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Romans 13:1-7 NIV

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

And I don't mean the typical "obey the law of the land unless it tells you to do something God forbids or to not do something God commands". There are people who argue a lot of the laws pushed by governments today have no authority to make or enforce, and that these are separate from ones we need to follow because they follow God's law and the ones that must be disobeyed for the reasons above. These people argue these "unauthorized" laws that "overreach the boundaries of legitimate government" should be followed or not based on our conscience. These supposedly range from general unfair and/or unjust laws, to stuff that supposedly shouldn't be controlled by government...just sounds like an excuse to get away with stuff they feel should be allowed or "would be allowed in an ideal society" to me, but I would still like to know if these arguments hold water or not. If someone could look into the Greek of this section it would be appreciated.

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    Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your question. Please remember to take the tour (link below left) to better understand how this site works. Valid questions here require a specific question about a specific passage - can you nominate verse of two?
    – Dottard
    Jun 25, 2023 at 12:16
  • I edited the question to specify the part of the passage. Thank you
    – Jabre7
    Jun 25, 2023 at 12:23
  • This has been much debated - Rom 13 must be balanced by Acts 5:29.
    – Dottard
    Jun 25, 2023 at 12:26
  • The question would be improved by including an explicit quotation of the scripture. That would make it easier for readers that haven't memorized the Bible, verify that there aren't any typos in the chapter:verse numbers, and display the English wording that you are looking at, which will be different in most other English translation versions of the Bible. Jun 25, 2023 at 14:04
  • Acts shows stories of the apostles and christians living in disobedience, going to jail and being killed for their enduring their faith and receiving the term martyr for this.
    – Michael16
    Jun 26, 2023 at 17:24

2 Answers 2

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Does not Paul speak about powers that are bestowed and authorized by Lord? Yes, he does. And indeed if authorities themselves violate laws that they are to be acting as guardians of, then they lose all legitimacy to claim obedience from their subjects!

In fact, the term "authority" means analytically, per definition, somebody who is to fulfill and maintain laws, but if this somebody ceases to do so, but rather violates the laws, then this somebody ceases to be authority in principle, only formally retaining this status. No Christian is entitled to obey a non-authority that only formally, hypocritically retains the guise of the authority.

Moreover, a Christian is to dismantle him and understand that it is even a Christian duty to disobey him. Paul does not preach masochism of obeying scoundrels in the vestment of authorities.

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  • Interesting. Any arguments from the Greek for your interpretation?
    – Jabre7
    Jun 27, 2023 at 1:15
  • @Jabre7 Thanks for the fine question and the interest in my post! One does not need Greek, it is a simple logic: Paul definitely speaks o n l y about instances when the authorities fulfill their duties; he says nothing at all about spoiled authorities who stray from their duty and still ask people to obey and through this obedience be complacent to their corruption. Not only Christians but any normal man should withhold obedience to such an authority. Jun 27, 2023 at 7:17
  • People argue this was in the context of the midst of the Roman Government being so evil, and Paul was saying we should still obey them even if they're corrupt, because God still ordained them to punish evildoers and whatnot. A corrupt government Is better than none they say.
    – Jabre7
    Jun 27, 2023 at 7:26
  • @Jabre7 This is not confirmed by how the earliest Christians behaved: being considered sometimes criminals, they did not inform about each-other, as was due according to unjustly applied law, but warded each other from the authorities, knowing that they unjustly regarded them to be criminals. Jun 27, 2023 at 8:09
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A primary belief in Christianity is the obedience to the Lord. The logic is the obedience to the higher authority, imply civil persons obey the government, and the government obey the Lord. That is to say, if the government did not obey the Lord, they will be punished by the Lord, whereas the civil persons will be punished by the government if they were against its authority.

Romans 13:1-7 is often debated with Acts 4:19;

19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!

How to reconcile these apparently conflict ideas?

A mistake is generally taken when one think himself a representative of God, and take action against the government in the righteous way of his imagination, that violate the Lord's sovereignty. Based on Peter's word, if the government forced Christians to do something against his belief, Christians must not do it, but that doesn't imply Christians must overthrow the government in order to stop the suppression, or put themselves as if having a privilege not to fulfill a civil duty that everyone had to comply.

It is likely in Paul's opinion, if someone did not obey the government, they likely did not obey the Lord as well. Why would Jesus accept unjust persecution? For obedience to the Lord, and endurance in life save humanity.

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