The Higher Powers
In Romans 13 we find a 5-verse section of Scripture that has emboldened tyrants for almost 2,000 years. At first glance it seems to give earthly rulers carte blanche:
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.
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.
Ergo, the argument is made, all kings, all presidents, all policemen are ordained of God.
But let’s make an argument here: What if kings, presidents and policemen are NOT ordained of God?
Then they are not the power ordained of God, are they? Then they are NOT God’s ministers, they are NOT due tribute, custom, respect (fear,) or honor.
Which is not to say they shouldn’t get it, it just means its not due. They have to earn it.
But let’s look and see who the higher powers are.
First, we already know the higher powers are ordained of God. Who exactly do Scriptures say are ordained?
Acts 14:23: “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”
Elders. Those responsible to set examples and teach rightly.
1 Tim. 2:7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.
See? People in the ministries of the Church are ordained of God.
Not Kings. Not Presidents. Not policemen.
Rom. 13:2-3a Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.
Who are these rulers? Are they kings? Presidents? Policemen?
Mark 5:22 And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,
See, often you see ‘rulers,’ you see the religious rulers, the elders and chiefs of the faithful.
Acts 4:5-6 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,
And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.
See, these were the religious rulers of the Jews.
The rulers of the Church, elders and ministers, are those ordained of God. IN THE CHURCH, among the believers, let every soul be subject.
Rom. 13:3b-4 Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
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.
This ordained power of God is the minister of God. It states this clearly.
He, this ruler or elder, is ordained by God as God’s minister.
Can a king, a president, or a policeman be a ruler, an elder, a minister?
IF he or she is ordained of God to be so.
Rom.13:5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
What is power?
It is used in Romans 13:1 three times, and in each case is translated from a form of the Greek word ‘exousia.’
‘Exousia’ is a word that means ‘power to act,’ lit. ‘authority.’
An elder’s authority, the religious ruler’s authority, the minister’s power to act is ordained of God.
Kings, presidents and policemen can be wonderful men, even godly men, who have bona fide ministries.
But they can also be evil, cruel, ungodly, whose power comes from another spirit than God entirely. Romans 13 does not order us to obey the Hitlers, the Stalins, the godless rulers of nations. Nor does it order us to arbitrarily follow the dicates of good kings, presidents or policemen.
There may be often (and pray that it is so!) that the godly thing is to support a king, a president, a policeman. Other times, maybe not so much. Romans 13:1-5 has absolutely nothing to do with any of that.
Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Romans 13:1-5 is telling us how we as the Body of Christ can prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God, and a vital part of that is in honoring those ordained within that Body as having the ability to act God ordained in them.
And that takes recognition and discernment as to who is walking the walk and talking the talk.