Romans 13:1-7 (NASB):

Every person is to be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a servant of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a servant of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; respect to whom respect; honor to whom honor.

Luke 4:5-7 (NASB):

5 And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory, for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I want. 7 Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.”

Romans makes quite clear that rulers and governing authorities are servants of God, who established them. However, Luke quotes Satan claiming to be the one in charge of all the kingdoms of the Earth. So, is God in charge or Satan in charge? Or was Satan telling one more of his lies? How can we reconcile these two passages?


3 Answers 3


Luke says that Satan is the one in charge of all the kingdoms of the Earth.

Not exactly:

Luke 4:6 And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory, for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I want.

Luke merely recorded Satan's claim which Jesus neither confirmed nor denied. Satan was up to his old trick by twisting the truth just a little.

As for governments, we see in Daniel 2:21

He changes the times and seasons; He removes kings and establishes them.

It is in the power of God to do these things.

Berean Study Bible Romans 13:1

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which is from God. The authorities that exist have been appointed by God.

have been appointed
τεταγμέναι (tetagmenai)
Verb - Perfect Participle Middle or Passive - Nominative Feminine Plural
Strong's Greek 5021: A prolonged form of a primary verb; to arrange in an orderly manner, i.e. Assign or dispose.

Ellicott explains it this way:

It is strange that the Apostle seems to go almost out of his way to include even usurped and tyrannical power. He is, however, evidently speaking of the magistracy in its abstract or ideal form. It is the magistrate qua magistrate, not qua just or unjust magistrate. In this sense, not only is the human system of society a part of the divinely-appointed order of things, but it partakes more especially in the divine attributes, inasmuch as its object is to reward virtue and to punish vice. It discharges the same functions that God himself discharges, though in a lower scale and degree.

Who is in charge of rulers and governing authorities: God or Satan?

Ultimately, everything is controlled by God. In the meantime, Satan is doing his best to influence the world.

Horizontally, Pontius Pilate was the fifth governor of the Roman province of Judaea, serving under Emperor Tiberius. Vertically, Jesus told Pilate that Pilate's authority was from God.

John 19:11

Jesus answered, "You would have no authority over Me if it were not given to you from above.

  • 1
    “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler αρχων of this world is coming. He has no claim on me,” ‭‭John‬ ‭14:30 if Jesus calls him an archon of the world then that’s what he is. The fact that God is over him is a separate matter. And again “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:4‬ ‭ Commented Mar 6, 2021 at 20:15
  • If I own a corporation but I am subject to a higher authority (IRS, government, international regulations) that doesn’t negate my ownership of the corporation. Yes God is ultimately in control but the ruler of this world has certain privileges as owner, even if he gained the world by deception. Commented Mar 6, 2021 at 20:21
  • @NihilSineDeo you should expand into an answer
    – Robert
    Commented Mar 6, 2021 at 20:53

A very complex question, for many reasons. Nevertheless, here is an overview outlining that complexity.... but which which will reflect the answer. (Although might challenge some.)

Authority in which realm? Romans is talking about the ‘political’ realm, authority over people, but Satan is talking about the spiritual realm - ‘behind the scenes’.

In all of these Gods word is sovereign. God gave dominion to man, dominion over the earth - but - that does not include dominion over ‘man’ (other people). Man was ‘designed’ to need a god. Man’s god is his source, for everything man needs. God intended that to be Him, but man ‘choose’ (free will) himself. But, man needs a god, because he is incapable. So who was left? That’s the current state man is in - but - here’s the ‘kicker’ it’s like this by the authority of God. It’s not what he wanted, it’s not by his choice, and crucially it will come right!

As for now however, 2 Corinthians 4:4 clearly tells us who the god of this world is.

The ‘political’ structure of leaders and rulers (over people) is a design orchestrated by God. We see this, for example, in the parables. And in the Old Testament by looking at how Israel was told to set itself up. So the ‘structure’ outlined in Romans 13 is indeed a ‘model’ that was ordained by God. And Paul tells the Romans to be subject to it, but there is more! ..... And, it’s crucial

Rome, the ‘authority’ at the time of writing, was last Kingdom/empire in Daniels vision, and in Nebuchadrezzar’s dream. And these kingdoms had a ‘right’, that is ‘authority’ to be the dominant world Kingdoms. It was decreed, by Gods word.

They were ‘there’, they existed by the ‘authority’ of God, but, the political ‘rule’ within these empires was not of God, but man. Nevertheless those in those empires were subject to them, and that included the church in Rome.

Now to the other part of your question, the temptation. This ties into the above. Let’s see how ..

DEUT 32:8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.

God divided up the nations, amongst the sons of god, who’s became the gods of those nations, who were ‘under’ the god of this world - Satan. So Rome, one of those nations, was under Satan. Why? Because God ordained this just after the incident at Babel, as shown in the verse above.

So when Satan offered Jesus the nations/kingdoms, they were indeed Satan’s to give. What he said was right, 100%. But, remember, Jesus said no. Because his Father was his [only] source (God) - not Satan! [Footnote] Jesus will reclaim the nations, and will do so ‘righteously’, after his second coming!


Both are true!

There are two situations here:

  1. For an individual ruler, it would depend on whether he/she serves God or otherwise
  2. For rulers generally, God is ultimately in charge as Rom 13 clearly points out - even if a wicked ruler exists (and many do) they only rule by permission of God, that is God only allows what His sovereign purpose wills.

Thus, while many rulers really serve Satan and do not acknowledge God, yet even these, despite their lack of recognition of God's ultimate sovereignty, still somehow accomplish God's purpose.

The best example in Scripture of this is Isa 45:1-4 -

“This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me.

Dan 10 describes the sort of divine vs satanic battles that go on behind the scenes to accomplish God's purpose.

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