Submission to Government (Rom 13:1-3)

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.” (Romans 13:1, ESV)

It is in the fleshly nature of man to be rebellious, to resist the authority of those placed over him and claim independence. This is very problematic, disorderly and contrary to the purposes of God. So, we have a choice. We will either be submissive and law abiding, or we will be rebellious and lawless. There is no neutrality.

Paul writes that we ought to be subject or submissive to the governing authorities. The context here seems to refer to human governments. However, the principle can refer to all of those in authority over us. Paul states the reason why we must submit is that all authority has been instituted by God and is from God. Jesus, presented this same truth while on trial before Pilate (John 19:11). This is a bold statement and is often problematic for us since when we go back over history, we see so many corrupt governments. So, when do we have the right to rebel or break the law?

Recently, as a result of the tragic death of George Floyd, protests broke out across our nation. The rationale for these was the way in which an officer of the law, a government employee, caused the death of Floyd, an ethnic minority. From the evidence observed, this officer’s actions resulted in the wrongful death of this man. However, were the actions of those protesting warranted? Did they fall within or outside of the boundaries stated by Paul in this section of Scripture?

Let me say from my observation, some did and some did not. There were many cities in which peaceful and legally organized protests took place. These were costly to those municipalities in the loss of business revenue, and the cost of adding security for all who participated. However, in these cases, the protests were inside the requirements of the law. However, there were others that sprung up and were conducted outside of the law. These were marked by illegal assembly, violence and looting. These clearly were outside the boundaries of submission to authorities.

Therefore, the Scriptures teach us that we must obey those in governing authority over us. Yet, we still have two huge questions that we must answer. First, was the government correct in responding with force to stop the illegal assembly, violence and looting? Second, are there any times when the people are to disobey the laws established by government? I plan to discuss both of these in the next two posts.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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