examine the opening verses of Romans 13 which appear, especially in the modern versions, to direct us to submit to governing authorities. 

Please know that I hold all scripture as God-inspired and as the final authority in my life—in its original form and language.

Romans 13

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. (Romans 13:1 NASB - 1995)3

Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers. (Romans 13:1 ASV - 1901)4 

Let every soul be subject to the authorities that are above him. (Romans 13:1 DARBY - 1890)5

Most twentieth century versions have interpreted—not translated—the Greek words (huperecho exousia) as “governing authorities” while those of older origin, such as King James (1611), American Standard (1901), Bishop’s (1595), Geneva (1599), Darby (1890), Tyndale (1534), Webster’s (1833), carry the literal translation of these words as “higher powers.”6

Why this change from translation to interpretation in the newer versions? Was the change a matter of accuracy or influence over the translators in order to control the readers? One of the planned actions of the New World Order is to, "Changing The Bible Through Revisions Of Key Words" This change, in modern versions and revisions, would certainly hamper every ‘good Christian’ from ever thinking of opposing a government that advocates abortion, homosexuality, or reduced rights.

The word governing in the NASB is the Greek word huperecho that means “to hold above, to rise above, to be superior.”7

The Greek word exousia interpretated as authorities in the NASB means "power to act, authority."8

Discussion has been ongoing whether the term exousia refers to human authority or spiritual.9 I believe that the adjective higher was used by Paul to distinguishing this exousia to from that which is merely human.

It is to those in higher lawful authority to which all souls are to be subject. The point of conflict comes when people associate the word governing with secular government. The context of this verse has no connection to secular government. In fact, a maxim of law states, “The power which is derived cannot be greater than that from which it is derived.” This means that government elected by the people, which gets is power or authority to govern from the people who elected it, can never therefore have greater power or authority than that which the people possess. That means that an elected, lawful, government must be in subjection to the will of the people.

Is It Idolatry?

We know that idolatry is an abomination to the Lord.

Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the LORD your God. Leviticus. 26:1

Does God’s abhorrence of idolatry include the fact that we make ourselves subservient to a thing of our own creation? Secular government is an entity that we created. We have come to expect it to care of us from cradle to grave. As an entity of our creation it differs from the organizational government that Jesus established for those people he has call to assemble as his kingdom.

Scriptural Harmony

Not only must the translator consider the context of those verses, their translation must be in harmony with the rest of scripture and the character of God. If we are to live in submission to secular governing authorities then Jesus and others in scripture must act accordingly—but they do not. Jesus was often at odds with the governing authories when healing on the sabbath, instructing others to carry their beds on the sabbath, eating without washing hands, etc. Daniel prayed to God in direct disobedience to governing authorities. The apostles disobeyed them and continued to preach Jesus.

Governing authorities cannot be a proper translation of Paul's intention in these verses, but what was his intention?

In Context

According to established principles of translation, the context in which a verse or verses are used must be considered. These verses, purported to speak of submission to secular government, are sandwiched between sections that pertain to loving our neighbours within the sphere of life in the body of Christ. This very fact raises a concern. Using a sampling, we read:

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” (Romans 12:10 NASB)

Every person should obey the government in power…” (Romans 13:1 GWN10)

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another…” (Romans 13:8 NASB)

Read Romans 12, 13, and 14 in a modern version of the Bible now, without chapter or verse breaks, and note the sudden change in theme for Romans 13:1-7

Why a change in direction toward an external authority figure like secular government and then, just as suddenly, back to loving our neighbours? Is it valid? Does it fit Paul’s intent and flow? I think not. I believe that Paul is referring to the change of human authority that God established within the Body of Christ.

With this in mind let me rewrite Romans 13:1-7 as an illustration.

Everyone must submit to those that God has placed above them, for there is no authority apart from God, set in place by God. So then, to oppose those above you is to oppose God's command, and by opposing them you bring judgment on yourselves, in the same way as rulers are not terrors to good conduct, but to that which is bad. Do you want to be unafraid of those in authority over you? Do good and you will have their approval. They are God's servants for good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because they have authority for good reasons. They are God's servants, avengers that bring wrath on those who do wrong. Therefore, you must submit, not only because of potential wrath, but also because of your conscience. For this reason, pay attention to them, for they are a tool in God's service, constantly watching. Therefore, give to all people what you owe them: respect to those due that respect; end relationships that need to end; reverence those who should be revered; honour those due the honour. Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled that law. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing, you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.  

These sections of scripture now fit and flow together since there is no interruption to the focus on human relationship issues with the Body of Christ.

The death of Paul, and probably all the disciples, was at the hand of government authorities. The University of Hawaii’s study determined that since 1900 secular governments have be responsible for the murder of 262 million people. If you haven’t already determined that our modern governments are inherently evil you are wasting your time reading this.

Jesus warned us that we would be hated simply as a consequence of loving people and following Jesus.

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (John 15:18-19 NASB)

Summary

Paul, in Romans 13:1-7, is not admonishing us to submit to secular government. He is teaching us about levels of authority within the body of Christ and the principle that those anointed by God to positions of authority act as God’s administrators, tools, used by Him to encourage us to good behaviour.11

I'd suggest that we who are the body of Christ, use the authority to govern, that He has given us, to ask Father to:

  1. remove those people who harbour evil intent from positions of authority in secular government
  2. to curse the finances of the bankers and corporations who act to undermine the rights, freedoms, property and patrimony of humankind 
  3. to work repentance in the heart of those who are not fully turned to evil and encourage them to publicly confess their wrongs

Our prayers are effective.


Footnotes

1. 1 Samuel 8

2. Daniel 7, Revelation 13

3. NASB - The New American Standard Bible (NAS [1977] and NAU [1995]). Copyright © 1986, both by The Lockman Foundation.  All rights reserved.

4. ASV - American Standard Version 1901

5. DBY - The English Darby Bible 1884/1890 (DBY), a literal translation by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)

6. This modern twist would play into the hand of those pushing for the New World Order by compelling any real Christians to submit to those who are supposed to be our servants.

7. Strong’s Concordance

8. Strong’s Concordance

9. Bauer, Walter, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Second Edition. Copyright © 1957, 1979. The University of Chicago Press. pg. 278

10. GOD'S WORD® translation.  Copyrighted © 1995 by God's Word to the Nations.

11. I suggest you read “Fathered by God” by this author for more on this matter.


©2009, steven, a man.

All publishing rights reserved. Permission is granted to reprint this article for personal use; however, no commercial re-publishing of the material in this article is permitted without prior written consent.

Steven is the author of Fathered by God and with his wife Dianne, co-author of Dream Dreams and Dreams the Heal and Counsel. He has been a guest on the Miracle Channel, Trinity Television, and Crossroads Communication, and have taught internationally on various topics.


Without Prejudice. © 2012, Steven., house of bij de Leij., a man.