Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities… Romans 13:1
This verse is often taught as a mandate for blind obedience to government. Yet its author, Paul, did a lot of prison time for his disobedience to government. What’s going on here???
The disconnect is not on Paul’s part, but on the part of Bible teachers who are too quick to tell Christians to obey Satanic governments. I repeat over and over on this website that we must let the Bible interpret the Bible. If an Apostle writes a line that seems to preach obedience to government, and then makes a habit of being in prison for disobedience to government, we must see the red flag– but sadly, so many Bible teachers do not.
Romans 13:1 is usually taught with no Biblical interpretation. It is commonly taught merely as a lesson on good citizenship– obey the government and don’t make any trouble. This is lazy and unacceptable Bible teaching. As with all Bible verses, Romans 13:1 must be taught using the principle of letting the Bible interpret the Bible. We must view Romans 13:1 (and indeed, the entire 13th Chapter of Romans) through two Biblical lenses:
- The words Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount.
- The fact that Paul spent much of his time writing from a prison cell because of his disobedience to government.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus communicates the same message Paul communicates in Romans 13:1, and he uses the same method to communicate it– wrapping an implicit message inside an explicit message, that is, speaking in code because speaking plainly would have brought the wrath of the Roman Empire upon the burgeoning Christian movement. When Jesus tells his followers to turn the other cheek, and go the extra mile, he is telling them not to get themselves arrested or killed over petty pride (i.e., over issues that amount to mere personal offenses, not threats to life, and not threats to keeping the faith). Paul essentially gives this same instructional paradigm in Romans.
Paul does in Romans 13:1 what Jesus did in the Sermon on the Mount. He instructs Christians not to get themselves arrested or killed over petty pride. Be a good citizen and obey the laws– as long as those laws don’t conflict with Biblical instruction. However, when the will of government conflicts with the will of God, all bets are off. Paul clearly demonstrates this by his frequent imprisonment.
- Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. ~ Romans 16:7
- I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. ~ 2 Corinthians 11:23-24
- Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. ~ Ephesians 6:19-20
- Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. ~ Philippians 1:14
- And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. ~ Colossians 4:3
- May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. ~ 2 Timothy 1:16-17
- I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. ~ Philemon 13-14
Does that sound like a guy blindly obeying government??? The 13th Chapter of Romans must be viewed through Biblical lenses to be seen clearly.
Yes, Paul is instructing the Roman Christians (and all Christians) to be good citizens. Indeed, to this day there is no group on earth more civil, productive, caring, altruistic, tax-paying, and selfless than Christians. In fact, Christians are such good citizens that government takes for granted the acquiescence of Christians to any and every evil that government can concoct. Today’s Western Christians, in my humble opinion, are better at citizenship than they are at Christianity.
Obey the laws of the land AS LONG AS THEY DON’T CONFLICT WITH THE LAWS OF GOD!!!