A Study on Romans 13.1-7
Richard J. Rizzi, Phd/Theo; DD
October 15, 2015
Please read the Scriptures shared as this will build the basis for the understanding of what Romans 13.1-7 actually means.
Romans 13.1: Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. NKJV
KJV - 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.
What is meant by “governing authorities” or “higher powers” in the Greek?
Higher - uperecw huperecho, hoop-er-ekh'-o = excellent
Power - exousia exousia, ex-oo-see'-ah = authority, power and strength
Note - look at Rom. 13.1b - no authority except from God; Only God appoints them. cf. Ephesians 4.11. RR
Honor is Important
Exodus 20.12: Honor* your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
*Hebrew - dbk kabad, kaw-bad' = glorify, make rich, boast in, promote.
We are to give honor to the governing authorities, as the Word directs us.
This will be an important part of this study.
Isaiah 9.6: For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government* will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
*Hebrew - hrsm misrah, mis-raw' = the power of the empire
(Note - The kingdom of God. RR)
Ephesians 4.11-14a: 11And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors* and teachers**, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine...
*poimhn poimen, poy-mane' = shepherd; pastor
**didaskalov didaskalos, did-as'-kal-os = master; teacher
Note: This would be consistent with the calling upon the elder who “rules” or presides before the congregation to present the teaching of the Word of God.
cf = 1 Timothy 5.17 RR
Ephesians 6.1-3: 1 Children, obey* your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: 3 that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.
*Greek - upakouw hupakouo, hoop-ak-oo'-o = conform to a command
Ephesians 6.17: And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword* of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
*Greek - macaira machaira, makh'-ahee-rah - a knife, i.e. dirk; figuratively, war, judicial punishment: a sword.
Note - The sword, same as in Romans 13.4, is what the governing authorities/higher powers use to guide their lives and lead their congregations.
1 Corinthians 12.28: And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
Note - these are the governing authorities, Romans 13.1-7 RR
1 Timothy 3.1,2: 1 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop*, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop* then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach...
*Greek - episkoph episkope, ep-is-kop-ay' (overseer; pastor) = to look out (for); guard
Note - best word is overseer and is consistent with the position of pastor RR
1 Timothy 5.17: Let the elders who rule* well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.
* Elders - see Titus 1.5...
**Greek: proisthmi proistemi, pro-is'-tay-mee = to stand before; preside before; to hold up and present
Titus 1.5,7: 5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you– 7For a bishop* must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money...
*Greek - episkoph episkope, ep-is-kop-ay' (overseer; pastor) = to look out (for); guard
Note - I believe this portion of Titus teaches that the apostle Paul gave the order for Titus to find men who mature in the faith, elders, for the purpose of appointing them to the position of overseer/pastor. Titus was appointing elders to the office/position of overseer/pastor. RR
7 Remember those who rule* over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9 Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.
17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account**. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
Greek *hgeomai hegeomai, hayg-eh'-om-ahee = to lead, have account over
**1 Thes. 5.12: And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you
Romans 13.1-7 is related to this passage from Hebrews 13.
Who are the "governing authorities"? Because they are appointed by God - a term we see elsewhere
(1 Corinthians 12.28; Ephesians 4.11) and that God has appointed elders to be pastors (Titus 1.5) who "rule" = "preside" (1 Timothy 5.17) before the congregation, I believe that Romans 13 speaks of the pastors, leaders of the church not earthly government.
Now I know in v.7 some have rendered the word phoros as taxes but I believe it is better rendered as tribute, something that is to be offered to those leaders written of in 1 Timothy 5.17.
A good rendering (translation of Romans 13.1-7):
1 Every immortal soul is to be in subjection to the higher powers. Because there is no power except from God, the powers that be are appointed by God.
2 So if anyone resists the powers resist the appointments of God and those who resist will be condemned.
3 For those who rule are not to bring fear about doing good works but to what is wicked.
Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from them.
4 Because they are servants of God to teach you good, if you do what is evil, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain, he is the servant of God to carry our justice and execute wrath on those who practice evil.
5 So you must be submissive, not because of the wrath but for conscience’ sake.
6 And this is why you offer tribute, because they are God’s servants attending to this very thing.
7 Render to everyone what you own them; tribute to whom tribute is due, money to whom money (is owed); fear to whom fear and honor to whom honor.
(As exegeted from the TR, the basis for the NKJV and the KJV)
I truly believe that Romans 13.1-7 speaks of those who preside before the congregation (rule) because, as pastors, we do not "bear the sword in vain" but to encourage people to do good and not evil.
When we approach the Word of God, we must do our very best to exegete the original languages to the best of our ability. We have enough evidence from history, many good copies of the books of the Bible in the original languages so that we can offer very accurate answers pertaining to any passage.
A pastor does his congregation a grave disservice when he does not “labor in the Word” as God commands. Laboring in the Word is not merely reading from an English version of the Bible and teach what it seems to say. Men of God called to preach are to handle God’s inspired Word with great accuracy or we will lead people away from the very God we want to lead them to.
To simply read an English version of the Bible and teach what is says at face value, and only repeat what has been erroneously taught over the course of too many years has rendered the Church very weak.
There are many instances of Christ and the others who disobeyed earthly government and laws as an example of my case.
Jesus violated the Sabbath frequently, a violation of any Jew.
Paul and Peter were thrown in jail for disobedience to the local authorities.
If they were to apply Romans 13.1-7 in their lives as so many preach it, they would have done exactly as they were told.
In Acts 16.19-40 we can read the account of Paul and Silas placed in prison for disobeying the local “governing authorities”. Were they being disobedient to God and the principle taught from Romans 13.1-7, or were they being obedient to the biblical “governing authorities” meaning the men appointed by God to preside before congregations to preach the truth of God to equip the saints for ministry?
My conclusion is that Romans chapter 13 can only mean that believers are to obey those who preside before them and hold them accountable just as we are to obey God.
Pastors are not perfect and the Word does address that we who preach must be very careful what we teach and why.
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. James 3.1
To teach those entrusted to your care, for their spiritual well being, to follow after a corrupt government that does not truly care about the Word of God is, in my opinion, very wrong.
We will all stand before God and answer for what we do and teach.
I personally feel very confident in my treatment of this text because I will never simply take what may be a traditional application, taught for generation after generation, is very misleading at best, heresy and blasphemy at worst (2 Peter 2.1-3).
I am not seeking to insult my fellow pastors or other believers with what I believe. My prayer is that I am staying true to the text as God inspired it.
Finally, I am not advocating for violence against our earthly government. Quite the opposite. The more we follow Christ, the more we will not want to take action against them. We would simply practice civil disobedience like Martin Luther King, Jr ascribed to.