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Romans 13 - Who Do We Obey?

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.

Romans 13:1

Obey only those who have the Authority.

People claim that Romans 13 says we are to be obedient to the State authorities. For them, the State is their higher authority. For us, the Kingdom of Heaven is our higher authority. Most people do not understand that there is more than one higher authority. They demand that we obey their higher authority - the State. This poses a dilemma for those of us who have entered the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus said, "You cannot obey two masters" (Matthew 6:24). A master is a higher authority. It is impossible to obey all higher authorities. We can only obey one authority. We cannot obey two.

There are many higher authorities. Romans 13 cannot possibly be saying, "submit to all higher authorities." We can only submit to the higher authority in our chain of command. The New American Bible translates Romans 13:1 more accurately: "Let everyone obey the authorities that are over him." A child cannot obey every Dad, but only the Dad who has the rule over him.

We have to remember that Apostle Paul was writing to the Church at Rome. He was not writing to the citizens of Rome or to the Pharisees. He was writing only to ecclesia, "the called-out ones." When Paul said, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers," he specifically meant, "Be subject to the authorities within the Church."

Paul goes on to say that a ruler is "God's minister" for our good. He does not say he is "Caesar's minister" for our good. Again, Paul is talking about ministers within the Body of Christ. The Greek word translated "minister" in Romans 13:4 is translated "deacon" in other writings of Paul. Paul is saying we are to submit to the "deacon," or "Church officers." Paul is not saying, "Obey the policeman," as some Bible paraphrases read. Paul never says, "Obey Rome." He knows you cannot obey Rome and God. You cannot obey two masters.

Paul warns that these ministers bear not the sword in vain. Paul uses the word "sword" figuratively to indicate that Church officers will chasten those who do evil. Paul's purpose for writing to the Church at Rome was to instruct the congregation to be subject to the chain of command within the Church, who look out for their souls. He was a higher authority over the Churches. And when he said to them at Romans 13, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers," he was referring to the higher powers within Christ's Kingdom, not the kingdoms of the world.