Romans 13:1-4

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

September 8, 1999


Paul has moved through his doctrinal section in Romans and now has moved on to the practical side of things.  He’s been telling the church in Rome how they are a "body", and like a body, they are all separate parts that belong and function together. He’s talked to them about their obligations to each other like loving without hypocrisy, meeting needs, blessing, and not taking vengeance.

:1-6 Submission to government

:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.

be subject untohupotasso – to arrange under, to subordinate; to subject, put in subjection; to subject one's self, obey; to submit to one's control; to yield to one's admonition or advice; A Greek military term meaning "to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader". In non-military use, it was "a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden".

higherhuperecho – to have or hold over one; to stand out, rise above, overtop; to be above, be superior in rank, authority, power

powersexousia – power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases; physical and mental power; the power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege); the power of rule or government (the power of him whose will and commands must be submitted to by others and obeyed); one who possesses authority like a ruler, a human magistrate

(Rom 13:1 NASB) Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities.

Who submits to whom?

Submission (Greek word #5293) is not just a single issue subject, as if only wives are to submit to their husbands. It’s quite a broad subject.

Jesus submits to the Father

1 Corinthians 15:28 And when all things shall be subdued <5293> unto him, then shall <5293> the Son also himself be subject <5293> unto him that put <5293> all things under <5293> him, that God may be all in all.

Jesus submitted Himself to His parents.

Luke 2:51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject <5293> unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.

Angels submit to Jesus

1 Peter 3:22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject <5293> unto him.

We are to be submissive to those "addicted" to the ministry:

(1 Cor 16:15-16 KJV) I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) {16} That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.

We are to submit to each other

Ephesians 5:21 Submitting yourselves <5293> one to another in the fear of God.

Wives are to submit to their husbands

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves <5293> unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

Ephesians 5:24 Therefore as the church is subject <5293> unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit yourselves <5293> unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.

Titus 2:5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient <5293> to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection <5293> to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;

Some gals have the idea that they should only submit to their husband if their husband is nice, or if he "loves her like the Lord does". But Peter says they are to submit even when the husband is a bozo (obeys not the word).

1 Peter 3:5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection <5293> unto their own husbands:

We are to submit to our employers

Titus 2:9 Exhort servants to be obedient <5293> unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;

1 Peter 2:18 Servants, be subject <5293> to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

Again, submission isn’t based on whether your employer is a Christian or whether he’s nice.

We are to submit to the government (as in Romans 13:1)

Titus 3:1 Put them in mind to be subject <5293> to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,

1 Peter 2:13 Submit yourselves <5293> to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

Who was the "higher authorities" when Paul and Peter wrote their letters? It was the wicked emperor Nero.

We are to submit to our elders

1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves <5293> unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject <5293> one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

Our spirits are to submit to us

1 Corinthians 14:32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject <5293> to the prophets.

That means we are to have self-control when we operate in the Spirit.


Submission’s limit

There is a limit to submission. It only goes so far.

We’ve seen both Paul and Peter tell us to be submitting to the government, yet you can only take it so far.

At one point in the early church, the Jewish leadership had the apostles arrested:

(Acts 5:27-29 KJV) And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, {28} Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. {29} Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

The place where you draw the line on submission is when you are being asked to specifically go against God’s clearly revealed will.


Submission’s real test.

A lot of Christians talk about being in "submission" to others, but I’ve found out that usually this means that the people in "authority" over them are simply asking them to do the things they want to do.

The real "test" of submission is when you are asked to do something you don’t want to do.

It’s when we’re asked to something unpleasant, something that doesn’t stroke our flesh, that we usually start looking for excuses for why we can’t submit. That’s when you’ll hear someone say, "I must obey God rather than man". But sometimes that’s just a cover for say, "Forget you! I’ll do my own thing!"

Remember, the "governing authorities" in Paul’s day included Caesar Nero. Peter told slaves to submit to their masters, even if they were unkind (1Pet. 2:18), wives are to submit to husbands, even if the husbands are disobedient to God (1Pet. 3:1).


Submission’s key is humility

It’s really all about your "will". Are you going to be willing to give up your "will"? Ultimately we need be getting to the point where we are learning submission so well that we are easily submitting ourselves to God.

Hebrews 12:9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we <5293> not much rather be in subjection <5293> unto the Father of spirits, and live?

James 4:7 Submit yourselves <5293> therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

I believe that God will use people in your life to test your ability to "submit". I believe that if we desire to grow in the Lord, we need to not skirt this important lesson.

We think that one of life’s goals should be to "get to the top". And that usually means getting to the place where we can boss others around and demand submission from them. But I believe that if you want to be God’s kind of leader, then you can’t "get to the top" until you’ve gone to the bottom.

Follow Jesus’ example:

(Phil 2:3-11 NASB) Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; {4} do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. {5} Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, {6} who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, {7} but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. {8} And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. {9} Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, {10} that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, {11} and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

How did Jesus "get to the top"? By going to the bottom.

(Mark 10:42-45 KJV) But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. {43} But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: {44} And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. {45} For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

:1 For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

ordainedtasso – to put in order, to station; to place in a certain order, to arrange, to assign a place, to appoint. This is the root word of hupotasso which is translated "subject" or "submit".

God is the one who puts people into the right order.

How did Bill Clinton get into office? God put him there.

In other words, God is the one who puts people in their position of leadership.

(Psa 75:6-7 KJV) For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. {7} But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.

:2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

resisteth (1st)antitassomai – to range in battle against; to oppose one's self, resist. A form of tasso, the root word for "submit", but this is the opposite word, meaning to "line up against".

powerexousia – power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases; physical and mental power; the power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege).

ordinancediatage – a disposition, arrangement, ordinance. It comes from diatasso (to arrange, appoint, ordain, prescribe, give order), another form of tasso, the root word for "submit".

resisteth (2nd occurrence)anthistemi – to set one's self against, to withstand, resist, oppose; to set against

damnationkrima – a decree; judgment; condemnatory sentence. I don’t think this means you’re going to hell. But it means that you are condemned by God.


Warning against rebellion.

If God is really the one who put that person in authority over you, then when you decide to line up against that person, you’re lining up against God. It’s not a light thing to be bucking the authority that God has over us. If you feel you need to resist, you need to be really sure that you are sure that it’s God who is leading you and not just your own stubborn pride.


Saul had been commanded by God to wipe out the Amalekites. He kind of got going on the job, but in the end he only completed it half way. He got rebuked by the prophet Samuel:

(1 Sam 15:22-24 KJV) And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. {23} For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. {24} And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.

You might think that your stubbornness isn’t that big of a deal. It is to God.

:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

terrorphobos – fear, dread, terror

(Rom 13:3 NLT) For the authorities do not frighten people who are doing right, but they frighten those who do wrong. So do what they say, and you will get along well.

If you’re driving the speed limit, are you afraid when you drive past a Highway Patrol car? No.

:4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

ministerdiakonos – one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister. This is the same word that is translated "deacon".

In a way, you could say that the police out on the streets are God’s "ministers".

bearethphoreo – to bear constantly, wear

revengerekdikos – without law and justice; exacting penalty from one; an avenger, punisher

The government wears the sword in that it has the power to enforce the law. God gives them this authority.

Chuck Smith: "The next time you're stopped for speeding or violating the law, don't be nasty or angry. The officer may have saved your life. Be thankful for the police. If they weren't enforcing the laws, our society would be a much worse jungle than it is now."