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.
As I laid out the plans to preach through the book of Romans starting last fall, I set the schedule to preach the book for almost the next entire year, culminating in the end of the book later this summer. In God’s great providence, He ordained that I would be preaching Romans 13 on submission to authorities on Memorial Day weekend.
Romans 13:1 makes it clear that every person be subject to governing authorities – not just if “your guy” wins. But what does that mean practically? I put together a short little list of hopefully helpful thoughts on God’s authority in the midst of a Godless culture.
1. God has all authority and works through earthly authority, but He and He alone is ultimately the source of all authority.
2. God’s authority is internal, through the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian, as well as external (police officers, jail cells, political leaders, etc.). If you have God’s internal authority, you don’t need as much external authority.
3. God’s authority is on a continuum from parental to civil. We’re supposed to learn to obey authority as children and, if you don’t teach your children about obedience to your authority, you’re literally raising them to be a bad citizen of both the state and God’s Kingdom.
4. Sin is rebellion against authority and is the default of our flesh.
5. Sinners will not make a perfect system and, if one existed, sinners would ruin it. Does anyone remember Eden in Genesis 1-3?
6. The state is God’s servant. God’s is in ultimate authority and the government is under God’s authority. We can have a general submission and respect for government while pushing back against certain rules and laws that go against God.
7. New is not always better. Just because we get a new president, governor, or senator does not mean things will get better.
8. When Christians are responsible and respectful, God can often anoint them with gifts of leadership, and they can rise up to influence a Godless government.
Ultimately, we’re residents of a nation but we’re citizens of a Kingdom. One day, Jesus will return to make known His ultimate authority in all creation. Until then, we live in the in-between time the best we can by His grace.
How do you deal with the tension of being temporary residents of a certain nation but ultimately citizens of a Heavenly Kingdom?
To find the free Romans 12-16 digital study guide for individuals and small groups, hear Pastor Mark’s entire sermon series on Romans, or find a free mountain of Bible teaching visit realfaith.com or download the Real Faith app.