The Higher Powers Rom.13:1-7 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
As Christians, we are to be subject unto the higher powers. Even though our king is Jesus and our Lord is God we are to submit ourselves to every ordinance of man. This passage tells us why. Higher powers are ordained of God [Rom 13:1]. He’s the one who ordered them; he’s the one who establishes them. Their power comes from God. They are the ministers of God [Rom 13:4, 6].
We are to be subject unto the higher powers because the higher powers:
Condemn your resistance – Rom 13:2 – God’s ministers have the power to fine you, punish you and imprison you for disobeying their ordinances. When you disobey, you are disobeying the ordinance of God.
Threaten your evil works – Rom 13:3 – the purpose of their power and their ability to condemn you is to keep you from doing things that are harmful to others and to society in general.
Praise your good works – Rom 13:3 – when the higher powers are not corrupt you never run into trouble with them for doing the right thing. Some people are even recognized with distinction for being good, law-abiding citizens.
Minister to you for good – Rom 13:4 – law enforcement officers and courts help to protect those who are doing right from harm caused by those who are doing wrong. Prov 16:10, “A divine sentence is in the lips of the king.”
Execute wrath upon the evil – Rom 13:4 – law enforcement officers carry weapons and are trained and authorized to kill people when deadly force is required. Courts have the power to sentence certain crimes with capital punishment.
Wherefore, we are subject to the higher powers for the sake of:
Wrath – Rom 13:5 – law enforcement officers and judges can punish you for wrongdoing; their punishment, in part, is designed to be a deterrent to crime.
Conscience – Rom 13:5 – your conscience is “toward God,” [1 Pet 2:19]. God gave you your conscience as a “law,” [Rom 2:15]. Your conscience should be sharp enough to guide you to keep the ordinances of man because they are good for you. You should want to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do and because it pleases God.
Therefore, we owe the higher powers:
Tribute – Rom 13:6-7 – those who are in law enforcement and those who are in the judiciary are entitled to be paid by the people they serve. Jesus said in Lk 20:25, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s…”
Dues – Rom 13:7 – those are whatsoever they are due, whether tribute, custom, fear or honour.
Custom – Rom 13:7 – we are to pay duties, fees, taxes and other charges.
Fear – Rom 13:7 – we are to fear God and fear our “masters,” [1 Pet 2:17-18].
Honour – Rom 13:7 – we are to “honour the king,” [1 Pet 2:17]. Ex 22:28 you are not to curse the ruler of your people [Paul quoted this in Acts 23:5].
Conclusion: Higher powers often go awry, but not always [Neh 2:1-6; Ezra 1:1-4; Dan 6:1-3]. But remember that higher powers are base and are typically chosen by God for his purposes [Dan 4:17; Ps 75:6-7]. Pharaoh [Rom 9:17], Nebuchadnezzar [Jer 25:9], and Pilate [Jn 19:10-11] are all good examples of base men in positions of authority who accomplished God’s will. In spite of who is “in charge” we are to be subject unto them and their ordinances [1 Pet 2:13-23].
In the United States we are seeing several bad trends that are contrary to this passage in Romans. The “rulers” are becoming a terror to good works and not to the evil [Is 5:20-23]. There is conflict between law enforcement and the courts for crimes like drug possession and trafficking. And law enforcement is being maligned for executing wrath on those that do evil. As men lose their fear of God and lose their respect for authority, they drift toward anarchy until they are eventually ruled by tyrants.