Let everyone obey the authorities that are over him, for there is no authority except from God, and all authority that exists is established by God.
Romans 13:1 (New American Bible)
Jail can be a fruitful mission field, but a potential convert can be lost if Romans 13 is not understood. One day while our friend David was in jail, he told a young inmate that he did not need a driver license. David said, "You should be more concerned about living in obedience to God's law, rather than obeying what the State calls law." The young man was eager to hear more.
A few days later another inmate, Bible Johnny, arrived on the scene. An intense discussion of the Scriptures began. David told them how we lay down our lives in jail, rather than submit to strangers. "Wait a minute," cried Bible Johnny, "what about Romans 13? Christians are supposed to submit to the governing authorities. You guys with the Embassy of Heaven are provoking the authorities. You're bringing down their wrath upon yourselves unnecessarily."
Bible Johnny was very convincing. He knew the scriptures well and David did not have a simple comeback for Romans 13. The young inmate started losing trust in David. He figured David was not a true Christian because he did not submit to the authorities in the proper manner.
The best way to bring understanding on Romans 13 is to ask, "Who was Apostle Paul writing to at Rome?" The answer is found at Romans 1:7. Paul was writing to all in Rome who are beloved of God and called to be saints. He was not writing to the general population at Rome. He was specifically addressing the "called-out ones," the body of Christ.
If Apostle Paul was advocating obedience to the "law of the land," then Caesar would have no cause against him. Why would Caesar have Paul killed if Paul was promoting "obedience" to civil authorities?
The world loves its own. If Paul belonged to Caesar, Caesar would not want to kill his own. If Paul was promoting, "Be subject to Caesar," why behead him? You don't destroy the very instrument that advertises for you. It does not make sense.
The Truth is that Paul was beheaded for promoting a rival government known as the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. Already this new government was turning the world upside down. Caesar had Paul killed to help stop this threat to Rome's power.
The harlot churches like to promote Romans 13 as meaning, "Obey Caesar," or "Obey the law of the land." How else can they interpret it? They have yoked themselves with Caesar through State incorporation. Their very life comes from the State. If they do not obey Caesar, Caesar will withdraw their corporate charter, and they will die. State incorporated churches have only one choice if they are to survive - promote obedience to the State.
If Romans 13 does not mean, "Obey the State," what does it mean? Romans 13 means, "Obey those that have the rule over you" (Hebrews 13:17). Since Paul was addressing the saints at Rome, it is logical that he would instruct them to submit to those who look after their souls. It is a reminder to be obedient to the authorities God has placed over His people. For they are truly the ministers of God to thee for good. Unlike worldly rulers, godly rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Therefore, do that which is good and thou shalt have praise of the same.