“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. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”
Romans 13:1, 2
The Bible teaches very clearly the importance of recognizing and respecting the authority structures in our lives, including the way we relate to civil or governmental authority. The Scripture speaks directly to the subject of the believer’s attitude and response to those serving in positions of authority. The word power refers to the power of authority, and the structures of authority “are ordained of God.” God has ordained, or ordered, the authority structures for our lives. This includes the family, the place of employment, and the church, as well as the government. Later in this chapter, it is taught that those serving in civil authority serve as “the minister of God to thee for good” (Romans 13:4). They are God’s servants.
Because their authority is God-ordained, we are to be “subject unto the higher powers.” Our submission to authority should not just be to avoid judgment or severe consequences. It should be because in our hearts, we know it is right. We are to reverence the position of those in authority over us. When a person resists, or rebels against authority, he is resisting God’s order or arrangement for his life. “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.” This is what makes rebellion such a serious offense. When one rebels against authority, he is also rebelling against God; for the Lord is the One that delegates authority for our lives. Therefore, this resistance will be judged by Him; “and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” The only time we see the approval of civil disobedience in the Scripture is when those in authority required God’s people to disobey the biblical commands.
It is important that we pray for leaders, that they will honor and obey the Word of God. We are taught in the Bible to pray specifically for those in places of authority. One of the most important lessons of life is the principle of obedience to authority. Our ultimate authority in life is God and His Word. Above all, we are to honor and respect the Lord, and cheerfully submit to His lordship and rule in our lives.