Scripture: Romans 13:1-2
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
Ok, to be honest with you… when I was picking out what to write on today, I wasn’t sure if I was going to write on these verse or skip it. These verses can be hard to talk about and understand, especially in the world we live in today, but it’s important.
In our journey of faith, we encounter so many challenges and dilemmas that test our commitment to walking out our every day lives as believers. These verses are about one of those challenges. We are called to submit to governing authorities. In Romans 13:1-2, the apostle Paul reminds us of the importance of recognizing and respecting the authority structures that God has established.
Ok, I know, I know… as soon as anything political comes up, maybe you get uncomfortable like I do. I immediately want to skip over this, because I get immediately uncomfortable and worried about upsetting anyone. But, here’s the thing… I don’t get to pick and choose what’s in the Bible. It doesn’t matter if I’m uncomfortable. God says it’s important, so it is. So here’s my disclaimer, pause and pray not to get defensive. Just hear what God has to say to us today and His heart behind it.
It is essential to understand that the context in which Paul wrote these words. He wasn’t living in an ideal governance. The Roman Empire, under which Paul lived, was known for its corruption, persecution of Christians, and oppressive rule. Yet, even in such circumstances with corrupt leaders, Paul encourages believers to submit to the governing authorities.
Why would Paul (or more correctly, the Holy Spirit through Paul) say this? The answer lies in his understanding of God’s sovereignty. Paul recognized that all authority, whether good or bad, ultimately comes from God. He understood that God, in His infinite wisdom, allows certain authorities to rise and fall for His divine purposes. There is not one moment that He is not in control. We don’t need to understand why He makes the choices He does. In fact, we can’t even comprehend the big picture He sees. We don’t need to in order to believe and know that He is sovereign, just, and in control.
Paul warns against rebellion and disobedience to authority. Rebelling against authority is not only an act of defiance against human institutions but also a rebellion against God Himself. As Christians, we should really consider the way we speak about the authorities around us. We can disagree while simultaneously being respectful and kind. In a culture where authority is often disrespectfully questioned, challenged, and mocked, our submission to authority becomes a powerful testimony of our faith. It demonstrates our willingness to trust in God’s sovereignty, even when we may not understand His ways. It also allows us to be a positive influence within the systems we find ourselves in, seeking to bring about change through love, grace, and truth.
Here’s one of the keys though- submitting to authority is not an endorsement of every decision or action taken by those in power. It does not mean we have to agree. Instead, it is an act of faith, acknowledging that God is ultimately in control. By submitting to authority, we demonstrate our trust in God’s sovereignty and His ability to work through imperfect human systems.
HOWEVER… this doesn’t mean we’re complacent in the evil take takes place in the world around us every single day. It does not mean that we blindly follow every command without discernment. As Christians, we are called to be discerning and to evaluate the actions of those in authority against the principles of God’s Word. If a legal command contradicts what God has commanded of us in His word we must prioritize obedience to God above all else. To be super clear- if any authority in our lives tells us to do something that is unbiblical- we are NOT to submit to their authority. We answer to God, not man. Moreover, we are commanded to speak out against evil and cling to what we know is good and true in God’s word.
God’s authority is the ultimate authority in our lives and everything else comes from an overflow of that. We are called to be the voice for the voiceless. Proverbs 31:8-9 says “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”. Isaiah 1:17 says “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause”. Psalm 82:3 says “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.” In 1 Timothy 6 we are told to “fight the good fight”. I could go on and on.
Being a follower of Jesus does not mean we are silent, passive, and complacent. Jesus fought for the oppressed. God loves justice. We are His hands and feet on this earth and we are called to reflect His heart to the world around us. That means we can’t turn a blind eye. We have to stand firm against evil and fight for the oppressed. If we see people in positions of authority committing and/or condoning evil acts, we are called to speak up and share truth. If we see evil governments oppressing people in the world around us, we are called to give voice to the voiceless, to speak up and defend their rights. In this lesson on submitting to authority, don’t forget to balance it against the other commandments we know to be true. We are called to submit to authority, when it aligns with our ultimate authority, the Word of God.
At the end of the day, all we can do is pray for the wisdom to discern when to submit and when to stand firm against evil. We can stay consistent in His Word so we know exactly what He commands us to do, and what to stay away from. We can pray to be known as people who honor and respect authority, not out of fear or blind obedience, but as an act of faith in our loving and sovereign God. We can also pray for God to help us to see where evil is pushed by authorities around us and to show us the voiceless oppressed. We can ask the Holy Spirit for the bravery and words to speak up when His heart is broken and when His truth needs to be shared.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for the authority structures You have established in this world. We know we live in a broken fallen world, so any earthly authority will reflect this. Remind us that You are sovereign over all of this. Remind us that nothing in this world happens without You. Help us to respect to the authorities in our lives, recognizing that You are ultimately in control. Give us the discernment to evaluate the actions of those in authority against Your Word. Show us how to stand firm in Your truth and to stand against the evil in a fallen world. Lord, use our submission as a testimony of our faith and a means to bring about positive change in the systems around us. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Author: Becca Artymenko