My question is going to be about Romans 13:1-7.  Here, Paul talks about submission to authorities. My question is this… Is Paul only referring to authorities in the time of him writing Romans, (especially when he says the authorities have been established by God) or does this apply to today as well?  If this scripture does apply to today, does the Bible ever talk about corruption in authority, and if so, must we still submit, and not rebel against these authorities that may be clearly wrong? Finally, if there is corrupt authority, surely this cannot be established by God, how are we to know if we are submitting to a corrupt power in our world? What does the Bible say about this?


Like Paul said (2 Timothy 3:16), “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  This surely includes the entire book of Romans.  If God had intended this command to be only for the Christians in Rome and only for their current circumstances, then the command would not have ended up in the Book of Romans, which is part of our New Testament, and which applies to all Christians.
So, my answer is absolutely!  This scripture is as relevant for us as it was for the disciples in Rome in the first century.  You ask about corruption.  Do you think that the government in Rome was not corrupt?  Of course they were.  I am sure that the government in Rome was at least as corrupt as the government you live under, but God said what he said.  Obviously, all governments are corrupt to some extent, and of course some are more corrupt than others.  Yet, the commandment stands.  As Christians we pay our taxes and we do our best to submit to our governing authorities, even when we do not agree with our government.
You say, “surely this cannot be established by God.”  But you are wrong, in my opinion.  Like I said, if you know anything about the government in Rome at the time, you will understand how truly corrupt it was.  Paul said that the Romans government did not bear the sword for nothing, and that Christians, if they obey the laws, will generally have no reason to fear that sword.  Think about this.  Who was ruling Rome when Paul wrote?  It was Nero!!!  Nero was one of the most corrupt emperors in the entire history of Rome.  If God had established the government in Rome in AD 57, then surely this applies to you and to the government you live under as well.
If we look at other passages of Scripture, we will understand that the commandment to submit to the governing authorities (even though they are corrupt!) does not mean that there are absolutely no circumstances under which we should not obey the governing authority.  In Acts 5:29 Peter said that “We must obey God rather than man.” This is in regard to the government’s command to not evangelize.  The principle I discover here is that, if the government demands that we do something which is a direct violation of what God has commanded us to do, then we do not obey that command. If God says to evangelize and the government says not to, then we evangelize.  If the government tells us to lie, or if it tells us to offer sacrifice to a pagan God or to commit adultery, we will not submit to the governing authority in this case.  But if the government tells us to drive below a certain speed, or to pay our taxes, or to acquire a permit before starting a building project, or to have car insurance to drive, then we obey the governing authority.
To be specific, a few years ago I had a close friend who told me he refused to pay his income tax because he disagreed with the current policies of the US government.  I strongly admonished my friend (lovingly, I hope), that this is not justified, based on Romans 13:6 in which Paul commanded the Romans Christians to pay taxes to Rome.  Like yourself above, he replied that the government is corrupt, and therefore he did not need to pay his taxes, which the government would use to do immoral things.  But, given the situation with the Roman empire in Paul’s day, my friend’s argument was a faulty one.  ALL governments use our tax money for immoral purposes.  They also use them for good purposes, for example to build roads, pay teachers and to hire police to protect us from bad people.
The conclusion is that, in nearly all circumstances, Christians are to obey the governing authorities. In a broad sense, God has allowed governments to exist for our good (with exceptions, of course), and, unless we are quite clearly and directly asked personally to do something immoral or against what God has commanded us, we are to obey the governing authority, no matter whether we agree with all of their policies.  Christians ought to support the general good order wherever they live, and not join in with rebellion against the governing authorities.
An example I like to challenge myself with is what would a Christian do in a chaotic situation like Syria, where there are many different governing authorities?  Another question is whether a Christian would have joined in rebelling against the English king during the American Revolution.  These are tougher questions, but for the average disciple of Jesus in the average situation, we should submit to our God-given governing authorities.
John Oakes

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