Abuse of Authority (Reading Romans 13:1-7)

The Bible makes it clear that God has a hand in government. No government exists without the permission of almighty God:

And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. (Daniel 2:21)

While being questioned by Pilate, Jesus indicated that Pilate would have no authority to crucify him if God did not permit it.

Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin. (John 19:11)”

The Bible teaches that in the apocalypse God will use government to bring about the end. He will allow an unrighteous government to rise with the antichrist at the helm. Paul reiterates this idea of God’s hand in government in Romans 13 by teaching that:

1. There is no authority except that which God establishes (1b)
2. The authorities that exist have been established by God (1c)
3. If one rebels against authority he is in essence rebelling against God since God establishes authority (2a)

This idea of God establishing authority gives rise to some difficult theological and ethical questions. Is God to blame for oppressive governments that violate human rights? Is Hitler God’s fault? How do we reconcile a holy God with horrible and ungodly government?

God has established authority, the ability for men to rule over the lives of other men. God has not abused authority, nor does He condone those who do so. God has established the idea of authority. Man has abused it. We could say the same for love, sex, marriage, parenting, food, stewardship over creation, etc. God has established that man has a role to play in these things and allows man to exercise some semblance of control over them. God has loaned man the idea and ability, man in sin has distorted, perverted, and abused it.

For instance, what could be said about Hitler? Hitler ruled because God has given men the ability to have authority. Hitler abused his God given authority. Hitler’s behavior was not condoned by God, nor was it fit for submission in any context. Authority on loan from God can go horribly wrong as it trickles through the hands of sinful men.

Paul’s teaching in Romans 13 does not imply that man should submit to anyone with authority carte blanche. Romans 13 does not give governments the right to establish just “any sort” of authority over mankind. In other words, Paul’s teaching does not give a governor the right to enslave his people. At the same time, Romans 13 teaches that believers should seek to submit to government as a general principal of life. Christians do not have the right to claim God as their only authority and rebel against government. Just because Jesus is Lord does not exempt one from taxes or the speed limit.

If believers do not submit to government in the name of God, it is an abuse of authority.


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