The Powers That BeIs it too late to apologize to King George III? And, of course, return to British rule here in the States. No, wait... Texas should return to Mexico. No, wait... to Spain. No, wait... let’s take it all the way back. Let’s all be Romans!
There are a lot of people who want to read Romans 13 as a commandment for all times. While I think the teachings and principles contained in Romans 13 speak to us, I believe that Paul was speaking to a specific situation. I don’t believe in the “divine right of kings.” I don’t believe that it was God’s will that Hitler come to power, nor that we can hold Him directly responsible for every king that ever walked the face of the earth.
Paul writes to the Roman Christians that should submit “to the powers that exist.” I believe that they were not to rebel against the Roman empire, that they were to follow the laws of the empire. This would facilitate the preaching of the gospel and postpone the inevitable persecution. I believe that he was giving a teaching for that specific situation.
He goes on to say: “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”
(Romans 13:3-4) Are we willing to say that Paul, Peter and all of the Christian martyrs were wrongdoers? If they had done good, they would have received the approval of the emperor... if this passage was meant to apply to all situations at all times. We can’t apply this passage universally without being forced to make some ridiculous statements about who did good and who was a wrongdoer.
And that doesn’t include all the questions that arise during civil wars, revolutions, coup d’etats, etc. Even wars are problematic... If one authority orders us to attack one of the other “existing powers,” should we obey? Or are we going against God’s appointed?
Let’s read this passage in its context. The principles of respect continue. The principle of following laws that don’t go against God’s law continues. But let’s not get too carried away with applying this passage.