There is no authority except from God
Romans 13 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
In today’s text Paul begins by saying: Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same… it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. This is a difficult passage and concept for many today. Our culture and our society teaches us to be in subjection to no one. In the name of freedom and rights, people have come to the point when they believe they have the freedom and the right to disobey governing authorities and any rules they disagree with. For some it is simply a matter of rebellion and lawlessness. For those who worship and follow God, there is the question of what to do when the laws of the governing authority are opposed to God’s commandments.
We must remember again that Paul is writing to believers, not those who are opposed to God’s commandments. We also should remember that Paul himself lived under the rule of an oppressive Roman authority. In fact he wrote the letters to the churches while he was imprisoned. Jesus Himself, also submitted to the authority of the government. In Matthew 26:53, when He was arrested, Jesus said: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” Jesus, the King of Kings, the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth, submitted to the authority of the government, not because it was right and fair to Him, but because it was the Father’s will. Philippians 2:8 says: Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Jesus obedience was to God. In John 19:11 Jesus speaking to Pilate, the Roman authority says: "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin."
Some will point to the examples of the apostles, who resisted authority. In Acts 4:19 and again in 5:29 Peter, John and the apostles spoke against the authorities saying: "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge… We must obey God rather than men.” The apostles actually spoke those words to the religious leaders, not to the governing authority. Still that is the question for us: What do we do if the governing authority is opposed to or against God’s commandments? In Matthew 10:17-20 Jesus says: “Beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” If we are truly standing for God’s righteousness and not for our own rights, the Holy Spirit will guide us, giving us the words to say and will lead us in what to do.
Probably the best examples of people of God resisting the authority of government for the sake of obedience to God, are found in the accounts of Daniel and his companions Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. In Daniel 3, we can read the account of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. They were thrown into a furnace because they refused to bow and worship an idol, a golden image set up by the king. God protected them in the fire. They were not spared the fiery ordeal, but rather, for God’s glory they were protected and delivered through the fire. In Daniel 3: 26-30 it says: Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire. The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them. Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon. It is important to note the faith and obedience of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, before they were thrown into the furnace, verses 15-18 say: if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” In Daniel 6, Daniel also faced death for refusing to bow and worship anyone or anything but God. He too was delivered, but not before he was placed in the lion’s den overnight. Daniel 6:25-28 tells us the outcome: Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language who were living in all the land: “May your peace abound! I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; For He is the living God and enduring forever, And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, And His dominion will be forever. “He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders In heaven and on earth, Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.” So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Like Daniel; Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, if we will stand for God, we may not be spared the fiery ordeal. We may spend a night in peril. But we should be convinced as they were and as Paul was, that nothing that this world can offer, either good or bad can or should separate us from God. In Romans 8:35-39 Paul says: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The psalmist says: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Psalm 23:4) Even death is nothing for us to fear if we are with the Lord and He is with us. It is merely a shadow, with no eternal power to separate us from God or His love. If we will do all we do in obedience to His will, God will be glorified in life or in death and we will be glorified in Him.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; I desire to be wholly submitted and obedient to You. For Your glory I will be subject to the governing authorities and for Your glory alone I will obey God rather than man. Whether I am delivered from or through the fiery ordeal, I will trust in You. Nothing will separate me from Your love. Amen.