Powers Ordained of God

Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Some people have tried to make the point to me recently, that this passage is not about civil government and that Paul did not mean for believers to submit to the Roman rulers, but rather to the priests of the temple in Jerusalem. Obviously, this has bearing on us today, because if Paul did mean the corrupt Roman government was to be submitted to (at least up until they contradict God's command) then our modern government would certainly be due the same submission.

Many believers who have found their way out of the modern church and into Torah keeping are leery of all authority. Often they don't attend a church with official leadership and can be pretty anti-government in their attitudes and deeds. I think this passage is clearly about civil government, and while I don't currently believe we can obey civil authority to the point of disobeying God, I think there is a solid case for submitting to anything short of that. My goal here though is to show that this passage, regardless of how far "submit" goes, is definitely about civil government.

  1. Verse one specifically says that there is no power except from God. Civil authorities are certainly powers, so that would classify them here as one of the "powers" to be subject to. This is attested to in Daniel 4:25 as well, "The most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will."
  2. It says that the ruler "beareth the sword." This is a present tense statement, and as the Chief Priests of that time had testified during Yeshua's trial, only the Roman government had authority to execute in those days. (John 18:31)
  3. Paying tribute to these powers is mentioned. This word for tribute is used five times in the NT, including three in this passage. The other two clearly say "tribute unto Caesar" (Luke 20:22) and "tribute to Caesar," (Luke 23:20) showing plainly who "tribute" was owed to.
  4. This isn't the only passage that talks about submitting to civil authorities, Titus 3:1 and 1 Peter 2:13 have the same type of message, so there is no reason to see what Paul is teaching here regarding submission to civil government as being out of place with the rest of the NT.

One of the objections I have heard, tries to place the "tribute" here as the temple tax that we see Yeshua paying in Matthew 17. The reason why historians believe this to be a temple tax is because an unusual word is used for "tribute" or "tax." Yet if it takes an unusual word to indicate that the tribute is temple related, then the fact that the word in Romans is the usual one actually proves my point. On the other hand, if that word was just a normal word, then there is no reason to believe that this tax Yeshua paid was to the priests rather than the Romans (seeing it is in Capernaum, not Jerusalem it is paid) refuting the very basis of the objection.

Overall, there is no real excuse to see this passage as anything other than commanding submission to the civil government.

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