Submission to Authorities (Romans 13:1-7)

Submission to Authorities (Romans 13:1-7)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, September 25 and Sunday, September 26, 2021

Did any of you ever watch the show Andy Griffith? I used to watch that show. It was/is a comical and wholesome show. There was one particular episode in which Barney gives Gomer a ticket. Right after giving him the ticket Barney violates the law by a U-turn. Gomer immediately says, “Citizen’s arrest, citizen’s arrest!”

Well, today’s passage gets into the place of government in our life. God’s order is: God-State-people. The state submits to God, the people submit to the state. However, whether or not the state submits to God, we are to submit to the state. Let’s look at this passage.

My theme today is:

Christians are called to be submissive to authorities.

  1. Be subject to the government (Romans 13:1).
    1. Witherington footnote: It is very interesting to compare what Paul says here and how he describes Christian community life to what Tertullian (Apology 39) says at the end of the second century: “We are an association bound together by our religious profession. … We meet together as an assembly and society. … We pray for the emperors. … We gather together to read our sacred writings. … After the gathering is over the Christians go out as if they had come from a school of virtue.”[1]
    2. We are now in the ethics and moral section of Romans. Now, Paul addresses the government.
    3. Look at verse 1, Romans 13:1, 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.
    4. There is a passive command and then there are two statements about governing authorities.
    5. I said that it is a passive command because the verb directly translated “let be subject” is an imperative command in the passive mood.
    6. It is a command, but it comes off more gently, “let every person…” He is not saying, “do this,” or “don’t do that.”
    7. The command is that we are to be subject to the government. This is throughout Scripture.
    8. Eph 5:21 tells us to be subject to one another.
    9. Titus 3:1 and 1 Peter 2:13 also tells us to be subject to authorities.
    10. Hebrews 13:7 and 17 tell us to submit to church leadership.
    11. Da 2:21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding
    12. Da 4:17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’
    13. Jn 19:11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
    14. Now, the next two statement are critical.
    15. “For,: this means he is about to explain something.
    16. There is no authority except God. What does that mean?
    17. It means every government is under the sovereignty of God. He has a purpose. He can use it.
    18. This does not mean that God endorses corrupt leadership. The Roman leadership at that time was very corrupt.
    19. This means that God is the ultimate authority. There is no authority above God. Every leader will have to submit to God.
    20. Those that exists have been instituted by God.
    21. We may all know that the kings during the Middle Ages would use this verse to keep people in submission.
    22. However, this is only endorsing the system of government. This is not endorsing an evil monarch.
    23. God ordained/setup the idea of government.
  2. Why (Romans 13:2-5)?
    1. Look at verse 2, Romans 13:2: Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
    2. There is an inference here, therefore is a logical, inferential, conjunction. Whoever resists authority, resists what God has appointed. What? What he means is that when we resist authority, we are resisting the government and God has appointed government. This does not mean resisting President Biden, or President Trump, or President Obama is resisting God because of them. No, we are resisting the government and God appointed a system of governance.
    3. If we resist, we will incur, that is be subject to, judgment, that is discipline.
    4. CSB: The Jewish nation rebelled against Rome in two costly wars, bringing judgment upon themselves at a cost of more than one million lives. Government is ordained by God to reward good and punish evil, providing peace and order for those whom it serves. The sword alludes to capital punishment. A government that rewards evil and punishes good will not long survive, for evil is innately destructive. “If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials will be wicked” (Pr 29:12).[2]
    5. Look at verses 3-4, Romans 13:3-4: For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
    6. This is very practical. If you do good the rulers will not bother you.
    7. Now, anyone of us could think of the exception, but we make rules based on the norms, not the exceptions. We could think of the times when someone was doing good and faced discipline, but most of the time, if we are doing what is right, we will be okay.
    8. If we do wrong, we are right to be afraid. The government does not bear the sword in vain, that means for no reason.
    9. The ruler is the servant of God. Meaning, by serving in the government, whether one realizes it or not, he/she is a servant of God. They are in God’s system.
    10. The leader is an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
    11. This means that oftentimes God punishes wickedness through His people.
    12. This is really all about common grace. Generally speaking, even non-Christians recognize right and wrong and can carry it out in government.
    13. Verse 5, Romans 13:5: Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
    14. This sums this section up. Therefore, is an inference.
    15. When we are subject to the government by obedience, we avoid God’s wrath. How? In obeying the government, we are obeying God’s system to keep up moral order in this fallen world.
    16. It is also better for our conscience because in obeying the government we are doing right.
  3. In obeying the government we pay taxes (Romans 13:6-7).
    1. Now, Paul deals with taxes.
    2. Look at verses 6-7: For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
    3. “For because of this,” because of what?
    4. Because of the government system which was instituted by God. We pay taxes because God setup government as part of His common grace and natural law.
    5. When did God setup government?
    6. Genesis 1:28-31; 2:24-25, He setup government with the family.  
    7. In Genesis 2:15 God told Adam to take care of the garden.
    8. In Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy God setup a system of government for the Israelites.
    9. Dr. Constable: God has established three institutions to control life in our dispensation: the family (Gen. 2:18–25), the civil government (Gen. 9:1–7), and the church (Acts 2). In each institution there are authorities to whom we need to submit for God’s will to go forward. Women are not the only people God commands to be submissive or supportive. Male and female children, citizens, and church members also need to demonstrate a submissive spirit.[3]
    10. God also put it in our hearts that we need government. Meaning, God taught us that through common grace.
    11. Again, in verse 6, authorities are ministers of God, again because they are taking care of God’s system.
    12. Verse 7: pay what is owed to them.
    13. Taxes to whom taxes are owed… taxes to government. Jesus addresses this in: Matt 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25[4]
    14. Revenue to whom revenue is owed…Pay your boss, pay those who you owe money to.
    15. Respect to whom respect is owed…respect leadership…
    16. Honor to whom honor is owed…
    17. There is a principle, it is subsidiarity. This means the closest people to a situation are most equipped to handle the situation. Your family is most equipped to take care of the needs of your family. Poland is most equipped to handle the needs of Poland. Ohio is most equipped to handle the needs of Ohio. It is not good to micromanage.
    18. The dictionary definition is:
    19. the quality or state of being subsidiary
    20. a principle in social organization holding that functions which are performed effectively by subordinate or local organizations belong more properly to them than to a dominant central organization.


  1. We must obey the authorities.
  2. We must understand that God setup the system of governance so resisting authorities is resisting God.
  3. We must even submit to corrupt authorities. There is not an exception given for authorities that are corrupt or that we do not like.
  4. The only exception is when there is a conflict we are to obey the higher power, which is God (Acts 5:29).
  5. We must pay our taxes (verse 6).
  6. We must pay revenue to whom revenue is owed (verse 7).
  7. We must pay respect to whom respect is owed (verse 7).
  8. We must give honor to whom honor is owed (verse 7).


[1] Ben Witherington III and Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004).

[2] Paige Patterson, “Salvation in the Old Testament,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1801.

[3] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ro 13:1.

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).

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